Election 2020: I’M MELTING!

Rudy Giuliani Rudy Giuliani’d.

Rudy Giuliani hair dye drip: What kind of color would run down your face  when you're sweating?

That could be the whole post, really. Guiliani, in his role as head of Trump’s legal team, gave an unhinged 90 minute press conference where he and his henchmen Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell gave what the Post termed “the craziest press conference of Trump’s presidency”, alleging that Biden oversaw a vast conspiracy to steal millions of votes from Donald Trump and thus the election. When the reporters present asked for evidence, Guiliani screamed “FAKE NEWS!” repeatedly, while Ellis snarked that reporters couldn’t understand the law (note: most reporters have lost 40 fewer cases this past 2 weeks than the legal team they are covering) and Powell stated that it wasn’t really time to produce “evidence”. Guiliani claimed to have hundreds of signed affidavits that he refused to produce because the claimants feared for their lives. The core of the conspiracy was that a voting machine company, Dominion, was secretly in thrall to Communists, who presumably support Biden’s presidency (this would come as a deep shock to anyone acquainted with actual leftists). Among the conspirators named repeatedly was Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. Chavez has been dead since 2013 – given the fact-free nature of everything else on display, this seems a minor quibble.

Most of the media concentrated on the spectacle of Guiliani’s amateurish hair dye job melting onto his face as he spoke, but the content of his presentation was far more disturbing, as was the fact that it was being hosted by, and endorsed by the Republican Party. For the first time in over a century, a major American party is alleging a conspiracy to steal the election from its candidate by the other party. This is a bell that cannot be unrung, and its fallout will dominate Biden’s presidential term. Democracy is under attack by one of the main parties that participate in it.

As part of that attack, Trump made an overt effort to subvert the ongoing certification of the vote in Michigan; it came out that Trump called the Wayne County election board members who waffled on certification personally, and also invited members of the Michigan state legislature to the White House for talks. As I write this, one of his invitees has stated that he supports a delay in Michigan’s certification to investigate Trump’s claims.

Biden’s margin of victory is so large, and the calendar itself, make overturning the election results almost impossible at this point. (Georgia, for example, finished its manual recount today, with no change in the result.) Even if one or two states ignores the result of the election and switches its electors to a Trump slate – an outlandish and unconscionable betrayal of democracy – it would not change Biden’s taking office in January.

According to CNN, that isn’t the point. Apparently one of Trump’s phone confidants gave CNN a window into Trump’s thinking – this entire show, according to them, is simply revenge on Biden for the Mueller probe and Trump’s fury at his 2016 “landslide victory” being impugned. If he can’t have a clear electoral validation, no one else can either. It’s pretty clear from the wording of the story that this friend tried to tell Trump that he was damaging his future financial prospects by dragging this to the bitter end, only to be told he was wrong, because 70 million people voted for Trump. (Over 76 million voted against him, but that is left unsaid.)

Trump is scheduled to appear tomorrow virtually before the most important summit in Asia, the APEC conference. It comes in the wake of China sealing a free trade deal among Asian countries pointedly excluding the US. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Pompeo is on a victory tour of the Middle East, visiting several settlements in Israel’s occupied West Bank and Golan. (Israel for its part named Effie Eitam, a far-right settler spokesperson who has called Israeli Arabs a “cancer” and “we have to kill them all”, the head of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, showing that populist Trumpism is not limited to the US)

Meanwhile COVID-19 marches on. My own home county in Texas declared a “condition red” and asked everyone to stay home and avoid contact with anyone. This is fine. Who needs a functioning government, anyway?

Election 2020: Woodwork Squeaks And Out Comes Steve Bannon

The crack(pot) legal team heading up Trump’s re-election effort’s strategy was made plain today in several court filings: ignore how key states voted and instead have Trump electoral slates named. What was once the province of “this could be their eventual plan if they get desperate enough” is now explicit: in fact, in one filing in Pennsylvania, to quote the Washington Post, “Giuliani said Trump would ask the judge to consider declaring the state’s election results “defective” and order Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled legislature to select the state’s presidential electors rather than Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat. Under state law, the governor appoints the electors based on the popular vote — a fact that even Republican legislative leaders have emphasized.”

A similar filing was made today in Nevada, and of course in Michigan there was the Wayne County drama yesterday, which Trump today decried his side’s defeat as the result of “harassment against patriots”. (To be fair, Trump is very familiar with online harassment, having caused a great deal of it.) His Twitter feed is currently 99% conspiracy theory rebroadcasting, and 1% calling people like Darrell Issa who compliment him “so nice”.

The Washington Post story today, one of the only ones apparently leavened with current leaks from inside the White House (I guess Maggie Haberman had the day off, so Robert Costa stepped up) is interesting for several reasons. One of them is that it has as part of Trump’s new “fight with stubby fists until you can’t” team with Guiliani is …Jason Miller. You might remember Jason Miller from yesterday’s news leaks as screaming at Guiliani about how crazy he is for trying to take over the campaign. It’s possible both are true! We are talking about Trumpworld. As I also mentioned yesterday, Jason Miller is pond scum in human form, who managed to impregnate not one but two women not his wife while with the 2016 campaign, tried to give one of them an abortifacent against her will, and after a lurid child support hearing where it came out that he spent a good part of the campaign in the arms of strippers and escorts, was overcome with shame and left public life. HAH HAH just kidding, this is 2020 so this year he by virtue of being one of the few people left who’d work for Trump became a senior campaign advisor known for making television appearances blaming Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan for “having hate in her heart for President Trump” causing her… let me check… yes, causing far right terrorists to plot to kidnap her. As a bonus, Boris Epshteyn is apparently back with the gang as well – Boris being both the press aide so obnoxious he had to be let go, only to land at Sinclair Broadcasting with a TV commentary stations literally had to be forced to air (that no one watched). Seems a good fit.

So really, Trump couldn’t find anyone worse to work with this team HAH HAH HAH can’t even finish that sentence, because the genius behind this whole strategy, as it turns out, is Stephen Fucking Bannon, returned from the dead (figuratively), out on bail (literally), three shirts to the wind (I dunno, it sounded good) and ready to put Dr. Fauci’s head on a pike (again, apparently literally). Since Guiliani is, as we all saw from his courtroom appearance yesterday, literally unable to complete a sentence unassisted, Bannon is the ventriloquist feeding Rudy his lines. Or, to quote Yet Another Spineless and Nameless Republican Leaking To Reporters: “Guiliani is crazy and actually believes Bannon.” Bannon’s modus operandi throughout Trump’s term has always been to cause as much chaos as possible – for example the ban on Muslims from entering the US, in addition to being hilariously unconstitutional was also unleashed with zero notice to the border control staff, because Bannon WANTED scenes of chaos at the border. And if liberals showed up to protest, all the better.

So. Will any of this actually work? We’re still at the “very probably not” stage. The problem is we can’t say “no, it won’t work” because there’s a small chance one of Guiliani’s legal misfirings might hit a friendly judge who doesn’t mind ignoring public opinion and the law to overturn the election. Things that work against this include Guiliani’s incredible incompetence at being a lawyer, the spotlight that would immediately shine on any judge who cooperated with such a scheme (especially since given the general slipshod nature of this entire enterprise, they would be the only one doing this), and the minor detail that the law and the basic facts are very much not on Trump’s side. However, things that work for this: Mitch McConnell has spent the past 4 years filling the judiciary with loyal conservative foot soldiers, many of whom were manifestly unqualified on any but political grounds. So, not 100% certain it won’t happen. 99.8%. Maybe 99.5%. Maybe 98.2%. I’m not sure about you, but for me a 2% chance of “democracy collapsing” is bad.

While all this goes on, we apparently still have a government of some sort. Mark Meadows, the chief of staff recovering from COVID-19 much like literally everyone else at the White House, gave a dyspeptic press briefing where he sort of said goodbye but also said that there was so much fraud, you guys, he saw it personally! For his part, the person supposedly in charge of the COVID-19 response, Dr. Scott Atlas (who as a radiologist has about as much standing to comment on infectious diseases as you do, by the way), gave a news interview that said you might as well go see Grandma for Thanksgiving because, ya know, she’s probably going to die anyway, being old and all. I feel I have to emphasize here, I’m not making any of this up. The White House continues to insist they’re still here and not leaving and in fact we’re hiring, step right up! To prove that point they hired a literal white nationalist today to be on “a commission that helps preserve sites related to the Holocaust.”

Again, I have to emphasize here, I’m not making any of this up. Really. Welcome to the rest of 2020.

Election 2020: The Most Secure Election In History, Except For The Votes Not For Me

PolitiFact | Rudy Giuliani, Trump legal team push conspiracy theories,  baseless claims about 2020 election

Trump’s attempt to delegitimize the recent election continue despite his complete failure at any court action of note. Today Rudy Guiliani took center stage as Trump’s attorney, and proceeded to make a complete fool of himself showcasing how much he has forgotten about basic legal procedure — he hasn’t litigated a case in 30 years, and it showed. For this display Guiliani is billing the Trump campaign $20,000 a day.

According to ABC News, Guiliani and another attorney who often appears on right-wing TV defending Trump, Jenna Ellis, have effectively taken over the entire Trump campaign, which came as a rude shock to the people in charge of the Trump campaign. Shouting matches between Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, his underling/barely sentient human slime Jason Miller, and Ellis followed. “They both threatened to call the president to settle who he wanted to be in charge, sources said. At one point, Miller berated Ellis and called her ‘crazy.’” So, everything’s normal in Trumpland.

The reason for the takeover is apparently to force election officials to deny certification of enough ballots to throw the election to the House of Representatives, which would then vote for a second Trump term that everyone would just meekly accept. This strategy came into sharp relief when the Wayne County, Michigan board of electors voted in a partisan 2-2 split not to certify the votes of their county, which includes Detroit. This, if it held, would have thrown Michigan into the Trump column as Detroit, a majority-Black city, voted for Biden en masse. Once the vote was announced, all hell broke loose in the meeting (which was held online using Zoom) until the board changed its mind and certified the ballots. If that had not happened, it’s possible the state could have certified Wayne County’s votes anyway — or not. Of such things coups d’etat are made.

For his part Trump, in his online firing of actually competent government official Christopher Krebs, explained his rationale for claiming that actually, he won the election: “The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud – including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, “glitches” in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more.” Basically, throwing every conspiracy theory at the wall to see if it sticks. Needless to say, there is no evidence of dead people voting, poll watchers being denied access (although they may not have been given over-the-shoulder-so-they-can-scream access), voting machine “glitches” that changed any votes, or late ballots that were sent after Election Day.

In short, Trump is constantly lying. Most of the media, refreshingly, is pointing this out, repeatedly, but it’s having little effect on Trump’s hard core base, because, as I’ve said, they simply don’t believe Democrats have a right to win elections, so any excuse for them winning unfairly is correct. The question remains – are enough of his hard core base, like the two board certifiers in Wayne County, one of whom was apparently a QAnon devotee, in positions of influence where they can derail the election.

Time is short, and we’ll see more dramatic action. Trump also announced a drawdown from military deployment in Afghanistan and Iraq (although not quite a complete withdrawal as promised) and reportedly last week seriously considered starting a war with Iran. Tonight Israel bombed Iranian paramilitary positions within Syria. The world is not going to wait for us to get our act together.

Election 2020: For Ye Have The Trump Always With You

Lies, damn lies and the Republicans destroying our elections - Ohio Capital  Journal

The interregnum-before-the-transition seems to be calming down – not enough for the federal government to actually respond to (or even acknowledge) the COVID-19 crisis, of course, but enough for Noted Republicans to Furrow Their Brow Earnestly. Sen. John Cornyn, for example, has apparently stopped waiting for Puerto Rico’s 0 electoral votes to be registered and has acknowledged Biden’s incipient presidency. Cornyn is #2 in the Senate before Mitch McConnell, who was too busy holding last-minute votes on judges to express a preference. For his part, early this morning Trump tweeted a simple, plaintive “I WON THE ELECTION!”, to which Twitter immediately appended a somewhat droll correction, “Multiple sources called this election differently.”

Histrionic tweets aside, Biden’s ascension now appears to be a foregone conclusion, short of a military coup, Biden’s falling to COVID, or the sweet merciful meteor of death coming to take us all. No doubt literally everyone reading these words, including myself, wish fervently that finally, then, that is the last time we will ever, ever EVER have to hear from the distinctive voice of Donald J. Trump.

HA HA HA HA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAA hee.

The Trump administration being what it is, pretty much everyone is leaking what Trump is planning to do once he finds himself outside the Oval Office; specifically running for President immediately (it worked for Grover Cleveland) so that he can keep doing those rallies he loves so much, and also, you know, calling in to his favorite media shows where they dote on his every word and throwing out random conspiracy theories just to keep everyone entertained – ideally on his own television network. In his own words, “it’s the Trump Show, and it’s a number one hit!” (EVERYTHING to Trump is about television, because Trump cannot read.)

For this to happen, there are a few wolves at the door that need dispatching, and some of them will need to be shooed away in the next two months. How (or if) Trump is capable of doing this will dictate if his post-Presidential attire is a silk suit at Mar-A-Lago, or an orange jumpsuit at Rikers Island.

First, his legal liability, which is considerable. Trump appears to have a long-running tax case with the IRS which could turn into a fraud conviction (since, as famously noted, Trump er, hasn’t actually PAID any tax since approximately forever). There’s also the many crimes committed while in office, including obstruction of justice, accepting emoluments from foreign leaders, and the minor detail of trying to coordinate his 2016 campaign with Russian operatives. (As Mueller notably detailed, Trump didn’t actually succeed at this, but this is primarily because his people were too stupid to successfully coordinate anything.) The Steele Dossier, which has been widely (and mistakenly) debunked for the one way-out-there reference to watersports, lays out the case for Trump’s open collusion in great detail, much of which has yet to be disproven.

All this is to say that Trump is absolutely going to want a Presidential pardon. There is a minor problem here in that Trump is actually the President, and legal opinion generally holds that a President cannot pardon themselves. This is a question Trump has asked advisors repeatedly FOR NO REASON IN PARTICULAR, and he may well try to do it anyway and try to litigate it to death. Other options are less likely: the much-mooted quick resignation to allow Vice President Pence to sign the pardon will almost certainly not happen, because it would absolutely 100% be the end of Pence’s political career. Trump may try to get Joe Biden to do it, because where other people have shame Trump has gummy bears, but that is, to put it gently, unlikely to happen (Biden’s base would justifiably explode in rage). He thus may just leave without any pardon and just assume he can fight off any federal prosecution. It’s not a safe bet, but Trump is not a smart man.

Even if he does get a get out of jail free card, the fine print reads “only good for Federal offenses”, and two teams of New York prosecutors are already well along in cases (state tax fraud and, most likely wire fraud involving the Turkish Halkebank). Trump is going to have a legal team on speed dial for the foreseeable future. He will need to pay them. In advance.

That brings us to the second wolf (inside Trump there are two wolves, it was a really bad transporter accident), that Trump is broke. In fact, you have a LOT more money than Trump does, and that includes your student loans, because Trump owes somewhere south of a billion dollars. He does have considerable assets – it’s a good bet he’s never going to set foot in any of his New York buildings ever again, so they seem like easy sales – but they aren’t terribly liquid (who wants to buy office buildings this year again?). Some have theorized Trump could “write” a book, in the same way he wrote other books before the Presidency (by yelling at a ghost writer for a week and then taking credit for the sales), but let’s be honest – Trump’s fans, like the man himself, aren’t big readers. No one’s going to buy a Trump post-presidency book looking for big surprises or juicy scandals. They already know what he’s going to say because he can’t shut up on Twitter for more then 15 seconds.

So that leaves Trump’s true love and the thing that resurrected his career – television. He flirted with One America News during most of his presidency, but it turns out he’s almost certainly leaving them at the altar for even more conspiracy-driven Trump-ride-or-die Newsmax. His lawyers are already discussing the future with Newsmax head Chris Ruddy, which is convenient since Ruddy spends most of his time at Mar-A-Lago. Turning Newsmax into Trump TV means that he’ll lose his dominating call-in privileges at Fox, but undoubtedly he’ll come up with new outrages weekly to get “earned media” (the news talking about him for free) regularly. It will be outrageous. He’ll probably embrace QAnon. Hell, he may BECOME Q. He’ll accuse Biden of eating babies and Kamala Harris of holding a witches’ coven, and his viewers will eat it up. He’ll be running for President every day, and the news will feel honor bound to put Kayleigh McEnany on air every day talking about how Biden’s new tax plan is Maoist Marxist Socialist Pookie Leninist.

All this can be torpedoed in the next two months if Trump goes truly off the deep end. And by this I mean the truly apocalyptic grim worries – provoking a riot and then having DHS storm troopers gun it down, starting a war for funsies, inviting the FSB over to have a look at the newly declassified CIA archives for a $1B entry fee, that sort of thing. If Trump manages to make himself so truly toxic that he is left with only his hardest core base of Nazis, grifters and groypers, he won’t be able to support himself financially. Ironically, this is probably the best assurance we have that he WON’T do any of this (and not, say, sanity.)

And we will never be free of Donald Trump. Until he falls over dead of some easily preventable disease and someone much worse takes over. My money’s on Tucker Carlson.

Election 2020: Thousand MAGA March

MAGA March in DC: Violence erupts after thousands of Trump supporters rally  in Washington - The Washington Post

Today saw the far right converge on the capital to make a visible show of support for the man who is currently still President, Donald Trump. Among the luminaries were Alex Jones (who led a caravan from Austin), Jack Posobiec (OANN correspondent/Pizzagate inventor) and Enrique Tarrio (Proud Boys leader). With such a stellar cast you can imagine the philosophical discussion flowed freely from every street corner, and it did, with people insisting Trump really won the election but had it stolen by “illegals” and “the fake news media”, along with a not-inconsiderable contingent of religious fundamentalists who demanded Trump outlaw “homo marriages”. Running street battles between militant Trump protestors and similarly militant counter-protesters (ranging from BLM to antifa to simply angry Biden supporters – given that DC voted overwhelmingly for Biden, there was no shortage of these) that went on into the night, with the District police for the most part keeping the two factions mostly apart. Trump found the whole thing positively peachy and drove through in a motorcade (although he didn’t leave his car, because, well, he’s lazy and that takes effort).

Today’s protest was about the only good news for Trump. His attempt Friday to float yet another conspiracy theory — this one a doozy about a brand of voting machines being manipulated (by all-powerful George Soros, because you can’t spell “QAnon” without “anti-Semitism”) to change millions of votes — was immediately debunked by Trump’s own department of cyber security; the head of that department, Christopher Krebs, a former executive at Microsoft, fully expected to be fired immediately for his trouble. (He still has his job, but the weekend is young.)

It is also increasingly getting difficult for Trump to find lawyers willing to litigate his ridiculous claims; in Pennsylvania Porter Wright asked to withdraw officially Friday, and Jones Day is said to be under increasing pressure from its clients as to why it’s helping to enable all this. At any rate most of the lawsuits have already been dismissed; one legal commentator (Justin Leavitt, a Loyola law professor on CNN) memorably said “The Trump campaign keeps hoping it will find a judge that treats lawsuits like tweets. Repeatedly, every person with a robe they’ve encountered has said, ‘I’m sorry, we do law here.’” According to the New York Times’ exhaustive tally, there is currently one suit active in Michigan (the one with 200 accounts of Karen being stared at by a poll worker), two suits in Pennsylvania, which combined only affect 3000 ballots, and one suit in Georgia challenging the legality of mailed ballots identical to ones which similarly failed elsewhere. But I’m sure Rudy Guiliani will get RIGHT ON THAT.

Meanwhile, the US continues to suffer record-setting hospitalization from COVID-19 which threatens to make everything else completely irrelevant. Among the high profile victims this weekend were the governor of Nevada, and Republican governors who previously resisted mask mandates and other risk mitigation shutdowns abruptly reversed course as hospitals around the country report being close to the breaking point. The Trump administration (which is still refusing to give Biden’s team any access to current planning) Friday took credit for Pfizer’s vaccine development and complained that New York would have to approve its distribution because Gov. Andrew Cuomo is on the record as not trusting Donald Trump on vaccine development. Gosh, I wonder why. (Cuomo for his part said Trump was lying.)

Notably, Trump during that press statement (his first appearance in a while, where he forgot to dye his hair) almost referred to the incoming Biden administration but caught himself. That reality distortion field is hard to maintain.