Wake Up To Politics - November 20, 2020
It’s Friday, November 20, 2020. Inauguration Day is 61 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
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- Questions can touch on any of the processes and systems we’ve covered in past episodes (presidential transitions, the Electoral College, polling, and more) or anything else you’re curious about in American politics.
After legal and electoral defeats, Trump attempts to overturn election results entirely
After a string of legal defeats, President Donald Trump has moved on from attempting to invalidate specific ballots in his loss to President-elect Joe Biden. Instead, he is now seeking to persuade Republican state officials to ignore the popular will and overturn the results of the election entirely, a strategy without precedent in American presidential history.
Trump’s legal team, led by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, held a press conference on Thursday in which they accused Democrats of committing widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, but failed to produce any evidence supporting the allegations. Giuliani baselessly claimed that there had been a “centralized” election fraud plot throughout “big cities controlled by Democrats.”
Giuliani and the other members of the legal team described a conspiracy involving everyone from billionaire George Soros to former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, who died in 2013. “President Trump won by a landslide,” said Sidney Powell, another lawyer for the campaign. “We are going to prove it.” Trump is on track to lose the election by 74 electoral votes and about 6 million ballots; his campaign attorney’s provided nothing to challenge the legitimacy of this outcome beyond vague allegations and conspiracy theories, none of them proven and many of them debunked.
The press conference came amid a subtle shift in the Trump campaign’s legal strategy: after being rejected by several judges in attempts to throw out mail-in ballots and change the vote totals in states won by Biden, Trump is now attempting to block key states from certifying Biden’s victories and urging state legislatures to instead pick members of the Electoral College that will back him in defiance of the outcome.
The new gambit was first evident in Michigan, where Trump celebrated as Republican members of the Wayne County canvassing board resisted certifying Biden’s win on Tuesday night. The board later voted to certify the results, but the two GOP members have since reversed themselves and are attempting to rescind their votes for certification. The reversal occurred after Trump took the extraordinary step of calling Monica Palmer, one of the Republican canvassing board members; within hours of the conversation, Palmer and her colleague, William Hartmann, signed affidavits requesting to rescind their certification votes.
Trump will take the strategy to a new level today when he meets with members of the Michigan state legislature at the White House. With certification of the state’s vote up in the air, the president will reportedly urge the legislators to appoint a slate of electors that would support him when the Electoral College meets in December. However, the Republican majority leader of the state Senate — who will attend the meeting with Trump today — has said he would not support such a plan; according to Michigan law, the state’s electors are required to vote in accordance with the popular vote of the state.
Republican appeals to judges to prevent vote certifications have also been met with defeats. U.S. District Judge Steven Grimberg on Thursday rejected an attempt to block Georgia from certifying its results. “To halt the certification at literally the 11th hour would breed confusion and disenfranchisement that I find have no basis in fact and law,” Grimberg declared in his opinion.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, is expected to certify Biden’s victory in the state today. Raffensperger’s office completed a complete audit of the state’s 5 million ballots by hand on Thursday; the recount found no widespread fraud or any change in vote totals significant enough to change Biden’s edge in the state of nearly 13,000 votes.
Most Republican leaders have stayed quiet amid Trump’s unprecedented effort to subvert his re-election loss; however, some broke their silence on Thursday. “It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said in a statement. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) also decried the Trump campaign’s legal strategy; Sasse and Romney are two of the few GOP senators who have recognized Biden as the president-elect.
Several former Trump administration officials, many of whom left their posts on poor terms, also criticized their former boss on Thursday. Christopher Krebs, who was ousted earlier this week as the nation’s top election security official, called Giuliani’s press conference “the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history.”
“And possibly the craziest,” he added.
President-elect Joe Biden — whose transition into office has yet to fully launch due to the Trump administration’s refusal to recognize his victory — also addressed Trump’s actions in a Thursday news conference after meeting with a bipartisan group of governors. Trump “will go down in history as being one of the most irresponsible presidents,” Biden predicted.
“It’s hard to fathom how this man thinks. It’s hard to fathom,” he continued. “It’s just outrageous, what he’s doing.”
Pfizer seeks vaccine approval: “Pfizer said Friday it is asking U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, starting the clock on a process that could bring limited first shots as early as next month and eventually an end to the pandemic -- but not until after a long, hard winter,” the Associated Press reports.
- Wall Street Journal: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly urged Americans Thursday not to travel for Thanksgiving, in one of its sharpest warnings to date, as an official said the agency is alarmed by the exponential growth in Covid-19 cases, as well as rising hospitalizations and deaths.”
Biden plans Cabinet choices: “Close Biden loyalists are expected to be rewarded with top appointments, while former primary rivals Pete Buttigieg and Senator Bernie Sanders continue to express interest in top jobs, both publicly and through Biden aides involved in the process. Transition officials initially envisioned Buttigieg as veterans affairs secretary, but he is now under consideration for a foreign policy role,” CBS News reports.
- “Foreign policy is a top area of focus. So far, Tony Blinken, Mr. Biden's top campaign adviser on global issues, is the front-runner for secretary of state, according to three people familiar with the ongoing deliberations.”
New York expands Trump tax probes: “Two separate New York State fraud investigations into President Trump and his businesses, one criminal and one civil, have expanded to include tax write-offs on millions of dollars in consulting fees, some of which appear to have gone to Ivanka Trump,” the New York Times reports.
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump will participate in a virtual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting at 6:50 a.m. and deliver remarks on lowering prescription drug prices at 2:30 p.m.
- Trump will also reportedly meet with members of the Michigan state legislature about the 2020 election results.
Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Georgia to campaign for Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who face runoff elections on January 5. He will hold a 1:05 p.m. rally in Canton and a 4:10 p.m. rally in Gainesville.
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in Wilmington, Delaware.
- It is Biden’s 78th birthday. When he takes office in January, he will become the oldest president in U.S. history.
The Senate will meet for a brief pro forma session at 8:15 a.m.
The House will convene at 9 a.m. The chamber will complete consideration of H.R. 8294, the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020, which will expand the national apprenticeship system in the United States.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold her weekly press conference at 10:45 a.m.The Supreme Court justices will hold their weekly conference.
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