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In the real world, President-elect Joe Biden continues to hurtle toward his January 20 inauguration.
- He named a chief of staff, his longtime aide Ron Klain (aka Obama’s Ebola czar). More here on what Biden’s pick says about his coming presidency.
- He’s taking calls from more foreign leaders, although without help from the US State Department that he’ll soon oversee.
- A few more Republican senators said he should begin to get classified briefings even though they wouldn’t publicly acknowledge the fact he won.
Biden’s job is going to be hard. The infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm, a member of Biden’s Covid task force, suggested a possible four-week nationwide lockdown with the government covering wages and losses for many companies. “If we did that then we could lock down for four to six weeks and if we did that, we could drive the numbers down. Like they’ve done in Asia. Like they did in New Zealand and Australia,” he told Yahoo! Finance.
Biden, it was made clear Thursday, does not share that view. “His comments were not in line with the PEOTUS view,” a transition aide said, according to CNN’s Arlette Saenz. (PEOTUS is aide-speak for President-elect of the United States).
Meanwhile, in President Donald Trump’s reality. There are two stories on CNN that, when taken together, give you a good idea of what might be the current President’s endgame.
First, from Gloria Borger: What is he thinking?
As he sits in the Oval Office, you’ve got to wonder: What is the President actually thinking? Is he concerned about his followers? About democracy? About his legacy?
Nah. He’s thinking about himself, of course. One source who knows the President well makes this case: “He’s not worried about the Republican Party. He’s worried about how he can commercialize and monetize all of this.”
Monetizing his loss could include: “Post-election King Trump rallies across America (with paid attendance no doubt). Can’t you just imagine the former president claiming his rallies are bigger than Oprah’s motivational gatherings? A TV show! A big book deal, worth millions! (He’ll want more than Obama, but won’t get it.) Another run in 2024!”
Dragging out the election will help him raise money too. Denying reality is allowing the President to ask supporters for money he can use to influence them down the road.
“Right now, though, he’s raising money allegedly to fight the inevitably fruitless court battles on some imagined voter fraud. But look at the small print: The money also seeds his newly established political action committee. So while he’s telling his voters he’s fighting to stay, he’s also looking for way to fund his future endeavors when he leaves. Always looking for a way to find a buck.”
The election-denying media landscape. With Gloria’s report in mind, now read Brian Stelter’s report about the rise of Newsmax TV. Its ratings are still small compared to Fox, but have skyrocketed as Fox pushed the reality that Trump lost and Newsmax burrowed into the fallacy that Trump could still win. Stelter interviewed Chris Ruddy, the Newsmax CEO and longtime Trump confidant/informal adviser:
From Stelter’s story: Taking a big picture view, Newsmax’s sudden gains are about demand meeting supply. There is a demand for content that swears Biden is not president-elect; that Trump is not a loser; that Trump might even win a second term. Al Schmidt, the Republican city commissioner of Philadelphia, touched on the demand side when he told CNN’s John Berman: “One thing I can’t comprehend is how hungry people are to consume lies and to consume information that is not true.”
AND: This is a demand issue right now. In the same way that some Trump loyalists are discovering Newsmax, some are also downloading Parler, the “Twitter-like app that describes itself as the world’s ‘premier free speech social network,’” the New York Times’ Mike Isaac and Kellen Browning wrote Wednesday. We are witnessing a further “fracturing of the information ecosystem,” caused by conservatives who can’t or don’t believe that more Americans voted for Biden than Trump.
When we asked Stelter to expand on this, he wrote: “In some ways this is a follow-up to the recent discussion about foreign propagandists vs. domestic creators of disinformation. Far-flung hackers and trolls captured the public’s imagination when in fact some of the most disruptive propaganda has been coming from more familiar sources all along. Think about Sean Hannity’s daily dose of whataboutism: His insistence that Trump fans should trust their tribe and disregard all outside sources of information has been staring us in the face for years. Newsmax is another example of this. The storylines and statements merit scrutiny but resist easy fact-checking. Ruddy, for example, said he spoke with Trump on Thursday, and said both men agree that every vote should be counted.
“The way Ruddy said it implied suspicion, like there was some sort of conspiracy afoot to stop Trump voters from being heard. But all the votes are being counted, and in fact the vast majority already have been.”
Trump’s now got it in for Fox. Consider Trump’s increasingly frantic Twitter attacks on Fox. He sent 44 tweets or retweets Thursday morning and 16 of them were either bashing Fox or promoting Newsmax or another network, OANN. Here’s Stelter’s latest on that.
How long will Trump hold out?
CNN’s Dana Bash and Jeff Zeleny report:
A source familiar with President Donald Trump’s thinking says that now Georgia is doing a hand recount do not expect the President to make any public moves towards stating the obvious - that he lost - until at least that’s done.
Georgia’s certification deadline is November 20. Michigan’s and Pennyslvania’s are November 23.
Additionally, a top Senate GOP official tells CNN this morning that Republican leadership has told senators they expect this to not drag on “no more than another week.”
But who knows, really. And this report from CNN’s White House team suggests even Trump is waffling, hour by hour, on what he should do. And nobody know when or how he’ll ultimately acknowledge defeat. Once he does, expect a raft of last-minute pardons, including, maybe, the never-before-attempted pre-emptive self-pardon. Read more.
Trump’s national security purge continues
Two more national security-related officials fired – this time at DHS, including Assistant Secretary for International Affairs Valerie Boyd, who wrote a very interesting resignation letter, which was obtained by CNN.
“It is with sadness that I submit my resignation, effective November 13, 2020. It has been my belief that people of character should support the institution of the Presidency and work within it to inform and influence policy decisions that reflect well on the people’s government. This belief has been tested many times these past few years, and it is my fervent prayer that I made the best possible choices. I wish you and our colleagues across the government the strength to act with honor in the months ahead.”
CIA director hanging on by a thread. There is an open disagreement between Trump loyalists and the rest of the GOP establishment about CIA Director Gina Haspel, who has opposed release of secret information related to Russia.
Senators like Mitch McConnell and Marco Rubio have publicly displayed support for Haspel. But she appears to be endangered as she faces criticism from Donald Trump Jr., who makes it seem on Twitter like he’s in the know on secret national security matters relating to Russia.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs promises to uphold Constitution, not follow a man. Gen. Mark Milley, the top American service member, made this encouraging statement during the opening of an Army museum Thursday.
“We are unique among militaries. We do not take an oath to a king or a queen, a tyrant or a dictator. We do not take an oath to an individual. No, we do not take an oath to a country, a tribe or religion. We take an oath to the Constitution. And every soldier that is represented in this museum, every sailor, airman, Marine, Coast Guardsman, each of us will protect and defend that document, regardless of personal price,” Milley said during remarks at the opening of the US Army’s museum.