Chief White House correspondent John Roberts reports from Washington on 'Special Report'
Chief White House correspondent John Roberts reports from Washington on 'Special Report'
‘You haven’t shown a single problem with the way the game was scored.”“Yeah, but the game was played at night, and the rulebook only permits day games.”If you can follow that argument, then you can grasp the Republican challenge to the 2020 election in Pennsylvania that was rejected by the commonwealth’s supreme court on Saturday night. That ruling, which is factually related to but separate from President Trump’s federal lawsuit that the Third Circuit threw out last Friday, is likely to end the election-litigation efforts in Pennsylvania, though it is still possible that the cases could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.Meantime in Georgia, attorneys Lin Wood and Sidney Powell are pressing on with a lawsuit filed, not on behalf of the president directly, but on behalf of Trump supporters, including members of the Republican-nominated Electoral College slate that would have cast the state’s votes if Trump had won. On Sunday, they won a minor victory -- on procedural grounds, not on the merits -- in their bid to convince a Georgia federal judge to decertify the GOP-controlled state government’s conclusion that President-elect Biden won a slim victory there.PennsylvaniaThe state lawsuit in Pittsburgh was brought by U.S. Representative Mike Kelly of northwestern Pennsylvania and other Republicans. They argued that the commonwealth’s constitution does not permit mass mail-in voting -- as distinguished from individualized absentee voting. They therefore challenged the state legislature’s 2019 Act 77, which permitted “no-excuse” mail-in voting. Act 77 marked a departure from prior Pennsylvania law, under which voters could only request absentee ballots based on legally approved reasons for not being able to vote in person. In 2020, the legislature further liberalized this accommodation due to COVID-19 concerns.The Republican plaintiffs had a legitimate point. Prior to Act 77, state law simply codified Pennsylvania’s constitution, which authorizes absentee voting based on a generous list of excuses, but does not expressly authorize no-excuse mail-in voting. The plaintiffs thus found a sympathetic ear in commonwealth judge Patricia McCullough of Pittsburgh. Last week, she ordered a temporary stay in the certification process -- although the stay’s efficacy was debatable, since her order came after the state had certified the results (albeit before some ministerial tasks, such as the issuance of certificates to the Biden slate of electors, who will cast the commonwealth’s electoral votes).State election officials, who are Democrats, immediately appealed to the state supreme court, where their eventual victory was certain. That tribunal is a Democrat-dominated elected body and, as we’ve previously recounted, it has both flouted the plain terms of state law and extended mail-in voting beyond even the state’s constitutionally questionable authorization of it. There was zero chance that it would side with Republicans.Here, however, the court was on solid footing because the plaintiffs did not file lawsuits against the new mail-in voting when it was enacted. They waited for over a year, until after 2.6 million Pennsylvanians had availed themselves of the opportunity to vote by mail during a pandemic. Republicans were suddenly objecting now, not because the election was unfair, but because their presidential candidate lost. Indeed, some of the plaintiffs had run for office under the Act 77 mail-in procedures without objecting to them.Consequently, the court ruled that the doctrine of laches applied -- i.e., claims must be timely raised or they are forfeited. Moreover, to repeat a refrain we’ve been stressing for a while, there was a gross mismatch between the harm alleged and the remedy sought: The Republicans were asking that the mail-in ballots be thrown out or, in the alternative, that the election be voided and the (Republican-majority) state legislature be directed to choose the state’s electors (i.e., the Trump slate). This would disenfranchise either the 2.6 million Pennsylvanians who mailed in ballots or all of the commonwealth’s 6.8 million voters.In a concurring opinion, Judge David Wecht further contended that the court could not authorize the state legislature to choose electors. Although the Constitution empowers the state legislature to choose the manner of selecting electors, Judge Wecht observed (as I have also pointed out) that the commonwealth’s legislature did so long ago by enacting provisions that award Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes to the winner of the popular election.The court’s ruling on the issue of laches was unanimous. Two judges dissented in part, reasoning that the Republican plaintiffs’ construction of the state constitution appears sound, and that Act 77’s attempt to put a 180-day time-limit on challenges to its lawfulness should be unenforceable against challenges based on the state constitution (an issue the majority opinion sidestepped). The dissenters argued that the plaintiffs should be permitted to proceed with their objections to mass mail-in voting for the purpose of future elections, but not the 2020 election.GeorgiaIn Georgia, attorneys Lin Wood and Sidney Powell are pursuing their theory that the election was stolen from President Trump by cyber-fraud -- specifically, manipulation of the tabulation program, to which they claim Dominion voting machines are vulnerable, in order to switch Trump votes to Biden votes.Sunday turned out to be a frenetic day because Wood learned, apparently from state election officials, that the memories on voting machines were about to be reset (or “wiped,” as Wood put it). This was to occur on Monday (today) -- recall that Georgia will be holding a statewide run-off election for both U.S. Senate seats in just five weeks (i.e., on January 5). Wood objected because the reset would make it practically impossible for him and Powell to conduct a forensic examination into the Dominion software’s operation in the November election, which they contend is necessary to their case.U.S. district judge Timothy Batten initially issued a temporary injunction, directing state election officials to preserve the machines in their present condition while he deliberated over whether to permit a forensic examination. Judge Batten withdrew the injunction a few hours later when the state officials named in the Wood/Powell lawsuits explained that the counties, not the state, had control over the machines.Finally, on Sunday evening at 7:45 p.m., Batten convened an emergency conference, via Zoom, at which the lawyers countered that they were prepared to amend their complaints in order to add the officials in Cobb, Gwinnett, and Cherokee county as defendants. The state also contended that the forensic examination contemplated by the plaintiffs threatened state election security and could compromise its contractor’s proprietary and trade secrets, and thus should not be permitted absent a more compelling showing of wrongdoing than has been made to this point. Wood and Powell replied that these concerns could be assuaged by allowing the state’s own experts to participate in the examination, conducting it on videotape, and directing that the results be provided only to the court, for consideration of any appropriate protective orders against disclosure.At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Batten issued a temporary restraining order: For the next ten days, unless the court directs otherwise, Georgia is barred from permitting the erasure or alteration of data from the Dominion machines. In the meantime, the state is to provide the plaintiffs with a copy of its contract with Dominion, and must file by close of business Wednesday (December 2) a brief and any supporting affidavits in opposition to the forensic examinations.Another hearing in the case is set for Friday (December 4). To be clear, Judge Batten has not ruled on the merits of the case or even indicated that he will permit the forensic examination of the Dominion data. The injunction freezes matters for a few days so the court can consider the parties’ positions and make a more informed decision.
The president-elect will probably have to wear a medical boot for several weeks, his doctor says.
French activists fear that a proposed new security law will deprive them of a potent weapon against abuse — cellphone videos of police activity — threatening their efforts to document possible cases of police brutality, especially in impoverished immigrant neighborhoods. French President Emmanuel Macron’s government is pushing a new security bill that makes it illegal to publish images of police officers with intent to cause them harm, amid other measures. Critics fear the new law could hurt press freedoms and make it more difficult for all citizens to report on police brutality.
Scott Atlas, President Trump’s special adviser on COVID-19 who pushed back on lockdowns and repeatedly downplayed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, has submitted his resignation.The neuroradiologist, who lacked expertise in infectious disease, began his 130-day position as a special government employee in August, and his gig was set to expire this week. Atlas has fielded fierce criticism for his efforts to downplay the pandemic and block states from enacting their own measures to combat the worsening outbreak, including enacting mask mandates and social distancing guidelines. Instead, he’s advocated for reopening the country for business, a strategy that quickly made him Trump’s favorite coronavirus adviser. Atlas was one of the leading voices in the White House during the president’s push to reopen schools for the fall semester, advising Trump that the U.S. was rounding a corner and that the worst of the virus had passed. ‘He’s a Destructive Force’: Health Officials Want Scott Atlas BanishedHe repeatedly deemphasized the threats of community spread both behind closed doors and on national television, telling Americans that state mandates on masks and social distancing were not necessary.In recent weeks, top coronavirus task force officials said Atlas began pushing for the administration to adopt a policy of “herd immunity,” which holds that if enough people contract the highly contagious disease and become immune to it, then future spread among the broader population will be reduced. Sweden, which adopted that strategy, has failed to contain the coronavirus and is now in the throes of yet another surge in cases.Atlas denied ever advocating for such a strategy. But he consistently appeared on television pushing ideas that closely aligned with the dangerous “herd immunity” belief. In one August Fox News interview, Atlas said “people getting the infection is not really a problem, and in fact, as we said months ago, when you isolate everyone, including all the healthy people, you’re prolonging the problem because you’re preventing population immunity.”Shortly after news broke about his resignation, Atlas appeared on Fox News, where he pushed for reopening schools as host Tucker Carlson decried Dr. Anthony Fauci as a “power-mad incompetent.” Atlas went on to complain “that America and its universities really need to allow, without attack, without rebuke, without intimidation the free exchange of ideas.”Some federal health officials earlier told The Daily Beast they were desperate for Atlas to leave, as they worried he still held too much influence over the Trump administration’s approach to the pandemic, which has now killed more than 267,000 Americans.“He’s a destructive force,” one senior official told The Daily Beast. “I mean, at this point, I don’t know how else to explain what he’s doing. It’s really disruptive.”Atlas has even taken aim directly at Dr. Fauci, accusing him of being a “political animal” after the nation’s top infectious disease expert delivered promising news of a COVID-19 vaccine.“There’s all kinds of prognostications that were made—all negative, all to undermine what the reality of the timelines were, all to undermine the president,” Atlas said in mid-November. “And I think, you know, once you do that sort of thing and make yourself a political animal, basically, you lose your credibility.”Days later, Fauci declined in a Today show interview to “say anything against Dr. Atlas as a person” but said he totally disagrees “with the stand he takes. I just do, period.” Earlier this month, Atlas committed yet another blunder by suggesting people “rise up” against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s latest coronavirus mandate.“You get what you accept,” he said.Atlas was also forced to apologize for an appearance on RT, the Kremlin-backed TV network, during which the Trump adviser insisted that public health officials are “killing people with their fear-inducing shutdown policies.” The next day, he claimed he didn’t know RT was a registered foreign agent. “I regret doing the interview and apologize for allowing myself to be taken advantage of,” he said.In his resignation letter, dated Dec. 1, Atlas insisted he “always relied on the latest science and evidence, without any political consideration or influence.”“As time went on, like all scientists and health policy scholars, I learned new information and synthesized the latest data from around the world, all in an effort to provide you with the best information to serve the greater public good,” he wrote as the pandemic reached new heights, with over 13,522,247 cases in the United States alone. Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Monday condemned the brutal murder of four villagers by suspected Islamist militants as "beyond the limits of humanity", as the military chief prepared to deploy special forces to join the hunt for the killers. In a video address, the president said the attack on Friday in a region riven by bloody, sectarian conflict in the past was designed to drive a wedge among the population in the world's biggest majority-Muslim nation.
Republicans indicated they would try to block one of Joe Biden's proposed key economic advisers in what could be the first major confirmation battle of his administration. Mr Biden on Monday nominated Neera Tanden, 50, as the first woman of colour to be director of the Office of Management and Budget. Ms Tanden has for the last decade headed a liberal think tank, and is a former close aide to Hillary Clinton. She has been a vocal critic of Republican senators including leader Mitch McConnell, accusing him of "breaking our democracy". A spokesman for Republican senator John Cornyn accused her of "an endless stream of disparaging comments," and said she "stands zero chance of being confirmed". Mr McConnell's former chief of staff said Ms Tanden would be a "sacrifice to the confirmation gods". It came as Mr Biden received the Presidential Daily Brief for the first time, giving him an update on classified intelligence. That would be expected to include the latest US intelligence assessments of the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. The president-elect also revealed his economic team, including confirmation that he was nominating Janet Yellen, the former Federal Reserve chair, as treasury secretary. He also named an all-female senior White House communications team with Jen Psaki as press secretary. Ms Psaki worked in Barack Obama's administration, and has been a contributor to CNN. The confirmation of Ms Tanden looked set to depend on who wins two Senate run-off races in Georgia on January 5. If Democrats win both races they will take control of the Senate from Republicans, easing the confirmation process for Biden officials. As the battle in Georgia heated up its secretary of state Brad Raffensperger opened investigations into left-wing groups trying to sign up new voters. He said some groups had been encouraging people who lived outside Georgia to register to vote in the state. Ms Tanden is also unpopular with some on the left wing of the Democratic party. Last year Bernie Sanders accused her of "maligning my staff and supporters and belittling progressive ideas".
Governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday that New York hospitals are struggling to avoid being overwhelmed as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the state continue to rise."We are now worried about overwhelming the hospital system, and if those numbers continue to increase, which we expect they will, you will see serious stress on the hospital system," Cuomo said at a press briefing Monday in Manhattan."Hospital capacity is the top concern, period," the governor said. "It's about hospital beds, it's about ICU, and it's about having enough staff and enough equipment."Cuomo said the state will attempt to prevent hospitals from running out of resources by requiring that hospitals transfer patients within their system to prevent a particular location from becoming overwhelmed. Hospitals may also have to transfer patients between different systems such Northwell and NYU Langone if necessary.The governor also said every hospital in the state is required to start preparing a list of retired doctors and nurses who could potentially be recruited to aid health care workers on the front lines should they need additional staff. Many of the around 30,000 health care workers who came to New York earlier this year to help when New York City was the country's coronavirus epicenter are likely not available now as other areas of the country grapple with their own case surges.Some areas are already facing staffing shortages, an issue Cuomo said he was more concerned about than running out of hospital beds.“We can build beds. We can’t create more staff. And the staff is starting tired,” Cuomo said."We’re not going to live through the nightmare of overwhelmed hospitals again," the governor said. "This was a serious issue last time."The state's positive test rate for the virus reached a record 4.57 percent on Sunday, the highest level since May in the thick of the initial outbreak. This month, New York implemented new restrictions on social gatherings as holiday travel is expected to exacerbate the current rise in cases.
The U.S. Senate on Monday confirmed two of President Donald Trump's picks for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), in a move that could secure a Republican majority on the panel through June. The Senate passed Mark Christie, a Republican, and Allison Clements, a Democrat, by voice vote to FERC, an independent panel of the Energy Department.