The Temper Tantrum at the End of America

I hope you had a pleasant Christmas. Donald Trump appears to have had a pleasant Christmas. News stories say he played golf with Lindsey Graham on Christmas day. Then Miz Lindsey tweeted this:

The tech liability protection thing is in the defense funding part of the omnibus bill, I take it. I confess I haven’t followed this issue closely. There’s a discussion of it here. Righties want to revise Section 230, “a 25-year-old law that lets websites moderate third-party content as they see fit without being liable for that content (with a few exceptions). Simply put, you can sue a Twitter user if they tweet something defamatory about you, but you can’t sue Twitter.” In rightie world, social media companies should somehow be forced to publish content righties like no matter how inflammatory, dangerous, false, or libelous it is.  How removing liability protection would accomplish that eludes me, however.

Anyway, I say that if Trump wants to make a deal, give folks the $2,000 and strip out the tech liability protection and insist that he sign the damn bill asap. And be clear there will be no more negotiations with him. A lot of people lost unemployment benefits today. Millions will be in a world of hurt if this bill doesn’t become law, like, now. Before the end of the year, at the latest.

Unfortunately Trump is probably just delaying the bill so he can stay in the news. I wish there were some way to declare a news media embargo on him if he doesn’t sign the damn bill. That would probably be the one thing that would motivate him.

Joe Biden released a statement today that begins:

It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families don’t know if they’ll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority.

This abdication of responsibility has devastating consequences. Today, about 10 million Americans will lose unemployment insurance benefits. In just a few days, government funding will expire, putting vital services and paychecks for military personnel at risk. In less than a week, a moratorium on evictions expires, putting millions at risk of being forced from their homes over the holidays. Delay means more small businesses won’t survive this dark winter because they lack access to the lifeline they need, and Americans face further delays in getting the direct payments they deserve as quickly as possible to help deal with the economic devastation caused by COVID-19. And while there is hope with the vaccines, we need funding to be able to distribute and administer them to millions of Americans, including frontline health care workers.

But for Trump, not signing the bill is the equivalent of holding his breath or screaming his head off until he gets want he wants. The problem is, he wants everything. If you made him emperor of the world, that still wouldn’t be enough. He’s like a black hole of neediness.

A day before unemployment benefits for millions of Americans were set to expire, President Donald Trump had a different insult in mind: his former-model wife has yet to appear on the cover of a fashion magazine as first lady.

“Fake news!” he complained on Twitter from Palm Beach, concerned for Melania’s social station on Christmas as Americans hunkered at home, enduring a holiday diminished by pandemic, darkened by the prospect of an imminent government shutdown and shaken by an eerie explosion in Nashville that authorities said was intentional.

A day later, as those jobless benefits for gig workers and self-employed Americans were lapsing, Trump was issuing a string of angry messages about his own perceived injustices: the election he falsely claims was stolen from him and the growing roster of people he’s upset won’t help him reverse it.

I understand he’s blamed Bill Barr, the CIA, Mitch McConnell, pretty much the entire Republican establishment, for his election loss. This is truly a temper tantrum for the ages. I don’t think in all of world history there’s been an explosion of sheer arrested emotional development that was this big or consequential.

 

I’m Out of Good Cheer Right Now

The graphic is a bit faded, but so are we all about now, I suspect.

Millions of Americans are facing eviction and hunger now, for no fault of their own. They had a brief bit of hope — next week there’d be a little money, extended unemployment benefits, an extended eviction moratorium — and now that’s been snatched away again. A better package in a few weeks, assuming there is one, is going to be too late for a lot of people. The help needs to come now. It just breaks my heart.

And Donald Trump played golf today.

Trump is angry at the world now. It would be like him to let people starve and freeze in the streets because he lost the election. There is speculation he’s going to stay in Florida and not come back to Washington, ever. He may very well blow off whatever duties he is supposed to attend to until the end of his term. I’m betting he doesn’t sign the bill, and it will die.

I just hope most Americans are told the truth about why this disaster happened. I fear they’re being told it’s Nancy Pelosi’s fault, somehow.

Greg Sargent thinks Trump will sign the bill, because Trump doesn’t want to disrupt distribution of the covid vaccines, which he considers to be his great achievement. He probably threw the bomb about the $600 payment just to get attention. I hope he’s right.

It’s not clear to me if a government shutdown would immediately disrupt vaccine distribution, but it probably wouldn’t be long before states run out of funds for distribution and begin to scale back vaccinations.

Amber Phillips writes that Trump really is out of options to take back the election. Maybe now that he’s away from the White House — and maybe not going back — he’ll come to terms with that and sign the freaking bill. But not before ruining a lot of Christmases.

Alex Isenstadt reports at Politico that Trump is now checking out the 2022 midterms and is preparing to support primary challengers to Republican incumbents he considers insufficiently disloyal to him. See also Greg Sargent, Republicans raging at Trump are getting exactly what they deserve. The Republican establishment must secretly hope Trump falls into a water hazard on his golf course and is eaten by an alligator.

I’ve long enjoyed Christmas Eve because of the way the world suddenly gets quiet in the evening. It’s push, hustle, shop right up until the sun sets, and suddenly the stores close and everyone goes home. This year there’s just the relentless, grinding passage of time and a lot of people staring into an abyss.

I do hope that wherever you are you have some cheer and company this holiday. And as always I appreciate all of you for helping me stay sane.

Did Trump Just Kill the Relief Bill?

I never liked reality television shows that didn’t involve cute animals, like “Dr. Chris: Pet Vet.” But now we’re all stuck in one. I am not happy.

Along with yesterday’s shameful and disgraceful pardons, Trump apparently threw a fit over the frustrating relief bill and threatened to not sign it. Jordan Weissmann writes at Slate that Trump’s threat revealed he has no clue what the bill is.

So Donald Trump took a breather from plotting history’s most ineffectual coup on Tuesday night in order to toss a grenade into Washington’s holiday plans, tweeting a surprise video in which he announced he did not support the crucial coronavirus relief bill Congress passed earlier this week. Calling the legislation a “disgrace,” he complained that the $600 checks it included for most households were “ridiculously low” and asked Congress to increase them to $2,000.

It would have been nice if he’d done that several days ago.

Echoing deceptive criticisms that have circulated online over the past couple of days, Trump also criticized the coronavirus package for including unrelated spending like foreign aid to Egypt and Belize as well as funding for Asian carp removal. “It’s called the COVID relief bill, but it has almost nothing to do with COVID,“ he said. This is blatantly misleading; what actually happened is that for procedural reasons Congress inserted the coronavirus deal into a larger end-of-the-year spending bill necessary to keep the government open, which contains money for basic government efforts like fishery management. Unfortunately, our president is fundamentally a low-information Twitter and Fox News junkie, and according to the Washington Post, some of his aides who disliked the bill used the foreign provisions “as a way to turn Trump against the measure, knowing that American money going to other countries raises the president’s ire.” History, as usual, is playing out as farce.

My sense of things is that Trump’s cognitive abilities have deteriorated since the election, and of course they weren’t that great before the election. I wouldn’t call this a psychotic break; it’s more like dementia mixed with paranoia.

Sorry you killed the impeachment now, Mitch? See also Jonathan Chait, Trump Has Reached the ‘Railing Against Mike Pence’ Bunker Phase.

So how much damage can Trump do? Back to Jordan Weissmann.

In theory, lawmakers passed the COVID relief and government funding bill with enough votes to override a veto from the president. The problem is that it appears Trump could kill the legislation through a so-called pocket veto, which cannot be overturned, simply by choosing not to sign it before Congress ends its term in January. The next House and Senate would have to start over with a new bill, which could be a lengthy process.

This would not have been a concern if Capitol Hill had actually gotten its act together and sealed a relief deal earlier. Under Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution, the president has 10 days, not including Sundays—so basically the 18th century equivalent of 10 business days—from the time he receives a bill to either sign or veto it. After that period, the legislation automatically becomes law unless Congress has already adjourned, in which case the bill dies. The problem is that the current Congress is set to end by noon on Jan. 3, meaning that even if lawmakers sent him the bill tomorrow, they will have to adjourn before the 10-day window runs out. Trump can kill the bill permanently without lifting a finger while he sits in bed at Mar-a-Lago binging on Newsmax. (And no, Congress can’t delay the end of its term; that would require passing a law.)

Yes, this would be just the time to fail to pass a spending bill and shut down the government. Greg Sargent:

Trump’s threat not to sign the deal makes a government shutdown more likely, and it puts congressional Republicans who supported it in a terrible spot. As one GOP observer noted, Trump “just pulled down the pants of every Republican who voted for it.”

There might be a silver lining to this, eventually, which is that it could help Democrats in the Georgia runoff elections.

That’s why Jon Ossoff, Perdue’s Democratic challenger, jumped on Trump’s missive. Ossoff told CNN that Congress absolutely must “send $2,000 checks to the American people right now, because people are hurting.”

Ossoff added that Republicans such as Perdue are only now backing $600 stimulus checks, after they “obstructed direct relief for the last eight months.”

Republican Senate candidates Perdue and Loeffler have run on being loyal to Trump and have refused to acknowledge that he lost the election. Will they now support the $2,000? Or go against Trump and stick with $600?

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi seized on Trump’s announcement to call for a stand-alone bill that would provide the $2,000 direct payment. The House plans to bring it up tomorrow, Christmas Eve.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, in a letter to Democrats, challenged Republicans to block the measures and said top Democrats were waiting to hear from Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, to see if there would be an objection from a House Republican. Any lawmaker willing to return to Washington in person can block the bill from moving forward by denying unanimous consent.

Make ’em be on the record, in other words.

Within minutes of Mr. Trump’s public opposition to the bill, Ms. Pelosi declared her agreement with the president’s call for $2,000 checks, as did Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, and some of Congress’s most liberal members.

“We need to send a clean bill with just $2,000 survival checks and a separate spending/covid relief bill,” Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota and a frequent target of Mr. Trump’s ire, wrote Tuesday evening on Twitter, adding, “since Trump wants to sign a bill with survival checks, let’s send one to his desk right away.”

Of course, this measure will probably die in the Senate, because Mitch. But this is a great opportunity for Democrats to show America that Republicans killed it. And again, this has put Republicans in a real box.

The two Republican candidates in Georgia, Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, were already proclaiming passage of the coronavirus relief bill as a triumph, but they have also pledged fealty to the president, who called the bill a “disgrace.”

Still, a number of Republicans are likely to resist increasing the amount of direct payments after months of insisting that a relief package should be as small as possible. In the days before a bipartisan deal was struck, Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, blocked attempts to raise the payments to $1,200.

Unemployment benefits are about to expire. Evictions are going to start. People are desperate. Mnuchin has been prancing around saying that people could start getting their $600 next week, but now that’s all in the crapper. Things could get really ugly really fast.

“Most working Americans don’t need a check right now,” said Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, on “Fox and Friends” Wednesday morning. “It’s a really foolish, egg-headed left-wing socialist idea to pass out free money to people.”

If this is a reality TV show, and we have to vote somebody off the island, let’s make it Kentucky.

Leaving Venezuela; or, The Power of Litigation

I don’t link to Newsmax often. I may never have linked to Newsmax, actually, or at least not for many years. But I’m linking to this — Facts About Dominion, Smartmatic You Should Know. Dominion and Smartmatic are voting machine companies that play a central role in claims that Trump was robbed of an election win.

What’s remarkable about the article is that it’s factual. We see paragraphs like this:

Newsmax would like to clarify its news coverage and note it has not reported as true certain claims made about these companies.  …

…Dominion has stated its company has no ownership relationship with the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s family, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s family, the Clinton family, Hugo Chavez, or the government of Venezuela.

Neither Dominion nor Smartmatic has any relationship with George Soros.

Smartmatic is a U.S. company and not owned by the Venezuelan government, Hugo Chavez or any foreign official or entity.

Smartmatic states it has no operations in Venezuela. While the company did election projects in Venezuela from 2004 to 2017, it states it never was founded by Hugo Chavez, nor did it have a corrupt relationship with him or the Venezuelan government.

It’s also the case that Smartmatic and Dominion are separate companies and not affiliates. Smartmatic machines were not used in any of the contested states and in fact were used only in Los Angeles County in 2020. According to wingnut theory, Dominion is just a front company for Smartmatic, or else Dominion uses Smartmatic software, neither of which is true. The Smartmatic connection apparently is important to the Trump Wuz Robbed theory because Smartmatic was founded in the United States by a software engineer named Antonio Mugica who was born in Venezuela. Dominion has no ties to Venezuela, I take it.

Gotta get Venezuela in there, somewhere.

I bet you are guessing that somebody got the fear of expensive litigation put into them. You would be right. See Ben Smith at The New York Times, The ‘Red Slime’ Lawsuit That Could Sink Right-Wing Media. In brief, both Smartmatic and Dominion have threatened right-wing media entities, plus Sydney Powell, with lawsuits. And they have damn good cases.

These are legal threats any company, even a giant like Fox Corporation, would take seriously. And they could be fatal to the dream of a new “Trump TV,” a giant new media company in the president’s image, and perhaps contributing to his bottom line. Newsmax and OAN would each like to become that, and are both burning money to steal ratings from Fox, executives from both companies have acknowledged. They will need to raise significantly more money, or to sell quickly to investors, to build a Fox-style multibillion-dollar empire. But outstanding litigation with the potential of an enormous verdict will be enough to scare away most buyers.

See also Max Shuham at Talking Points Memo, Newsmax Runs Away From Its Election Conspiracy Coverage Like A Scalded Dog. And at Forbes, see Jemima McEvoy, Voting Machine Manufacturer Threatens Legal Action.

In a three-minute segment aired on three shows that previously played host to some of the more zany election fraud claims coming from Trump’s advocates—Fox Business’ “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” and Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo’s “Sunday Morning Futures” and Jeanine Pirro’s “Justice with Judge Jeanine”—Fox News appeared to retract allegations made against Smartmatic.

In each pre-recorded segment, entitled “CLOSER LOOK AT CLAIMS ABOUT SMARTMATIC,” an unnamed voice is heard questioning Open Source Election Technology Institute Director Eddie Perez, labeled a “leading” authority on open source software for elections, who fact checks false claims about Smartmatic, including some that have previously made their way onto Fox’s airwaves as serious allegations.

One America News appears to be holding out and has published no retractions I could find. Yet.

Trump is not giving up on his fraud claims. See Charlotte Klein at Vanity Fair, Martial Law? Seizing Voting Machines? Trump’s Election Denial Is Only Getting More Deranged.

Trump reportedly discussed invoking martial law to overturn his losing election result—a strategy one of the meeting’s attendees, former national security adviser and recent pardon recipient Michael Flynn, had recently proposed on cable television. …

…Trump’s discussion about using the military for an election redo was one of many absurd and alarming ideas floated—and strongly pushed back on—during Friday’s meeting, which “became raucous and involved people shouting at each other at times,” according to the Times. Among the more contentious topics was naming Sidney Powell, the Trump-aligned lawyer and conspiracy theorist, as a special counsel to investigate voter fraud allegations, something Trump is apparently considering. Powell, who was present at the Friday meeting, has peddled unfounded voter fraud allegations, including a conspiracy theory about an international plot to rig the U.S. election through voting machines, and was disavowed by the Trump campaign weeks ago.  …

… Another reported idea weighed during Friday’s meeting was an executive order to seize voting machines to examine them for alleged fraud, after Giuliani separately asked the Department of Homeland Security to do so earlier in the week—apparently to no avail, according to the Times, as he was told the department does not have such authority.

Today, the about-to-quit Bill Barr “said there was ‘no basis’ for seizing voting machines or appointing a special counsel to look into voter fraud, in a clear rejection of President Donald Trump’s increasingly desperate attempts to overturn the election result.”

Trump has also filed a new petition at the Supreme Court, asking the SCOTUS to throw out the election results in Pennsylvania. Yes, this is a new case, not the old one. I wonder why he’s bothering, since tossing Pennsylvania wouldn’t give Trump another term. One suspects this was filed mostly to placate Trump, who by several accounts has lost most of his connections to objective reality.

It occurs to me that if Trump has to leave the country, he might consider relocating to Venezuela. If you’ve got a ton of cash it’s probably a fine place to live.

Neither Stimulated Nor Relieved

Whether you call it the flaccid stimulus bill or the frustrating relief bill, it appears there will be something passed no later than tomorrow. That’s assuming Trump doesn’t throw a wrench in the works.

[Update: The Mahablog magic strikes again — it was announced a deal has been struck just after I posted this.]

The poison pill provision introduced by Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R, PA) that would have tied the hands of the Federal Reserve has been watered down. Here’s the deal:

Mr. Toomey had sought to bar the Fed and Treasury Department from setting up any loan program similar to those established this year that have helped to keep credit flowing to corporate, municipal and medium-size business borrowers during the pandemic recession.

The agreed-upon alternative, offered by Mr. Schumer and still being drafted near midnight on Saturday, aides familiar with the process said, would bar only programs that were more or less exact copycats of the ones newly employed in 2020.

That sounds annoying but not catastrophic. Yet to be resolved:

Among the outstanding hurdles for lawmakers and aides racing to draft text was a push to expand a paid leave mandate set to lapse at the end of the year, how much money should be allocated to private and parochial schools and whether businesses should be allowed to deduct from their taxes loans given under a popular federal loan program, according to officials involved in the discussions.

However,

One of the potential remaining stumbling blocks is President Trump, who has largely been removed from the stimulus negotiations as he continues to attack the outcome of the Nov. 3 election and undermine President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. Shortly after midnight on Sunday, he tweeted his frustration with Congress for not yet acting on a stimulus and signaled that he would want larger direct payments than the $600 payments currently under discussion.

“GET IT DONE, and give them more money in direct payments,” the president wrote on Twitter.

I’d like to see a larger payment, too, but Mr. Stable Genius should be complaining to Mitch. And I am so happy I am not in Congress. I think at this point I’d be homicidal.

Elsewhere: There has been a lot of talk that Trump is losing it. We might wonder whether he ever had it. But there have been leaked accounts of oval office meetings that claimed Trump talked about martial law and appointing Sidney Powell special counsel to inspect Dominion voting machines. Dominion, meanwhile, has threatened Powell with a defamation suit.

See Peter Wehner, Trump Is Losing His Mind.

Given Trump’s psychological profile, it was inevitable that when he felt the walls of reality close in on him—in 2020, it was the pandemic, the cratering economy, and his election defeat—he would detach himself even further from reality. It was predictable that the president would assert even more bizarre conspiracy theories. That he would become more enraged and embittered, more desperate and despondent, more consumed by his grievances. That he would go against past supplicants, like Attorney General Bill Barr and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, and become more aggressive toward his perceived enemies. That his wits would begin to turn, in the words of King Lear. That he would begin to lose his mind.

So he has. And, as a result, President Trump has become even more destabilizing and dangerous.

“I’ve been covering Donald Trump for a while,” Jonathan Swan of Axios tweeted. “I can’t recall hearing more intense concern from senior officials who are actually Trump people. The Sidney Powell/Michael Flynn ideas are finding an enthusiastic audience at the top.”

Trump today was retweeting crap from Gateway Pundit and a string of people I never heard of that claimed more votes were counted for POTUS than there are registered voters in the U.S. He’s not giving up. We may have to send in marshalls to haul him out of the White House after all. Fun!

When Do We Get to Investigate Jared?

This is juicy. Business Insider reported that Jared Kushner set up a shell company that siphoned off $617 million from the Trump campaign to parts unknown. I wasn’t able to read the Business Insider article because of the popups demanding that I subscribe, but I did pull out some blurbs:

Kushner directed Lara Trump, Vice President Mike Pence’s nephew John Pence, and Trump campaign CFO Sean Dollman to serve on the shell company’s board, the person told Insider.

American Made Media Consultants became the source of consternation for Trump’s own campaign staff, who were kept in the dark about its operations.

Despite its $617 million spending through AMMC, the Trump campaign publicly disclosed little information about the company, including how it used the money.

Here is a report on what BI reported from Daily Beast:

Jared Kushner approved the creation of a shell company that operated like a “campaign within a campaign” and secretly funneled millions of dollars in campaign cash to Trump family members, Business Insider reports. The company, American Made Media Consultants Corporation and American Made Media Consultants LLC, took more than half of the Trump campaign’s massive $1.26 billion war chest and was largely shielded from having to publicly report financial details. However, a source told Business Insider that Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump was the company’s president, Vice President Mike Pence’s nephew was its VP, and Trump campaign CFO Sean Dollman was treasurer and secretary.

The mysterious company caused consternation among other campaign staffers, who had no idea how it was spending money, and the Campaign Legal Center filed a civil complaint with the FEC in June accusing the Trump campaign of laundering $170 million largely through it. A campaign spokesperson denied that AMMC paid Lara Trump or Pence’s nephew for being on its board.

No wonder Trump ran short of money for television ads.

Here’s some more from Raw Story:

Trump’s top advisers and campaign staff told Insider they were unaware of how the shell company operated, and campaign officials even conducted an internal audit of its operations under former campaign manager Brad Parscale but never reported those findings, and the next campaign manager Bill Stepien had little involvement with AMMC.

“Nothing was done without Jared’s approval,” said a former advisor to Trump’s 2016 campaign. “What Stepien doesn’t know is because Jared doesn’t want him to know.”

The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center filed a civil complaint in July with the Federal Election Commission accusing the campaign of disguising” about $170 million in spending “by laundering the funds” through AMMC.

“[It’s a] scheme to evade telling voters even the basics on where its money is really going [and a] shield to disguise the ultimate recipients of its spending,” said Brendan Fischer, the center’s director of federal reform.

Here’s the best part:

The Department of Justice may open a criminal investigation if the government suspects the payments were a “knowing and willful” violation of election law.

Several sources from the Justice Department and FEC told Insider that investigators may already be looking into the campaign’s activity.

Oddly, the New York Times also reported on the shell company but buried it several paragraphs down in another story about how much money Trump will have when he leaves the White House. Also oddly, the Times doesn’t mention Jared Kushner.

Mr. Trump has long acted with few inhibitions when it comes to spending other people’s money, and he has spent millions of campaign dollars on his own family businesses in the last five years. But new records show an even more intricate intermingling of Mr. Trump’s political and familial interests than was previously known.

Lara Trump, Mr. Trump’s daughter-in-law and a senior campaign adviser, served on the board — and was named on drafts of the incorporation papers — of a limited liability company through which the Trump political operation spent more than $700 million since 2019, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The arrangement has never been disclosed. One of the other board members and signatories in the draft papers of the L.L.C., American Made Media Consultants, was John Pence, the nephew of Vice President Mike Pence and a senior Trump adviser. The L.L.C. has been criticized for purposefully obscuring the ultimate destination of hundreds of millions of dollars of spending.

Ms. Trump and Mr. Pence were originally listed as president and vice president on the incorporation papers, documents reviewed by the Times showed. Sean Dollman, the campaign chief financial officer, was the A.M.M.C. treasurer.

“Lara Trump and John Pence resigned from the AMMC board in October 2019 to focus solely on their campaign activities, however, there was never any ethical or legal reason why they could not serve on the board in the first place,” said Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Mr. Trump. “John and Lara were not compensated by AMMC for their service as board members.”

It sounds to me as if Lara Trump and John Pence bailed out of AMMC so as not to be caught in legal jeopardy. If AMMC was a Jared Kushner production, who knows where that money is now, and who knows if Trump himself knew what was going on?

And the Republicans think Hunter Biden is a problem? duh.

Meanwhile, as predicted, the Trump Administration is somehow screwing up vaccine distribution. Erick Lutz, Vanity Fair:

The White House reportedly turned down “multiple” offers from Pfizer over the summer to set aside additional doses for the United States. And of the vaccines the U.S. does have, a shitload are apparently just sitting in a warehouse somewhere, ready to be delivered, if only the Trump administration would give the company the word.

“This week, we successfully shipped all 2.9 million doses that we were asked to ship by the U.S. Government to locations specified by them,” Pfizer said in a statement Thursday. “We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses.”

The company’s statement came after the Trump administration informed several states that they would receive up to 40 percent fewer vaccine doses next week than they’d been expecting. The White House implied the problem was on Pfizer’s end, but the company contradicted that explanation. “Pfizer is not having any production issues with our COVID-19 vaccine,” it said in the statement, “and no shipments containing the vaccine are on hold or delayed.”

This probably is just incompetence, a quality Trumpers possess in abundance. But I also wondered if Jared was involved in this somehow. Pfizer and (probably) Moderna need to be careful with inventory, or vast quantities of vaccine will somehow disappear into a deep underground black market. Along with a lot of PPE confiscated a few months ago ….

A Flaccid Stimulus

Mitch McConnell has budged just a tad on a mini-stimulus bill that includes direct payments, and yesterday CNN reported why.

During the call with GOP senators, McConnell noted that direct payments for individuals and families have become a major issue in the race.

“Kelly and David are getting hammered” on the issue, he said, according to a source who heard his remarks, a reference to incumbent GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who are both facing off against Democratic challengers.

However, they’re talking $600 instead of $1,200 this time, which might seem like an insult to people who are months behind on house and utilities payments. There is also talk of $300 additional weekly unemployment benefits, but it’s not clear to me what might happen to people whose benefits are ending entirely. Beyond that, the negotiations are moving so fast, while still going nowhere, that it’s really hard to keep track of what’s in and what’s out.

Also, even if Congress manages to pass something before Christmas, there will almost certainly be a lapse in benefits to millions of workers. Emily Stewart writes for Vox:

After months of a will-they-or-won’t-they dance that’s left workers, businesses, and much of the economy in limbo, lawmakers yet again have a potential deal: a $748 billion proposal to help boost the economy as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on. While it may have some shortcomings — Democrats dropped state and local government aid from the main bill in exchange for Republicans dropping corporate liability protections — it’s not the worst deal in the world, and it does have new payments for the unemployed.

But there is a hiccup: Even if a bill passes, millions of workers will likely face a lag in receiving those payments while the regulators and states responsible for distributing them iron out the new process.

An estimated 4 million workers have likely already had their benefits run out, some of them for months, after they maxed out the number of weekly payments to them established by the CARES Act, the first stimulus package. However long it takes to get a new system up and running is how long they’ll have to wait before they get another check. Other programs expanded by the CARES Act are set to expire in December, and given the bureaucratic intricacies of the 50-state unemployment insurance system, the transition will probably be a messy one.

At this point, whether Congress passes its mini-relief bill or not, there will be massive evictions. There already is hunger, and that’s getting worse. Lots of people are probably going to try to get through the winter with the heat turned off.

But McConnell is only giving in to a bill to help Kelly and David. That’s because their opponents, Raphael and Jon, are running ads like this:

Kelly and David are selling themselves to voters as a “firewall” against “socialism,” Greg Sargent writes. If Mitch keeps control of the Senate, you can bet there will be no more relief/stimulus bills passed next year, no matter how many businesses close for good and how many families end up living in cars and shelters. But, by damn, Kelly and David will keep us all safe from socialists and antifa! Let’s remember what’s important!

Elsewhere

The Week reports that Trump still genuinely believes he won the election.

President Trump was privately coming to terms with his loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but he “has now reversed and dug in deeper — not only spreading misinformation about the election, but ingesting it himself,” CNN reports, “egged on by advisers like Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis who are misleading Trump about the extent of voting irregularities and the prospects of a reversal.” One adviser told CNN, “He’s been fed so much misinformation that I think he actually thinks this thing was stolen from him.”

Even the Electoral College formalizing Biden’s win “did not appear enough to shake Trump from his delusions of victory,” CNN says, “but it is adding urgency to a push by several of his advisers to gently steer Trump toward reality.” Discussions of Trump’s post-presidency future tend to go nowhere because Trump “all but shuts down,” CNN reports. “In his moments of deepest denial, Trump has told some advisers that he will refuse to leave the White House on Inauguration Day, only to be walked down from that ledge. The possibility has alarmed some aides, but few believe Trump will actually follow through.”

Oh, but it would be so much fun to see him evicted.

A food bank in the Cleveland area.

 

 

When Only the Demented Remain

More reporting has revealed that Mitch had a come-to-Jesus meeting with Republican senators yesterday, and he told them they weren’t going to file any challenges to the presidential election results. So that’s that. Unless Ron Johnson or Rand Paul get the nerve to disobey Mitch, it won’t matter what the minority House Republicans might do. Congress will certify the election results on January 6.

Greg Sargent:

If no senator objects to the Biden electors from any given state, and only a handful of Trump dead-enders in the House do, the objections will go nowhere, because they must have the support of at least one senator. But if they do have that support, then both chambers must consider the objections and then vote on them.

Why might McConnell want to avoid this scenario? Well, as Politico’s Jake Sherman reports, McConnell said on the call that this would require Senate Republicans to vote down those objections and that this is a “terrible vote,” because it would make Republicans appear anti-Trump.

The rage of the MAGA-heads is falling on McConnell today, but McConnell probably doesn’t care. He may assume he can be the bad guy if it protects other Republican senators from having to go on the record for being for or against the election results.

See also QAnon Supporters Vow to Leave GOP After Mitch McConnell Accepts Election Result at Newsweek and MAGA Turns on Mitch at the Daily Mail (UK). Short term, Republicans are going to take a hit in support. With any luck that might impact the Georgia runoff elections in the Dems’ favor. Mitch is probably banking on everyone settling down before the 2022 midterms.

Even today Trump is tweeting that he won the election. And he is re-tweeting stuff from Breitbart and OAN and the Epoch Times and random people I never heard of with “proof” of fraud and whatever. He may or may not understand that it was Mitch McConnell and the soon-to-depart Bill Barr protecting his ass for the past several months. Without those two, plus Fox News and other part of  Murdoch Media, he’d have had a lot harder time of it. Their protection allowed him to get away with corruptions no other POTUS in history would have even thought about.

But now Barr is leaving early — presumably fired for insufficient obsequiousness — and Mitch is cutting Trump loose. Trump may not be able to comprehend that Mitch watched his ass only for the sake of Republican power, and that Trump’s value to Mitch is now considerably diminished. And I would argue that as long as Mitch McConnell controls the Senate, he’s the most powerful man in Washington. Mitch is the gatekeeper. Very little happens that Mitch doesn’t allow to happen.

Even Fox News is backing away from Trump (see also). And I checked today’s Murdoch-owned New York Post. I found not one headline or editorial about voter fraud or calls to “stop the steal.” Although elements of Murdoch media may continue to pay lip service to “stop the steal,” it seems to me Murdoch has moved on.

Trump has completely lost the Republican/right-wing establishment, in other words. All he’s got left are the crazies.

The crazies are going to be with us for a while, and they can be dangerous. The mayor of Dodge City, Kansas, resigned yesterday after being slammed with threats over her support for a mask mandate. “I do not feel safe,” she said. I expect we will see more episodes of street violence for the next several weeks. The question is, is this flareup of right-wing sedition going to fizzle out in time, or will it grow?

See Jeannie Suk Gersen at The New Yorker, Trump’s Coup Attempt Isn’t Over.

In the United States, the longer our representatives contest the result of the election, the more possible violent escalation seems. The threats against U.S. election officials are particularly chilling in light of examples such as that of Kenya, where, three years ago, a top election official was murdered, and Belarus, where, last year, a former police officer revealed that he was involved in the 1999 abduction and murder of the former head of the central election commission.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise said on Sunday that “if you want to restore trust by millions of people who are still very frustrated and angry about what happened, that’s why you’ve got to have the whole system play out.” But it remains unclear how pursuing the goal of overturning election results, simply because one’s own side lost, bodes at all well for what happens when the legal process finally runs out. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national-security adviser, who received a pardon from his former boss, insisted at a rally over the weekend, “We decide the election,” after having tweeted out, two weeks ago, a petition warning that “the threat of a shooting civil war is imminent,” and urging Trump to declare martial law, suspend the Constitution, and order a new Presidential election under military supervision. Those calls were swiftly condemned as dangerous by military leaders. That puts into relief the overarching question about what the Trump Presidency has meant for our laws and legal institutions. Are they weathering a particularly bad storm while doing what they’re supposed to do—namely, to channel the potential for violent conflict into peaceful if begrudging resolution and coexistence? Or are they truly beginning to crumble around us in Trump’s final weeks in office? We likely won’t know for years whether the emerging norms of today are merely testing democracy or destroying it.

That’s what we don’t know.

The Republican establishment, including the media infrastructure anchored by Murdoch media, supported Trump as long as he was useful. But he has proven to be a treacherous ally for them. I believe that if he tries to run again in 2024 the Republican establishment will have him kneecapped. And I think that once he is no longer POTUS, mainstream media, even CNN, will leave him alone. Whether he can maintain any significant support or power with the backing of looney-tune media like Breitbart and OAN alone is questionable.

I doubt Trump is capable of processing what is happening to him now. He is too damaged. See When the Narcissist Fails at Psychology Today; it’s fascinating. Going by this, the one thing we can predict about Trump on his way out is that he will do as much damage to everything and everyone around him as he possibly can.

 

Trump’s Last Stand

The Electoral College vote was another mile marker on the road of the endless election. The one significant development here is that now several Senate Republicans — including Mitch McConnell — have publicly recognized Joe Biden as the president-elect.

This seems to me to be a reasonably clear signal to Donald Trump that these Senate Republicans do not want him to push his overturn-the-election efforts further. They certainly don’t want to get the Senate involved in the scheme floated recently to use Congress to overturn the election results.

One, it’s doubtful Senate Republicans have the votes to overturn the election. After yesterday’s EC vote, several old establishment GOP senators, including Roy Blunt and Majority Whip John Thune, came out and said it’s over; Biden is the president-elect; time to move on. Even before the EC vote, a few senators had already signaled they were not going to get on the overturn-the-results bandwagon.

Two, after watching Proud Boys chant “Destroy the GOP!” on the streets of Washington last weekend, I suspect Mitch McConnell does not want to force any of his senators to go on record being for or against a second term for Trump. Nothing good could come of that for the Republican Party. Mitch may also be worried that the Trumpers are hurting Republican chances in the Georgia runoff elections.  Mitch’s congratulation to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was a big, fat signal to Trump that the Senate would not be dragged into his schemes, and also to Republican senators not to try anything stupid.

Aaron Blake, WaPo:

McConnell’s comments should have the effect of taking some pressure off his colleagues, but they also matter practically speaking. The position of the Senate GOP leader is now clear, pretty much negating any chance that Senate Republicans would participate in some kind of unlikely end-run not to accept the verdict of the electoral college. …

… The Senate was the best shot Trump had to at least gum up the works Jan. 6. If one House member and one senator object to accepting a given state’s slate of electors, Congress has to consider it. If a GOP senator does that now, they’ll be acting expressly in opposition to what their leader says. It might still happen, but McConnell’s statement should let some air out of the balloon. The gambit was never going to succeed, mind you, but it could have created some heartburn in our body politic; McConnell is basically signaling he won’t participate in such shenanigans.

It’s not ending, however. Trump is raving that the Republican governor and secretary of state of Georgia should be thrown in jail. Yesterday Stephen Miller was on Fox promising that the Trump team supported “alternate” electors who would send their votes to Congress, neener neener, but that seems to have fizzled out.

And, of course, right-wing media are still pushing “stop the steal.” Just today Trump seized on a new claim of fraud involving Dominion voting machines in Michigan. Although Trump is over the “boy who cried wolf” limit for most folks, the True Believers are lapping it up. As the Arizona electors voted yesterday, an Arizona state legislator called on consituents to “buy more ammo.”

Last night in Missouri, a Republican-led state House committee voted to approve a resolution that declared Missouri lawmakers “have no faith in the validity” of 2020 election results in six battleground states President Donald Trump lost this year. Rudy Giuliani was there, virtually.

Giuliani, who testified via Zoom, outlined examples of what he characterized as fraud in other states, which he said have not been fully investigated — not by election officials nor by courts.

That testimony drew an angry response from Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, who referenced GOP officials who have certified the results of the presidential election. Merideth also cited statements by U.S. Attorney General William Barr, who said there was no evidence of fraud that would have changed the outcome of the national election.

“Are all these Republicans lying?” Merideth asked Giuliani. “Are they complicit? Are they incompetent?”

Giuliani told Merideth to “calm down”; Merideth responded, “I am tired of your lies. America is tired of your lies. And they are dangerous, sir. They are dangerous.”

Well, good on you, Rep. Merideth. I’m glad to see there’s someone sensible in Jefferson City. Just don’t drink the water there, dude. I think it rots brain cells.

Missouri state Representative Peter Merideth, a Democrat who represents a district within the city of St. Louis. His district includes The Hill (Italian neighborhood; home of Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola) and the Botanical Garden.

The resolution carries no weight, and the Republican chair of the state House Rules Committee has already said his committee isn’t going to take it up.

And Vladimir Putin has congratulated Joe Biden already. Maybe Trump will get a clue that it’s over. Melania should be done packing by now.

See also:

Jonathan Last, Everyone Trump Touches Dies: The List

Jonathan Swan: Scoop: Trump’s frenetic, fanciful, bitter final plea