I have been doing these roundups every week for nearly four straight years now. I like to think that makes me something of a scholar of Trump era news cycles. And it is with this caveat in place that I inform you that, even by our modern standards, the news this week was bananas. Of course, most of it was also still corrupt and terrible. The news was rotted bananas, y’all.
Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a golf course!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
Constitutional Crisis Corners:
Unsurprisingly, we all saw yet another week of Election Rejection, and the second verse began worse than the first. Here’s what I have for you:
- Trumped-Up Legal Challenges. Despite (or perhaps due to) the underprepared vaudeville act Trump calls a legal team, his challenges to the election results remain like cockroaches–numerous, unwanted, and improbably resistant to pest control. In Michigan, we had over a week of high drama while the administration abandoned its clownish lawsuit in favor of persuading board officials to refuse to certify voting results in Wayne County. In light of public outcry, the board officials walked that back and certified, only to double down by “rescinding” those signatures after receiving encouragement from Trump personally. Finally, after nearly a week of this, a final vote to certify was held today, and that’s the ballgame for official results in Michigan. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Trump keeps losing court cases faster than I lose pen caps–he even lost the one case he had previously won, which allowed ballots with facial defects to be tossed in Allegany County, because it was remanded by the state supreme court. Perhaps it’s unsurprisingly, in light of this, that he also requested a recount in two counties in Wisconsin, both of which skew heavily blue, and by the end of the week he had graduated to trying to get ballots discounted there. In Georgia, a lengthy and expensive hand count came down in Biden’s favor, so Trump went ahead and requested another recount, by a less reliable method, at taxpayer expense. Also, an independent witness came forward and corroborated the Georgia Secretary of State’s account of Lindsey Graham asking him to throw out legally-cast ballots, but with everything else going on we all just kind of forgot about it by the end of the week. Needless to say, these prolonged Presidential attacks on our democratic process are not normal and they do lasting damage to the fabric of our government.
- Transition Trials. Given how the paragraph above was going for him, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Trump also spent the week delaying transition as much as possible. His vaccine team refused to brief President-Elect Biden for another week, and he also implemented a bunch of foreign policy changes that seem designed to make President-elect Biden’s life difficult when he assumes control of the White House. For most of the week, he continued to instruct his head of the General Services Administration to refuse to begin the transition, and she only relented in apparent response to his tweets this evening. By this point, everybody from Republican national security experts to a giant group of CEOs to Chris Christie were telling Trump to give it up already, but he still hasn’t actually conceded the election as I type this.
That said, we also saw more Original Flavor Disregard of Governing Norms.Here’s what I have for you:
- Fire and the Hole. We saw a continuation of sketchy personnel changes this week, as Trump fired the head of cybersecurity for saying we had a safe election–truly a stunning thing for a sitting President to do. But I would be remiss if I didn’t also give a shoutout to Trump’s decision to skip the G-20 event on global pandemic preparedness this weekend to go play golf in Virginia, as well as his decision to tweet about the election during the portion he did attend. Seriously, I know that we’re inured to his awful behavior by this point, but we unquestionably have the most COVID cases in the world, which I’ll talk more about below, and he literally skipped the world summit about it to go play golf.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Other Election Updates. Trump’s legal team was its own weird this week, featuring everything from impressive lack of legal knowledge to Rudy Giuliani’s melting hair dye to firing one malpracticing attorney but not another. Meanwhile, over 235 organizations are urging President-elect Biden to cancel student loans as a form of economic stimulus on his first day of office. President-elect Biden continues to name his cabinet staff picks, which makes an odd juxtaposition with Trump’s constant terminations, and Biden is expected to give more names tomorrow.
- State of the COVID-19. COVID news falls into two different extremes this week, so I have separated it out accordingly. In the awful news bucket, the U.S. has now surpassed 250,000 deaths from COVID-19, and over 85,700 people were hospitalized today–which is a new pandemic record. Additionally, nearly 12.5 million cases have been reported as I type this, with rates rising in every state but Hawaii; this marks a one million case increase since past Sunday. The CDC is more-or-less begging people not to travel for Thanksgiving, but the TSA reports they’ve already screened about 2 million people in airports. Meanwhile, several forms of federal economic protection are ending at the end of the year, even though several states are shutting down again and we can expect several more months of economic hardship.
- COVID Vaccine Updates. There was also promising news this week about vaccines, which are starting to look like a concrete reality. In the wake of the Moderna vaccine announcement last week, some news outlets began to note that Dolly Parton personally donated $1M to its early research efforts because she is friends with one of the researchers, which is kind of cool. In more health-related news, Pfizer released full results of its trial 3 study, saying its vaccine is 95% effective in the general population and that the company is seeking FDA approval this week. Additionally, a third vaccine has been found 90% effective, and it is significantly cheaper than the first two. Health officials estimate that distribution may begin for essential workers as soon as mid-December. It will take time for full distribution of any approved vaccine, and many health professionals still want more data before accepting an injection, but having three potential vaccines is excellent news.
So that’s what I have for this week, and I think we can agree that it’s more than enough. For making it through, you deserve this goat hug queue and an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me your favorite Brussel sprout recipe!