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Wake Up To Politics - December 2, 2020

It’s Wednesday, December 2, 2020. Inauguration Day is 49 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

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Pardon Power

President Donald Trump has reportedly discussed granting pre-emptive pardons to his adult children, son-in-law, and personal attorney Rudy Giuliani before leaving office. According to the New York Times, Trump has told advisers that he is concerned President-elect Joe Biden’s Justice Department could target his three eldest children — Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump — as well as his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

  • The Times also reported that Trump discussed the possibility of a pardon with Giuliani as recently as last week. The former New York City mayor denied the report, although it was later confirmed by CNN and ABC News.
  • Giuliani has been under investigation by federal prosecutors in New York for his efforts to oust the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine and his business dealings in the country, controversies that contributed to President Trump’s impeachment last year.
  • None of the Trump children are known to be facing a serious threat of federal criminal charges. Presidential pardons would not apply to state crimes, such as the Manhattan district attorney’s fraud investigations into the Trump Organization.

A number of high-profile figures have lobbied the White House to receive pardons before the president’s term ends. According to the Times, the list includes former Trump campaign advisers Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, who were both convicted as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

  • Joe Exotic, the so-called “Tiger King,” is also seeking a pardon after being sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in a murder-for-hire plot and violating federal wildlife laws.
  • Trump has shown willingness to grant clemency to his associates in recent months: He commuted longtime adviser Roger Stone’s prison sentence in July and pardoned former national security adviser Michael Flynn last week.

The Justice Department is investigating whether one unnamed pardon-seeker offered to bribe White House officials in exchange for executive clemency. Court documents, first reported by CNN, were unsealed on Tuesday which showed that a federal judge had reviewed a request from prosecutors in August to access documents in the “bribery-for-pardon” probe.

  • The identity of the people involved in the investigation are unknown due to heavy redactions of the court filings. However, the person at the center of the alleged scheme appears to be a convicted felon, as the documents indicate that they are in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons.
  • According to the documents, federal prosecutors were investigating at least two individuals who “acted as lobbyists to senior White House officials” to secure a pardon for another individual, without registering under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.
  • The court filings also described a related attempt by another individual to “offer a substantial political contribution in exchange for a presidential pardon or reprieve of sentence.” The judge did grant the prosecutors’ August request; the current status of the investigation is unknown.

The Rundown

— The United Kingdom became the first county to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine this morning. The U.S. is expected to follow next week. BBC

— “We have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” Attorney General William Barr said in an interview, contradicting President Trump’s claims about the 2020 election. Associated Press

— Barr also announced that he named U.S. Attorney John Durham a special counsel in October, giving him protection to continue a probe into the origins of the FBI’s Russia investigation. Wall Street Journal

Trump threatened to veto the annual $740 billion defense bill unless Congress repeals Section 230, which would open the door for social media companies to be sued for how they police their platforms. Washington Post

— A CDC panel released its guidance for who should receive the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine in the United States, recommending that health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities be given priority. STAT News

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a bipartisan group of lawmakers both unveiled new coronavirus relief proposals, but a compromise package remains elusive. Politico


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump will have lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at 12:30 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence will deliver remarks at the virtual Military Spouse Employment Business Summit at 12:15 p.m.

  • Pence will swear in Democratic Senator-elect Mark Kelly at 2 p.m. Kelly won a special election in Arizona last month; his induction into the Senate will shrink the GOP hold on the chamber by one seat, to a 52-48 majority.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will receive the President’s Daily Briefing.

  • Later, Biden will participate in a virtual roundtable with workers and small business owners impacted by the economic crisis.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. The chamber will vote at 11:45 a.m. to confirm Kyle Hauptman as a member of the National Credit Union Administrative Board and to advance the nominations of Kathryn C. Davis to be a Judge of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and Christopher Waller to be a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

  • The chamber will vote to confirm Davis at 2:05 p.m.

The House will convene at 2 p.m. The chamber will vote on four pieces of legislation:

  • S. 4054, the U.S. Grain Standards Reauthorization Act of 2020
  • S. 945, the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act
  • Senate Amendment to H.R. 1830, the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor Commemorative Coin Act
  • H.R. 7995, the Coin Metal Modification Authorization and Cost Savings Act of 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will participate in the lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree at 5 p.m.

  • The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hybrid hearing on pandemic response, featuring testimony from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, at 10 a.m.

The Supreme Court will hear virtual oral arguments at 10 a.m.

  • Edwards v. Vannoy: Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled in Ramos v. Louisiana that the Sixth Amendment requires juries to be unanimous in order to convict. Before this ruling, the fifty states were a patchwork of differing rules about juries, with the vast majority of states requiring juries to be unanimous and only two (Oregon and Louisiana) allowing non-unanimous verdicts. The Supreme Court will consider today whether Ramos went into effect starting in April — the month it was released — or whether it also retroactively applies to inmates who have received non-unanimous verdicts in the past.

— Supreme Court case summary contributed by Anna Salvatore

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