It’s Thursday, November 19, 2020. Inauguration Day is 62 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
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Analysis: “The Final Days,” Trump edition
The president is about to leave office. He’s in denial about it, holed up inside the White House and bitterly sharing conspiracy theories about his downfall.
That’s the portrait of Richard Nixon that emerges in “The Final Days,” the classic 1976 book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
But it sounds eerily familiar to how Donald Trump is spending his own final days in the Oval Office. It has been exactly two weeks since Trump appeared in the White House press briefing room and delivered a 17-minute statement laden with false and misleading statements about the election. Since then, he has appeared in public only two other times — a rare stretch away from the cameras for the 45th president. For 12 of the 17 days since the election ended, he has had no meetings, press conferences, or events on his public schedule.
Meanwhile, mostly from behind the scenes, Trump has refused to accept his election loss and the inevitability of his replacement by President-elect Joe Biden on January 20. While the bizarre nature of Nixon’s last days in the White House was not revealed until Woodward and Bernstein reported on them years later, Trump’s denialism can be seen in real-time.
“There was no way the Dems could have won” the presidential race earlier this month, he tweeted this morning, falsely labeling it “a rigged election” once again. Following his lead, the General Services Administration has yet to allow Biden to formally begin his transition process — the first time in American history an outgoing presidential administration has refused to acknowledge its successor.
And as Trump denies Biden resources to prepare for assuming the presidency, he is mostly opting not to take advantage of them himself. Biden has been prevented from accessing classified intelligence briefings; according to his public schedule, Trump has not received one in more than a month. Biden’s advisers are unable to coordinate with the White House Coronavirus Task Force; according to the Washington Post, it has been five months since Trump has met with his public health advisers.
At least publicly, Trump has all but given up on carrying out the duties of the presidency, even as he tries to block Biden from taking them over. He has made a series of increasingly dramatic moves, however — sharing them with the public only through his Twitter feed, in lieu of White House press briefings, which have not been held since October 1. Trump announced the firings of Defense Secretary Mark Esper and cybersecurity official Christopher Krebs on social media; in recent weeks, he has also axed a number of other officials and moved to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
One senior official told CNN that Trump’s “goal is to set so many fires that it will be hard for the Biden administration to put them all out.” He is also allowing the biggest fire of them all — the coronavirus — to continue smoldering, barely mentioning the pandemic even as cases, hospitalizations, and deaths soar to record heights.
The 250,000th American known to have died from the coronavirus passed away on Wednesday. But the president has yet to acknowledge the milestone, just as he refuses to acknowledge his loss at the ballot box to Joe Biden. Instead, he is wandering the halls of the West Wing in almost Nixonian fashion, allowing the days to tick down before his turbulent four-year stretch in the White House comes to a sudden close.
The United States has recorded more than 250,000 coronavirus deaths in about nine months. “The death toll here is equivalent to roughly 65 Sept. 11 attacks,” Axios notes. “Three times more Americans have died from COVID than died in the Vietnam war — in only a fraction of the time.”
- As the death toll rises, hospitals are also running out of space to treat new coronavirus patients. “Conditions inside the nation’s hospitals are deteriorating by the day,” the Associated Press reports, adding that “overwhelmed hospitals are converting chapels, cafeterias, waiting rooms, hallways, even a parking garage into patient treatment areas.”
- The rate of new cases is rising in all 50 states, according to NBC News. However, there is a correlation between a state’s response to the virus and the number of hospitalizations and cases it now has, according to the New York Times: “States that have imposed few restrictions now have the worst outbreaks,” a Times analysis found.
The Trump campaign paid $3 million on Wednesday to fund a partial recount of election results in Wisconsin. The recount will include the state’s two most populous counties, Milwaukee and Dane. President-elect Joe Biden currently leads in Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes, or about 0.6%.
- Meanwhile, Georgia is nearing completion of its hand recount of the nearly 5 million ballots cast in the state. Georgia’s Republican secretary of state has said that it is unlikely enough Trump votes will be uncovered to overturn Biden’s 14,000-vote edge in the state.
- According to the Washington Post, Trump has “abandoned his plan” to win re-election by disqualifying ballots in key states and is now trying to push those states to delay certification of their results.
- With no signs that he will be able to pull off such a gambit, several advisers told the Post that Trump has a different goal in mind: “sowing doubt in Biden’s victory with the president’s most ardent supporters and keeping alive his prospects for another presidential run in 2024.”
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump has no public events scheduled for the third consecutive day.
- Vice President Mike Pence will lead a meeting of the White House Coronavirus Task Force at 2:30 p.m. in the Situation Room.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will hold a virtual press briefing on COVID-19 at 11:30 a.m., the agency’s first briefing in more than four months.
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will attend a virtual meeting with the Executive Committee of the National Governors Association (NGA). They will deliver remarks from Wilmington, Delaware, after the meeting.
- The Executive Committee of the NGA is made up of nine governors, including five Republicans and four Democrats. At least one Republican, Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, has announced he would take part in the meeting.
The Senate is not in session.
The House will convene at 10 a.m. The chamber will consider H.R. 8294, the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020, which would expand the national apprenticeship system originally created in 1937.
The Supreme Court has no oral arguments or conferences scheduled.
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