👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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1/ Trump falsely claimed that Pence has the power to unilaterally throw out electoral votes when Congress meets to certify the election results on Wednesday. While Pence’s constitutional role is to ceremonially oversee Congress’s count of the Electoral College votes, Trump instead wants Pence to reject the votes for Biden, tweeting – falsely – that Pence “has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors.” And during a rally in Georgia, Trump told supporters: “I hope Mike Pence comes through for us.” Meanwhile, a group of House and Senate Republicans plan to object to the certification of several states, forcing as much as 12 hours of debate and a half-dozen votes. There are not, however, enough votes in either chamber to overturn the outcome of the election and Pence would have to announce the failure of each one. Trump, nevertheless, vowed to continue to “fight like hell” to keep the White House and – again – falsely alleged that Democrats stole the election. When a joint session of Congress convenes Wednesday to certify the Electoral College votes, Trump plans to speak at a “Save America” rally near the White House. (New York Times / NBC News / NPR / Washington Post / CBS News / CNN / New York Times / ABC News)
A federal judge in Georgia denied another attempt by Trump to decertify the state’s presidential election results. Trump and his lawyers asked the judge to throw out the verified results, citing several previously debunked fraud allegations. Attorneys for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger called the effort a bid to “disenfranchise millions of Georgia voters at the thirteenth hour.” (Politico / New York Times / CNN)
Trump replaced the top federal prosecutor in Atlanta with another Trump-appointed prosecutor – bypassing the top career prosecutor who would normally take over on an acting basis. U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak abruptly resigned Monday after serving three years in the role. Pak’s resignation came a day after the release of a recording of a phone call between President Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. During the call, Trump seemed to denigrate a federal prosecutor in Georgia, saying, “You have your never-Trumper U.S. attorney there.” (Talking Points Memo / Politico / Atlanta Journal-Constitution / The Hill)
Dominion Voting Systems plans to sue attorney Sidney Powell for defamation, and is exploring similar suits against Trump and others. (Axios)
2/ Arizona, California, and Rhode Island have the highest Covid-19 infection rates per capita of anywhere in the world. Coronavirus cases in the South, meanwhile, are rising quickly and account for more cases than any other U.S. region. And, nine states reported record Covid-19 hospitalizations Monday. (NBC News / Bloomberg / ABC News)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~86,231,000; deaths: ~1,866,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~21,008,000; deaths: ~357,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
Scientists are analyzing research data to see if they can double the supply of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine by cutting doses in half. (New York Times)
The House and Senate are using a Covid-19 test that the FDA says is prone to false results. (Politico)
3/ Four American intelligence agencies confirmed that the hack of the U.S. government and corporations was “likely Russian in origin.” The FBI, the National Security Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said that “fewer than 10” federal agencies had been compromised by “an intelligence gathering effort.” The rare joint statement also said that the operation was “ongoing” – nearly a month after it was discovered. Trump, meanwhile, has cast doubt on that hack, suggesting that it could have been China and that “everything is well under control.” (Associated Press / New York Times / NBC News)
4/ The EPA finalized a “transparency” rule which will limit or exclude research about how pollution impacts human health. The new rule requires researchers to disclose their raw data. Leading researchers and academic organizations, however, argue that the new rule will restrict the EPA from using the most consequential research, because it often includes confidential medical records and other data that cannot be released because of privacy concerns. (Washington Post / CNN)
5/ Trump will not be allowed to visit Scotland to play golf during Biden’s inauguration. Prestwick airport has reportedly been told to expect the arrival of a U.S. military Boeing 757 aircraft, which is sometimes used by Trump, on January 19. Scotland’s first minister, however, stressed that it is illegal to travel in or out of the country without a valid reason, saying “Coming to play golf is not what I would consider to be an essential purpose.” Following news reports of Trump’s potential trip to Turnberry, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the reports were “not accurate. President Trump has no plans to travel to Scotland.” (New York Times / Washington Post / The Independent / Sunday Post / The Guardian)
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