Day 1432: "Everything is well under control."
1/ Trump discussed appointing a lawyer who promoted conspiracy theories about rigged voting machines as a special counsel to investigate nonexistent voter fraud. In a “heated” meeting in the Oval Office, Trump met with Sidney Powell, her client, Michael Flynn, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and counsel Pat Cipollone. Rudy Giuliani participated by phone. The meeting reportedly broke out into a screaming match as Meadows and Cipollone pushed back on Powell and Flynn’s suggestions for overturning the election, while Powell accused Trump’s advisers of being quitters. Among the ideas discussed was Flynn’s earlier suggestion that Trump impose martial law and deploy the military to “rerun” the election. Giuliani, seperately, called the Department of Homeland Security’s Ken Cuccinelli and asked if it was possible for DHS to seize voting machines. Cuccinelli told Giuliani that DHS does not have that authority. Trump also asked about Powell getting a security clearance to pursue her work. While Trump later dismissed reports of the martial law discussion as “fake news” on Twitter, Trump had previously urged Attorney General William Barr to appoint a special counsel to look into election fraud, as well as one to investigate Hunter Biden. Barr, however, was unwilling to do what Tump wanted and later announced his resignation. (New York Times / CNN / NBC News / Axios / CNN / ABC News / Vox)
- Presidential Transition Live Blogs: New York Times / Washington Post / ABC News
2/ Attorney General William Barr said he saw “no basis now for seizing [voting] machines” and that he would not appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations of voter fraud. Barr said that while he was “sure there was fraud in this election,” there was no evidence that was so “systemic or broad-based” that it would change the result. Barr added: “If I thought a special counsel at this stage was the right tool and was appropriate, I would name one, but I haven’t, and I’m not going to.” It was Barr’s final public appearance. (Washington Post / Associated Press / CNN / CNBC / Wall Street Journal / ABC News)
3/ Trump’s campaign filed a petition with the Supreme Court to overturn three separate Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisions related to mail-in ballots. Trump’s campaign asked the court to reject 2.6 million mail-in ballots and allow the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pick its own slate of electors. Overturning the Pennsylvania results, however, wouldn’t change the outcome of the election. If Biden somehow lost the state’s 20 electoral votes, he would still have 286 votes. (Associated Press / Bloomberg)
4/ Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both blamed the Russians for the SolarWinds hack that compromised at least a half dozen federal agencies. On Saturday, Pompeo said “we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians” behind the hack of the federal government. Hours later, however, Trump tweeted that “it may be China (it may!)” – not Russia – saying “everything is well under control,” while insisting that the “Lamestream” news media had exaggerated the hack and suggested – without evidence – that the real issue was whether the election results had been compromised. But on Monday, Barr said that “from the information I have, I agree with Secretary Pompeo’s assessment” that “it certainly appears to be the Russians” behind the hack. (Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press / NBC News)
5/ Congress reached an agreement on a $900 billion coronavirus stimulus package. The agreement includes $600 stimulus checks per adult and child, $300 per week in enhanced unemployment for 11 weeks, $319 billion for small businesses, including $284 billion for Paycheck Protection Program loans, $20 billion in EIDL Grants, $69 billion in testing and vaccine distribution funds, $82 billion in funding for colleges and schools, and $15 billion for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions. More than $13 billion in food assistance is also in the bill. The package excludes liability protection from COVID-19-related lawsuits for businesses and universities and doesn’t include money for states and localities for Medicare. The relief package, however, includes a tax break for corporate meal expenses pushed by the White House – referred to as the “three-martini lunch” by critics – as a way to revive the restaurant industry during the pandemic. Both the House and Senate plan to pass the stimulus bill — which will be paired with a year-end spending measure — by midnight, when the latest government funding deadline hits. (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / CNBC / CNN / Politico / Axios)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~77,189,000; deaths: ~1,700,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~17,948,000; deaths: ~319,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
Live Blogs: New York Times / Washington Post / CNBC / Wall Street Journal / ABC News / CNN / NBC News
The FDA authorized emergency use of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine. The vaccine was nearly 95% effective in clinical trials that enrolled 30,000 patients. (Politico)
A CDC advisory committee recommended that people 75 and older or frontline essential workers receive the COVID-19 vaccine next – following the frontline health care workers and nursing home residents, who have already started receiving the vaccine. (NPR)
A death every 33 seconds in the U.S. “For all of the efforts by some to diminish the death toll and to shrug at the steadily expanding saturation of American hospital beds, our country is losing an American every 33 seconds to covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus that emerged last year.” (Washington Post)
More than 16 million Britons are forced to stay at home in London and southeast England as a new coronavirus variant is spreading more quickly. The U.K. warned that the new variant that is thought to be up to 70% more transmissible than the original strain of the disease. (Bloomberg / NBC News / CNBC)
More than 2 million people passed through security checkpoints at U.S. airports on Friday and Saturday, despite guidance to stay home for the holidays. (NPR / ABC News )
The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis subpoenaed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and CDC Director Robert Redfield. The oversight subcommittee is seeking documents that shed light on allegations of “efforts to interfere with scientific work at CDC.” (Wall Street Journal)
6/ The Trump administration is weighing legal immunity for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a federal lawsuit accusing him of ordering the assassination attempt of a former top intelligence officer. The Saudi government asked to shield the prince from liability in response to a complaint brought by Saad Aljabri, a former Saudi counterterrorism leader and longtime U.S. intelligence ally now living in exile in Canada, who could disclose damaging secrets about the prince’s rise to power. (Washington Post)
7/ Trump signed an executive order requiring “beautiful” architecture as the preferred style for federal buildings. (Bloomberg)
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