What Now?! – 11/18/2020

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) reiterated his accusation in a CBS News interview that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) suggested throwing out valid ballots in the state, where Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by about 14,000 votes in the presidential race. Such a suggestion is a crime, called Fraud by an Elections/Campaign Official or Other Individual. A conviction comes with a five year prison sentence.

Graham must now realize that he is going to be someone’s bitch in prison, because he is furiously changing his story multiple times now. Graham quickly denied this account because it immediately prompted calls for his resignation and even criminal indictment. The main problem for Graham and his now shifting account of the call is that some Raffensperger aides were on the call too (i.e. witnesses) and at least one has already corroborated Raffensperger’s recollection.

“A staffer for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger said Tuesday that he participated in a controversial phone call with Sen. Lindsey Graham and said he heard Graham ask if state officials could throw out ballots,” CNN confirmed  Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier Tuesday, Graham suddenly began suggesting he had simply been calling around to multiple secretaries of state to chew the election fat. Only that was clearly a lie too.  After Graham told a group of reporters he had also called top election officials in Nevada and Arizona to discuss general election integrity, Arizona’s Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs quickly tweeted, “This is false. I have not spoken with @LindseyGrahamSC.”

Graham then amended his earlier claim (i.e. changed his story), saying he hadn’t spoken with the Secretaries of State of Arizona and Nevada but rather Arizona GOP Gov. Doug Ducey.

“President Trump began his third straight week of angry defiance of the election results, brooding behind the scenes about the state of his campaign’s legal challenges and of Georgia’s hand recount while refusing the pleas of some advisers to commit to a peaceful transfer of power,” the Washington Post reports.

Said one Trump adviser: “He is more dug into his position than he was at the beginning. He thinks this is his base for 2024, and that half the country are warriors fighting for him, and that he’s got to keep fighting.”

“The Republican Party is in an increasingly untenable position — how much longer can it really refuse to recognize Joe Biden as the president-elect?,” Politico reports. “Nearly two weeks after the election, there are signs that Republicans are starting to accept reality.”

“Most Republicans have been reluctant to contradict Trump’s claim that he can still hold the White House, but there’s been a steady trickle of GOP lawmakers defecting from Trump’s false contention that he was robbed by fraudsters.”

President Trump announced that he has fired Chris Krebs, the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Trump said Krebs’ recent statement that the 2020 elections were the most secure in history was “highly inaccurate.”

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) will join Joe Biden’s administration in a senior role “overseeing public engagement,” leaving his seat in the House of Representatives just after being elected to his sixth term, Bloomberg reports.

“President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday named a slate of key White House staff members as he continues to fill out his team before taking office in January,” CNBC reports.

Veteran Biden advisor Mike Donilon was named senior advisor to the president. Jen O’Malley Dillon, who managed Biden’s victorious campaign, will serve as White House deputy chief of staff. Steve Ricchetti will be senior counselor to the president, the Biden team announced. Ricchetti is a career Democratic political aide who served as Biden’s chief of staff during the Obama administration. Dana Remus, a former White House deputy counsel for ethics during the Obama administration, was named counsel to the president. Biden’s director of intergovernmental affairs will be Julie Chavez Rodriguez, a former aide to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and the granddaughter of labor leader Cesar Chavez. Annie Tomasini, a longtime member of Biden’s inner circle and his traveling chief of staff on the campaign, will serve as director of Oval Office Operations.

White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Scott Atlas encouraged large holiday gatherings in a Fox News interview: “This kind of isolation is one of the unspoken tragedies of the elderly who are now being told don’t see your family at Thanksgiving. For many people this is their final Thanksgiving, believe it or not.”

Stanford University issued a statement about Dr. Scott Atlas, who is on leave of absence from the university to serve as coronavirus adviser to President Trump:

“Dr. Atlas has expressed views that are inconsistent with the university’s approach in response to the pandemic. Dr. Atlas’s statements reflect his personal views, not those of the Hoover Institution or the university.”

“The Secret Service has never had to drag a president out of the White House. And there’s no obvious government playbook on how to handle a commander-in-chief who refuses to budge when his replacement shows up at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave,” Business Insider reports.

“It’s even a hot topic in a private group chat involving former Secret Service officials and Department of Homeland Security alumni from both Republican and Democratic administrations.”

“President Trump asked senior advisers in an Oval Office meeting on Thursday whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks,” the New York Times reports. “The meeting occurred a day after international inspectors reported a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material.”

“A range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike. The advisers — including Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Christopher Miller, the acting defense secretary; and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — warned that a strike against Iran’s facilities could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency.”

After reports that President Trump is mulling a military strike on Iran, Bob Woodward told MSNBC that Trump is intentionally pushing the boundaries of his presidency as his final days in the White House approach. Said Woodward: “There are people in the military, in the White House, in the intelligence community who just won’t do certain things. They just say no. I can see Trump discussing possibilities… maybe kind of testing the waters to see if people would kind of go along with this.”

Washington Post: “In a meeting Friday, Rudy Giuliani told Trump that his advisers had been lying to him about his odds of prevailing and that he actually could win… Since then, Giuliani has taken over.”

“Also further empowered is Jenna Ellis, who showed up at the campaign’s headquarters over the weekend and signaled to others she would be taking a leading role in the effort. Ellis is viewed as an uncontrollable figure inside the campaign who often provided Trump with questionable information about alleged voter fraud and appeared on television without asking for approval from campaign officials.”

Rudy Giuliani has filed an application to appear in federal court in Pennsylvania on behalf of the Trump campaign’s election lawsuit there.

“The game of musical chairs among lawyers pursuing President Trump’s court challenges to the election results continued on Monday evening, as the campaign tried to replace the entire team handling the campaign’s federal lawsuit seeking to block certification of Pennsylvania’s results,” Politico reports.

“A court filing said Marc Scaringi, a Harrisburg, Pa., attorney, conservative talk radio host and former Senate candidate, was taking over the case.” The HuffPost reports that Mr. Scaringi has “admitted that President-elect Joe Biden won the election and that the legal battles won’t work.” Said attorney and radio host Marc Scaringi told his listeners on Nov. 7: “I’ve been saying since Wednesday morning that Biden would win. In my opinion there really are no bombshells that are about to drop that will derail a Biden presidency including these lawsuits.”

Giuliani asked the president’s campaign to pay him $20,000 a day for his legal work, the New York Times reports. Giuliani denied the story: “I never asked for $20,000. The arrangement is, we’ll work it out at the end.”

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said he plans to introduce legislation legalizing marijuana when the General Assembly convenes in January, setting the state on a path to become the first in the South to allow recreational use of the drug, the Virginia Mercury reports.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) announced he is quarantining after being exposed to someone who tested positive for coronavirus, meaning he will not be in the Senate today for the confirmation vote of controversial Fed nominee Judy Shelton, the Washington Post reports.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was in the Senate today, and she voted no to the nomination, which resulted in a 50-47 vote against Shelton’s nomination.

Catherine Rampell: Republicans are trying to jam through Judy Shelton. She has no business working at the Fed.

Vanity Fair has an interesting essay from Lysandra Ohrstrom, former best friend of Ivanka Trump:

“It was easy to ignore the dozens of press inquiries that flooded my inbox when Donald Trump announced his candidacy because I didn’t think he had any chance of winning. Then, when Ivanka joined her dad’s administration, I was sure she would step in to moderate her father’s most regressive, racist tendencies—not out of any moral commitment, but because caging young children and ripping up global climate agreements was not a good look in the halls of Davos.”

“The Ivanka I knew spent her career developing and embodying a more polished and intellectual offshoot of the Trump brand, which blended the language and look of white millennial feminism with the mythical narrative of the business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit she claimed to have inherited from her dad.”

“Instead, I’ve watched as Ivanka has laid waste to the image she worked so hard to build.”

“For four years, Vice President Mike Pence has faced one sweeping loyalty test after another. This time, allies are questioning whether there should be a limit to his fealty. As President Trump pushes to overturn the election outcome and pressures Republicans not to recognize President-elect Joe Biden as the next commander in chief, Pence is facing pressure from allies to put country and party first — even if they collide with the inclinations of his boss,” Politico reports.

“The head of the White House’s coronavirus task force since the early weeks of the pandemic, Pence could be warning the public about an explosion of coronavirus cases and steering administration officials toward a more robust response to the pandemic — something Trump does not want his government dwelling on.”

“The vice president also could spend more time promoting a pair of GOP senators in special-election races that are likely to determine the balance of power in the Senate — but part of that message rests on acknowledging Trump won’t hold the White House. And Pence, who has long harbored presidential ambitions of his own, might at this moment have his eyes on a 2024 Republican primary — but can’t do that with Trump in the way.”

“President-elect Joe Biden has privately told advisers that he doesn’t want his presidency to be consumed by investigations of his predecessor, despite pressure from some Democrats who want inquiries into President Trump, his policies and members of his administration,” NBC News reports.

“Biden has raised concerns that investigations would further divide a country he is trying to unite and risk making every day of his presidency about Trump.”

“They said he has specifically told advisers that he is wary of federal tax investigations of Trump or of challenging any orders Trump may issue granting immunity to members of his staff before he leaves office.”

President Trump has ordered the Pentagon to pull 2,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq by mid-January, The Hill reports.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued a stark warning Tuesday that any premature withdrawal from Afghanistan could be dangerous, CNN reports.

“Then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper sent a classified memo earlier this month to the White House asserting that it was the unanimous recommendation of the chain of command that the US not draw down its troop presence in Afghanistan any further until conditions were met,” CNN reports.

“The assessment from the chain of command — Esper, US Central Command leader Marine Gen. Kenneth ‘Frank’ McKenzie and commander of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan Gen. Austin Miller — stated that the necessary conditions had not been met. Others agreed, sources tell CNN, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.”

“The memo is believed to have been one of the main reasons why outgoing President Trump fired Esper last week.”

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will attend a trilateral summit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani in Jerusalem Wednesday,” Axios reports. “The summit is a follow-up to the agreement establishing peaceful and diplomatic relations between Israel and Bahrain, signed in Manama last month with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in attendance. It represents another step in normalizing relations between the two nations.”

Pompeo is also visiting Turkey during this trip, but he won’t meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or other government leaders during the visit, a highly unusual situation that U.S. officials chalked up to scheduling conflicts and Turkish officials considered an insult, Bloomberg reports.

AFP reports a group of 20 to 30 Turks shouted “Yankee go home!” as the evangelical Christian Pompeo headed in for a meeting with the Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople — the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox world — to express his “strong position” on religious freedoms.

“About 300 companies that received as much as half a billion dollars in pandemic-related government loans have filed for bankruptcy,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Many of the companies, which employ a total of about 23,400 workers, say the funds from the Paycheck Protection Program weren’t enough to keep them going as the coronavirus and lack of additional stimulus payments weighed on their businesses.”

“President Trump will enact a series of hardline policies during his final 10 weeks to cement his legacy on China,” Axios reports. “He’ll try to make it politically untenable for the Biden administration to change course as China acts aggressively from India to Hong Kong to Taiwan, and the pandemic triggers a second global wave of shutdowns.”

“Fifteen Asia-Pacific economies formed the world’s largest free trade bloc on Sunday, a China-backed deal that excludes the United States, which had left a rival Asia-Pacific grouping under President Trump,” CNBC reports.

“The signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership at a regional summit in Hanoi, is a further blow to the group pushed by former U.S. president Barack Obama, which his successor Trump exited in 2017.”

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President-elect Joe Biden’s team are arguing that it makes the most strategic sense for now to let public pressure build on President Trump for preventing the transition from officially taking place, rather than using the power of the House Democrats’ majority to draw more attention to the matter,” CNN reports.

“Democrats are trying to avoid turning Trump’s refusal to accept the election results into a partisan fight, believing Trump will be in an untenable position if more Republicans join their calls to let the transition officially begin as the President’s legal case continues to collapse and states begin certifying the election results.”

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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