Let’s begin with Trump’s “right to file lawsuits.” No one has a right to file frivolous, unsupportable and irrational complaints. That’s how lawyers get sanctioned. Trump’s lawsuits are not a “long shot”; they have zero chance of success. Biden has won at least 279 electoral votes (306 with Georgia and Arizona, which have not been called but have President-elect Joe Biden in the lead). Meanwhile, Biden won by nearly 150,000 votes in Michigan, more than 50,000 in Pennsylvania and more than 20,000 in Wisconsin.
The only way to reverse the result is to knock out at the very least Pennsylvania’s 50,000-vote margin — a switch of such magnitude that has never happened in any election, and for which there is no coherent theory or factual basis. There is nothing in the realm of reality that would suggest Biden did not win Pennsylvania and, therefore, the election. (There is nothing to suggest he didn’t win all the other states called for him either, but let’s make this simple.) The lawsuits filed by Trump in Pennsylvania and elsewhere have been laughed out of court and do not even purport to show “fraud.”
Thus, there are two revisions the media should adopt in their coverage: First, they should be candid that there is no legitimate legal theory that would change the result. This entire exercise is, at best, therapy for a loser president and, at worst, an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of elections.
Second, Trump’s refusal to cooperate with the transition process is not the real danger here. No member of Biden’s team breathlessly awaits the chance to glean information from his or her counterpart in an administration rife with unqualified appointees and individuals hostile to the mission of their department. Do we really think Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency transition group needs to sit down with the climate-change deniers in Trump’s administration?
The media should focus on what is critical, namely the decapitations of the top leadership of the Pentagon and installation of unserious, politically extreme conspiratorialists who should not be trusted with national security matters (including the power to declassify material, make troop reductions, etc.).
It does not do justice to the president’s recklessness to call these replacements “loyalists.” As Foreign Policy magazine points out, “Anthony Tata, a Trump loyalist, conspiracy theorist, and former Fox News contributor was appointed to serve in an interim role as the No. 2 official in the Pentagon’s powerful policy shop after his nomination to the undersecretary role was withdrawn over conspiratorial and Islamophobic comments.” Just how nutty is he? “Tata’s nomination for the job foundered over the summer after he faced criticism from lawmakers for offensive and conspiratorial social media posts, including falsely claiming that former CIA Director John Brennan ordered the assassination of Trump via a coded message on social media.”
Similarly, Kash Patel, former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), has been installed to serve as chief of staff to the acting defense secretary. Patel is widely credited with putting together the Nunes memo that mischaracterized charges concerning the FISA warrant for former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. During Trump’s impeachment, former National Security Council officials Fiona Hill and retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman accused Patel of puffing up his role to feed Trump fodder on Ukraine. Ezra Cohen-Watnick, assigned to fill the role of undersecretary of defense for intelligence, was also ensnared for funneling information to Nunes meant to prove the baseless conspiracy about President Barack Obama “wiretapping” the Trump campaign.
As Benjamin Wittes from the Lawfare blog put it:
It’s not just that Defense Secretary Mark Esper is out. It’s also a trio of senior officials replaced by staffers who have long made news as conspiracy theorists and bomb throwers. It’s the installation of a former staffer for Rep. Devin Nunes as general counsel at the National Security Agency over the objection of the agency head. It’s the perhaps-related threatened declassification of material related to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election over the objections of the CIA director and the attorney general.
Perhaps Republican self-proclaimed hawks such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) should be pressed to weigh in and asked their opinion of these appointments — or of a possible quick withdrawal of all troops from Iraq or Afghanistan.
In short, there is no threat Trump will overturn the election. The media would do well to stop giving nuisance suits credence. Trump is not messing up Biden’s preparation, but he is undermining the legitimacy of our election and installing frightfully partisan and unqualified figures to serious national security posts. Let’s focus on that.
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