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*** Trump is the greatest threat that our country has ever faced. ***

Nicholas Reimann Forbes Staff

President Donald Trump reportedly inquired about an idea raised by his former (and now pardoned) national security adviser, Michael Flynn, that the U.S. military be deployed to overturn the results of the presidential election—a claim shot down by his advisors at a meeting where the president appeared to embrace increasingly fringe notions about his election loss. New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman reported Saturday that the president asked about Flynn’s idea, as senior officials are reportedly becoming very unsettled by Trump’s escalating interest in crackpot plans during his last days in power.

On Thursday, Flynn said that Trump could deploy the military to swing states he lost to President-elect Joe Biden in order to “rerun” the presidential election. During the meeting, Trump also floated naming the conspiracy-theorist attorney Sidney Powell—who has pushed a baseless theory that long-dead Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez rigged voting machines—as special counsel to investigate voter fraud. Axios reported Saturday that even some of Trump’s long-loyal top officials have been dismayed by Trump’s behavior, including his interest in Flynn’s views, with one senior official saying Trump “spends his time talking to conspiracy nuts who openly say declaring martial law is no big deal.” more...

*** Why does Trump continue to protect Putin and Russia over America? It makes you wonder if Trump is on Putin’s payroll or do the Russians have something on him.  ***

Jordan Novet

President Donald Trump suggested Saturday that China might have been behind a cyberattack affecting multiple U.S. government agencies and companies, despite Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s allegation hours earlier that Russia was likely behind the attack. The assertion adds confusion to an already complex situation, as cybersecurity workers strive to figure out a hack that came to light less than week ago. At that time Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the matter, that attackers were affiliated with Russia.

“Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because Lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of........discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!)” Trump wrote in a pair of tweets. A U.S. official confirmed to NBC News on Saturday that White House officials were planning to issue a statement on Friday that would say Russia was responsible for the cyberattack but were told to stand down. The Associated Press reported on the White House’s plans earlier on Saturday. Two officials told NBC News that Trump’s tweets had caught White House off guard.

“At this time the NSC is focused on investigating the circumstances surrounding this incident, and working with our interagency partners to mitigate the situation,” National Security Council spokesperson told NBC News. “There will be an appropriate response to those actors behind this conduct.” Russia has been a sensitive topic for Trump. An investigation led by Robert Mueller found that the Russian government had interfered in the 2016 election that resulted in Trump becoming president. Trump said in 2019 that he had never worked for Russia, after The New York Times reported the Federal Bureau of Investigation had begun looking into whether he had become influenced by the Kremlin. more...

Dylan Stableford

President Trump has tweeted or retweeted 96 messages so far this week. The vast majority of them were attacks on the election, with baseless allegations of voter fraud and false claims that he won. Interspersed were a few updates on the U.S. coronavirus vaccine rollout, an analysis of Fox News ratings, a complaint about the decision by the Cleveland Indians to drop their controversial team name and the announcement of Attorney General William Barr’s resignation.

Not once has the president mentioned the massive cyberattack that U.S. officials suspect was carried out by Russian hackers — one that the nation’s cybersecurity agency warned was a “grave” threat to government and private networks. In a briefing with congressional staffers, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or CISA, said the breach was “highly sophisticated” and would “take weeks, if not months, to determine the total number of agencies affected by the attack and the extent to which sensitive data and information may have been compromised.”

On Sunday, reports emerged that the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments had been breached by “Cozy Bear,” a Russian military intelligence unit responsible for past hacks into government agencies. Trump spent part of that day at his golf resort in Virginia and tweeting various complaints about the election, including his dismay that the Supreme Court had dismissed a lawsuit initiated by the attorney general of Texas seeking to throw out the votes of four other states. more...

The secretary of State also defended President Donald Trump for not publicly calling out the U.S. adversary for the attack.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo publicly blamed Russia for the monthslong cyber hack of agencies across the U.S. government. “This was a very significant effort, and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity,” Pompeo told radio host Mark Levin in an interview released Friday. “I can’t say much more as we’re still unpacking precisely what it is, and I’m sure some of it will remain classified. But suffice it to say there was a significant effort to use a piece of third-party software to essentially embed code inside of U.S. Government systems and it now appears systems of private companies and companies and governments across the world as well,” Pompeo added.

The massive and sophisticated cyber operation infiltrated the departments of Treasury, Homeland Security, State and Agriculture; the National Institutes of Health, and the Commerce Department’s telecommunications policy agency. The Department of Energy has found evidence that hackers breached networks at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, two national laboratories, a DOE field office and a division of the National Nuclear Security Administration. U.S. officials believe hackers linked to a Russian intelligence agency infected software updates for an IT monitoring program made by a company called SolarWinds. Pompeo defended President Donald Trump for not publicly calling out Russia for the attack. more...

By Elizabeth Crisp

President Donald Trump sent a warning to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his GOP allies Friday morning: "Get tougher, or you won't have a Republican Party anymore."

   .@senatemajldr and Republican Senators have to get tougher, or you won’t have a Republican Party anymore. We won the Presidential Election, by a lot. FIGHT FOR IT. Don’t let them take it away! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2020

The Twitter missive comes as Trump is publicly encouraging senators to overturn the outcome of the presidential election—seen as a last-ditch effort after a string of court losses—because the president and his allies have not been able to produce any credible evidence of election irregularities that would change the outcome.

"We won the Presidential Election, by a lot. FIGHT FOR IT. Don't let them take it away!" Trump claimed in the tweet directed at McConnell, who this week acknowledged from the Senate floor that President-elect Joe Biden has won the election a day after the Electoral College decisively confirmed Biden as the next president. more...

Mr Kushner allegedly helped establish the company in 2018 and Mr Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump was installed as president
Graeme Massie

Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner allegedly created a shell company that secretly paid the president’s family members and spent more than $600 million, a report says. The payments to the Trump family and top advisors through the company helped shield financial details from the public, according to Business Insider. Use of the company, incorporated as American Made Media Consultants Corporation and American Made Media Consultants LLC, reportedly allowed the president and his family to bypass federally required financial disclosures. Campaign finance records show the Trump campaign and its committee at the Republican National Committee, spent $617 million from their $1.26bn coffers through the company, according to Business Insider.

Mr Kushner allegedly helped establish the company in 2018 and Mr Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump was installed as president, vice president Mike Pence’s nephew John Pence as vice president, and Trump campaign CFO Sean Dollman as treasurer and secretary. Some of Mr Trump’s advisers said that they did not know how the shell company worked, and did not know of Lara Trump and John Pence’s involvement. "They like to say they don't know, but that's not true," one person familiar with the company told Business Insider. more...

First they lied about election fraud to sow distrust. Now they say voters don’t trust the election.
By William Saletan

Forsaken by the Supreme Court and defeated in the Electoral College, President Donald Trump has seized on a new basis for overturning the 2020 election: public opinion. On Tuesday night, he tweeted, “Poll: 92% of Republican Voters think the election was rigged!” The number was bogus, but there’s a deeper reason to reject Trump’s argument: It’s circular. For weeks, the president and his allies have been spreading lies about election fraud. Now, having manufactured distrust among Republican voters, they’re spinning that distrust as a basis to throw out the election.

Every fact-finding body has rejected Trump’s lies. He’s been stiffed by Trump-appointed judges, Trump-endorsed governors, pro-Trump election officials, and Republican state legislators. But in the court of public opinion, he has found an audience. In polls taken last month, 59 percent of Republicans attributed Trump’s defeat to “illegal voting or election rigging,” 74 percent blamed it on “voter fraud” or insisted it would be overturned, and 67 percent said Trump had actually won. These numbers are much worse than the distrust measured in previous elections, even in years when the margin was closer. more...

Former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has checked in with a fresh dose of patriotism.
By Jack Holmes

Many of the high clergy in the Church of the Savvy have been calmly explaining for weeks that although Donald Trump's brazen and pathetic post-election behavior is corrosive to democracy, it does not technically count as a coup attempt. The president's myriad lawsuits attempting to throw out the results of democratic elections have not worked, these folks explain, therefore they were never going to work (Logic), and concern about them working—on the basis that no Law or Norm has much mattered for four years—was hysteria. This is too stupid to be a coup! It's just a grift, because these things are mutually exclusive. And besides, a coup involves using the military or the security apparatus to seize power. He's just getting laughed out of court.

Welp, now his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, a man the president pardoned just last week for "any and all possible offenses" related to the Mueller probe, has endorsed a call for the president to "temporarily suspend the Constitution," "declare limited martial law," have "the military oversee a national re-vote," and "silence the destructive media." Wow! Sounds a bit like a coup. Maybe the best part is the idea that you can have "limited" martial law, or that suspending the Constitution would just be "temporary," or that the only organization that could oversee a legitimate election—read: one where Donald Trump wins—is the military. more...

John Dunphy

Trump supporters take joy in depicting themselves as ardent patriots who will tolerate no disrespect of the American flag and our national anthem. Now, however, the lunatic fringe of the Trump movement are demanding that their idol, who was so soundly defeated in last month’s election, stage a coup so that he can remain in office.

Sidney Powell, most recently employed as one of Trump’s lawyers and tasked with uncovering non-existent election fraud, retweeted a message that millions of Americans who love our country found chilling. The tweet reads: Dear Mr. President, We will not stand by and watch Foreign and Domestic enemies further destroy our Constitutional Republic. Eighty and more million of us request that you use the Insurrection Act, Suspend the December Electoral College Vote, and set up Military Tribunals immediately, to properly investigate and resolve the cyber warfare 11-3-20 issue. Further, we request you suspend the Jan 6 GA Runoff Race, and the January Inauguration until this issue is resolved. Respectfully, We The People.”

This tweet is nothing less than a request that Trump instigate a coup to remain in power and suppress any opposition to this blatant assault on American democracy. Other pro-Trump extremists share Powell’s desire to transform our nation from a democratic republic into an authoritarian regime. We the People Convention, which is a coalition of Tea Party groups, placed an ad in the Washington Times demanding that Trump invoke “limited martial law” so that the American military can supervise a new federal election. more...

The president’s freshly pardoned ex-national security adviser retweeted a statement advocating suspending the Constitution.
By David Moye

Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser who was pardoned by the president last week for lying during the Russia investigation, wants Trump to declare martial law and “temporarily suspend the Constitution” until a new election is held. Flynn, who had been awaiting sentencing for lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts before Trump’s pardon, on Tuesday retweeted a news release from a right-wing Ohio group called We The People Convention asking the president to declare martial law so troops can supervise a do-over of the 2020 election.

Flynn tagged many conservative celebs in his post and added: “Freedom never kneels except for God.” The news release cites “massive, planned, illegal election fraud” carried out by Democrats. Trump lost the election handily to President-elect Joe Biden and no widespread fraud has been found. If the president doesn’t declare martial law, the statement retweeted by Flynn warns, “we will also have no other choice but to take matters into our own hands and defend our rights on our own.” A retired Army general’s support for the military takeover of U.S. government shocked many people on Twitter. more...

It may sound laughable, but it’s no joke—the GOP leadership and the right-wing media machine are colluding with Trump’s assault on democratic institutions.
By Sasha Abramsky

We are less than seven weeks away from the inauguration, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t counting down the seconds. For the last spasms of Trumpist rule are truly a sight and sound to behold. Trumpism is at this point nothing more than a blend of cultism and fascism, a violent, nihilistic howl against the pillars of American democracy unparalleled in presidential history.

Donald Trump and his acolytes know their gig is up; they can file lawsuits till they are blue in the face, but they’re not going to overturn the election results in multiple states simultaneously. They have reached a fork in the road: Accept the results and move on, or attempt to flex the presidential muscle in a way that launches America into an experiment with dictatorship. They have decided, at least rhetorically, to opt for the latter. And while they almost certainly don’t have the bite to match their bark, the very fact that people surrounding Trump are calling for dictatorship ought to send a chill up all Americans’ spines. Here’s a sampling of some of the Trump team’s doings this past week. more...

By Kaelan Deese

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Thursday said it was "stunning" for the White House to not issue a response regarding multiple alleged U.S. government cyber attacks stemming from Russia. The senator from Utah tweeted an abbreviated version of the statement he told SiriusXM’s Chief Washington Correspondent Olivier Knox in a prerecorded interview, noting the recent reports of Russian hacks into government agencies showed "alarming U.S. vulnerability" and "apparent cyber warfare weakness." more...

*** Trump has not called out Russia for the attack. The question is will Trump call out Russia or will he give them a pass as he did when the Russians put bounties on the heads of our solders. It makes you wonder whose side Trump is on our side or the Russians. ***

By Kevin Liptak, CNN

(CNN) When President Donald Trump convened his Cabinet at the White House Wednesday as Washington absorbed news of a massive data breach, the heads of most agencies relevant to the intrusion — including the Department of Defense, the State Department, the Justice Department, the director of national intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency — were absent. After the meeting, Trump said nothing about the attack, which went undetected by his administration's intelligence agencies for months. As those agencies now mobilize to assess the damage — which the government said Thursday could be more widespread than initially thought, posing a "grave risk to the federal government" — the President himself remains silent on the matter, preoccupied instead with his election loss and his invented claims of widespread voter fraud.

The massive data breach, revealed in the final weeks of Trump's administration, amounts to a dramatic coda for a presidency clouded by questions of deference to Russia and unsuccessful attempts to warm relations with its President, Vladimir Putin. Just as he has largely ignored the latest surge in coronavirus cases, Trump appears to have all but abdicated responsibility in his final weeks in office. The White House has not listed an intelligence briefing on the President's daily schedule since early October, though officials say he is regularly briefed on intelligence even when a formal briefing doesn't appear on his calendar and a senior White House official told CNN that Trump was briefed on the hack by his top intelligence officials on Thursday. more...

*** Trump has not called out Russia for the attack. The question is will Trump call out Russia or will he give them a pass as he did when the Russians put bounties on the heads of our solders. It makes you wonder whose side Trump is on our side or the Russians. ***

Officials did not say which agencies or infrastructure had been breached or what information taken in a March attack.
Ben Fox

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal authorities expressed increased alarm Thursday about an intrusion into U.S. and other computer systems around the globe that officials suspect was carried out by Russian hackers. The nation’s cybersecurity agency warned of a “grave” risk to government and private networks. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said in its most detailed comments yet that the intrusion had compromised federal agencies as well as “critical infrastructure” in a sophisticated attack that was hard to detect and will be difficult to undo.

CISA did not say which agencies or infrastructure had been breached or what information taken in an attack that it previously said appeared to have begun in March. “This threat actor has demonstrated sophistication and complex tradecraft in these intrusions,” the agency said in its unusual alert. “CISA expects that removing the threat actor from compromised environments will be highly complex and challenging.” In a statement, the Department of Energy confirmed the agency was affected, but that the breach was “isolated to business networks only” and not national security functions. more...

*** Trump has not called out Russia for the attack. The question is will Trump call out Russia or will he give them a pass as he did when the Russians put bounties on the heads of our solders. It makes you wonder whose side Trump is on our side or the Russians. ***

Hackers accessed systems at the National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

The Energy Department and National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, have evidence that hackers accessed their networks as part of an extensive espionage operation that has affected at least half a dozen federal agencies, officials directly familiar with the matter said. On Thursday, DOE and NNSA officials began coordinating notifications about the breach to their congressional oversight bodies after being briefed by Rocky Campione, the chief information officer at DOE.

They found suspicious activity in networks belonging to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories in New Mexico and Washington, the Office of Secure Transportation at NNSA, and the Richland Field Office of the DOE. The hackers have been able to do more damage at FERC than the other agencies, and officials there have evidence of highly malicious activity, the officials said, but did not elaborate.

The officials said that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which has been helping to manage the federal response to the broad hacking campaign, indicated to FERC this week that CISA was overwhelmed and might not be able to allocate the necessary resources to respond. DOE will therefore be allocating extra resources to FERC to help investigate the hack, even though FERC is a semi-autonomous agency, the officials said. Several top officials from CISA, including its former director Christopher Krebs, have either been pushed out by the Trump administration or resigned in recent weeks. more...

Jemima McEvoy Forbes Staff

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has sought to distance itself from one of the agency’s former advisors—personally installed by President Trump—who the results of a watchdog investigation published Wednesday show repeatedly advocated for allowing millions of young and middle-aged Americans to become infected with Covid-19 over the summer in a push for the HHS to pursue a controversial “herd immunity” strategy.

Emails made public on Wednesday by the House committee overseeing the government’s pandemic response show that Paul Alexander—who was installed by President Trump in April to lead the HHS’ communications efforts—wrote to his higher-ups multiple times throughout June and July arguing that there is “no other way” to tackle Covid-19 except establishing “herd immunity” by allowing non-risk groups to expose themselves to the virus.

“Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk,” wrote Alexander in a July 4 message to his boss, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo, saying “we want them infected” to help “develop herd.” Similarly, on July 24, Alexander wrote to the Food and Drug Administration’s Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Associated Commissioner for External Affairs John Wagner and numerous top HHS officials arguing that it “may be best to open up the flood zone and let the kids and young folk get infected.”

In the emails, Alexander also acknowledged that the Trump administration was aware its policies would increase the spread of Covid-19, urged HHS staff to release more “positive statements” in support of the administration’s pandemic response and cast blame on scientists like Dr. Anthony Fauci for offering less rosy assessments of the situation, accusing them of trying to “make the president look bad.”

Tucker Higgins

Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to travel overseas for the first time during the Covid-19 pandemic just hours after presiding over the congressional session in which President-elect Joe Biden will be formally declared the winner of November’s contest against President Donald Trump. The Indiana Republican will depart the U.S. on Jan. 6 for a trip that will include stops in Bahrain, Israel and Poland, according to a government document obtained by NBC News. Pence will remain abroad through Jan. 11.

The travel schedule, which an administration official said is subject to change, has dual benefits for Pence. He is expected to use his last trip as vice president to tout the administration’s foreign policy achievements, including the normalization of relations between Israel and a number of Gulf states including Bahrain. It will also allow Pence, rumored to be harboring his own presidential ambitions, to get out of Washington after performing the awkward job of announcing his and Trump’s defeat to Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. more...

The House and the Senate passed the broad policy bill with veto-proof majorities last week.

By Rebecca Shabad

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday that he plans to follow through on his threat to veto the annual defense policy bill that passed with veto-proof majorities in the House and the Senate last week. “I will Veto the Defense Bill, which will make China very unhappy. They love it. Must have Section 230 termination, protect our National Monuments and allow for removal of military from far away, and very unappreciative, lands. Thank you!” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 335-78 last Tuesday and the Senate passed it 84-13 Friday.

The president has opposed the broad policy bill, demanding it include a repeal of an internet liability law known as Section 230. He also spoke out against provisions in the bill that would strip U.S. military bases of the names of Confederate leaders from the Civil War. NBC News previously reported that Trump had privately told GOP lawmakers since the Nov. 3 election that he wouldn’t back down from his position during the campaign to veto the defense policy bill if it included language that would rename the military bases. more...

Allan Smith

In one of its closing acts, the Trump administration this week finalized two new rules rolling back water efficiency standards on showerheads and laundry machines. It's the latest move in line with the president's yearlong crusade against what he deems as insufficient water pressure in household appliances and bathroom fixtures.

The new showerhead rule, which the Energy Department announced on Tuesday, allows for each showerhead in a fixture to reach the two-and-a-half gallon-per-minute maximum water flow rate mandated by Congress, which set those standards nearly 30 years ago. Previously, a showerhead fixture could only use two-and-a-half gallons per minute regardless of how many showerheads were on it, with the total usage collected cumulatively.

In its second rule, the department also created new product classes for washers and dryers with shorter cycle times. That followed the agency's October announcement of a new rule allowing for a new class of dishwashers with shorter cycle times and different efficiency standards.

"Today the Trump Administration affirmed its commitment to reducing regulatory burdens and safeguarding consumer choice,” Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in a statement. "With these rule changes, Americans can choose products that are best suited to meet their individual needs and the needs of their families." more...

By Kate Bennett and Katelyn Polantz, CNN

(CNN) First lady Melania Trump plans to slip down to Palm Beach via government jet on Friday for a weekend walk-through of renovations underway at the Trump family's private quarters at Mar-a-Lago, according to a source familiar with the first lady's schedule, to make sure it's to her liking before she and President Donald Trump move to the private club after January 20, when President-elect Joe Biden moves into the White House.

But beyond the new paint, fabrics and finishes and general expansion of the approximately 3,000 square foot private quarters, there looms a much larger issue with the permanency of the move: whether or not it is legal. When he turned the private residence into a club, Trump had agreed with the town to limit his stays there, and now some Palm Beach residents say he might be violating that agreement. Trump bought the former estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1985, and subsequently turned it into a members' only club in 1993. The plan was -- as with most Trump deals -- to turn a profit.

Yet in order to transform the private residence into a revenue-generating business, Trump had to agree to certain limitations, based on guidelines presented as dealbreakers from the Town of Palm Beach. For example, there could be no more than 500 members, there were rules concerning parking and traffic, and club members -- Trump included -- could not spend more than seven consecutive days at Mar-a-Lago, for no more than three weeks total a year. At the time, following several appearances at town council meetings by Trump and his lawyers to plead his case for approval on the evolution of the property, Trump assented to abiding by the 21-day rule. more...

By Reed Richardson

resident Donald Trump is convinced he won the 2020 election and is now telling aides that he is considering not leaving the White House on January 20th, which is mandated by the Constitution since Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the next president that day. On Erin Burnett Out Front, the CNN host reported that Trump appears to have flip-flopped on accepting the reality of his defeat and now adamantly believes a number of conspiracy theories that falsely claim he won the 2020 election.

“Sources tell CNN that the president has pulled a 180, no longer privately, quote/unquote, ‘getting the joke,’ not that it was ever funny,” host Erin Burnett explained. “He used to privately accept the reality that he lost the election, but now, no. He’s now starting to believe his own lies, that the election was stolen.” “He now believes that, so much so, that Trump has told some advisers that he may not leave the White House on Inauguration Day,” she added.

In fact, there is no legal scenario in which Trump remains in office, or in residence in the White House, beyond January 20th, as Biden has won the Electoral College after all 50 states and the District of Columbia certified their votes. Entering or remaining in any restricted building violates 18 US Code § 1752, which recommends a punishment of a fine or imprisonment of up to one year. However, even with Trump’s inner circle, there is a recognition that Trump’s rantings about the election are effectively meaningless at this point. more...

Catherine Garcia

Over the last six weeks, so many people have been calling and emailing the West Wing seeking pardons that White House staffers have had to create a spreadsheet to keep track of the requests, CNN reports. "It's turned crazy," one person familiar with the matter said. "There's a lot of activity." The queries have been coming in from business associates close to Trump as well as high-profile criminals, CNN reports, and when people can't reach the president, they contact his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, or White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. After Trump goes over their case summaries, he often asks his friends for their opinions on whether a person deserves a pardon.

As of now, Trump is contemplating pardons for more than two dozen people within his circle, CNN reports. One person he is considering for clemency is Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization. Weisselberg has been investigated for his involvement in arranging hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who said she had an affair with Trump. more...

By Pamela Brown, Kevin Liptak and Jeremy Diamond, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump may not be willing to accept his term is ending, but as the clock ticks down on his time in office, hundreds of his allies -- including some of his closest business associates and many high-profile criminals -- are ramping up their efforts to squeeze out the final ounces of his presidential power. Since Trump lost the election six weeks ago, calls and emails have been flooding into the West Wing from people looking to benefit from the President's powers of clemency. So inundated is Trump's staff with requests for pardons or commutations that a spreadsheet has been created to keep track of the requests directed to Trump's close aides.

Trump, who refuses to acknowledge his loss and who officials say is devolving further into denial, has nonetheless been eager to engage on who is requesting what. He's been handed case summaries to review and, in some instances, has polled his network of associates about whom he should pardon. With the end of his presidency nearing, Trump appears eager to wield his powers before he finds them gone. Unlike practically any other matter related to the end of his presidency, his clemency powers are a topic Trump actually seems to enjoy discussing, one person in communication with the President said, even though it amounts to another tacit reminder that his tenure at the White House is nearly over. That's a stark contrast with how Trump has responded to another, smaller effort also ramping up as Inauguration Day approaches: an effort to convince Trump to accept the election results. more...

GOP candidates for House, legislative and gubernatorial races in more than half a dozen states are claiming voter fraud and still refusing to acknowledge defeat.

It’s been five weeks since the election, and he still hasn’t conceded. Alleging massive voter fraud, he’s demanded an audit of votes in populous Democratic strongholds. On Thursday, he sued the secretary of state. We’re talking here about Loren Culp, the unsuccessful Republican nominee for governor in Washington state, where he lost by more than 13 percentage points on Nov. 3. Like Donald Trump, Culp insists he’s the victim of a rigged election. Trump, it seems, isn’t the only dead-ender holding out more than a month after the election, refusing to acknowledge defeat. Even as Trump lost again in court on Friday, with the Supreme Court rejecting a long-shot effort to overturn the election, he remains a lodestar for denialists of the GOP.

In California, a Republican congressional candidate trounced in Democratic-heavy Los Angeles is still refusing to concede — while simultaneously announcing he’s running for governor. In Maryland, a congressional candidate beaten by more than 40 percentage points is still complaining about “irregularities” in her election. And in Tennessee, a House candidate defeated by more than 57 percentage points has reached out to the ubiquitous pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell to air her grievances about an election that no Republican had any chance of winning — but that she’s convinced she did. The down-ballot parroting of Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud began right after the election. But in the weeks since, it has evolved into a self-sustaining phenomenon of its own. Republican candidates for House, legislative and gubernatorial races in more than half a dozen states are still refusing to concede. more...

Then-HHS science adviser Paul Alexander called for millions of Americans to be infected as means of fighting Covid-19.

A top Trump appointee repeatedly urged top health officials to adopt a "herd immunity" approach to Covid-19 and allow millions of Americans to be infected by the virus, according to internal emails obtained by a House watchdog and shared with POLITICO. “There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high risk groups expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD," then-science adviser Paul Alexander wrote on July 4 to his boss, Health and Human Services assistant secretary for public affairs Michael Caputo, and six other senior officials.

"Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk….so we use them to develop herd…we want them infected…" Alexander added. "[I]t may be that it will be best if we open up and flood the zone and let the kids and young folk get infected" in order to get "natural immunity…natural exposure," Alexander wrote on July 24 to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Caputo and eight other senior officials. Caputo subsequently asked Alexander to research the idea, according to emails obtained by the House Oversight Committee's select subcommittee on coronavirus.

Alexander also argued that colleges should stay open to allow Covid-19 infections to spread, lamenting in a July 27 email to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield that “we essentially took off the battlefield the most potent weapon we had...younger healthy people, children, teens, young people who we needed to fastly [sic] infect themselves, spread it around, develop immunity, and help stop the spread.” Alexander was a top deputy of Caputo, who was personally installed by President Donald Trump in April to lead the health department's communications efforts. Officials told POLITICO that they believed that when Alexander made recommendations, he had the backing of the White House. more...

By Matt Cannon

Some 42 days after Election Day, a major bookmaker has finally begun paying out on Joe Biden winning the 2020 presidential election—leaving Donald Trump supporters disappointed. The decision follows, the Electoral College officially casting their ballots faithfully on Monday, giving Biden 306 votes to Trump's 232. Candidates needed 270 to win.

As a result, Betfair, which has one of the world's largest online betting exchanges, announced it would start paying out the following day. "The Next President market rules stipulated that we would settle the market on the candidate that had the most projected Electoral College votes," the company said in a statement released on its website. "Following the Electoral College votes being cast, that candidate is clearly Joe Biden." It added: "Thanks for your patience." more...

By Ewan Palmer

Supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory have unsurprisingly turned their backs on Mitch McConnell after he finally congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his election victory. Followers of the radical movement who believe President Donald Trump is waging a secret war against satanic pedohiles, as well as pushing baseless claims that the election was rigged, were dismayed at the Senate Majority Leader and accusing him of being a traitor. Others said they will now leave the GOP or even form a new political party all together.

On Tuesday, McConnell announced that the "Electoral College has spoken" after it declared Biden had won 306 Electoral Votes and referred to him as the President-elect. Trump later criticized the Kentucky senator in a tweet: "Mitch, 75,000,000 VOTES, a record for a sitting President (by a lot)," Trump said. "Too soon to give up. Republican Party must finally learn to fight. People are angry!" Trump's message was tweeted along with an article detailing a number of high-profile conservative figures also criticizing McConnell for accepting Biden as the president-elect. more...

Lloyd Green - the guardian

In addition to Trump mulling a self-pardon, he’s also considering family members and Rudy Giuliani – but Barr’s words may come back to haunt him. On Monday, Donald Trump announced the exit of William Barr from the justice department. Finally, the president had succeeded in imposing his will upon someone, anyone, after weeks of repeated failures. On the very day that marked the 300,000th American death to Covid-19 and the electoral college’s ratification of Joe Biden’s victory, Trump had again hounded his attorney general from office. Jeff Sessions is no longer a club of one.

Yet Barr also won’t be there if and when the president delivers his final round of pardons, a likely relief to the president’s legal spear carrier but also a reason for Trump to fret: Barr knows a thing or two about eleventh-hour pardons. Mike Flynn is only the latest. As attorney general to George HW Bush, Barr successfully urged the late president to grant a passel of pardons in the aftermath of the Iran-Contra scandal and Bush’s 1992 loss to Bill Clinton. Indeed, in Barr’s telling he was a driving force nearly three decades ago, running roughshod over justice department “naysayers”.

Specifically, Barr fought for the pardon of Caspar Weinberger, Ronald Reagan’s defense secretary who was under indictment, and five others, including Elliot Abrams. In time, Abrams would join the administration of George W Bush and eventually serve as Trump’s special representative for Iran and then Venezuela. In a 2001 interview, the law-and-order Barr framed things this way: “The big ones obviously were the Iran Contra ones. I certainly did not oppose any of them. I favored the broadest.”

As for limiting Bush’s pardons to just Weinberger who was facing perjury charges, Barr was having none of that. He explained, “There were some people arguing just for Weinberger, and I said, ‘No, in for a penny, in for a pound.’” At the time, Abrams had already pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress, but Barr was not deterred. Rather, Barr “felt” that Abrams “had been very unjustly treated”. As expected, Lawrence Walsh, the then-independent counsel, saw things differently, saying: “The Iran-Contra coverup ... has now been completed.” more...

By Jacob Jarvis

President Donald Trump dismissed Sen. Mitch McConnell's congratulations of President-elect Joe Biden following the Electoral College vote, telling the Senate Majority Leader it is "too soon to give up." The Kentucky Republican had acknowledged Biden as the presidential election victor on Tuesday in a floor speech. In a message to McConnell, shared on Twitter, Trump referenced his popular vote tally and said: "Mitch, 75,000,000 VOTES, a record for a sitting President (by a lot). Too soon to give up. Republican Party must finally learn to fight. People are angry!" In the same tweet, the president shared an article about Trump allies criticizing McConnell. McConnell, the Senate majority leader, had said: "Many of us hoped that the presidential election would yield a different result, but our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on January 20. The Electoral College has spoken. more...

Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt - The New York Times

President Donald Trump lost key swing states by clear margins. His barrage of lawsuits claiming widespread voting fraud has been almost universally dismissed, most recently by the Supreme Court. And Monday, the Electoral College will formally cast a majority of its votes for President-elect Joe Biden. But as the president continues to refuse to concede, a small group of his most loyal backers in Congress is plotting a final-stage challenge on the floor of the House of Representatives in early January to try to reverse Biden’s victory.

Constitutional scholars and even members of the president’s own party say the effort is all but certain to fail. But the looming battle Jan. 6 is likely to culminate in a messy and deeply divisive spectacle that could thrust Vice President Mike Pence into the excruciating position of having to declare once and for all that Trump has indeed lost the election. The fight promises to shape how Trump’s base views the election for years to come, and to pose yet another awkward test of allegiance for Republicans who have privately hoped that the Electoral College vote this week will be the final word on the election result.

For the vice president, whom the Constitution assigns the task of tallying the results and declaring a winner, the episode could be particularly torturous, forcing him to balance his loyalty to Trump with his constitutional duties and considerations about his own political future. The effort is being led by Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., a backbench conservative. Along with a group of allies in the House, he is eyeing challenges to the election results in five states — Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Wisconsin — where they claim varying degrees of fraud or illegal voting took place, despite certification by voting authorities and no evidence of widespread impropriety. more...

Biden hails democracy and rebukes Trump after electoral college victory
The president-elect repudiated Donald Trump and said his assault on the democratic process was ‘unconscionable’
Lauren Gambino

Joe Biden delivered a sharp repudiation of Donald Trump and declared that the “will of the people had prevailed” in a speech that came shortly after the electoral college officially confirmed his victory. It was “time to turn the page” on a presidential election that tested the resilience of American democracy, the president-elect said just moments after Hawaii cast the final four electoral college votes, clearing a milestone that all but ended Trump’s unprecedented attempt to overturn the results.

Biden hailed the presidential election and its uncharted aftermath as a triumph of American democracy and “one of the most amazing demonstrations of civic duty we’ve ever seen in our country”. The final tally – 306 to 232 electoral votes – followed a baseless campaign by the president to reverse the results of an election that saw historic turnout despite a pandemic. Trump lost not only in the electoral college but the popular vote, too – by nearly 7m.

Yet for weeks, the president has clung to meritless accusations of voter fraud in a slate of battleground states that delivered the victory to Biden. His refusal to concede has sowed doubt among his supporters about the integrity of the vote and undermined faith in the institutions of American governance. In a speech delivered from Wilmington, Delaware, Biden said “our democracy – pushed, tested, threatened – proved to be resilient, true and strong”. more...

By Matthew Impelli

With slightly over a month left in office, President Donald Trump currently has a higher approval rating than just three other presidents, at the same point in their terms, according to a new poll. The poll, conducted by Five Thirty Eight, has been tracking Trump's and other presidents' approval ratings since the beginning of their terms, using averages from various polls conducted across the U.S. According to the poll, on his 1,425th day in office, Trump currently has an approval rating of 43.3 percent, and a disapproval rating of 52.5 percent. The poll also shows the approval and disapproval ratings for several other past presidents, and indicates that Trump's approval rating is higher than only three other presidents, on their 1,425th day in office.

The three presidents are George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and Lyndon B. Johnson. Bush (1989-1993) had an approval rating of 41.9 percent on his 1,425th day, according to the poll. Carter (1977-1981) had 33.7 percent. Johnson, who assumed the presidency after the assassination of John F. Kennedy and was in office from 1963 to 1969, had 38 percent on that day. But Trump's approval rating on his 1,425th day in office is lower than that of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, among others. more...

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

President-elect Joe Biden has received enough electoral votes to officially clinch the presidency. Today's Electoral College vote is a procedural step that typically goes unnoticed. But it has taken on outsize importance this year as President Trump continues to attack the election results. more...

Ronald J. Hansen Arizona Republic

In another sign of the lingering unrest over President Donald Trump's election loss, an Arizona group sent the National Archives in Washington, D.C., notarized documents last week intended to deliver, wrongly, the state's 11 electoral votes for him. Copies of the documents obtained by The Arizona Republic show a group that claimed to represent the "sovereign citizens of the Great State of Arizona" submitted signed papers casting votes for what they want: a second term for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. Mesa resident Lori Osiecki, 62, helped created a facsimile of the "certificate of ascertainment" that is submitted to formally cast each state's electoral votes as part of an effort to prevent what she views as the fraudulent theft of the election.

"We seated before the legislators here. We already turned it in. We beat them to the game," she said. Osiecki said she and others associated with a group called "AZ Protect the Vote" have attended the postelection rallies protesting the results, including the daylong meeting in Phoenix that included Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. She left that gathering upset that Gov. Doug Ducey wasn't supporting the president's efforts and she wanted to take further action. She and the others chose electors as a result. more...

(CNN) Michigan Republican Rep. Paul Mitchell told CNN that his disgust and disappointment with President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election have led him to request that the clerk of the House change his party affiliation to "independent." Read his letter to Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy below: more...


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Monday imposed sanctions on its NATO ally Turkey over its purchase of a Russian air defense system, in a striking move against a longtime partner that sets the stage for further confrontation between the two nations as President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office.

The extraordinary step against a treaty ally comes at a delicate time in relations between Washington and Ankara, which have been at odds for years over Turkey’s acquisition from Russia of the S-400 missile defense system, along with Turkish actions in Syria, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and in the eastern Mediterranean.

The sanctions, which were required under a 2017 U.S. law aimed at pushing back on Russia if the administration deemed there was significant cause, add another element of uncertainty to the relationship as Trump winds down his term. The move is the first time that law, known as CAATSA, has been used to penalize a U.S. ally. more...

Ryan Lucas

Attorney General William Barr, an outspoken proponent of conservative values and an expansive view of presidential power, will leave office before Christmas, President Trump announced in a tweet Monday afternoon. Trump said he and Barr had a "very nice meeting" and that their "relationship has been a very good one." Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen will become acting attorney general, Trump said. Earlier this month, Barr said the DOJ found no evidence of widespread election fraud, directly contradicting President Trump's baseless claims that the election was stolen by Democrats. Ahead of the election, Barr had stood by the president, repeating his unsubstantiated claims that mail-in voting was ripe for fraud.

In less than two years on the job, Barr emerged as perhaps the most divisive attorney general in recent memory for a series of controversial actions, including his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on the Russia investigation and his repeated false claims about the integrity of mail-in voting. But his legacy will forever be stamped by his role leading the forceful removal of peaceful protesters from Lafayette Park in the summer of 2020 to clear the way for a presidential photo op in front of a nearby church. more...

By Zachary Cohen, Vivian Salama and Brian Fung, CNN

Washington (CNN) US officials suspect that Russian-linked hackers were behind the recent data breach of multiple federal agencies, including the Departments of Homeland Security, Treasury and Commerce, but are continuing to investigate the incident, a senior administration official told CNN Monday. CNN learned Monday that DHS, which is tasked with helping safeguard the nation from malicious foreign cyber actors, is among at least three US government agencies compromised in the hack. A source familiar with the matter said that number is expected to increase in the coming hours and days.

While US officials believe that a Russia-linked entity or Russian individuals are responsible for the attacks, they have not yet finalized their designation on which actors are responsible, a senior administration official said.The National Security Council has decided to covene two meetings daily with the Cyber Response Group to determine the scope, scale and impact of the hack, they added. In the first of its meetings on Monday, officials came closer to a determination that a Russian-backed group was responsible but forensic investigations are ongoing, the official told CNN.

A meeting scheduled for later Monday aims to determine which government agencies were compromised. So far, only the Commerce Department has said publicly that it experienced a breach but other agencies appeared to have been targeted as well. "We have a hunch about who is behind the breaches," another administration official said, also confirming Monday's Emergency Cyber Response Group meeting. "But forensics like this take time to nail down, unless they were sloppy about it." more...

CBS News

President Trump said Sunday he was reversing an administration directive to vaccinate top government officials against COVID-19, while public distribution of the shot is limited to frontline health workers and people in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Mr. Trump made the announcement hours after his administration confirmed that senior U.S. officials, including some White House aides who work in close proximity to Mr. Trump and Vice President Pence, would be offered coronavirus vaccines as soon as this week under federal continuity of government plans.

"People working in the White House should receive the vaccine somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary," the president said in a tweet. "I have asked that this adjustment be made. I am not scheduled to take the vaccine, but look forward to doing so at the appropriate time." more...

By Jim Acosta and Kaitlan Collins, CNN

(CNN) High-ranking White House officials are set to receive some of the first coronavirus vaccines in the United States, according to a White House official and a person familiar. Those vaccinations, which could begin as soon as this week, would come while the vaccine is in extremely limited supply and only generally available to high-risk health care workers. The New York Times first reported on the White House vaccinations. Other parts of the Trump administration will be vaccinated in the coming days.

An administration official said health care providers at the National Institutes of Health will begin receiving the vaccine in the near future. Doctors and nurses in the intensive care unit at the NIH Clinical Center will be prioritized to receive the vaccine first. Other top officials, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, are on the list to receive the vaccine following those staffers who rank higher on the priority list, the official said.  more...


WASHINGTON (AP) — Hackers broke into the networks of federal agencies including the Treasury and Commerce departments in attacks revealed just days after U.S. officials warned that cyber actors linked to the Russian government were exploiting vulnerabilities to target sensitive data. The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity arm are investigating what experts and former officials said appeared to be a large-scale penetration of U.S. government agencies.

“This can turn into one of the most impactful espionage campaigns on record," said cybersecurity expert Dmitri Alperovitch. The hacks were revealed just days after a major cybersecurity firm disclosed that foreign government hackers had broken into its network and stolen the company's own hacking tools. Many experts suspect Russia is responsible for the attack against FireEye, a major cybersecurity player whose customers include federal, state and local governments and top global corporations.

The apparent conduit for the Treasury and Commerce Department hacks — and the FireEye compromise — is a hugely popular piece of server software called SolarWinds. It is used by hundreds of thousands of organizations globally, including most Fortune 500 companies and multiple U.S. government agencies who will now be scrambling to patch up their networks, said Alperovitch, the former chief technical officer of the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike. more...

Matthew Brown USA TODAY

Sen. Lamar Alexander said President Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election and needs to "put the country first," calling on him to formally concede to President-elect Joe Biden during an interview Sunday on NBC News' "Meet the Press." Alexander noted "the courts have resolved the disputes" Trump and his allies levied at states where he narrowly lost to Biden. Alexander also said he hoped Trump would congratulate Biden on his victory and then “helps him get off to a good start."

On Friday, the Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, which was supported by 18 other Republican attorneys general, seeking to block the electors from four battleground states from voting for Biden when the Electoral College meets Monday. The court's decision was widely seen as the final nail in the coffin for the Republican efforts to overturn the election results. more...

In an epic dummy spit, vloggers Diamond & Silk called for military intervention and internet troll Milo Yiannopoulos said the only options left were war or secession.
Alaina Demopoulos

MAGA world has gone into total meltdown after the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a bizarre Trump-endorsed lawsuit on Friday seeking to overturn the results of the presidential election. Many of the president’s staunchest supporters believed that the Supreme Court, with its Trump-appointed justices, would eventually come to the president’s rescue in his failing election fraud crusade. But, with their hopes crushed, some of the wackiest sycophants took to Twitter and alt right-friendly app Parler to call for civil war or secession—all because their guy lost.

“If the Supreme Court can’t save our republic, then where is the military?” former Fox News pundits and unofficial Trump “advisers” Diamond & Silk tweeted Friday evening. “Trying to overthrow the Government by exploiting a Pandemic, thus implementing rules that break our election laws, is unconstitutional. If the DOJ and the FBI can’t do their jobs, then where is the military? This is a Coup!” Lynette “Diamond” Hardaway and Rochelle “Silk” Richardson later clarified that they believe the military, which has no involvement in election auditing, should conduct a “forensic audit” in swing states, focusing on ballot boxes and dominion machines. more...

By Daniel Politi

The pro-Trump protest that took over Washington on Saturday turned violent at night as members of groups that refuse to accept President-elect Joe Biden won the election started roaming the streets and there were multiple faceoffs with counterprotesters. At least four people were stabbed near Harry’s Bar, which had become popular among members of the Proud Boys, the far-right male-chauvinist group. The victims were transported to the hospital with potentially life-threatening injuries. It wasn’t clear who the attackers were and whether the victims were affiliated with any political group although there are reports that at least one of the people stabbed was a Proud Boy member.

Two police officers with non-life-threatening injuries and two other people with minor injuries were also hospitalized. At least 23 people were arrested throughout the day, including six for assaulting police officers. Pro-Trump protsters gathered in several state capitals across the country and some of those also turned violent. In Olympia, Washington one person was shot, three were arrested and police declared a riot. Videos posted on social media appear to show the moment of the shot and the person who fired the shot and later put on a red hat. more...

*** Trump and republicans did not have an issue when it was not revealed Trump was under investigation before the 2016 election, now they have a problem that the Hunter Biden investigation was not revealed before the 2020 election. ***

Dan Mangan

President Donald Trump on Saturday morning lashed out at targets he blames for costing him the presidential election against Joe Biden: His attorney general, William Barr, two Republican governors and the Supreme Court. Trump, facing a big defeat Monday when the Electoral College is set to pick the Democrat Biden as the next president, on Twitter painted a distorted picture of being stabbed in the back by fellow Republicans, four of whom he put into their current jobs.

Trump explicitly said that the Republican governors of Georgia and Arizona should be voted out of office. And Trump retweeted a post that said Barr “should be fired by the end of business today” if the attorney general had worked to keep a criminal investigation of Biden’s son Hunter Biden secret during the election, as The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. “A big disappointment!” Trump wrote in a comment on that post, which ignores the fact that Barr appeared to be following ethical rules by keeping mum about a probe where the target has not been criminally charged. more...

By Benjamin Fearnow

President Donald Trump spent much of Saturday morning railing against officials including the Republican governors of Georgia and Arizona, claiming they allowed the presidential election to be "stolen." Trump responded to the Supreme Court Friday rejection of Texas' bid to overturn the November 3 election in favor of President-elect Joe Biden by lashing out at several top Republicans. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey drew the ire of the president on Twitter, as he labeled them "RINO" members of their party, meaning "Republicans in name only."

"Who is a worse governor,@BrianKempGA of Georgia or@dougducey of Arizona??? These are two RINO Republicans who fought against me and the Republican Party harder than any Democrat. They allowed states that I won easily to be stolen. Never forget, vote them out of office!" the president tweeted Saturday morning, blasting a wide range of some of his closest political allies. more...

By David Wickert, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The U.S. Supreme Court Friday dealt a serious blow to President Donald Trump’s effort to win a second term through the courts. But the president is not done with litigation. In a lawsuit pending in Fulton County Superior Court, Trump seeks to overturn the presidential election results in Georgia. Now he has appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court to get a resolution of the case before Monday, when the Electoral College will formally vote to name Joe Biden the next president.

Trump initially filed the lawsuit Dec. 4. But the Fulton County Superior Court clerk’s office initially rejected it, saying the president’s attorneys didn’t pay the proper filing fee or fill out the paperwork correctly. Trump’s attorneys corrected that on Monday – the same day state officials recertified the election results following a third tally of votes. The vote showed Biden won Georgia by 11,779 votes out of some 5 million ballots cast.

With the certification done, Trump’s campaign withdrew an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order to prevent the certification. With the emergency motion withdrawn, Fulton County Judge Constance Russell issued an order Wednesday stating the lawsuit would proceed “in the normal course” – which means it will not be resolved any time soon. more...

By Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Liptak and Jim Acosta, CNN

Washington (CNN)White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn he needed to grant an emergency use authorization for Pfizer/BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine by the end of Friday, and if not, he would have to resign, an administration official and a source familiar with the situation tell CNN.

Another person familiar with matter, who also confirmed the demand that the vaccine be authorized by the end of Friday, said President Donald Trump has been venting about the FDA chief since the vaccine was rolled out in the UK earlier this week.
The FDA announced the authorization late Friday night. Meadows and Hahn had a call Friday morning. A White House official said they do not comment on private conversations but the chief "regularly requests updates on the progress toward a vaccine."

Hahn quickly disputed the description of the conversation, which was first reported by The Washington Post, but the news is likely to raise additional questions about the extent to which Trump administration political interests are involved with the vaccine authorization process, and could undermine public confidence in the effort. more...

"The Supreme Court has decisively and speedily rejected the latest of Donald Trump and his allies’ attacks on the democratic process," said Biden campaign spokesman Mike Gwin.
By Pete Williams and Dartunorro Clark

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday brushed aside the lawsuit filed by Texas that sought to overturn Joe Biden's election victory in four battleground states. President Donald Trump called the case "the big one," and 126 of the 196 Republicans in the House urged the court to take it. But the justices acted quickly to turn it down. "Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections," the court said in a brief unsigned opinion.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito said the court had no authority to refuse a case filed on its original docket, where one state files to sue another. But they said they would not have granted Texas any other relief and expressed no view on any of the issues raised in the lawsuit. So the ruling was essentially a unanimous rejection of the Texas claims. Supporters of the Trump campaign saw the Texas suit as their best hope for derailing a victory for Joe Biden before the actual presidential vote is cast by the Electoral College on Monday.

President-elect Joe Biden's team welcomed the news, calling it an end to the president's baseless legal battle. "The Supreme Court has decisively and speedily rejected the latest of Donald Trump and his allies’ attacks on the democratic process," said campaign spokesman Mike Gwin in a statement. "This is no surprise — dozens of judges, election officials from both parties, and Trump's own Attorney General have dismissed his baseless attempts to deny that he lost the election," he said. "President-elect Biden's clear and commanding victory will be ratified by the Electoral College on Monday, and he will be sworn in on January 20th."

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said in a statement following the ruling that "it’s time to move forward." “Today’s Supreme Court decision is an important reminder that we are a nation of laws, and though some may bend to the desire of a single individual, the courts will not," she said. "Now it’s time to move forward — not as separate states, red or blue — but as united states in the continuing pursuit of a more perfect union.” Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, who has clashed with Trump, said in a statement the Supreme Court has finally "closed the book on the nonsense." more...

Claudia Grisales, Kelsey Snell - NPR

After facing a series of delays, the Senate approved by voice vote a one-week temporary funding measure Friday afternoon to avert a government shutdown hours before a critical deadline. The president signed the bill Friday evening. Without it, federal agencies would have run out of money at midnight Friday. The Senate's move came as Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, relented on his demands to first a vote first on a measure to allow direct payments to Americans.

"I am not one of the members of the Senate who shuts down, does this or does that and keeps people for weekends, I don't do that," Sanders said on the Senate floor ahead of the voice vote. The effort de-escalates a highly dramatic scene raised in the Senate overnight, creating worries that a sequence of fights among various members could trigger a shutdown. However, Sanders said he'll raise his demands again when the stopgap measure, also known as a continuing resolution, is set to expire in one week. And he said Congress should not go home for the holidays without addressing coronavirus relief aid. more...

The chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee described the White House’s decision as “shocking and deeply disappointing."

Sen. Jim Inhofe berated the Trump administration Thursday for recognizing Morocco’s claim over the disputed Western Sahara region, as part of a broader deal to normalize relations between Israel and Morocco. In floor remarks and a written statement, the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee described the White House’s decision as “shocking and deeply disappointing,” adding that he was “saddened that the rights of the Western Sahara people have been traded away.”

“The president has been poorly advised by his team,” Inhofe said. “He could have made this deal without trading the rights of a voiceless people." Inhofe’s remarks come as the Trump administration is preparing to sell arms to Morocco in the wake of its normalization agreement with Israel, according to congressional aides. Congress will have 30 days to block the sale once the White House formally notifies Capitol Hill of the expected transfer.

Trump took a similar path with the United Arab Emirates, moving to sell the Gulf nation $23 billion worth of munitions after it inked a normalization agreement with Israel. In a pair of votes Wednesday, the Senate failed to block that sale. The United States’ recognition of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara is a break from the United Nations, the African Union, the International Court of Justice and the European Union. Morocco and the Polisario Front have long fought over the sovereignty of the former Spanish North African territory. more...

The instruction was revealed during an investigation into the Trump administration’s political interference at the public health agency.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield instructed staff to delete an email from a Trump political appointee seeking control over the agency’s scientific reports on the pandemic, a senior CDC official told congressional investigators this week.

Redfield’s apparent instruction was revealed in a Monday closed-door interview with the House subcommittee probing the White House's coronavirus response, which includes the Trump administration’s interference at the federal public health agency. It came following an Aug. 8 email sent by Paul Alexander, who was then the scientific adviser to Health and Human Services spokesperson Michael Caputo, aiming to water down the CDC’s famed Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports to align with President Donald Trump’s efforts to downplay the virus.

"I was instructed to delete the email," MMWR editor Charlotte Kent told investigators. Kent, who was on vacation when Alexander sent the email, said that she was informed of the request by a colleague who filled in for her, and that she understood the request to be from Redfield. Kent said that she never saw the email herself. "I went to look for it after I had been told to delete it, and it was already gone," she told investigators on Monday.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, who chairs the House Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, on Thursday raised concern the episode may be among "deliberate efforts by the Trump Administration to conceal and destroy evidence" of political meddling in the pandemic response. In a letter to Redfield and HHS Secretary Alex Azar, he said that instructing staff to delete documents is unethical and possibly a violation of federal record-keeping requirements, according to a copy shared with POLITICO. more...

After testimony from a CDC official revealed requests to delete email, top House Democrat seeks to interview CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.
By Heidi Przybyla and Monica Alba

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus pandemic is demanding more information from top officials in the administration after a career employee at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testified about a political appointee's efforts to "alter or rescind" information considered damaging to President Donald Trump.

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., writes that the testimony raises "serious concern about what may be deliberate efforts by the Trump Administration to conceal and destroy evidence that senior political appointees interfered with career officials’ response to the coronavirus crisis" at the CDC.

The letter reveals that on Monday, Charlotte Kent, chief of the Scientific Publications Branch and editor-in-chief of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, stated in closed-door testimony that she had been instructed to destroy an email and that she understood the order came from Redfield.

In the Aug. 8 internal email to Kent and other health officials, previously reported by Politico, Paul Alexander demanded the CDC insert new language in a previously published scientific report on coronavirus risks to children. more...

For months, a 21-year-old Trump supporter impersonated Trump family members on Twitter, spreading conspiracy theories, asking for money and eventually drawing the attention of the president.
By Jack Nicas

Last month, between tweets disputing his election loss, President Trump posted an article from a conservative website that said his sister Elizabeth Trump Grau had just joined Twitter to publicly back her brother’s fight to overturn the vote. “Thank you Elizabeth,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “LOVE!” But the Twitter account that prompted the article was not his sister’s. It was a fake profile run by Josh Hall, a 21-year-old food-delivery driver in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my goodness. He actually thinks it’s his sister,’” Mr. Hall, a fervent Trump supporter, said in an interview last week. It was a surreal coda to nearly a year of deception for Mr. Hall. Since February, he had posed as political figures and their families on Twitter, including five of the president’s relatives. He had pretended to be Robert Trump, the president’s brother; Barron Trump, the president’s 14-year-old son; and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator. The accounts collectively amassed more than 160,000 followers. more...

Ed Pilkington and Sam Levine

Georgians from both parties describe violent and sexual threats to themselves and their families as militias make their presence known. On 1 December Gabriel Sterling, a Republican election official in Georgia, stood on the steps of the state capitol in Atlanta and let rip on Donald Trump. “Mr President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia,” he said, contradicting Trump’s increasingly unhinged claim that he had won the presidential race against all evidence. “Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence,” Sterling went on, referring to a storm of death threats and intimidation that had been unleashed by Trump supporters against public officials in the state. “Someone is going to get shot, someone is going to get killed. And it’s not right.” Then Sterling uttered the phrase that instantly entered the annals of American political rhetoric: “It has to stop.” It did not stop. more...

By John Bowden

Federal prosecutors were notified by the inspector general (IG) of the Department of Veterans' Affairs this year about a possible criminal violation committed by Secretary Robert Wilkie related to alleged efforts to discredit a sexual assault victim. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that while charges were never filed because prosecutors believed that not enough evidence could be found to convict Wilkie, the secretary was nevertheless referred for possible criminal prosecution by the inspector general over allegations that he attempted to publicly disparage the credibility of Navy veteran Andrea Goldstein, a policy adviser to Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), after she reported being groped by an unidentified man at a VA facility.

The referral was a result of Inspector General Michael Missal's investigation, launched in February, into claims raised by Takano that Wilkie had potentially interfered in the investigation into Goldstein's assault and lied to IG officials during their own investigation. He was also accused of directing a public affairs official at the VA to spread the idea to reporters that Goldstein had possibly made up her attack. more...

By John Bowden

President Trump reportedly called Georgia's attorney general, a Republican, to urge him not to rally other GOP attorneys general in opposition to a lawsuit from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) seeking to invalidate the presidential election results in four states. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the call took place Tuesday evening after Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr (R) called the arguments laid out by Paxton in his lawsuit "constitutionally, morally, and factually wrong" in a statement the same day. The call reportedly occurred at the urging of one of Georgia's senators, David Perdue (R), who along with fellow Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) announced their support for Paxton's lawsuit this week. In his own calls with Loeffler, Trump was "furious" about Carr's remarks, sources familiar with the calls told the newspaper. more...

By Holly Honderich

Five executions are scheduled before President-elect Joe Biden's 20 January inauguration - breaking with an 130-year-old precedent of pausing executions amid a presidential transition. And if all five take place, Mr Trump will be the country's most prolific execution president in more than a century, overseeing the executions of 13 death row inmates since July of this year. The five executions are to begin this week, starting with 40-year-old Brandon Bernard and 56-year-old Alfred Bourgeois. They are both scheduled to be put to death at a penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Attorney General William Barr has said his justice department is simply upholding existing law. But critics have said the move is concerning, coming just weeks before Mr Biden - who has said he will seek to end the death penalty - takes office. "This is really outside the norm, in a pretty extreme way," said Ngozi Ndulue, director of research at the non-partisan Death Penalty Information Center. Here's what you need to know about President Trump's last-minute rush of executions. more...

By Jim Sciutto, Ryan Browne and Zachary Cohen, CNN

Washington (CNN)The US Department of Defense is planning to withdraw most support for CIA counter-terror missions by the beginning of next year, in a move expected to have a broad effect on the scope of the intelligence agency's paramilitary operations, a senior defense official and former senior administration official with direct knowledge of the move told CNN.

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller informed CIA Director Gina Haspel of the decision in a letter this week. The US military provides a wide range of support to CIA paramilitary operations, including air transportation, logistics and medical evacuation. The changes, which will take place by January 5, involve returning DOD personnel detailed to the CIA and some military equipment, including Predator drones. The move was first reported by Defense One, citing multiple sources. The CIA and Pentagon did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment. more...

By LISA FRIEDMAN The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Loyalists to President Donald Trump have blocked transition meetings at some government agencies and are sitting in on discussions at other agencies between career civil servants and President-elect Joe Biden’s transition teams, sometimes chilling conversations, several federal officials said. At the Environmental Protection Agency, political appointees have joined virtually every discussion between career staff members and Biden’s team, monitoring conversations on climate change, scientific research and other topics. At the State Department such drop-ins are happening on what Trump appointees define as an as-needed basis. On Tuesday Biden’s transition team was allowed for the first time into the National Security Agency, but at the United States Agency for Global Media, parent of Voice of America, the Trump-appointed leader is refusing to cooperate with the Biden transition team, two agency officials confirmed.

Presidential transition experts said the presence of political officials at agency handoff meetings was not unheard-of and could even be seen as helpful. President George W. Bush, for example, worked closely in late 2008 with Barack Obama’s incoming team to help calm volatile financial markets. But against a backdrop of Trump’s refusal to concede election defeat, the actions of Trump appointees appeared to be a pernicious effort to slow the transition, some experts said. “The norm is that the political people are not involved in the nuts and bolts of this,” said Michael Herz, a professor of administrative law at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. more...

*** Donald J. Trump is trying to stage coup. If you want to stop the steal, tell Donald J. Trumphe needs to stop the lies and stop his coup attempt. ***

Zeynep Tufekci

On the evening of September 11, 1980, my mom was approached by a neighbor who held rank in the Turkish military. He told her to stock up on bread and rice. “Oh, another coup,” she immediately groaned. The neighbor was aghast—he wasn’t supposed to tell anyone what was coming. But my mom, of course, had immediately understood what his advice must have meant. Turkey is the land of coups; this was neither the first nor the last coup it would face.

Over three decades later, I walked up to a counter in Antalya Airport to tell a disbelieving airline employee that our flight would shortly be canceled because the tanks being reported in the streets of Istanbul meant that a coup attempt was under way.* It must be a military exercise, she shrugged. Some routine transport of troops, perhaps? If so, I asked her, where is the prime minister? Why isn’t he on TV to tell us that? Another woman approached the counter. “This must be your first,” she said to the young woman behind the counter, who was still shaking her head. “It’s my fourth.”

I told the airline employee that we were not getting on that plane, destined for the Istanbul airport, which I knew would be a primary target. The other woman and I nodded at each other, becoming an immediate coup pod. I went out to secure transportation for us—this airport was not going to be safe either—while she and my 7-year-old son went to retrieve our luggage. “His first too,” I said to her. more...

Will Carless USA TODAY

For four years, President Donald Trump downplayed homegrown extremism, refused to engage in security briefings and peddled in falsehoods about threats from leftists. Now former federal security officials are urging President-elect Joe Biden to more seriously acknowledge the growing danger of domestic terrorism, and they welcome signs that he plans to do so. "Just the fact that Biden's going to run a normal process, that alone will make us safer because you'll actually have people paying attention and addressing these issues," said Elizabeth Neumann, a former senior Homeland Security official.

"The indications are that he's going to treat the challenges we have with domestic terrorism seriously." Neumann was one of a half-dozen former U.S. Department of Homeland Security sources interviewed, along with members of other federal law enforcement agencies and experts in domestic terrorism. Their consensus was that the past four years have been chaotic at the upper echelon of national security. Trump has consistently downplayed a spike in homegrown extremism – most of it from the far right – that his own words have helped grow, they said. more...

President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has revealed in a call to his own radio show that he is being treated for coronavirus with the same drug cocktail his boss received when he was ill with Covid-19.

He was admitted to hospital on Sunday after becoming the latest official close to Mr Trump to test positive. Mr Giuliani, 76, told the show he expects to leave hospital on Wednesday. He has been treated with Remdesivir and Dexamethasone, he explained. Mr Trump tweeted on Sunday that his ally, who has been leading the Trump campaign's legal challenges to the November election outcome, had been diagnosed with the virus. "I am doing fine. Pretty much all the symptoms are gone. The minute I took the cocktail I felt 100% better. It works very quickly, wow," he told his colleagues on his weekly show with 77 WABC radio from the Medstar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington DC. Mr Trump has strongly praised the experimental combination of drugs he received when he spent three nights in hospital with Covid-19 in October. Dozens of people in Mr Trump's orbit are said to have tested positive for Covid-19 since October. more...

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) The only questions now are how many more times President Donald Trump wants to lose the election to President-elect Joe Biden and whether his Republican acolytes on Capitol Hill will wake up and recognize reality. Trump's dangerous delusions about a stolen election represent the most overt attempt in modern history by a President to overthrow the will of the voters. But they have reached the point of no return after the conservative-majority Supreme Court largely crushed what remaining hallucinatory hopes Trump harbored of reversing his defeat.

The Court's devastating first response to the post-election fray sent a clear signal that the top bench disdains frivolous and long-shot cases already witheringly rejected by lower courts. The denial of Pennsylvania Republicans' request to block the certification of their state's results, for which there were no noted dissents, was a humiliating repudiation of Trump's fundamental misunderstanding that three justices that he installed on the Court would swing him a disputed election. It also showed that evidence-free conspiracy theories might thrill the President's base and his media propagandists, but they don't cut it in court. "The jig is up. The President of the United States has no other recourse," said Laura Coates, a former federal prosecutor and CNN's senior legal analyst. Biden's spokesman Mike Gwin said: "This election is over. Joe Biden won and he will be sworn in as President in January." more...

By Jordan Williams

George Conway said Tuesday that the ‘biggest election fraud of 2020’ is the lie President Trump won. Conway, the husband of former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, co-founded the Lincoln Project, an ant-Trump GOP group that worked to defeat the president in the 2020 election. He made the remarks during an appearance on CNN. “The biggest election fraud of the 2020 cycle —- it didn't happen in any voting booth or in any mail-in drop box,” Conway said on CNN.  “It’s happening now with these people peddling the lie that he won the election.” more...

By Rebecca Beitsch

The Trump administration on Wednesday finalized a rule changing how incoming administrations evaluate their air regulations, something critics say will undermine future attempts to reduce air pollution. The rule changes how the government justifies its own air pollution regulations, limiting how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) weighs carbon pollution that impacts climate change as well as the benefits of tackling multiple air pollutants at once. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the new rule at an event with the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation, which backed the changes.

“Up to now there have been no regulations to hold us, the EPA, accountable to a standardized process and guarantee the public can now see how those calculations informed decisions,” Wheeler said. The rule dictates how the agency must compile its cost-benefit analysis for future air rules — a lengthy, technical pro-con list defending a rule that is most often scrutinized by staffers and those who plan to sue over their regulations. “What they’ve done is essentially manipulate and rig the cost-benefit analysis so that when EPA in the future gets back to their mission of protecting the environment and fighting climate change it will be much harder to justify their rules,” Amit Narang of Public Citizen, a left-leaning advocacy group, said when the rule was first proposed. more...

Sam Stein

President Donald Trump on Tuesday held what was billed as a summit to celebrate and mark the progress of the development of a vaccine to help end the COVID-19 pandemic. But after a few minutes of touting the success of Operation Warp Speed, his address morphed into an unspooling of grievances over the election outcome as well as an unfounded assertion that the rising number COVID-19 cases across the country was, in fact, a “terrific” development.

“I hear we’re close to 15 percent. I’m hearing that, and that’s terrific,” Trump said of the percentage of Americans who have contracted COVID-19. Trump Announced a Major Vaccine Summit but Forgot to Tell Key Figures He appeared to be referencing the increased likelihood that a rising infection rate would bring the country closer to so-called herd immunity, which would effectively stop the virus from spreading because there would be no potential carriers to which it could go. In fact, infectious disease experts say an infection rate would have to be above 70 percent for herd immunity to take hold—a number that, if it were to be reached, would result in hundreds of thousands more Americans dying. more...

By Kathryn Watson, Grace Segers

The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act with a veto-proof margin on Tuesday, dealing a blow to President Trump's threat to veto the legislation. The House passed the annual defense package, which lays out the annual budget and expenditures for the Pentagon, with a 335-78 vote, with one member abstaining — easily over the two-thirds majority that would be necessary to override a presidential veto. The bill now heads to the Senate.

A veto-proof majority in the House means a piece of legislation received at least two-thirds of the vote, signifying that the chamber would have the support to override a veto if Mr. Trump decided to issue one. If the president strikes down legislation that reaches his desk, it heads back to the House and Senate and must receive two-thirds support in each chamber to become law. Given that high bar, vetoes are not often overridden. more...

*** The Trump coup. Donald J. Trump is Trying to steal the election he lost by 7 million votes. Trump tried to rig the mail in votes when that did not work he tried the courts, that did not work now he is interfering to get republicans to give him the election. ***


President Donald Trump spoke with Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler twice in the past week, asking one of the state’s highest ranking Republicans to help him reverse Joe Biden’s victory in the state, The Washington Post reported Monday night. Cutler’s office confirmed the calls from the president, The Post reported, but Cutler told Trump the legislature can’t overturn the certified election results. The calls came as Cutler called for  the state’s congressional delegation to consider unresolved legal challenges to the state’s presidential election results when the Electoral College vote is tallied early next month. more...

By Ariane de Vogue and Paul LeBlanc, CNN

(CNN) The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to block certification of the commonwealth's election results, delivering a near fatal blow to the GOP's long-shot bid to invalidate President-elect Joe Biden's victory. The Supreme Court's action is a crushing loss for Trump, who has frequently touted the high court's potential to overturn his election loss. Just hours before the court's order was released, Trump made a direct appeal to state officials and members of the Supreme Court to assist him in his efforts to subvert the will of voters, as he continually and falsely suggested there was massive voter fraud during the election. "Let's see whether or not somebody has the courage, whether it's legislators or legislatures or a justice of the Supreme Court or a number of justices of the Supreme Court," Trump said. "Let's see if they have the courage to do what everybody in this country knows is right."

Tuesday's one-line order was issued with no noted dissents or comment from any of the nine justices. The court is made up of six conservative justices -- including Trump's three nominees -- Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett -- and three liberals. The order marked Barrett's first vote on an election-related dispute. The quick action with no public dissents (justices may choose whether to announce their dissent) is a signal the Supreme Court may not want to get involved in the ongoing Trump challenges, said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and University of Texas Law professor. "The fact that the justices issued a one-sentence order with no separate opinions is a powerful sign that the court intends to stay out of election-related disputes, and that it's going to leave things to the electoral process going forward," Vladeck said. "It's hard to imagine a more quietly resounding rejection of these challenges from this court," Vladeck added. Tuesday marks the "safe harbor" deadline for the state under federal law. That means that when Congress tallies the electoral votes in January, it must accept electoral results that were certified before the deadline. more...

Although Judge Emmet Sullivan ultimately ended the case, he lambasted the Justice Department.

A federal judge has closed the four-year-old criminal case against former national security adviser Michael Flynn, acknowledging the pardon that President Donald Trump issued last week to the only Trump administration official charged in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan — who’d been wrestling for months with a highly unusual request from Attorney General William Barr to drop the prosecution — said Tuesday that bid was rendered moot by Trump’s decision to grant Flynn a sweeping pardon for his alleged lies to the FBI and any other offenses he may have committed in connection with Mueller’s probe.

“The history of the Constitution, its structure, and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the pardon power make clear that President Trump’s decision to pardon Mr. Flynn is a political decision, not a legal one,” Sullivan wrote in a 43-page opinion. “Because the law recognizes the President’s political power to pardon, the appropriate course is to dismiss this case as moot. Although Sullivan ultimately ended the case, he lambasted the Justice Department for what he said was a highly questionable, if not indefensible, decision to drop the charges against Flynn. Sullivan also asserted that judges have the power to reject the dismissal of charges in a criminal case when the government’s actions are called into question.

Sullivan declared that the explanations Barr offered through his deputies for the decision to abandon the case were “dubious to say the least” and would arguably overcome the long-held “presumption of regularity” that government officials are generally afforded by the courts. Sullivan said many of the rationales offered by the government “appear pretextual, particularly in view of the surrounding circumstances.” more...

By Jim Acosta, Kaitlan Collins and Maegan Vazquez, CNN

(CNN) Jenna Ellis, a lawyer who has been leading the Trump campaign's legal efforts to dispute the results of the 2020 presidential election, has contracted the coronavirus, a source familiar with the situation confirmed to CNN. The source said White House aides have been informed that she has contracted the virus, but that Ellis has not been forthright with White House officials about it.
Axios first reported that Ellis had tested positive.

Ellis attended a Christmas party designated for senior staff on Friday, a senior official told CNN. She regularly does not wear a mask when she is at the White House. Ellis adds to the growing list of individuals in President Donald Trump's orbit testing positive for coronavirus in recent months. Most recently, Rudy Giuliani, another Trump lawyer working on baseless efforts to challenge the election results, was admitted to the hospital this weekend after testing positive for Covid-19. Giuliani and Ellis have frequently appeared maskless while crisscrossing the country in recent weeks to advance Trump's baseless election fraud claims. more...

State of the Union

President Trump has repeatedly and falsely attacked Georgia election officials, including the secretary of state whom he called an "enemy of the people" and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, for their handling of the presidential election. The state's Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan speaks to CNN's Jake Tapper about these attacks and calls on the President to stop. video...

Tom McCarthy and agencies

Ex-FDA chief confirms administration turned down offer to reserve additional doses of vaccine, set to be first approved for US use. Trump at an Operation Warp Speed briefing in November. The extent to which the decision not to acquire more of the Pfizer vaccine could impede the vaccination effort in the United States was unclear. The Trump administration on Tuesday scrambled to justify a decision not to buy millions of backup doses of a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer as the vaccine appeared likely to become the first approved for use in the United States. Government regulators with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced favorable preliminary findings on Tuesday from a review of Pfizer data, following approval for use in the UK and the first post-approval vaccination there.

The Trump administration last spring made a deal for 100m doses of the Pfizer vaccine candidate, but the administration turned down an offer to reserve additional doses, Scott Gottlieb, a current Pfizer board member and former FDA commissioner, confirmed on Tuesday. “Pfizer did offer an additional allotment coming out of that plan, basically the second-quarter allotment, to the US government multiple times – and as recently as after the interim data came out and we knew this vaccine looked to be effective,” Gottlieb told CNBC. “I think they were betting that more than one vaccine is going to get authorized and there will be more vaccines on the market, and that perhaps could be why they didn’t take up that additional 100m option agreement.” more...

By Alex Marquardt and Katelyn Polantz, CNN

(CNN) Chris Krebs, the former top administration official for cybersecurity, whom President Donald Trump fired after the election, is suing the Trump campaign and a lawyer working with the campaign to overturn the results of the election, accusing them of defamation. Krebs was fired after he said the election was the most secure in American history. Yet the Trump campaign has continued to push unfounded conspiracies of vote fraud and to seek court orders that would block President-elect Joe Biden's win in key states. Every one of the efforts in court or with state officials since Election Day to overturn the results of the election have failed.
Last week, Trump campaign lawyer Joseph diGenova said on Newsmax TV that Krebs should be "drawn and quartered" and "taken out at dawn and shot."

"DiGenova was fully aware that Plaintiff had committed no criminal conduct of any sort, let alone treason, so as to call for him to be 'drawn and quartered,' " Krebs' lawsuit said. "DiGenova knew that his inflammatory statements would cause a media frenzy and an outpouring of animosity" and that "his 'call to action' would create a clear risk of imminent physical harm directed toward Plaintiff and his family." The lawsuit is being filed in state court in Montgomery County, Maryland. Krebs alleges diGenova and the Trump campaign have caused him emotional distress. Krebs also is suing Newsmax, alleging that the far right-wing TV network aided and abetted the alleged harassment. He is asking for at least $75,000 and a court order to force Newsmax to remove video of diGenova's threats.
DiGenova declined to comment. The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"For anyone listening to the Howie Carr Show, it was obvious that my remarks were sarcastic and made in jest. I, of course, wish Mr. Krebs no harm. This was hyperbole in a political discourse," diGenova said in a statement distributed by the campaign earlier this month. Newsmax released a statement to CNN, saying diGenova had appeared as a guest via phone on "The Howie Carr Show" and "made comments that were inappropriate." The statement said diGenova is "not a paid contributor" to Newsmax and the network has no official ties to him. more...

By Elliot Hannon

The United Kingdom kicked off its coronavirus vaccination drive Tuesday morning, just days after the country’s regulator approved Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use. The U.S. is set to follow with an unprecedented vaccine drive of its own as soon as the Food and Drug Administration grants emergency authorization for the vaccine, which could come as quickly as this week. The White House is hosting a vaccine summit Tuesday where President Donald Trump is set to sign an executive order making vague, likely unenforceable, assertions about Americans getting all the doses it needs before vaccines are shipped elsewhere. The order amounts to a PR stunt and comes after the New York Times reported that the Trump administration declined the opportunity to lock in tens of millions of additional doses of the vaccine this fall.

Pfizer officials told the Times they warned the Trump administration that supply would be tight and urged the White House to preorder more doses, but they were rebuffed. As a result, Americans could have to wait until midway through 2021 before the country is able to get another batch of doses. The Trump administration agreed to purchase 100 million doses (enough to vaccinate 50 million people) in July for nearly $2 billion. “After it signed its federal contract in late July, Pfizer went on to seal deals with other governments, including the European Union, which last month finalized an agreement to acquire 200 million doses from Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech,” the Times reports. “The federal contract signed in July called for Pfizer to deliver 100 million doses by March at a cost of $19.50 a dose—if its vaccine worked. It gave the government the option to request 100 million to 500 million additional doses. It was one of six contracts that the Trump administration signed with vaccine makers in a strategy intended to hedge its bets and maximize the chances of success.” more...

By Joseph Choi

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) on Tuesday rebuked President Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the election, calling it an “attempted coup.” “This is an attempt to overthrow our government. You may not call it a coup, but this is an attempted coup,” said Clyburn while appearing on CNN’s "New Day." “Now some people said he's trying to steal the election; he's not trying to steal the election. That denotes some kind of unknown activity, when you're stealing. No, that's not what he's doing. He is in your face, trying to overthrow the will of the people.”

As CNN host John Berman noted, Trump has called GOP officials in several states to try to change election results. On Tuesday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) warned state legislators that they cannot appoint pro-Trump presidential electors. Kemp made this statement less than a week after Trump reportedly called him and asked him to persuade state legislators to overturn the results of the election. In Pennsylvania, Trump asked state House Speaker Bryan Cutler (R) on Monday to “fix” a law that prevented lawmakers from replacing electors. Clyburn pointed out in his interview that he had previously predicted Trump would not leave the White House easily. more...

The president’s last-gasp efforts to overturn the election are reshaping the party.

Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the presidential election have met with defeat in every swing state and in nearly every court where his cases have been heard. But Trump’s campaign to pressure GOP elected officials to support his baseless claims of a rigged election — and his success in convincing a majority of the party that widespread voter fraud occurred — is already showing signs of having far-reaching effects that will reshape the Republican Party for years to come. State party chairs are tearing into their governors. Elected officials are knifing one another in the back. Failed candidates are seizing on Trump’s rhetoric to claim they were also victims of voter fraud in at least a half dozen states.

As his presidency comes to a close, Trump has not only imprinted his smash-mouth style on the GOP, he has wrenched open the schism between the activist class and the elected class, according to interviews with more than a dozen Republican Party officials and strategists in the states. “This is Hatfield and McCoy stuff, but it’s McCoy on McCoy, or Hatfield on Hatfield,” said Michael Brodkorb, a former deputy chair of the Minnesota Republican Party. “To see activists across the country really just with pitchforks and torches at the capitols … it’s just bonkers.” In the short term, the forces unleashed by Trump threaten the party’s prospects in the Jan. 5 Georgia Senate runoff. But the infighting also stands to reshape the party for the long haul, with implications for the midterm elections and the presidential nominating contest in 2024. more...

By Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump's staunchest defenders on Capitol Hill are urging him not to concede even after President-elect Joe Biden wins the Electoral College vote next week, calling on their party's leader to battle it out all the way to the House floor in January as he makes unsubstantiated claims of widespread election fraud. The view of Trump's defenders is at odds with that of many top congressional Republicans, including leaders of the Senate, who believe the election will be over next Monday when electors cast their votes and make Biden's win official -- even though the Democrat's victory in the presidential race has been clear for weeks.

But conservative House Republicans argue that next week doesn't mark the end of Trump's desperate efforts to overturn the election results, which he has failed to do through scores of fruitless lawsuits and brazen efforts to pressure state and local leaders to subvert the will of voters and appoint new slates of electors to the Electoral College. They said that Congress should engage in a full-throated debate over the results in key states because of their allegations of fraud, which have yet to be borne out in court. Asked if Trump should concede next Monday, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said bluntly: "No. No way, no way, no way."

"We should still try to figure out exactly what took place here. And as I said that includes, I think, debates on the House floor -- potentially on January 6," Jordan, a trusted Trump confidant, told CNN. It is not unusual for a losing candidate's most fervent supporters to take their case to the House floor -- something that occurred after the 2016, 2004 and 2000 presidential races. But it is unusual for the losing candidate to mount a weeks-long public campaign aimed at sowing discord and distrust over a pillar of democracy, something that Trump has done relentlessly since losing the race. Even if Trump loses a bevy of GOP support for his unprecedented quest after next week, the backing of his staunchest supporters is likely to only encourage the mercurial President to continue his barrage of attacks against the integrity of the elections. more...

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