with Mariana Alfaro

President Trump’s drumbeat of baseless claims about the integrity of the election and the decision by most Republican lawmakers who know better to play along are taking a damaging and dangerous toll on democracy.

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, but a new poll from Monmouth University finds that 77 percent of Trump’s supporters believe President-elect Joe Biden only won because of fraud and 88 percent said they need more information on the count to know for sure who prevailed.

Overall, 60 percent of Americans believe Biden won the election fair and square. But Trump’s P.R. campaign to sow doubt is working. A Monmouth poll before the election found that 55 percent of Republicans felt confident in the electoral process. Now, just 22 percent of them said they feel that way. Overall, 61 percent of Republicans are not at all confident in the election’s fairness and accuracy – up from 13 percent in September.

“The anger among Trump’s base is tied to a belief that the election was stolen,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “It’s not unusual for backers on the losing side to take a while to accept the results. It is quite another thing for the defeated candidate to prolong that process by spreading groundless conspiracy theories. This is dangerous territory for the republic’s stability.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) has resisted what he describes as pressure from prominent Trump allies to discard legitimate ballots in ways that could allow Trump to carry the state. He has said that his state’s vote was not tainted by fraud and that his refusal to pretend otherwise has led to a flurry of death threats. Even his wife has been getting messages on her private cellphone. "That is what is really offensive," Raffensperger told the Atlanta Fox affiliate. He shared a few of the messages with the local station:

“You better not botch this recount. Your life depends on it.”

“Your husband deserves to face a firing squad.”

“The Raffenspergers should be put on trial for treason and face execution.”

Trump’s supporters listen to the president – at his own peril. Raffensperger told another Atlanta station, WSB-TV, that the president may have cost himself the election by railing against mail-in voting for so many months. “He actually suppressed, depressed his own voting base,” the secretary of state said. More than 24,000 Republican voters who cast ballots by mail in the June primary did not vote at all in November, and Biden leads in Georgia by about 13,000 votes.

Meanwhile, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) warned in a chilling statement of her own on Wednesday that she, her staff and members of her family have also been receiving escalating threats of violence since Biden carried the state. Hobbs descried the threats as “a symptom of a deeper problem in our state and country – the consistent and systematic undermining of trust in each other and our democratic process.”

“I have been a social worker for many years and can anticipate this reaction when people feel powerless and angry,” she wrote. “This does not excuse the perpetrators. Their continued intimidation tactics will not prevent me from performing the duties I swore an oath to do. … But there are those, including the president, members of Congress and other elected officials, who are perpetuating misinformation and are encouraging others to distrust the election results in a manner that violates the oath of office they took. It is well past time that they stop. Their words and actions have consequences.”

Biden won more votes than any other candidate for public office in American history. He is on track to win the electoral college by the same margin as Trump four years ago, which the president has repeatedly described in the years since 2016 as a “landslide.” But Biden is poised to take office on Jan. 20 with most Republicans suspecting, wrongly, that there was chicanery involved in his victory and that he is therefore somehow illegitimate. This will make it even harder for an already broken Washington to govern, and it will make it harder for leaders of goodwill in both parties to bind the nation’s wounds after four years of blistering division.

“The refusal of most Republicans to stand against President Trump’s unconscionable campaign to discredit a free election is one of the lowest points in the history of our republic — and a threat to democracy itself,” writes columnist E.J. Dionne.

“Trump is in overdrive, tweeting one absurd falsehood after another to delegitimize the election he lost,” writes Fact Checker Sal Rizzo. “One repeated theme is that Republican observers were not allowed inside the room as election workers counted mail ballots in Philadelphia. Fraud thrives under cover of darkness, Trump warns. But, in fact, Trump’s own lawyers have attested in court that his campaign was granted access and observed the process, both in Philadelphia and in other cities, and has found no evidence of fraud.”

“Mr. Trump may be setting a new precedent for how one wins elections in the United States: First, hold a vote; next, see whether you can bully enough state and local officials into manipulating the vote-counting and certification process on your behalf,” the Editorial Board warns. “The strategy could prove more viable in a closer election. Whether it works then will depend on whether public officials from the lowliest county clerk to the most senior U.S. senator allow previously pro forma matters of election administration to become partisan weapons.”

Democracy is not a game. As Ronald Reagan put it when he was inaugurated as governor of California in 1967, “Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again.”

More on the voting wars

Since President Trump lost the 2020 election, his campaign aides have repeatedly appeared on Fox News to tease baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud. (The Washington Post)
Trump wants to delay the final vote count in a last-ditch attempt to cast doubt on Biden’s win.

“On Wednesday, Trump’s campaign wired $3 million to election officials in Wisconsin to start a recount in the state’s two largest counties. His personal lawyer, ­Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has taken over the president’s legal team, asked a federal judge to consider ordering the Republican-controlled legislature in Pennsylvania to select the state’s electors. And Trump egged on a group of GOP lawmakers in Michigan who are pushing for an audit of the vote there before it is certified,” Amy Gardner, Robert Costa, Rosalind Helderman and Michelle Ye Hee Lee report. “Giuliani has also told Trump and associates that his ambition is to pressure GOP lawmakers and officials across the political map to stall the vote certification in an effort to have Republican lawmakers pick electors and disrupt the electoral college when it convenes next month — and Trump is encouraging of that plan … But that outcome appears impossible. It is against the law in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin law gives no role to the legislature in choosing presidential electors, and there is little public will in other states to pursue such a path.

“Behind the thin legal gambit is what several Trump advisers say is his real goal: sowing doubt in Biden’s victory with the president’s most ardent supporters and keeping alive his prospects for another presidential run in 2024. The shift in strategy comes after the president has suffered defeat after defeat in courtrooms around the country. And it serves as a tacit acknowledgment that Trump has failed to muster evidence to support his unfounded claims about widespread fraud. … The Trump campaign agreed [yesterday] to a joint stipulation in a lawsuit in Bucks County, Pa., that there was no fraud, even as it continued to press for the tossing of mail ballots with voter information missing from their envelopes. Several Republicans said that even Giuliani believes the legal path is arduous. … 

“Former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney … criticized Trump’s hiring of Giuliani to litigate a federal lawsuit in Pennsylvania. … In Arizona’s Maricopa County, which the state Republican Party has sued over the way the county conducted a required hand-count audit, the GOP chairman of the county Board of Supervisors has expressed exasperation with the claims. … ‘There is no evidence of fraud or misconduct or malfunction,’ Clint Hickman wrote in a public letter … 

“The president was furious Wednesday morning about the decision by election officials in Wayne County, Mich., to certify their results after initially deadlocking along partisan lines … He is also increasingly angry at Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and [Raffensperger], both Republicans who have given no indication that they will intervene to block certification there. … In Pennsylvania, a GOP attempt to throw out thousands of ballots suffered a further setback in state court Wednesday when a judge in Allegheny County rejected a pair of requests to bar a total of 2,649 ballots where voters either did not write the date on their mail ballot envelope or signed on only one line rather than two when casting a provisional ballot."

Wayne County Republicans asked to “rescind” their votes certifying the election results. “In affidavits signed on Wednesday evening, the two GOP members of the four-member Wayne County Board of Canvassers allege that they were improperly pressured into certifying the election and accused Democrats of reneging on a promise to audit votes in Detroit,” Tom Hamburger, Kayla Ruble and Tim Elfrink report. “‘I rescind my prior vote,” Monica Palmer, the board’s chairwoman, wrote in an affidavit reviewed by The Post … ‘I fully believe the Wayne County vote should not be certified.’ William Hartmann, the other Republican on the board, has signed a similar affidavit … Jonathan Kinloch, a Democrat and the board’s vice chairman, told The Post that it’s too late for the pair to reverse course.”

“Rudy Giuliani is a mess,” writes Robin Givhan. “As a culture, we like to believe that with age comes wisdom. The truth of it may be that age only makes people more obviously what they’ve always been. … Giuliani, at 76, has revealed himself to be a man who believes that he can summon truth from falsehoods, bend the law to his will and conjure whatever reality suits him simply by speaking his hopes and dreams aloud. … He wears a Yankees World Series ring even though he did not earn it. The diamonds sparkle next to a pinkie ring. A pinkie ring. The mere fact of it is an abomination."

Presidential legal adviser Jenna Ellis called Trump an “idiot” in 2016. “In one March 2016 Facebook post, Ellis said Trump's values were ‘not American,’ linking to a post that called Trump an ‘American fascist," CNN reports. “Ellis attacked Trump supporters in a Facebook post for not caring that the Republican candidate was ‘unethical, corrupt, lying, criminal, dirtbag.’ In another post, she said his supporters didn't care about the truth.”

Conservatives fear public preparation for Biden’s term. “The conservative movement has become handicapped. Organizations can’t sound the alarm about Biden’s agenda. Conservative reporters won’t take pitches about Biden’s rumored Cabinet contenders, insistent on covering evidence-deficient claims of voter fraud instead. One conservative group involved in policy advocacy backed off from hiring two soon-to-depart Trump administration officials after growing concerned about the consequences,” Politico reports. “And it’s all because of an unspoken rule set by Trump: Do not acknowledge Biden’s imminent White House takeover.”

A handful of current Trump administration officials, as well as some political appointees who left in recent months, have quietly started to reach out to members of Biden's transition team,” CNN reports. “One former Trump official (said) they're viewing the outreach effort as putting duty to the country over partisan considerations. The conversations are not as detailed as formal briefings that would take place under the officially sanctioned transition, sources said, but they at least could help incoming Biden transition members have a sense of the issues they might have to deal with upon taking office.”

The coronavirus

America will reach 250,000 coronavirus deaths this week. Still, little has changed. 

“Most everybody in town knows that Gladys Maull has been battered this year: Her father, her sister, an aunt, a great-aunt, all dead from covid-19. Maull keeps a sign on her front door: ‘Please do not come in my house due to covid-19. Thank you.’ Some people just step on in, maskless,” Marc Fisher, Shayna Jacobs and Pam Kelley report. “They mean no harm, but masks never caught on in rural Lowndes County, which has Alabama’s highest rate of coronavirus infections. In a place that gave 73 percent of its vote to Biden, the sheriff and the coroner agree that although cases are spiking and deaths are rising, most people share Trump’s view that masks are a matter of personal choice and that the end of the pandemic is just around the corner. … It has become clear that although close experiences with covid-19 do change some people’s attitudes, many Americans stick to their original notions, no matter what sorrows they’ve seen, no matter where they live. … About three-fifths of U.S. deaths from the virus have occurred in the 28 states and territories where Biden won. Yet there is no automatic correlation between the politics of a place and how people react to the death toll in their community. In Lowndes County, where more than 70 percent of the residents are Black, there’s no love lost for Trump. Yet no amount of urging from local officials seems to change people’s behavior during the pandemic, said Terrell Means, the elected coroner. … ‘It’s crazy out here. People are not being cautious at all. … They know it’s real and they don’t care.’ …

“Rural Alexander County, N.C., in the foothills of the Appalachians an hour’s drive from Charlotte, is the political opposite of Lowndes County. Seventy-nine percent of voters stuck with Trump this month. Like Lowndes, Alexander has one of the highest rates of new coronavirus cases in its state. Also like Lowndes, Alexander, population 37,000, is a county where deaths from covid-19 have had little impact on many residents’ attitudes toward the pandemic. People still chafe at the idea that masks are a must, still hang out together, still gather much as they always have when it’s time to say goodbye to a loved one. ‘There’s a lot of resentment’ about masks, said Monte Sherrill, 55, whose father died this summer of covid. Most people in shops and restaurants don’t cover their faces, Sherrill and two of his brothers said. Neither do they. All Trump supporters, they said they value their right not to wear a mask. ‘If someone can choose to have an abortion and end a human life, then I should be able to choose to wear a mask or not,’ said Kevin Sherrill, 48.” 

More than 3 million people in the U.S. are estimated to be contagious with the virus. 

“That number is significantly larger than the official case count, which is based solely on those who have tested positive,” Joel Achenbach reports. “To put the 3 million-plus figure in perspective: It is close to 1 percent of the population. It is about equal to the number of public school teachers in the entire country, or the number of truck drivers … Columbia University epidemiologist Jeffrey Shaman said his team’s model estimated that 3.6 million people are infected and shedding enough virus to infect others. That’s a 34 percent week-to-week increase that followed a 36 percent increase in the previous seven-day average, he said … ‘It’s bad; it’s really, really bad,’ Shaman said. … Separately, modelers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimated Tuesday that approximately 3.2 million people have been infected just since Election Day … a figure significantly larger than the approximately 1.95 million official cases tracked over the same period by The Post through reports from state health departments.” 

  • Oxford’s vaccine shows a strong immune response in adults in their 60s and 70s, according to phase two findings published in the Lancet. Researchers are testing whether the vaccine stops people from developing covid-19 in larger, phase three trials, the BBC reports. Early results from that stage are expected in the coming weeks.
  • Experts say new research has “promising” implications for the potential of mouthwash to help infected individuals reduce their risk of spreading the virus. (Allyson Chiu)
  • The virus is airborne, but we’re still scrubbing surfaces. Scientists who initially warned about contaminated surfaces are now saying there is little to no evidence that deep cleaning mitigates the spread of the virus indoors. (NYT)
Long lines and delayed results again plague test centers as Thanksgiving approaches.

“Testing sites from New York to Wisconsin to Oregon are reporting lines stretching three to four hours, with results taking as long as five days,” William Wan reports. “In Denver, officials shut down one testing site within an hour of opening Tuesday because it had reached capacity. At another site, lines grew so long that officials closed over concerns about traffic safety. In New York, residents are standing in line for hours. In Olympia, Wash., officials have had to turn away as many as 200 cars in line in recent days because labs had reached capacity. … The problem is that even as the nation’s testing capacity expanded, so did demand.  … In addition to running out of necessary chemicals and swabs — as happened repeatedly early in the pandemic — many labs say they are running short of other equipment, such as pipettes, a laboratory tool used to carry fluid. Testing sites say they are also experiencing shortages of workers to handle the surge.”

  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced he is suspending all classes in the public school system – the country's largest, with 1.1 million students – because of rising infection rates. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) became the first governor to announce a statewide school closure, saying all public and private schools must close Nov. 23 and all public universities must do the same. (Valerie Strauss)
  • A wrongful death lawsuit tied to infections in an Iowa Tyson Foods pork processing plant alleges that, during the early stages of the pandemic, the company ordered employees to report to work as supervisors privately wagered money on the number of workers who would be infected. (Iowa Capital Dispatch)
  • The NFL toughened its coronavirus protocols after several Las Vegas Raiders players were quarantined. The new rules require mask-wearing by players, coaches and staffers at all times at team facilities, even on the practice field. Team meetings must be held virtually, and meals for players must be grab-and-go. (Mark Maske)
An emotional Biden praised GOP governors who have bucked Trump to endorse more-stringent measures.

The president-elect warned that the president’s "tough guy" approach contributes to preventable deaths. Today he plans to meet by video with some of the nation’s governors. “On Wednesday, Biden choked up as Mary Turner, an intensive care nurse from Minnesota, described having to reuse protective masks and told Biden she had not yet been tested for the coronavirus, despite potential exposure since February,” Anne Gearan reports from Wilmington, Del. “About 40 percent of Americans plan to attend a large Thanksgiving gathering, despite the warnings from public health officials. Biden said he had decided to limit his own family gathering to three people this year.”

  • Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) said he will extend the state’s indoor mask mandate into 2021. Evers called on Republicans to stop pushing a lawsuit aimed at blocking the mandate. (Journal Sentinel)
  • Evers is one of seven governors – five Democrats and two Republicans – who wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post urging Americans to stay home this Thanksgiving. The other Democrats are Beshear, Gretchen Whitmer (Mich.), Tim Walz (Minn.), J.B. Pritzker (Ill.). The Republicans are Mike DeWine (Ohio) and Eric Holcomb (Ind.). “As hard as it will be to not see your family this Thanksgiving, imagine how much harder it would be if their chairs are empty next year,” they wrote.
  • A 25-year-old server was fired after filming a video that went viral of a maskless Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R), who has refused to issue a mask mandate. The bar said it fired Karina Montanez for violating the company’s social media and cellphone policy, but Montanez said she felt she had no choice but to film the governor not practicing social distancing. (Timothy Bella)
  • A Virginia gun show organizer filed a lawsuit against Gov. Ralph Northam (D), arguing his new restrictions would force the cancellation of the three-day “Nation’s Gun Show” event near Dulles International Airport this weekend. (Antonio Olivo)
  • Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed an executive order making about 1,200 prisoners eligible for early release in a bid to slow the spread of the virus in prisons. (Ovetta Wiggins)
  • Texas cases are soaring again, hovering above the “warning flag” level previously established by Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R). The last time case numbers were this high, the governor closed all bars and urged Texans to stay home. This time, however, Abbott said no lockdown is coming. (Texas Tribune)
  • California Medical Association officials were among the guests at an indoor dinner party attended by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) at the French Laundry. (Politico)

Quote of the day

“Well, I don’t really care what you think.” – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) lost his cool when pressed during a news conference about whether he supports shutting down schools. (The Guardian)

Overwhelmed hospitals are converting chapels, cafeterias and waiting rooms into treatment areas. 

“Staff members are desperately calling around to other medical centers in search of open beds. Fatigue and frustration are setting in among front-line workers,” the AP reports. “‘We are depressed, disheartened and tired to the bone,’ said Alison Johnson, director of critical care at Johnson City Medical Center in Tennessee, adding that she drives to and from work some days in tears. The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 in the U.S. has doubled in the past month and set new records every day this week. As of Tuesday, nearly 77,000 were hospitalized with the virus. … Ballad Health system, which is located in the Appalachian mountains and includes the Tennessee hospital where Johnson works, has warned that it and its workers are stretched so thin that without a change in course, its hospitals might have to turn patients away. … In Idaho, doctors warned that hospitals have almost reached the point where they need to ration care, unable to treat everyone because there aren’t enough beds or staffers to go around. … In Reno, Nevada, Renown Regional Medical Center began moving some coronavirus patients into its parking garage.” 

  • Health-care workers want Americans to listen: “We didn’t go to nursing school to be martyrs.” (Soo Youn)
  • A contact tracer in North Dakota said the virus is so rampant they gave up. “Even if we had enough staff to call up everyone’s workplace and contact, there are so many new infections that it wouldn’t be as effective. At this point, the government has given up on following the virus’s path through the state,” writes Kailee Leingang.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recesses the Senate a day earlier than planned.

GOP aides said taking an extra-long Thanksgiving holiday break was prompted by the attendance issues surrounding a coronavirus threat following news that Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) tested positive less than 24 hours after presiding over the opening of the Senate, led the Pledge of Allegiance, delivered two speeches to a sparse audience — and later moved around the crowded Senate floor after voting. “None of the fellow senators he encountered during his activities this week publicly announced plans to self-quarantine,” Mike DeBonis, Seung Min Kim and Karoun Demirjian report. “The minimal response to Grassley’s infection diagnosis reflects a business-as-usual approach that has been on display all year inside the Capitol, particularly in the tradition-bound Senate … That lax attitude has trickled down to individual senators, such as outgoing Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who gathered 21 aides for a tightly packed, maskless farewell photo on a Capitol staircase Wednesday evening before Senate staffers broke up the gathering.”

  • A new Government Accountability Office report finds that a sizable number of federal aid program recipients, such as those getting Medicaid and food stamps, are employed by some of the biggest and more profitable U.S. companies, chief among them Walmart and McDonald’s. (Eli Rosenberg)
  • Delta, the only airline of the Big Three still blocking middle seats for social distancing, will continue to do so until March 30. United and American have not blocked middle seats on flights since July. (Shannon McMahon)
  • The Kennedy Center canceled live performances through the spring. (Peggy McGlone)
  • New Orleans banned its traditional Mardi Gras parades for 2021. (Shannon McMahon)
  • Vogue deleted an article on an October wedding in Martha’s Vineyard after residents pointed out the celebration may have been linked to a cluster of cases. (Antonia Farzan)
  • A Massachusetts mom who lost her 15-year-old daughter unexpectedly sat at the teen’s sewing machine and made thousands of masks as a way of coping. Sharon Hebert said mask-making has helped her heal: “I wasn’t able to get therapy because everything shut down. I had to create my own therapy, and this was it.” (Sydney Page)

The Trump agenda

The Trump team is trying to set so many fires it will be hard for Biden to put them all out.

“Trump's order of a further withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq is the latest foreign policy move on a growing list in his final weeks in office that are meant to limit Biden's options before he takes office in January. The White House has directed newly installed acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller to focus his attention in the remaining weeks on cyber and irregular warfare, with a focus on China in particular," an administration official tells CNN. “It is contemplating new terrorist designations in Yemen that could complicate efforts to broker peace. And it has rushed through authorization of a massive arms sale that could alter the balance of power in the Middle East. The Trump team has prepared legally required transition memos describing policy challenges, but there are no discussions about actions they could take or pause. Instead, the White House is barreling ahead. A second official tells CNN their goal is to set so many fires that it will be hard for the Biden administration to put them all out." 

New Trump rules will allow mass logging in the nation’s forests without environmental review. 

“In a last minute change before leaving office, the Trump administration finalized a rule Wednesday that will allow the U.S. Forest Service to log and otherwise manage 2,800 acres of forest in the West without an environmental review,” Darryl Fears and Juliet Eilperin report. “But conservationists say the impact of the rule change goes far beyond a single parcel of 2,800 acres. The rule weakens requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that compel the Forest Service to study the potential environmental harm of approved developments and to publicly share that scientific analysis so the public can submit informed comments on the proposed work. 

"The rule change, which goes into effect Thursday, gives Forest Service officials broad authority to use loopholes called categorical exclusions to bypass NEPA requirements. Categorical exclusions are projects deemed to have no environmental impact, and as the rule is written, they can be applied across the nearly 200 million acres of forest that the Forest Service manages. ‘We’re not talking about using the exclusion once,’ said Alison Flint, a senior attorney for the Wilderness Society. … Categorical exclusions are a ‘permission slip’ for loggers to cut trees and developers to build roads without informing local communities of the work, Flint said. Forests are a source of drinking water for more than 150 million people."

A judge slams Trump for defying a Supreme Court order and ignoring succession laws.

“U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis, in Brooklyn, said at a hearing Wednesday that the government should have resumed accepting new applications for DACA when the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the administration from terminating the Obama administration program in June. Instead, he said, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting secretary, Chad Wolf, issued a memo in July that restricted access to the program, a move Garaufis called ‘sad’ and an ‘inappropriate use of alleged executive authority,’” Maria Sacchetti reports. “Garaufis had ruled Saturday that the Trump administration illegally appointed Wolf to the top DHS post last year, engineering a new order of succession and leapfrogging other officials who traditionally should have been in line for the job. … Christopher Krebs, the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) who led state and local election officials in protecting their systems during the general election earlier this month, should have become acting DHS secretary last year instead of Kevin McAleenan, the judge said. ‘Ironically, Mr. Krebs was fired just last night,’ Garaufis said at the hearing, adding that Trump booted Krebs ‘after he apparently successfully led the effort to protect the security of the November 3 election.’” 

  • Trump appointed Darren Beattie to the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad. Beattie is a former White House speechwriter fired in 2018 for attending a conference at which white supremacists were also present. (Yahoo News
  • Congressional negotiations on a bill to authorize more than $740 billion in defense spending hinge on only one point of contention: whether lawmakers will order the Pentagon to rename installations commemorating Confederate leaders. Trump has threatened to veto the annual defense bill if it ordered such changes. (Demirjian)
  • Senate Republicans are rushing to install conservative nominees to places like the Federal Election Commission that will long outlast Trump. While the vote to confirm Judy Shelton to the Federal Reserve failed for now, Republicans are planning a confirmation vote for Christopher Waller, Trump’s less controversial pick for the board of governors. His term would last until 2030. (Politico)
  • Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on Seapower, helped defense contractor BWX Technologies get a big contract – and then sold off his stock for a handsome profit. Perdue bought the stock right before he was put in charge of the powerful subcommittee and began selling it after he started work on a bill that ultimately directed additional Navy funding for one of the firm’s products. (Daily Beast)
An investigation into a former Barr client has “stalled” since he became attorney general.

In private practice, Bill Barr represented Caterpillar as the Fortune 100 company tried to fend off a federal criminal investigation by the Justice Department. “A week after Barr was nominated for the job of attorney general, Justice officials in Washington told the investigative team in the active criminal probe of Caterpillar to take ‘no further action’ in the case, according to an email written by one of the agents,” Reuters reports. “The decision, the email said, came from the Justice Department’s Tax Division and the office of the deputy attorney general, who was then Rod Rosenstein. … Since then, a source close to the case says, the investigation has ‘stalled.’ … A Justice Department spokesperson said Barr recused himself from any Caterpillar discussions once he became attorney general, but declined further comment.”

  • A day after Trump’s former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman announced in 2018 that she wrote a tell-all memoir, the White House tried to get the Justice Department to open an investigation into a seemingly unrelated paperwork dispute that led to a government lawsuit against her, the Times reports. The DOJ sued Manigault Newman for a fine of up to $50,000 without making a settlement offer.
  • A federal appeals court refused to delay the scheduled execution of two prisoners, including one set for today, but allowed litigation seeking to modify DOJ’s lethal-injection procedures to continue. Barr announced new procedures last year and resumed federal executions for the first time in more than a dozen years. (Ann Marimow and Spencer Hsu)
  • U.S. DEA investigators are furious over the DOJ's decision to drop a drug trafficking case against former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda. (Daily Beast)
The White House chief of staff “can’t guarantee” the government won't shut down next month.

“Congress and the White House have until Dec. 11 to approve new spending legislation to prevent the federal government from shutting down in the middle of a pandemic and amid a surge in coronavirus cases. [Mark] Meadows said he was hopeful an agreement would be reached but did not rule out that an impasse. There has already been two government shutdowns during Trump’s four years in office,” Jeff Stein reports. “Lawmakers this week began negotiations on spending legislation that would fund the government and avert the shutdown, but key sticking points remain over international aid policy, public health spending and tribal health care, among other policy disagreements, according to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. … Meadows met with [McConnell] at the Capitol on Wednesday."

The new world order

A former Green Beret admits to conspiring to spy for Russia.

Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45 of Virginia, pleaded guilty to sharing classified information with his Russian handlers for more than a decade while serving in the Army and as a defense contractor with a top-secret security clearance. “In return for the information he shared, Debbins was given $1,000, a bottle of cognac and a Russian military uniform. In his statement to investigators, Debbins said the Russians also offered him the services of prostitutes, which he declined,” Rachel Weiner reports. “He admitted no contact with Russian intelligence after 2011 … 

"Debbins was a graduate of and teacher at the D.C.-based Institute of World Politics, a small but influential school in conservative foreign policy circles. Former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn and military contractor Erik Prince both have ties to the school. In early 2017, according to emails reviewed by The Washington Post, Debbins told a friend that he was a candidate for a position on the National Security Council, ‘specifically Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russia and Central Asia.’ He never served in the Trump administration; when the federal investigation began he had a contracting-job offer from the Department of Health and Human Services, according to court records. The Institute of World Politics did not return requests for comment and removed content referring to Debbins from its website.”

  • Massive firepower helped the U.S. shatter the Islamic State’s grip on Iraq and Syria, but it also killed thousands of civilians. (Harry Stevens, Missy Ryan and Mustafa Salim)
  • The family of Mark Frerichs, an American civilian contractor kidnapped in Afghanistan, fears the departure of American troops will complicate efforts to find him. “We want the troops home,” her sister Charlene Cakora said, “but we don’t want Mark to be left behind.” (Carol Morello)
  • Australian special forces executed 39 prisoners, farmers and other civilians during the Afghanistan war. The country's defense minister blamed a culture of “toxic competitiveness” for fueling a breakdown in discipline leading to the extrajudicial killings. (A. Odysseus Patrick)
  • The U.S. Army will review the discharges of thousands soldiers kicked out for suicide attempts and sexual assault trauma, potentially unlocking care for those struggling in their post-military lives. (Alex Horton)
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the U.K. needs its own Green New Deal. Announcing a “green industrial revolution,” Johnson said he would address both climate and pandemic-related concerns. “The recovery of our planet and of our economies can and must go hand-in-hand,” he said in a statement. (Karla Adam)

Social media speed read

The Rockefeller Christmas tree is not the tree 2020 needs, but the tree 2020 deserves:

This little guy hitched a ride in the tree and accidentally ended up in New York City: 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who often tweets Bible verses, criticized a Democratic Senate candidate – by taking him out of context – for teaching a central lesson from the Bible:

Videos of the day

Samantha Bee condemned Trump for giving up on the pandemic at the worst possible moment: 

Seth Meyers said we’re currently finding out who in the Republican Party would be willing to go on with an actual coup attempt in the future if an election were closer: 

Stephen Colbert said Republicans are throwing some “pretty disgraceful” Hail Mary’s: