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Wake Up To Politics - November 10, 2020

It’s Tuesday, November 10, 2020. Inauguration Day is 71 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Election 2020

Republican leaders are backing President Donald Trump’s efforts to challenge his re-election loss. “President Trump is 100 percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Monday in his first comments since President-elect Joe Biden had been declared the election victor.

McConnell echoed Trump in calling for “all legal ballots” to be counted; there is no evidence that any illegal ballots have been counted or that any irregularities took place. Still, only four Senate Republicans — Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Mitt Romney (UT), and Ben Sasse (NE) — have acknowledged Biden’s win.

Two GOP senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue of Georgia, went so far as to call for their state’s GOP secretary of state to resign on Monday, citing “failures” in the election process. Loeffler and Perdue, who both face runoff elections in January, did not provide any evidence to support their claims; Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state, responded that the “process of reporting results has been orderly and followed the law.” Trump is currently trailing Biden in Georgia by about 12,000 votes.

Attorney General William Barr waded into the legal battle over the election results on Monday, authorizing federal prosecutors to investigate “specific allegations” of voter fraud. Barr’s memo “gives prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election is certified,” according to the Associated Press.

Richard Pilger, the Justice Department’s top prosecutor for election crimes, stepped down Monday night in response to the attorney general’s directive. “Having familiarized myself with the new policy and its ramifications, I must regretfully resign from my role as director of the Election Crimes Branch,” Pilger wrote in a memo to his colleagues.

Barr’s empowerment of DOJ prosecutors to investigate “clear and apparently-credible allegations of irregularities” comes amid the Trump campaign’s legal drive to challenge results in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania — all states currently being won by President-elect Biden.  

But even as his re-election campaign continues its fight in the courts, Trump is already plotting his next act. According to the New York Times, the president is planning to form a leadership PAC once he is out of office, “a federal fund-raising vehicle that will potentially let him retain his hold on the Republican Party.”

He is also reportedly eyeing another White House bid: Trump “has already told advisers he’s thinking about running for president again in 2024,” Axios reported.

The Biden Transition

As Trump refuses to concede the election, his government is also refusing to cooperate with the Biden transition team. According to the Washington Post, the Trump White House instructed senior government leaders on Monday not to cooperate with Biden’s transition team. “We have been told: Ignore the media, wait for it to be official from the government,” a senior administration official told The Post.

The official government declaration of Biden as President-elect comes when the General Services Administration, which is led by a Trump political appointee, recognizes him as the “apparent successful candidate” in the election. In 20o8 and 2016 — the two most recent transitions, which both took place across party lines — the GSA’s “ascertainment” came promptly on the morning after news organizations called the presidential race. According to Politico, the agency is not expected to affirm Biden’s victory “until at least Friday and perhaps much later.”

The GSA’s resistance to designating Biden as President-elect holds up the $6.3 million that is allocated for his transition. The outgoing administration’s refusal to cooperate with the Biden team has other consequences as well: Biden has yet to begin receiving daily intelligence briefings, for example, as would traditionally be given to the President-elect.

The Trump Administration

President Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday, dismissing a Cabinet official he has long clashed with before leaving office himself. Trump announced in a tweet that Esper had been “terminated” and would be replaced by Christopher Miller, the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, on acting basis.

Esper, who previously served as Trump’s Army Secretary, had led the Pentagon since July 2019. Distance between him and the president emerged almost immediately, over releasing military aid to Ukraine, and would later widen when Esper publicly opposed deploying troops to quell nationwide protests this summer.

Multiple news outlets have reported that Trump is also considering firing FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel before his term ends.

Other officials who have been dismissed since last week’s election include Michael Kupperberg, the scientist responsible for the National Climate Assessment; Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration; Bonnie Glick, the deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development; and Neil Chatterjee, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump has no public events scheduled.

Vice President Mike Pence will attend the weekly Senate Republican caucus lunch at 1 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden will deliver remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, at 2 p.m. on the Affordable Care Act. Biden, who will be joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, will address the case before the Supreme Court today and “his plan to expand access to quality, affordable health care.”

  • Later, Biden and Harris will hold briefings with transitions advisers.

The Senate will convene at 12 p.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of James Ray Knepp II to be a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio. The chamber will vote on Knepp’s confirmation at 2:15 p.m., making him the 221st Trump appointee to join the federal bench.

  • Both parties will also hold their weekly caucus lunches in the afternoon and leadership elections for the next Congress in the morning. Neither party’s leadership is expected to change much — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are both poised to be easily re-elected — although Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) has announced a bid to seek the open chairmanship of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the Senate GOP campaign arm.

The House is not in session.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments at 10 a.m. in California v. Texas, one of its highest-profile cases of the term. More on the case from legal contributor Anna Salvatore:

  • The third Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act has arrived at the Supreme Court. In NFIB v. Sebelius (2015), Chief Justice Roberts famously said that the law’s individual mandate – which fines many Americans without health insurance – was a tax, not a penalty, meaning that it was not a violation of the Constitution’s Taxing and Spending Clause.
  • But later in the same opinion, the Chief suggested that if the individual mandate were ever struck down, then the entire law might be unconstitutional too. The mandate and the rest of the ACA were too “closely interrelated” to be separated, he reasoned.
  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ruled against Roberts in 2015, but now that she has been replaced by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, it’s possible that there are five votes to overturn the individual mandate — a possibility which Democrats mentioned often during Barrett’s confirmation hearing in October. What remains to be seen is how the justices answer the “severability” question: If the justices sever the mandate from the law, can the law still stand?

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