Sunday, November 15, 2020

Last Call For Biden, His Time, Con't

As President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office in January, nearly half of the transition team laying the groundwork for his administration is made up of people of color, and women are in the majority. 
Forty-six percent of the transition staff are people of color, according to new diversity data of the transition team provided to CNN, and 41% of the senior staff are people of color. The majority of transition staff -- 52% -- are women, and 53% of the senior staff are women. 
The new diversity figures come as Biden is set to announce his Cabinet picks and senior staff for the White House in the coming weeks -- one of the first tests of his campaign pledge to build an administration that will "look like America." 
Biden's first major step toward diversity in his administration came when he selected Kamala Harris, a Black and South Asian woman, as his vice president. In his first staffing announcement, Biden chose a White man and longtime adviser -- Ron Klain -- as his chief of staff for the White House. 
The transition team's diversity also extends to its advisory board -- where 43% are people of color and 52% are women. Nine of the 13 members of Biden's Covid-19 advisory board are people of color and five of the members are women, according to the data. 
Last week, the transition team announced its agency review teams despite the General Services Administration not yet recognizing Biden as the winner of the election. The teams consist of roughly 500 people, more than half of whom are women. About 40% of the team "represent communities historically underrepresented in the federal government," a transition official said, which includes people of color, individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities. 
"For months, the Biden-Harris transition has laid the groundwork for a Biden-Harris administration, and at the core of that work is an unrelenting commitment to diversity," said Ted Kaufman, co-chair of the Biden-Harris transition. "As we continue working full-speed ahead to Inauguration, our diverse group of leaders and staff are reflective of America -- upholding President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris' belief that through diverse voices we can develop and implement a policy vision to tackle our nation's toughest challenges."
This is just the beginning.  Expect the most diverse executive branch leadership in America's history, and at every step of the way.

Retribution Execution, Con't

Never forget that the people who voted for Donald Trump did so not only because his racism, misogyny, and bigotry never bothered their consciences (along with his criminality) but because he gave them tacit permission to engage in their own racism, bigotry, and misogyny.  And they loved every minute of it. They see Joe Biden as the substitute teacher they don't have to obey, and that they can do whatever they want to him...and his supporters.
On Monday in Dallas, hundreds of Mr. Trump’s supporters gathered outside the city’s election office in a “Stop the Steal” protest promoted by the state Republican Party. The message from speakers and attendees went further than expressing fears of election fraud, amounting to a wholesale rejection of a Biden presidency and of the Republican elected officials who acknowledged it. One speaker said of the Republican lawmakers who had called Mr. Biden the president-elect, “Remember who they are when you go to the polls next.”

“This is contempt of half of the country by the other half of the country,” said Paul Feeser, 61, who attended the protest in Dallas. “So if the conclusion was for Biden, I would look at it as illegitimate, and I and many others expect to be part of the so-called resistance — as Trump resisted.”

Karen Bell, who was also at the rally, said her distrust centered on mail voting.

“In these swing states, he was ahead, and then all of a sudden in Wisconsin and Michigan and Pennsylvania, they stopped counting,” Ms. Bell said, echoing conspiracy theories about vote counting. “And then we wake up and suddenly Biden is ahead. These mystery votes all came in for Biden and zero for Trump. Something is definitely fishy there.”

Asked for any evidence of widespread election fraud, in light of the fact that election officials including Republicans have consistently dismissed such claims, Ms. Bell cited conspiratorial right-wing sites like Infowars. Election officials have made it clear: There is no evidence of widespread election fraud.

No matter what happens next, “I will not believe that the election was fair,” Ms. Bell said. “I will not believe that he is a legitimate winner.”
The feeling that Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede is justified, and that Mr. Biden’s rise to the presidency should not be recognized, is not universal for Republicans. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found that nearly 80 percent of Americans believe Mr. Biden won, including about 60 percent of Republicans.

But other polling has provided mixed results, including a survey from Politico/Morning Consult showing that the number of Republicans who do not believe this year’s election was free and fair has doubled, from 35 percent before Election Day to 70 percent.
Expect four years of the Trump cultist version of "the resistance." Some of it will be violent, and some of it will be deadly.  But it will absolutely be constant. They are the victims here. And they want restitution in blood.

Ms. Smith, 67, and her husband, Dennis, 69, tied their unequivocal support for the president — even in defeat — to larger cultural concerns.

Like Mr. Biden and his supporters, the Smiths saw this election as a battle for the country’s soul. To unify with Mr. Biden would be an admission that the battle is lost, and that the multicultural tide powering his victory will continue its ascension.

“Everything I worked for, Biden wants to give to the immigrants to help them live, when they don’t do nothing but sit on their butts,” Mr. Smith said.

“And if those protesters come here, if they go tearing up stuff, I guarantee you they won’t be in this town very long,” he added. “We’ll string them up and send them out of here — and it won’t be the same way they came in.
Above all, they can't wait for permission to begin indulging in the violent fantasies they've been feasting on for 30 years or longer, some of them. And Trump is the one who will absolve them of their sins when the blood showers down like rain.

There most likely won't be reconciliation without violence. That's how history nearly always turns out.


Sunday Long Read: Orange Is The New Trump

As Jane Meyer at the New Yorker reminds us in our Sunday Long Read this week, Donald Trump knows full well he is headed for indictments, both federal and state. He will almost certainly pardon himself, or resign on the last day and have Pence pardon him and his family and all of his co-conspirators, of federal crimes. But the state crimes, particularly in New York, are enough to put him in prison for the rest of his natural life. And nobody is more aware of this than Donald Trump himself. (Keep in mind the piece was published before the election, too. The results would have been the same with a large Biden win, or a close one.)

The President was despondent. Sensing that time was running out, he had asked his aides to draw up a list of his political options. He wasn’t especially religious, but, as daylight faded outside the rapidly emptying White House, he fell to his knees and prayed out loud, sobbing as he smashed his fist into the carpet. “What have I done?” he said. “What has happened?” When the President noted that the military could make it easy for him by leaving a pistol in a desk drawer, the chief of staff called the President’s doctors and ordered that all sleeping pills and tranquillizers be taken away from him, to insure that he wouldn’t have the means to kill himself.

The downfall of Richard Nixon, in the summer of 1974, was, as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein relate in “The Final Days,” one of the most dramatic in American history. That August, the Watergate scandal forced Nixon—who had been cornered by self-incriminating White House tape recordings, and faced impeachment and removal from office—to resign. Twenty-nine individuals closely tied to his Administration were subsequently indicted, and several of his top aides and advisers, including his Attorney General, John Mitchell, went to prison. Nixon himself, however, escaped prosecution because his successor, Gerald Ford, granted him a pardon, in September, 1974.

No American President has ever been charged with a criminal offense. But, as Donald Trump fights to hold on to the White House, he and those around him surely know that if he loses—an outcome that nobody should count on—the presumption of immunity that attends the Presidency will vanish. Given that more than a dozen investigations and civil suits involving Trump are currently under way, he could be looking at an endgame even more perilous than the one confronted by Nixon. The Presidential historian Michael Beschloss said of Trump, “If he loses, you have a situation that’s not dissimilar to that of Nixon when he resigned. Nixon spoke of the cell door clanging shut.” Trump has famously survived one impeachment, two divorces, six bankruptcies, twenty-six accusations of sexual misconduct, and an estimated four thousand lawsuits. Few people have evaded consequences more cunningly. That run of good luck may well end, perhaps brutally, if he loses to Joe Biden. Even if Trump wins, grave legal and financial threats will loom over his second term.

Two of the investigations into Trump are being led by powerful state and city law-enforcement officials in New York. Cyrus Vance, Jr., the Manhattan District Attorney, and Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, are independently pursuing potential criminal charges related to Trump’s business practices before he became President. Because their jurisdictions lie outside the federal realm, any indictments or convictions resulting from their actions would be beyond the reach of a Presidential pardon. Trump’s legal expenses alone are likely to be daunting. (By the time Bill Clinton left the White House, he’d racked up more than ten million dollars in legal fees.) And Trump’s finances are already under growing strain. During the next four years, according to a stunning recent Times report, Trump—whether reĆ«lected or not—must meet payment deadlines for more than three hundred million dollars in loans that he has personally guaranteed; much of this debt is owed to such foreign creditors as Deutsche Bank. Unless he can refinance with the lenders, he will be on the hook. The Financial Times, meanwhile, estimates that, in all, about nine hundred million dollars’ worth of Trump’s real-estate debt will come due within the next four years. At the same time, he is locked in a dispute with the Internal Revenue Service over a deduction that he has claimed on his income-tax forms; an adverse ruling could cost him an additional hundred million dollars. To pay off such debts, the President, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes to be two and a half billion dollars, could sell some of his most valuable real-estate assets—or, as he has in the past, find ways to stiff his creditors. But, according to an analysis by the Washington Post, Trump’s properties—especially his hotels and resorts—have been hit hard by the pandemic and the fallout from his divisive political career. “It’s the office of the Presidency that’s keeping him from prison and the poorhouse,” Timothy Snyder, a history professor at Yale who studies authoritarianism, told me.

The White House declined to answer questions for this article, and if Trump has made plans for a post-Presidential life he hasn’t shared them openly. A business friend of his from New York said, “You can’t broach it with him. He’d be furious at the suggestion that he could lose.” In better times, Trump has revelled in being President. Last winter, a Cabinet secretary told me Trump had confided that he couldn’t imagine returning to his former life as a real-estate developer. As the Cabinet secretary recalled, the two men were gliding along in a motorcade, surrounded by throngs of adoring supporters, when Trump remarked, “Isn’t this incredible? After this, I could never return to ordering windows. It would be so boring.”

Throughout the 2020 campaign, Trump’s national poll numbers have lagged behind Biden’s, and two sources who have spoken to the President in the past month described him as being in a foul mood. He has testily insisted that he won both Presidential debates, contrary to even his own family’s assessment of the first one. And he has raged not just at the polls and the media but also at some people in charge of his reĆ«lection campaign, blaming them for squandering money and allowing Biden’s team to have a significant financial advantage. Trump’s bad temper was visible on October 20th, when he cut short a “60 Minutes” interview with Lesley Stahl. A longtime observer who spent time with him recently told me that he’d never seen Trump so angry.

The President’s niece Mary Trump—a psychologist and the author of the tell-all memoir “Too Much and Never Enough”—told me that his fury “speaks to his desperation,” adding, “He knows that if he doesn’t manage to stay in office he’s in serious trouble. I believe he’ll be prosecuted, because it seems almost undeniable how extensive and long his criminality is. If it doesn’t happen at the federal level, it has to happen at the state level.” She described the “narcissistic injury” that Trump will suffer if he is rejected at the polls. Within the Trump family, she said, “losing was a death sentence—literally and figuratively.” Her father, Fred Trump, Jr., the President’s older brother, “was essentially destroyed” by her grandfather’s judgment that Fred was not “a winner.” (Fred died in 1981, of complications from alcoholism.) As the President ponders potential political defeat, she believes, he is “a terrified little boy.”

Barbara Res, whose new book, “Tower of Lies,” draws on the eighteen years that she spent, off and on, developing and managing construction projects for Trump, also thinks that the President is not just running for a second term—he is running from the law. “One of the reasons he’s so crazily intent on winning is all the speculation that prosecutors will go after him,” she said. “It would be a very scary spectre.” She calculated that, if Trump loses, “he’ll never, ever acknowledge it—he’ll leave the country.” Res noted that, at a recent rally, Trump mused to the crowd about fleeing, ad-libbing, “Could you imagine if I lose? I’m not going to feel so good. Maybe I’ll have to leave the country—I don’t know.” It’s questionable how realistic such talk is, but Res pointed out that Trump could go “live in one of his buildings in another country,” adding, “He can do business from anywhere.”

It turns out that, in 2016, Trump in fact made plans to leave the United States right after the vote. Anthony Scaramucci, the former Trump supporter who served briefly as the White House communications director, was with him in the hours before the polls closed. Scaramucci told me that Trump and virtually everyone in his circle had expected Hillary Clinton to win. According to Scaramucci, as he and Trump milled around Trump Tower, Trump asked him, “What are you doing tomorrow?” When Scaramucci said that he had no plans, Trump confided that he had ordered his private plane to be readied for takeoff at John F. Kennedy International Airport, so that the next morning he could fly to Scotland, to play golf at his Turnberry resort. Trump’s posture, Scaramucci told me, was to shrug off the expected defeat. “It was, like, O.K., he did it for the publicity. And it was over. He was fine. It was a waste of time and money, but move on.” Scaramucci said that, if 2016 is any guide, Trump would treat a loss to Biden more matter-of-factly than many people expect: “He’ll go down easier than most people think. Nothing crushes this guy.”

Mary Trump, like Res, suspects that her uncle is considering leaving the U.S. if he loses the election (a result that she regards as far from assured). If Biden wins, she suggested, Trump will “describe himself as the best thing that ever happened to this country and say, ‘It doesn’t deserve me—I’m going to do something really important, like build the Trump Tower in Moscow.’
Again, it's exile or indictment. Trump knows Cy Vance and Letitia James aren't going to let him go without a fight. Trump knows he is cornered, and he knows he has lost. 
He's looking for the exit as we speak, and buying time through bravado, bluffing, and bullshit. But his clock runs out at noon on January 20, and Trump can hear the ticking in his nightmares.

Elector Defector Detector Director, Con't

Apparently there's just no appetite for GOP state legislatures in four of the five late-called states to simply declare Trump the winner through new elector slates, and it's not as if they could anyway. (Georgia apparently is going to go through that hand recount anyway, facts be damned.)

Republican leaders in four critical states won by President-elect Joe Biden say they won’t participate in a legally dubious scheme to flip their state’s electors to vote for President Donald Trump. Their comments effectively shut down a half-baked plot some Republicans floated as a last chance to keep Trump in the White House.

State GOP lawmakers in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have all said they would not intervene in the selection of electors, who ultimately cast the votes that secure a candidate’s victory. Such a move would violate state law and a vote of the people, several noted.

“I do not see, short of finding some type of fraud — which I haven’t heard of anything — I don’t see us in any serious way addressing a change in electors,” said Rusty Bowers, Arizona’s Republican House speaker, who says he’s been inundated with emails pleading for the legislature to intervene. “They are mandated by statute to choose according to the vote of the people.

The idea loosely involves GOP-controlled legislatures dismissing Biden’s popular vote wins in their states and opting to select Trump electors. While the endgame was unclear, it appeared to hinge on the expectation that a conservative-leaning Supreme Court would settle any dispute over the move.

Still, it has been promoted by Trump allies, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and is an example of misleading information and false claims fueling skepticism among Trump supporters about the integrity of the vote.

The theory is rooted in the fact that the U.S. Constitution grants state legislatures the power to decide how electors are chosen. Each state already has passed laws that delegate this power to voters and appoint electors for whichever candidate wins the state on Election Day. The only opportunity for a state legislature to then get involved with electors is a provision in federal law allowing it if the actual election “fails.”

If the result of the election was unclear in mid-December, at the deadline for naming electors, Republican-controlled legislatures in those states could declare that Trump won and appoint electors supporting him. Or so the theory goes.

The problem, legal experts note, is that the result of the election is not in any way unclear. Biden won all the states at issue. It’s hard to argue the election “failed” when Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security reported it was not tampered with and was “the most secure in American history.” There has been no finding of widespread fraud or problems in the vote count, which shows Biden leading Trump by more than 5 million votes nationally.

AP makes it very clear here that the magical bullshit that is Chief Justice William Rehnquist's opinion in Bush v. Gore that state legislatures, not the voters, are final arbiters of the Electoral College slates of electors, is complete hogwash, because it is. It deserves to be mocked as Federalist Society fish wrapping.

And again, Trump would need more than just Georgia to win, he'd need Arizona and Wisconsin as well at a minimum. It's not happening because Biden won those states. Even setting aside Georgia's hand recount, Biden has 290 electoral votes, a clear victory.

This isn't up for debate.

Does that mean we're safe from Supreme Court making arguably the worst decision since Dred Scott? Not 100%. But that would be the Supreme Court destroying the country, not Biden losing the election. There's a difference. Biden won the election, that's not in doubt.

Now we'll find out if that means he will be president.
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