Trump Administration, Week 205: Friday, 18 December – Thursday, 24 December 2020 (Days 1,428-1,434)


This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently during the day. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ for a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process. Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are usually my emphasis, though not always.


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Friday, 18 December 2020, Day 1,428:


Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Friday, 18 December 2020: Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) Authorizes Moderna Vaccine for Emergency Use, Adding Millions of Doses to U.S. Arsenal, The New York Times, Friday, 18 December 2020:

  • F.D.A. OKs the Moderna Covid vaccine, adding millions more doses to the U.S. supply.

  • The U.S. has recorded over 250,000 cases in a day for the first time.

  • Pence, McConnell and other officials receive vaccinations, but will that close the partisan divide on the shot?

  • When will governors get vaccinated? Some would prefer to wait.

  • California counts the dead by the hour as its I.C.U.s fill up.

  • A Chinese official confirms that a million citizens received unproven homegrown vaccines.

  • These frontline hospital workers were left off the vaccine list. They fought back.

  • The U.S. says employers can require workers to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

  • American student sentenced to 4 months in prison for violating quarantine rules in the Cayman Islands.

Many other significant developments are included in this article.

Some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, 18 December 2020: Nearly all of California under stay at home order as the Food and Drug Administration authorizes second vaccine, The Washington Post, Meryl Kornfield, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Hannah Knowles, Lateshia Beachum, Laurie McGinley, Derek Hawkins, Marisa Iati, Siobhán O’Grady, and Taylor Telford, Friday, 18 December 2020: “Nearly all of California is under regional stay-at-home orders triggered by alarmingly low capacity in intensive care units. Statewide, a sliver of those critical beds were available: 2.1 percent. The news came as a second coronavirus vaccine received emergency authorization Friday, an unprecedented scientific feat that gives the United States two powerful tools to fight a pandemic that emerged almost exactly a year ago.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

Presidential Transition Updates: Congress Passed Short-Term Spending Bill as Stimulus Talks Continued, The New York Times, Friday, 18 December 2020:

  • Congress passes short-term funding bill to avert government shutdown as snags delay stimulus talks.

  • Lara Trump served on the board of a company through which the Trump political operation spent more than $700 million.

  • Pence, Pelosi and McConnell receive a coronavirus vaccine. Biden is set to get an injection on Monday.

  • Harris will campaign in Georgia on Monday for Senate runoffs that are practically impossible to poll.

  • Biden addresses accusations against his son, saying, ‘I think it’s kind of foul play.’

  • Unswayed by hacking breach, Trump threatens to veto a bill aimed at fortifying cyberdefense.

Continue reading Week 205, Friday, 18 December  – Thursday, 24 December 2020 (Days 1,428-1,434):

Presidential Transfer of Power: Spokeswoman says Biden to receive coronavirus vaccine on Monday, The Washington Post, John Wagner and Colby Itkowitz, Friday, 18 December 2020: “President-elect Joe Biden will receive the coronavirus vaccine Monday and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris will get her first shot the following week, a transition spokeswoman said Friday, as the incoming administration continued to mull more picks for senior posts. The announcement came on a day that other senior government officials received shots: Vice President Pence, who was vaccinated on live television, as well as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). President Trump, who continues to contest the election results, has advertised no public appearances Friday and has not announced plans to be vaccinated.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

Can a Televised Vaccination Undo Months of Skepticism?A few minutes of morning television distilled the various ways that President Trump and his political allies have undermined confidence in the science about the virus. The New York Times, Jeremy W. Peters, Friday, 18 December 2020: “It was the kind of live television event that the reality show star president has often staged himself. Vice President Mike Pence stepped in front of a bank of cameras on the White House campus on Friday to receive the new coronavirus vaccine, hailing it as “safe and effective” no fewer than eight times. He urged people to wear masks, wash their hands and do whatever they can to help defeat a disease that has killed more than 300,000 Americans. Intended as a public service announcement as the country reaches a milestone in fighting the pandemic, these 10 minutes of morning television also distilled the various ways that President Trump and his political allies have repeatedly undermined confidence in the science about the virus and fed suspicion and misinformation. No sooner had the vice president congratulated a health care worker who stuck him in the arm — ‘Great job, great job. I didn’t feel a thing,’ Mr. Pence said, his voice muffled by the mask covering his face — than Mr. Trump logged into Twitter and undercut him. Mr. Trump posted a message from a right-wing radio host who questioned the effectiveness of masks, writing: ‘Masks work is the mantra. Not allowed to say anything else.'”

Supreme Court Justices Put Off Ruling on Trump Plan for Unauthorized Immigrants and Census. The Supreme Court said a challenge to efforts to exclude unauthorized immigrants from the tabulations used to allocate House seats was premature. New York Times, Adam Liptak, Friday, 18 December 2020: “The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s plan to exclude unauthorized immigrants from the calculations used to allocate seats in the House, saying it was premature. The court’s ruling handed the Trump administration an interim victory, allowing it to continue to pursue an effort that could shift the allotment of both congressional seats and federal money to states that are older, whiter and typically more Republican. ‘At present,’ the court said in an unsigned opinion, ‘this case is riddled with contingencies and speculation that impede judicial review. We express no view on the merits of the constitutional and related statutory claims presented,’ the opinion said. ‘We hold only that they are not suitable for adjudication at this time.’ The court’s three liberal members dissented. They said the case was far enough along for a decision and that they would have ruled the plan unlawful.” See also, Supreme Court won’t decide yet if Trump can exclude undocumented immigrants when allocating congressional seats, The Washington Post, Robert Barnes and Tara Bahrampour, Friday, 18 December 2020: “The Supreme Court said Friday that it was premature to decide whether President Trump has the authority to exclude undocumented immigrants when determining the size of each state’s congressional delegation, dismissing a case that challenged his intentions. The court’s unsigned opinion in Trump v. New York said the constitutional and legal questions surrounding such action should wait until it is known if Trump will be able to act on his plan. The government has said the Census Bureau might not be able to come up with the population figures Trump seeks before he leaves office. Trump is trying to change two centuries of reapportionment practice, and the court’s decision at least theoretically gives him a chance to act before President-elect Joe Biden takes office next month. But the court’s conservatives said there is too much unknown at this point to get involved and said a decision would violate its norms on when justices have the authority to act.” See also, Supreme Court throws out challenge to Trump census plan to exclude undocumented immigrants, NBC News, Pete Williams, Friday, 18 December 2020: “The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a challenge to President Donald Trump’s plan to leave undocumented immigrants out of the final census count, giving the president a partial victory, though possibly a temporary one. By a 6-3 vote, the court said too much is unknown about whether the administration can even carry out the plan and about what effect it would have on the states…. The census, required by the Constitution and conducted every 10 years, is used to determine how many members of Congress each state gets in the House of Representatives. The data is also used to calculate a local government’s share of $1.5 trillion in funds under many federal programs. As a legal matter, the president could now try to carry out his plan, but the states would undoubtedly come right back and challenge it. Dale Ho, of the American Civil Liberties Union, who represented the challengers before the Supreme Court, said the decision is only about timing.”

Attorney General William Barr Says C.I.A. ‘Stayed in Its Lane’ in Examining Russian Election Interference, The New York Times, Adam Goldman, Friday, 18 December 2020: “The Justice Department’s examination of the investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election has cleared the C.I.A. of suspicions that it targeted President Trump and his associates, Attorney General William P. Barr said in an interview published on Friday. ‘The C.I.A. stayed in its lane’ and he did not ‘see any sign of improper C.I.A. activity,’ Mr. Barr told the conservative Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley A. Strassel. His comments made more explicit his disclosure this month that the investigation by John H. Durham, a prosecutor whom Mr. Barr appointed as a special counsel in the case, had narrowed to focus on the F.B.I. Mr. Barr stopped short of fully absolving the C.I.A.; he confirmed that Mr. Durham was reviewing the early 2017 assessment by the agency and other parts of the intelligence community that concluded that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had favored Mr. Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.” See also, Attorney General William Barr Talks About John Durham, Robert Mueller, Hunter Biden, Mike Flynn, and the Flak He Has Taken From Both Parties, The Wall Street Journal, Kimberley A. Strassel, Friday, 18 December 2020.

The biggest Pinocchios of 2020, The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, Friday, 18 December 2020: “It’s time for our annual roundup of the biggest Pinocchios of the year. Ever since President Trump burst on the political scene in 2015, we have noted that we faced a challenge in not letting him dominate this list of the biggest falsehoods. The president is a serial exaggerator without parallel in U.S. politics. He not only consistently makes false claims, but also repeats them, in some cases hundreds of times, even though they have been proved wrong. In 2019, Trump took seven of the 13 spots. He earned six spots in 2018 and 2017, five in 2016 and three in 2015. Even so, we cheated a bit because in some cases Trump’s false claims on a particular subject were so numerous and varied that we created all-around categories. The explosion of false and misleading statements from Trump during his presidency is well documented in our database. We have struggled to keep up with his torrent of falsehoods during the final weeks of the campaign, when he barnstormed the country making 600 to 700 false or misleading claims a week. The next update will show he crossed the 25,000 mark by mid-October. So in this remarkable year, we have given up trying to keep Trump to about half of the list. In 2020, Trump will earn seven of 10 spots, with three all-around categories — his false claims about the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. election and the violence that erupted after the death of George Floyd in police custody. President-elect Joe Biden earns two spots, while the last slot goes to a GOP hopeful in a Senate race. Nevertheless, this may be Trump’s last appearance on this annual list. As of Jan. 21, we will set a high bar for fact-checking his statements. He will be a defeated ex-president, and we tend to focus on claims made by people in power. In other words, we hope to ignore him and concentrate on people who really matter in national policy debates.”

Trump’s Future: Tons of Cash and Plenty of Options for Spending It, The New York Times, Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman, Friday, 18 December 2020: “Donald J. Trump will exit the White House as a private citizen next month perched atop a pile of campaign cash unheard-of for an outgoing president, and with few legal limits on how he can spend it. Deflated by a loss he has yet to acknowledge, Mr. Trump has cushioned the blow by coaxing huge sums of money from his loyal supporters — often under dubious pretenses — raising roughly $250 million since Election Day along with the national party. More than $60 million of that sum has gone to a new political action committee, according to people familiar with the matter, which Mr. Trump will control after he leaves office. Those funds, which far exceed what previous outgoing presidents had at their disposal, provide him with tremendous flexibility for his post-presidential ambitions: He could use the money to quell rebel factions within the party, reward loyalists, fund his travels and rallies, hire staff, pay legal bills and even lay the groundwork for a far-from-certain 2024 run.”


Saturday, 19 December 2020, Day 1,429:


Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Saturday, 19 December 2020: Virus Overwhelms U.S. and Europe Even as Vaccines Roll Out, The New York Times, Saturday, 19 December 2020:

  • As vaccines arrive, the virus continues to ravage the U.S. and Europe.

  • The head of Operation Warp Speed apologizes for shortfalls in vaccine deliveries to at least 14 states.

  • Boris Johnson orders a severe lockdown, saying a more infectious variant of the virus is ripping through Britain.

  • Congress, grasping for a stimulus deal, resolves a dispute over the Federal Reserve’s power.

  • The C.D.C. advisory panel has endorsed the Moderna vaccine.

  • Thousands of internal documents reveal how China censored its internet in the early days of the pandemic.

  • Emmanuel Macron’s condition is stable ‘compared to Friday,’ according to his doctor.

  • Coronavirus cases in Syria go uncounted amid shortages of critical supplies and medical personnel.

Many other significant developments are included in this article.

Biden Introduces His Climate Team. The president-elect said he has chosen a team that prioritizes making clean energy jobs and environmental protection a cornerstone of his economic plans. The New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Saturday, 19 December 2020: “President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. introduced key members of his climate change team on Saturday, declaring that his administration will connect the effort to reduce planet-warming emissions with restoring the economy and creating jobs. Mr. Biden, speaking at an event in Wilmington, Del., said the climate team will be ‘ready on day one, which is essential because we literally have no time to waste.’ A top lieutenant will be Gina McCarthy, former President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency administrator who Mr. Biden has tapped to head a new White House Office of Climate Policy. The group includes progressives like Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico, Mr. Biden’s choice to lead the Department of the Interior and a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, and establishment figures like Jennifer Granholm, the former governor of Michigan who Mr. Biden selected to be Energy secretary…. Details about how Mr. Biden intends to coordinate the team around climate change remain unclear. In a letter to the new administration, four Democratic U.S. senators led by Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts asked Mr. Biden to create an overarching entity that reports directly to the president, to elevate interagency councils designed to address environmental justice, and to ensure that climate-focused leaders are given authority within key economic agencies like the Treasury and within the office of the United States Trade Representative. The lawmakers urged Mr. Biden to ‘adopt the approach of past mobilizations against major national threats, just as the Roosevelt Administration did to coordinate the executive branch during World War II.'” See also, ‘We’re in a crisis’: Biden says the U.S. needs to defeat climate change as he introduces his climate team and priorities, The Washington Post, Amy B Wang, Saturday, 19 December 2020: “President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday introduced members of his climate and energy teams in Wilmington, Del., nominees and appointees he said would lead his administration’s plans to address climate change, ‘the existential threat of our time. We literally have no time to lose,’ said Biden. He noted that, this year alone, wildfires had burned more than 5 million acres across the West, hurricanes and tropical storms had pummeled the East and Gulf coasts, and droughts had ravaged parts of the Midwest. ‘So many climate and health calamities are colliding at once. It’s not just the pandemic that keeps people inside. It’s poor air quality,’ Biden said of one of the many effects of climate change. ‘Folks, we’re in a crisis. Just like we need a unified national response to covid-19, we need a unified national response to climate change.’ His climate and energy teams would be ready on day one, he said, with a focus on creating new jobs in ‘climate-resilient infrastructure’ and clean energy.”

In Last Rush, Trump Grants Mining and Energy Firms Access to Public Lands, The New York Times, Eric Lipton, Saturday, 19 December 2020: “The Trump administration is rushing to approve a final wave of large-scale mining and energy projects on federal lands, encouraged by investors who want to try to ensure the projects move ahead even after President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes office. In Arizona, the Forest Service is preparing to sign off on the transfer of federal forest land — considered sacred by a neighboring Native American tribe — to allow construction of one of the nation’s largest copper mines. In Utah, the Interior Department may grant final approval as soon as next week to a team of energy speculators targeting a remote spot inside an iconic national wilderness area — where new energy leasing is currently banned — so they can start drilling into what they believe is a huge underground supply of helium. In northern Nevada, the department is close to granting final approval to construct a sprawling open-pit lithium mine on federal land that sits above a prehistoric volcano site. And in the East, the Forest Service intends to take a key step next month toward allowing a natural gas pipeline to be built through the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia and West Virginia, at one point running underneath the Appalachian Trail. These projects, and others awaiting action in the remaining weeks of the Trump administration, reflect the intense push by the Interior Department, which controls 480 million acres of public lands, and the Forest Service, which manages another 193 million acres, to find ways to increase domestic energy and mining production, even in the face of intense protests by environmentalists and other activists. When he takes office on Jan. 20, Mr. Biden, who has chosen a Native American — Representative Deb Haaland, Democrat of New Mexico — to lead the Interior Department, will still have the ability to reshape, slow or even block certain projects.”

In a Meeting at the White House on Friday, Trump Weighed Naming Election Conspiracy Theorist Sidney Powell as Special Counsel and Asked About Imposing Martial Law and Deploying the Military to ‘Rerun’ the Election, The New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Saturday, 19 December 2020: “President Trump on Friday discussed naming Sidney Powell, who as a lawyer for his campaign team unleashed conspiracy theories about a Venezuelan plot to rig voting machines in the United States, to be a special counsel overseeing an investigation of voter fraud, according to two people briefed on the discussion. It was unclear if Mr. Trump will move ahead with such a plan. Most of his advisers opposed the idea, two of the people briefed on the discussion said, including Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer. In recent days Mr. Giuliani has sought to have the Department of Homeland Security join the campaign’s efforts to overturn Mr. Trump’s loss in the election. Mr. Giuliani joined the discussion by phone initially, while Ms. Powell was at the White House for a meeting that became raucous and involved people shouting at each other at times, according to one of the people briefed on what took place. Ms. Powell’s client, retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser whom the president recently pardoned, was also there, two of the people briefed on the meeting said. Some senior administration officials drifted in and out of the meeting. During an appearance on the conservative Newsmax channel this week, Mr. Flynn pushed for Mr. Trump to impose martial law and deploy the military to ‘rerun’ the election. At one point in the meeting on Friday, Mr. Trump asked about that idea.” See also, Trump Reportedly Asked Advisors About Deploying the Military to Overturn the Election, Forbes, Nicholas Reimann, Saturday, 19 December 2020: “President Donald Trump reportedly inquired about an idea raised by his former (and now pardoned) national security adviser, Michael Flynn, that the U.S. military be deployed to overturn the results of the presidential election—a claim shot down by his advisors at a meeting where the president appeared to embrace increasingly fringe notions about his election loss. New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman reported Saturday that the president asked about Flynn’s idea, as senior officials are reportedly becoming very unsettled by Trump’s escalating interest in crackpot plans during his last days in power. On Thursday, Flynn said that Trump could deploy the military to swing states he lost to President-elect Joe Biden in order to ‘rerun’ the presidential election. During the meeting, Trump also floated naming the conspiracy-theorist attorney Sidney Powell—who has pushed a baseless theory that long-dead Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez rigged voting machines—as special counsel to investigate voter fraud.” See also, Senior Trump administration officials are increasingly alarmed about Trump’s power grab, Axios, Jonathan Swan, Saturday, 19 December 2020: “Senior Trump administration officials are increasingly alarmed that President Trump might unleash — and abuse — the power of government in an effort to overturn the clear result of the election. These officials tell me that Trump is spending too much time with people they consider crackpots or conspiracy theorists and flirting with blatant abuses of power. There are 32 days until President-elect Biden’s inauguration. Their fears include Trump’s interest in former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s wild talk of martial law; an idea floated of an executive order to commandeer voting machines; and the specter of Sidney Powell, the conspiracy-spewing election lawyer, obtaining governmental power and a top-level security clearance. A senior administration official said that when Trump is ‘retweeting threats of putting politicians in jail, and spends his time talking to conspiracy nuts who openly say declaring martial law is no big deal, it’s impossible not to start getting anxious about how this ends. People who are concerned and nervous aren’t the weak-kneed bureaucrats that we loathe,’ the official added. ‘These are people who have endured arguably more insanity and mayhem than any administration officials in history.'”

Biden transition team expresses frustration with lack of cooperation from the Pentagon, Associated Press, Kevin Freking and Lolita C. Baldor, Saturday, 19 December 2020: “President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team expressed frustration Friday with the level of cooperation they’re getting from political appointees at the Department of Defense, saying there has been ‘an abrupt halt in the already limited cooperation there.’ Biden’s transition team has been meeting with officials at various agencies to get detailed reviews of the programs and challenges the new administration will inherit, a process that was delayed when the General Services Administration declined to issue an official ascertainment that Biden had won the election. The delay occurred as President Donald Trump, whose appointee ran the GSA, refused to concede.”

Trump Contradicts Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Over Russia’s Role in Cybersecurity Hack. Hours after the secretary of state said that Moscow was behind the vast cybersecurity breach, the president suggested it might have been China and downplayed the severity of the attack. The New York Times, David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, Saturday, 19 December 2020: “Hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a conservative radio show host that ‘we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians’ behind the vast hack of the federal government and American industry, he was contradicted on Saturday by President Trump, who sought to muddy the intelligence findings by raising the possibility that China was responsible. Defying the conclusions of experts inside and outside the government who say the attack was a cybersecurity breach on a scale Washington has never experienced, Mr. Trump also played down the severity of the hack, saying ‘everything is well under control,’ insisting that the news media has exaggerated the damage and suggesting, with no evidence, that the real issue was whether the election results had been compromised.” See also, Trump, contradicting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, downplays gravity of massive cyberattack against the U.S. government, as well as Russia’s role in the attack, The Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima, Saturday, 19 December 2020: “Russia is behind the massive, ongoing cyber spy campaign against the federal government and private sector, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday — the first Trump administration official to publicly blame Moscow for the computer hacks…. President Trump on Saturday morning appeared to contradict his top diplomat, tweeting that he has been ‘fully briefed’ and suggesting that ‘it may be China’ that’s responsible for the breaches…. Trump also speculated with no evidence that the hacks may also have included ‘a hit on our ridiculous voting machines during the election, which is now obvious that I won big.’ Twitter flagged that assertion, saying that ‘multiple sources called this election differently.”

African-American Resistance to the Covid-19 Vaccine Reflects a Broader Problem, The New Yorker, Jelani Cobb, Saturday, 19 December 2020: “Back in March, when the pall of the pandemic hung over the city, and long stretches of Broadway were as desolate as a dry creek bed, the New York Police Department began enforcing a mandate to observe social-distancing measures. Between March 17th and May 4th, the Times reported, the police made forty arrests for social-distancing violations; thirty-five of those arrested were African-Americans. Deployed to fight a virus, the N.Y.P.D. delivered the same kind of slanted tallies that result when it is deployed to fight narcotics. Covid-19 has been the defining crisis of the year. But the racially skewed arrest numbers—like the racially skewed numbers associated with infections, hospitalizations, and fatalities—suggest that our perennial problem remains the disparities that mar the society into which the virus was introduced. Inequalities abound in the narrative of this pandemic. Black people and Latinos have disproportionately lost their jobs in the covid recession, but they are also more likely to perform the kinds of labor deemed essential, which accounts, in part, for the higher infection, hospitalization, and death rates found among these populations…. Just forty-two per cent of African-Americans are willing to receive the vaccine, despite the fact that they are more likely than white Americans to be infected with—and die from—the virus…. Yet, for Black America, the story extends far beyond Trump. In September, when Walter Kimbrough, the president of Dillard University, a historically black institution in Louisiana, announced that he had volunteered for a vaccine trial, and encouraged his students do likewise, the Internet exploded with references to the Tuskegee experiment. In that four-decade-long medical scheme, which began in 1932, nearly four hundred African-American men with syphilis were led to believe that they were receiving treatment, but were, in fact, left untreated, so that doctors could chart the course of the disease. In the nearly fifty years since the experiment was exposed, it has become a central reference point for understanding Black Americans’ relationship to the medical establishment. The story of Henrietta Lacks—a Black woman who died in 1951 of cervical cancer, and whose cancerous cells had been harvested for research, without her knowledge, by Johns Hopkins Hospital, replicated, sent to labs around the world, and later sold commercially—has likewise become shorthand for medical exploitation. That history, chronicled in works such as Harriet Washington’s ‘Medical Apartheid’ and Dorothy Roberts’s ‘Killing the Black Body,’ is, in part, what hampered efforts to recruit African-American volunteers for the trials, and now hampers efforts to get African-Americans vaccinated.”

The inside story of how Trump’s denial, mismanagement, and magical thinking led to the pandemic’s dark winter, The Washington Post, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, and Philip Rucker, Saturday, 19 December 2020: “As the number of coronavirus cases ticked upward in mid-November — worse than the frightening days of spring and ahead of an expected surge after families congregated for Thanksgiving — four doctors on President Trump’s task force decided to stage an intervention. After their warnings had gone largely unheeded for months in the dormant West Wing, Deborah Birx, Anthony S. Fauci, Stephen Hahn and Robert Redfield together sounded new alarms, cautioning of a dark winter to come without dramatic action to slow community spread. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, among the many Trump aides who were infected with the virus this fall, was taken aback, according to three senior administration officials with knowledge of the discussions. He told the doctors he did not believe their troubling data assessment. And he accused them of outlining problems without prescribing solutions. The doctors explained that the solutions were simple and had long been clear — among them, to leverage the power of the presidential bully pulpit to persuade all Americans to wear masks, especially the legions of Trump supporters refusing to do so, and to dramatically expand testing.”

Lou Dobbs, a Fox Business opinion host and conservative ally of Trump, debunks his own claims of election fraud after a legal demand from Smartmatic, The Washington Post, Jeremy Barr, Saturday, 19 December 2020: “Something surprising happened Friday night on Lou Dobbs’s top-rated show on the Fox Business Network. Dobbs, an opinion host and conservative ally of President Trump who has consistently raged over the past month that the president was robbed of a second term by a rigged election, introduced a segment that calmly debunked several accusations of fraud that Rudolph W. Giuliani and other Trump supporters have lobbed against the election technology company Smartmatic. ‘There are lots of opinions about the integrity of the election, the irregularities of mail-in voting, of election voting machines and voting software,’ Dobbs told his viewers before introducing Edward Perez, an expert with the nonprofit Open Source Election Technology Institute, to give ‘his assessment of Smartmatic and recent claims about the company.’ Perez then appeared in an apparently pretaped segment, where he shot down various conspiracy theories in response to questions from an off-camera, unidentified voice — not Dobbs’s. The segment, it turns out, was in response to a 20-page legal demand letter that was sent this month by Smartmatic to Fox News Media. Similar letters went to Fox’s smaller competitors on the right, Newsmax and One America News. The letters demanded ‘a full and complete retraction of all false and defamatory statements and reports’ aired by the network in its coverage of the Nov. 3 presidential election.”

Trump Appointee Michael Pack, the Head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, Seeks to Cut Off Funding for Global Internet Access Group, The New York Times, Pranshu Verma, Saturday, 19 December 2020: “The Trump appointee who oversees the government’s global media operations is moving to shut down a federally funded nonprofit that helps support internet access around the world, documents show, a decision that could limit people’s ability to get around constraints in places that tightly control internet access, like Iran and China. The appointee, Michael Pack, the chief executive of the U.S. Agency for Global Media is seeking to restrict the nonprofit, the Open Technology Fund, from receiving federal funding for three years, in part because of a dispute over whether the fund should support work done by the Falun Gong, the spiritual movement known for spreading anti-China, pro-Trump misinformation. His action, a month before President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. takes office, would be difficult for the new administration to undo.”


Sunday, 20 December 2020, Day 1,430:


Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Sunday, 20 December 2020: More Countries Impose U.K. Travel Restrictions Amid Concern Over Virus Mutation. Congressional leaders reached an agreement on another round of pandemic aid. A C.D.C. panel said frontline workers and people 75 and older should be next in line for the vaccine. The New York Times, Sunday, 20 December 2020:

  • Countries begin barring travelers from the U.K. over concerns of a new coronavirus variant.

  • Scientists urge calm about coronavirus mutations, which are not unexpected.

  • A C.D.C. panel says frontline workers and people over 74 should get vaccines next.

  • The official leading Operation Warp Speed pins the blame for vaccine shortfalls on an administrative error.

  • Leaders struck a long-sought stimulus deal, agreeing to provide $900 billion in aid.

  • Thailand announces its biggest outbreak to date, linked to a shrimp market.

  • Devastated long-term care facilities become the next front for Covid-19 inoculations.

  • In New York and beyond, interest groups lobby furiously to get their workers vaccinated early.

  • As Christmas approaches, virus experts look for lessons from Thanksgiving.

A Panel Advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Says Frontline Workers and People Over 74 Should Get Shots Next. The recommendation was a compromise aimed at getting the coronavirus vaccine to the most vulnerable of two high-risk groups. The New York Times, Abby Goodnough and Jan Hoffman, Sunday, 20 December 2020: “Striking a compromise between two high-risk population groups, a panel advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted Sunday to recommend that people age 75 and older be next in line to receive the coronavirus vaccine in the United States, along with about 30 million ‘frontline essential workers,’ such as emergency responders, teachers and grocery store employees…. The panel of doctors and public health experts had previously indicated it would recommend a much broader group of Americans defined as essential workers — about 90 million people with jobs designated by a division of the Department of Homeland Security as critical to keeping society functioning — as the next priority population, and that older people who live independently should come later. But in hours of discussion on Sunday, conducted remotely, the committee members concluded that given the limited initial supply of vaccine and the higher Covid-19 death rate among older Americans, it made more sense to allow the oldest among them to go next, along with workers whose jobs put them ‘at substantially higher risk of exposure’ to the virus. ‘I feel very strongly we do need to have that balance of saving lives and keeping our infrastructure in place,’ said Dr. Helen Talbot, a member of the panel and an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.” See also, Advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says front-line essential workers and adults 75 and over should be next to get the coronavirus vaccine, The Washington Post, Lena H. Sun and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Sunday, 20 December 2020: “Grocery store employees, teachers, emergency workers and other people on the front lines of America’s workforce should be next to get the coronavirus vaccine, along with adults ages 75 and older, a federal advisory panel said Sunday. The recommendations, which came two days after regulators authorized a second coronavirus vaccine, will guide state authorities in deciding who should have priority to receive limited doses of shots made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. More than 2.8 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been distributed, and 556,208 of those shots were given as of 2 p.m. Sunday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The groups designated Sunday include about 49 million people, some of whom could begin getting shots early in the new year. The priorities represent a compromise between the desire to shield people most likely to catch and transmit the virus, because they cannot socially distance or work from home, and the effort to protect people who are most prone to serious complications and death.”

Biden Transition Highlights: Congress Reaches a Deal on Stimulus Package. Leaders struck a long-sought stimulus deal, agreeing to provide $900 billion in aid. President Trump has discussed appointing a conspiracy theorist to investigate election fraud. The New York Times, Sunday, 20 December 2020:

  • Leaders struck a long-sought stimulus deal, agreeing to provide $900 billion in aid.

  • Trump met with Sidney Powell, an election conspiracy theorist, and discussed naming her to be a special counsel.

  • So far, Biden’s cabinet leans centrist, leaving some liberals frustrated.

  • Biden’s climate agenda and energy secretary pick will face an uphill battle, chairman of the Senate environmental committee suggests.

  • Biden will not discuss the investigation of his son with attorney general picks, an aide says.

  • Trump encourages Republicans to challenge Electoral College votes, in another futile attempt to overturn the election results.

  • Giuliani has pressed the Department of Homeland Security to seize voting machines to examine them.

Many other significant developments are included in this article.

Congress Strikes Long-Sought Stimulus Deal to Provide $900 Billion in Aid. Democrats and Republicans said they had an agreement on another round of pandemic aid, including direct payments to Americans, jobless benefits, and funds for businesses and vaccine distribution. The New York Times, Emily Cochrane, Sunday, 20 December 2020: “Congressional leaders on Sunday reached a hard-fought agreement on a $900 billion stimulus package that would send immediate aid to Americans and businesses to help them cope with the economic devastation of the pandemic and fund the distribution of vaccines. The deal would deliver the first significant infusion of federal dollars into the economy since April, as negotiators broke through months of partisan gridlock that had scuttled earlier talks, leaving millions of Americans and businesses without federal help as the pandemic raged. While the plan is roughly half the size of the $2.2 trillion stimulus law enacted in March, it is one of the largest relief packages in modern history.” See also, Senate leadership announced approximately $900 billion deal on emergency relief package, The Washington Post, Jeff Stein and Mike DeBonis, Sunday, 20 December 2020: “Senate leadership announced a bipartisan deal on an approximately $900 billion economic relief package late Sunday afternoon that would deliver emergency aid to a faltering economy and a nation besieged by surging coronavirus cases. After months of contentious negotiations and seemingly intractable partisan gridlock, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) took to the Senate floor to say that a deal had been finalized and could be quickly approved. The emerging stimulus package was expected to direct hundreds of billions of dollars in aid to jobless Americans, ailing businesses and other critical economic needs that have grown as the pandemic ravages the country and batters the economy.” See also, Congress reaches deal on $900 billion Covid-19 relief package, NBC News, Sahil Kapur and Leigh Ann Caldwell, Sunday, 20 December 2020: “After months of stalemate, Congress struck a deal on nearly $900 billion in Covid-19 relief, including a new round of direct payments and help for jobless Americans, families and businesses struggling in the pandemic…. The agreement includes stimulus checks of up to $600 per person for individuals earning $75,000 per year and $600 for their children – the same requirements as the first round of stimulus checks. It provides relief for the jobless, including an extension of unemployment insurance and a federal unemployment insurance bonus of $300 per week, over $284 billion more in loans for businesses struggling to pay rent and workers, $69 billion in testing and vaccine distribution funds and $82 billion in funding for colleges and schools.” See also, Here’s what’s in the second stimulus package, CNN Politics, Katie Lobosco and Tami Luhby, published on Tuesday, 22 December 2020. See also, The Stimulus Deal: What’s in It for You, The New York Times, Tara Siegel Bernard and Ron Lieber, published on Tuesday, 22 December 2020. See also, The Second Stimulus Package: Here’s What’s Included, The New York Times, Zach Montague, published on Tuesday, 22 December 2020.

Trump wants Supreme Court to overturn Pennsylvania election results, Associated Press, Jill Colvin and Marc Levy, Sunday, 20 December 2020: “Undeterred by dismissals and admonitions from judges, President Donald Trump’s campaign continued with its unprecedented efforts to overturn the results of the Nov 3. election Sunday, saying it had filed a new petition with the Supreme Court. The petition seeks to reverse a trio of Pennsylvania Supreme Court cases having to do with mail-in ballots and asks the court to reject voters’ will and allow the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pick its own slate of electors. While the prospect of the highest court in the land throwing out the results of a democratic election based on unfounded charges of voter fraud is extraordinary unlikely, it wouldn’t change the outcome. President-elect Joe Biden would still be the winner even without Pennsylvania because of his wide margin of victory in the Electoral College.”

Trump Can’t Put Aside Grudges, Even for Good News, The New York Times, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin, Sunday, 20 December 2020: “It was among the most consequential weeks of President Trump’s tenure: Across the country, health care workers began receiving a lifesaving coronavirus vaccine. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers closed in on a deal for economic relief aimed at averting a deeper recession. And on Friday, federal regulators authorized a second vaccine. Yet Mr. Trump was largely absent from those events. It was Vice President Mike Pence who held a call with governors on Monday to hail a ‘medical miracle,’ and who received the Pfizer vaccine at week’s end on live television. Legislative leaders were the ones working late into the nights on a stimulus deal eventually reached on Sunday. All the while Mr. Trump was conducting a Twitter-borne assault on Republicans for not helping him overturn the election results, even warning Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, to ‘get tougher, or you won’t have a Republican Party anymore.’ By this weekend, the president was considering naming a conspiracy theorist as special counsel to investigate voting fraud, for which there’s no evidence, asking his advisers about instituting martial law and downplaying a massive hack his own secretary of state attributed to Russia. Seldom has the leader of an American political party done so much to strike fear into the hearts of his allies, but done so little to tackle challenges facing the country during his final days in office. Far from presenting the vaccine breakthroughs from Pfizer and Moderna as testaments to private-sector ingenuity and innovation — once a conservative creed — he was fixated on menacing Republicans who might dare to acknowledge Joseph R. Biden Jr. as president-elect.”


Monday, 21 December 2020, Day 1,431:


Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Monday, 21 December 2020: Moderna’s Coronavirus Vaccine Begins Arriving at Strained Hospitals Across the U.S., The New York Times, Monday, 21 December 2020:

  • The arrival of the Moderna vaccine brings hope to rural areas.

  • More nations close their doors to Britain as alarm grows over virus variant.

  • Governors impose new restrictions on travelers from Britain as holiday travel ratchets up.

  • Congress passes long-sought stimulus package.

  • As the world tries to contain a new strain of the virus, questions arise about how far it has already spread.

  • California builds field hospitals and considers rationing care as virus spreads unabated.

  • Armed protesters angry over virus restrictions try to force their way into the Oregon Statehouse.

  • A Florida scientist has sued state law enforcement in an ongoing battle over Covid-19 data.

Many other significant developments are included in this article.

Some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, 21 December 2020: President-elect Biden receives the coronavirus vaccine on live TV, The Washington Post, Antonia Noori Farzan, Kim Bellware, Siobhán O’Grady, Hannah Denham, Brittany Shammas, Lateshia Beachum, and Reis Thebault, Monday, 21 December 2020: “In an effort to reassure the country about the coronavirus vaccine’s safety, President-elect Joe Biden on Monday received his first dose at a hospital in Newark, Del. Biden received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine during an event that was carried on live television. His wife, Jill Biden, also received the vaccine, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and top federal infectious-disease specialist Anthony S. Fauci will publicly receive it on Tuesday.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

Biden Transition Highlights: Congress Races to Finalize Stimulus Deal, The New York Times, Monday, 21 December 2020:

  • Congress passes long-sought stimulus package.

  • Biden receives the coronavirus vaccine.

  • Trump meets with House Republicans to discuss a far-fetched effort to overturn the election results.

  • Outgoing attorney general sees ‘no reason’ to investigate Hunter Biden or the election.

  • Kamala Harris joins Georgia Democrats campaigning for Senate.

  • Ivanka Trump stumps for two Republican senators in Georgia. Her father says one of them will lose the runoff.

  • Republicans inserted a tax deduction for business lunches into the virus relief bill.

  • Congress includes climate change legislation in its coronavirus relief deal.

Presidential Transfer of Power: Biden receives coronavirus vaccine; Kamala Harris and Ivanka Trump campaign in Georgia for Senate candidates, The Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez, Paulina Firozi, and Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Monday, 21 December 2020: “President-elect Joe Biden received the coronavirus vaccine Monday, sending a message to the nation about the safety of the vaccine. The president-elect received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at ChristianaCare Hospital in Newark, Del., in an event that was carried on live television. Earlier in the day, Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris campaigned in Georgia for Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff elections that will determine control of the Senate. President Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump also was in the state Monday seeking to boost turnout for Sens. David Perdue (R) and Kelly Loeffler (R).

Here are some significant developments included in this article.

  • Trump has intensified efforts to overturn the election, raising the prospect of radical measures in recent days, including military intervention, seizing voting machines and a 13th-hour appeal to the Supreme Court. Breaking with Trump, Attorney General William P. Barr told reporters at a news conference that there’s no basis for impounding voting machines or using a special counsel to investigate allegations of election fraud.
  • After months of partisan gridlock and rancorous negotiations, congressional leaders on Monday introduced a mammoth 5,593-page tax and spending bill that packages together emergency economic relief, government funding, and tax cuts into what is likely one of the largest pieces of legislation ever considered by the U.S. Congress.
  • The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service are tracking nominees for about 800 politically appointed positions that require Senate confirmation.
  • Election results are under attack: Here are the facts.

Pandemic Aid Bolsters Biden and Shows Potential Path for His Agenda in Congress, The New York Times, Carl Hulse, Monday, 21 December 2020: “Producing it was a torturous, time-consuming affair that did nothing to improve Congress’s reputation for dysfunction. But the agreement on a new pandemic aid package showed the ascendance of moderates as a new force in a divided Senate and validated President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s belief that it is still possible to make deals on Capitol Hill. Along with struggling Americans and businesses, the new president was a major beneficiary of the $900 billion pandemic stimulus measure that Congress haltingly but finally produced on Sunday and was on track to approve late Monday, which will give him some breathing room when he enters the White House next month. Rather than face an immediate and dire need to act on an emergency economic aid package, Mr. Biden and his team can instead take a moment to try to fashion a more far-reaching recovery program and begin to tackle other issues.” See also, Climate Change Legislation Is Included in Coronavirus Relief Deal. The legislation calls for cutting the use of powerful planet-warming chemicals common in air-conditioners and refrigerators. The New York Times, Coral Davenport, Monday, 21 December 2020: “In the waning days of the 116th Congress, lawmakers have authorized $35 billion in spending on wind, solar and other clean power sources while curtailing the use of a potent planet-warming chemical used in air-conditioners and refrigerators. Both measures, backed by some of the Senate’s most powerful Republicans, were attached to the huge government spending and coronavirus relief package that is expected to head to President Trump’s desk early this week, effectively creating the first significant climate change law since at least 2009. They amount to a rare party rebuke to Mr. Trump on the issue of global warming, after he spent the past four years mocking and systematically rolling back every major climate change rule. The comity may also signal that while President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is unlikely to secure his full climate plan, he may be able to make some progress in curbing global warming.” See also, Stimulus deal includes raft of provisions to fight climate change, The Washington Post, Sarah Kaplan and Dino Grandoni, Monday, 21 December 2020: “In one of the biggest victories for U.S. climate action in a decade, Congress has moved to phase out a class of potent planet-warming chemicals and provide billions of dollars for renewable energy and efforts to suck carbon from the atmosphere as part of the $900 billion coronavirus relief package. The legislation, which Congress approved moments before midnight Monday, wraps together several bills with bipartisan backing and support from an unusual coalition of environmentalists and industry groups. It will cut the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chemicals used in air conditioners and refrigerators that are hundreds of times worse for the climate than carbon dioxide. It authorizes a sweeping set of new renewable energy measures, including tax credit extensions and new research and development programs for solar, wind and energy storage; funding for energy efficiency projects; upgrades to the electric grid and a new commitment to research on removing carbon from the atmosphere. And it reauthorizes an Environmental Protection Agency program to curb emissions from diesel engines. The legislation also includes key language on the “sense of Congress” that the Energy Department must prioritize funding for research to power the United States with 100 percent ‘clean, renewable, or zero-emission energy sources’ — a rare declaration that the nation should be striving toward net-zero carbon emissions. ‘This is perhaps the most significant climate legislation Congress has ever passed,’ said Grant Carlisle, a senior policy adviser at the Natural Resources Defense Council.”

Attorney General William Barr Sees ‘No Reason’ for Special Counsels for Hunter Biden or the Election.The departing attorney general again broke with President Trump on his unsupported claims of widespread election fraud and the need to appoint a special counsel to investigate the president-elect’s son. The New York Times, Katie Benner, Monday, 21 December 2020: “Attorney General William P. Barr distanced himself again from President Trump on Monday, saying he saw no reason to appoint special counsels to oversee the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into Hunter Biden, son of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., or to investigate Mr. Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.” See also, Undercutting Trump, Attorney General William Barr says there’s no basis for seizing voting machines or using special counsels for election fraud or to investigate Hunter Biden, The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky, Monday, 21 December 2020: “Outgoing Attorney General William P. Barr said Monday that he saw no basis for the federal government seizing voting machines and that he did not intend to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations of voter fraud — again breaking with President Trump as the commander in chief entertains increasingly desperate measures to overturn the election. At a news conference to announce charges in a decades-old terrorism case, Barr — who has just two days left in office — was peppered with questions about whether he would consider steps proposed by allies of the president to advance Trump’s claims of massive voter fraud. Barr said that while he was ‘sure there was fraud in this election,’ he had not seen evidence that it was so ‘systemic or broad-based’ that it would change the result. He asserted he saw ‘no basis now for seizing machines by the federal government,’ and he would not name a special counsel to explore the allegations of Trump and his allies…. Similarly, Barr said he would not name a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden, President-elect Joe Biden’s son, who revealed earlier this month he was under investigation for possible tax crimes. Barr said the investigation was ‘being handled responsibly and professionally’ by regular Justice Department prosecutors, and he hoped that would continue in the next administration.” See also, Attorney General William Barr Won’t Appoint Special Counsel to Probe Vote-Fraud Claims or Hunter Biden, The Wall Street Journal, Aruna Viswanatha, Monday, 21 December 2020: “Attorney General William Barr said he saw no reason to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations against Hunter Biden or election fraud on Monday, saying he believed the investigation into President-elect Joe Biden’s son was ‘being handled responsibly and professionally.’ Mr. Barr made the comments at a press conference to announce new criminal charges related to the bomb that exploded a plane over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.”

Trump assembles a ragtag crew of conspiracy-minded allies in flailing bid to reverse election loss, The Washington Post, Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey, Rosalind S. Helderman, and Emma Brown, Monday, 21 December 2020: “With his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud rejected by dozens of judges and GOP leaders, President Trump has turned to a ragtag group of conspiracy theorists, media-hungry lawyers and other political misfits in a desperate attempt to hold on to power after his election loss. The president’s orbit has grown more extreme as his more mainstream allies, including Attorney General William P. Barr, have declined to endorse his increasingly radical plans to overturn the will of the voters. Trump’s unofficial election advisory council now includes a pardoned felon, adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory, a White House trade adviser and a Russian agent’s former lover.” See also, Some White House advisers fear Trump’s final days, CNN Politics, Kevin Liptak and Jeremy Diamond, Tuesday, 22 December 2020: “President Donald Trump has turned to a fringe group of advisers peddling increasingly dubious tactics to overturn the results of the election, creating a dire situation that multiple senior officials and people close to the President say has led to new levels of uncertainty at how Trump will resist the coming end to his tenure. ‘No one is sure where this is heading,’ one official said on Monday. ‘He’s still the President for another month.’ Conspiracist lawyer Sidney Powell, disgraced former national security adviser Michael Flynn, onetime chief strategist Steve Bannon, hawkish trade adviser Peter Navarro and the eccentric founder of the retail website Overstock have all recently found themselves in the Oval Office or on the telephone advising Trump on new last-ditch efforts to reverse his loss.”

Armed Protesters Angry Over Virus Restrictions Try to Force Their Way Into the Oregon Statehouse, The New York Times, Mike Baker, Monday, 21 December 2020: “Armed protesters trying to force their way into Oregon’s State Capitol building on Monday were met by officers in riot gear, as lawmakers gathered for a one-day special session amid growing tension over coronavirus restrictions in the state. The Oregon State Police declared the protest, which included dozens of people, an unlawful assembly, and officers fired pepper balls to drive the crowds away from the Capitol in Salem. Police arrested at least two people, including one person authorities said had used bear spray against officers. Later, some in the crowd smashed windows at an entrance to the Capitol. Many in the crowd, which included people from far-right groups, carried weapons, wore body armor or held flags supporting President Trump.”

Suspected Russian Hack Compromised the Email Accounts of Dozens of Top Treasury Department Officials, The Wall Street Journal, Dustin Volz and Richard Rubin, Monday, 21 December 2020: “Suspected Russian hackers compromised dozens of Treasury department email accounts and breached the office that houses its top officials, as part of a broad campaign targeting several critical federal government agencies, a senior senator said Monday. The Treasury Department doesn’t know all of the activity the hackers engaged in or precisely what information was stolen, Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.” See also, Treasury Department’s Senior Leaders Were Targeted by Hacking, The New York Times, David E. Sanger and Alan Rappeport, Monday, 21 December 2020: “The Russian hackers who penetrated United States government agencies broke into the email system used by the Treasury Department’s most senior leadership, a Democratic member of the Senate Finance Committee said on Monday, the first detail of how deeply Moscow burrowed into the Trump administration’s networks. In a statement after a briefing for committee staff members, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who has often been among the sharpest critics of the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies, said that the Treasury Department had acknowledged that ‘the agency suffered a serious breach, beginning in July, the full depth of which isn’t known.’ The Treasury Department ranks among the most highly protected corners of the government because of its responsibility for market-moving economic decisions, communications with the Federal Reserve and economic sanctions against adversaries. Mr. Wyden said the hackers had gained access to the email system by manipulating internal software keys.”

Robert E. Lee Statue Is Removed From U.S. Capitol, The New York Times, Bryan Pietsch, Monday, 21 December 2020: “Virginia’s statue of the Confederate general Robert E. Lee was removed from its post in the U.S. Capitol on Monday morning, closing a year that saw Confederate statues toppled as the nation reckoned with racism in its history and institutions. In April, the month before the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis would set off worldwide protests against racism and police brutality, Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia signed legislation directing the creation of a commission to study the removal and replacement of the statue. (States are each allotted two statues to display in the U.S. Capitol; Virginia’s other statue is of George Washington.) The commission’s eight members voted on July 24 to recommend the removal of the Lee statue, which will be turned over to the Virginia Museum of History & Culture in Richmond. The statue will be replaced with one of Barbara Johns, who as a 16-year-old defied school segregation in Virginia in 1951, Mr. Northam said. The governor, a Democrat, called her ‘a trailblazing young woman of color’ who would inspire visitors to the Capitol to ‘create positive change in their communities, just like she did.'”

Congress shields patients from unexpected medical bills, The Washington Post, Amy Goldstein, Monday, 21 December 2020: “Congress has agreed to shield patients from many big, unexpected medical bills — a practice that consumers and politicians have bemoaned for years but that eluded a federal solution until now. A ban on what is known as surprise billing is woven into a pandemic relief package, which lawmakers approved late Monday. The ban is based mainly, but not entirely, on a bipartisan accord this month among three House committees and one in the Senate that had each tried to outlaw the practice before.”


Tuesday, 22 December 2020, Day 1,432:


Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Tuesday, 22 December 2020: Dr. Deborah Birx to Retire After Tumultuous White House Tenure, The New York Times, Tuesday, 22 December 2020:

  • Birx says she will retire after Biden transition.

  • Tennessee is ‘ground zero’ in the nation’s virus surge, and Christmas could make it worse, the governor warns.

  • Pfizer nears a deal with the Trump administration to provide more vaccine doses.

  • Trump demands changes to coronavirus relief bill, calling it a ‘disgrace.’

  • France reopens border with Britain to trucks, requiring rapid Covid-19 tests for drivers.

  • British royals photographed breaking rules as England endures virus variant.

  • Some staff members at a Texas hospital were hesitant to be vaccinated, so others got a chance.

  • With first positive tests in Antarctica, no continent is untouched by the virus.

Many other significant developments are included in this article.

Some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic for Tuesday, 22 December 2020: Pfizer and Trump administration are nearing a deal for additional coronavirus vaccine doses, The Washington Post, Antonia Noori Farzan, Derek Hawkins, Kim Bellware, Miriam Berger, Hannah Denham, Reis Thebault, and Lateshia Beachum, Tuesday, 22 December 2020: “The Trump administration and Pfizer are close to a deal for the pharmaceutical giant to provide tens of millions of additional vaccine doses through next spring and summer, according to the people familiar with the negotiations. The deal could be announced as soon as Wednesday. As part of the agreement, Pfizer would get help from the federal government in procuring supplies to make the vaccine, said the individuals who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about the matter.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

  • President Trump called the recently passed relief bill, which the White House indicated he would sign, a ‘disgrace,’ and called on Congress to somehow ‘amend’ it. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had said stimulus checks could be sent as soon as next week, but that is now in doubt.
  • The CDC acknowledged that the new variant of the coronavirus that has proliferated rapidly in Britain may already be circulating in the United States.
  • German firm BioNTech said Tuesday it is ‘confident’ its coronavirus vaccine, produced with U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, will be effective against the new variant, but that a new version could be developed within six weeks if necessary.
  • After abruptly shutting down travel to the United Kingdom Sunday night, France will re-open its border Wednesday to essential travelers who can present a negative PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours.
  • Top federal infectious-disease specialist Anthony S. Fauci and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar received their first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine publicly on Tuesday.
  • Despite health warnings, holiday travel has already set a record for the busiest weekend of the pandemic.

Presidential Transition Highlights: Biden Criticizes Trump on Russian Hack and Calls for More Virus Aid, The New York Times, Tuesday, 22 December 2020:

  • Russian hack ‘happened on Donald Trump’s watch when he wasn’t watching,’ Biden says.

  • Trump demands changes to coronavirus relief bill, calling it a ‘disgrace.’

  • Alex Padilla is chosen for Kamala Harris’s Senate seat.

  • Padilla’s appointment is greeted with enthusiasm, and a caveat: There will no longer be a Black woman in the Senate.

  • Birx says she will retire after Biden transition.

  • Biden is expected to name Connecticut’s schools chief as his education secretary.

  • A new analysis gives an early look at how the census may change the electoral map.

  • Biden transition officials say they will not quickly reverse Trump’s border policies.

Other significant developments are included in this article.

Presidential Transfer of Power: Biden calls cyber breach ‘grave risk to national security’; California governor Gavin Newsom appoints Alex Padilla to replace Kamala Harris in the Senate, The Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez and Colby Itkowitz, Tuesday, 22 December 2020: “President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday strongly signaled that Russia was responsible for the massive and growing cybersecurity breach and excoriated President Trump for his handling and response to the hack affecting numerous federal agencies as well as U.S. companies. ‘The Trump administration needs to make an official attribution. This assault happened on Donald Trump’s watch when he wasn’t watching,’ Biden said in remarks in Wilmington, Del. Also on Tuesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced that he would appoint Alex Padilla to replace Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris in the U.S. Senate. Biden announced a round of additional White House senior staff hires, including Bruce Reed as deputy chief of staff. President Trump has no public events scheduled Tuesday. He continues to refuse to concede the election to Biden. Vice President Pence addressed a crowd of young conservative activists in Florida on Tuesday, urging them to ‘stay in the fight’ to combat alleged voter fraud in future elections. On Monday, the president held a meeting at the White House with his personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, a group of House Republicans and Pence as he continued to mount a desperate attempt to hold on to power after his election loss.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

  • The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service are tracking nominees for about 800 politically appointed positions that require Senate confirmation.
  • Biden will push for more coronavirus relief upon taking office, setting up a clash with Republicans.
  • Trump appears to be actively making Biden’s job harder, going to extraordinary lengths to undermine the transition despite the nation’s many crises.
  • Biden plans to nominate Miguel Cardona, commissioner of public schools in Connecticut, as his education secretary, settling on a low-profile candidate who has pushed to reopen schools.
  • Election results are under attack: Here are the facts.

Trump Demands Changes to Coronavirus Relief Bill, Calling It a ‘Disgrace,’ The New York Times, Luke Broadwater and Alan Rappeport, Tuesday, 22 December 2020: “President Trump on Tuesday evening threatened to derail months of bipartisan work in Congress to deliver $900 billion in coronavirus relief to a country battered by the pandemic, demanding checks to Americans that are more than three times as much as those in the bill, which he called a ‘disgrace.’ The president, who has been preoccupied with the baseless claim that the election was stolen from him, seized on congressional leaders’ decision to pass the relief bill by combining it with a broader spending plan to fund government operations and the military. That spending plan includes routine provisions like foreign aid and support for Washington institutions like the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Smithsonian. But Mr. Trump portrayed such spending items as ‘wasteful and unnecessary’ additions to the coronavirus legislation.”

US deaths in 2020 top 3 million, by far the most ever counted, Associated Press, Mike Stobbe, Tuesday, 22 December 2020: “This is the deadliest year in U.S. history, with deaths expected to top 3 million for the first time — due mainly to the coronavirus pandemic. Final mortality data for this year will not be available for months. But preliminary numbers suggest that the United States is on track to see more than 3.2 million deaths this year, or at least 400,000 more than in 2019. U.S. deaths increase most years, so some annual rise in fatalities is expected. But the 2020 numbers amount to a jump of about 15%, and could go higher once all the deaths from this month are counted.”

House conservatives strategize with Trump and Pence in push to challenge Biden’s win, CNN Politics, Manu Raju and Daniella Diaz, Tuesday, 22 December 2020: “Alabama GOP Rep. Mo Brooks and fellow House conservatives met privately on Monday with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence as the lawmakers prepared to mount a long-shot bid in January to overturn the Electoral College results that made Joe Biden the official winner of the election. The discussion focused on Trump’s baseless claims and conspiracies that the election was stolen from him, participants said, and lawmakers emerged confident that there were would be a contingent of House and Senate Republicans who would join the effort and prompt a marathon debate on the floor on January 6 that would spill into January 7.”

Biden Picks Miguel Cardona, Latino Chief of Connecticut Schools, as Education Secretary, The New York Times, Erica L. Green and Eliza Shapiro, Tuesday, 22 December 2020: “In August, Connecticut’s schools chief, Miguel A. Cardona, logged on to a virtual meeting of New Haven’s school board, ostensibly to hear why its members had decided not to open the state’s largest school district for in-person classes this fall. Most of the district’s students had not fully participated in remote learning, he said. Its most vulnerable populations had the most to lose by not returning to school buildings, and the district had met public health metrics for reopening. But although Dr. Cardona later suggested the board reconsider, he declined to overrule it. ‘All of you, whether you have a very strong position on one end or the other, are here because you care about the success of children and the community,’ he concluded. That approach, leaning in to reopening while remaining respectful of local control, could soon go national, with President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. announcing the nomination of Dr. Cardona as his education secretary. If confirmed, Dr. Cardona would face the most urgent education crisis in decades, and whether he can press schools to reopen without turning the issue into a partisan matter, as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos did, could have major repercussions for the young Biden administration.” See also, Biden picks Miguel Cardona, Connecticut schools chief, as education secretary, The Washington Post, Laura Meclker, Valerie Strauss, and Matt Viser, Tuesday, 22 December 2020: “President-elect Joe Biden will nominate the commissioner of public schools in Connecticut as his education secretary, settling on a low-profile candidate who has pushed to reopen schools and is not aligned with either side in education policy battles of recent years, several people familiar with the matter said. Miguel Cardona, 45, did not enjoy the enthusiastic support of some others who were considered for the post, but he also did not draw any significant opposition. Rather, he is seen as someone who can work with people across the universe of K-12 education.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom Selected Alex Padilla to Replace Kamala Harris in the Senate, The New York Times, Shawn Hubler, Tuesday, 22 December 2020: “Alex Padilla, California’s secretary of state, has been appointed to fill the Senate seat held by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Tuesday, capping months of intense political jockeying among Democratic factions in the state. The son of Mexican-born immigrants who settled in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley, Mr. Padilla, 47, will be the first Latino senator from California, where Latinos are about 40 percent of the population.” See also, Alex Padilla to fill Kamala Harris’ seat as first Latino senator to represent California, NBC News, Rebecca Shabad, Tuesday, 22 December 2020: “California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that he has chosen the state’s secretary of state, Alex Padilla, to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Kamala Harris, who will be sworn in as vice president next month. Padilla will be the first Latino senator to represent the state. ‘Through his tenacity, integrity, smarts and grit, California is gaining a tested fighter in their corner who will be a fierce ally in D.C., lifting up our state’s values and making sure we secure the critical resources to emerge stronger from this pandemic. He will be a Senator for all Californians,’ Newsom said in a statement announcing the appointment. Newsom said that Padilla, a Democrat whose parents were Mexican immigrants, had worked his way up from ‘humble beginnings’ to the halls of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Los Angeles City Council and the state Senate. ‘Now, he will serve in the halls of our nation’s Capitol as California’s next United States Senator, the first Latino to hold this office,’ Newsom said. Padilla, 47, said in a statement that he was ‘honored and humbled’ by Newsom’s decision.”

Trump Pardons Two Russia Inquiry Figures and Blackwater Guards, The New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Tuesday, 22 December 2020: “In an audacious pre-Christmas round of pardons, President Trump granted clemency on Tuesday to two people who pleaded guilty in the special counsel’s Russia inquiry, four Blackwater guards convicted in connection with the killing of Iraqi civilians and three corrupt former Republican members of Congress. It was a remarkable assertion of pardon power by a president who continues to dispute his loss in the election and might well be followed by other pardons in the weeks before he leaves office on Jan. 20.” See also, Trump grants pardons to 20 people, including three former Republican members of Congress, two men convicted in the Russia probe, and four military contractors convicted of killing 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007, The Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman, Matt Zapotosky, and Josh Dawsey, Tuesday, 22 December 2020: “President Trump granted clemency on Tuesday to 20 people, including three former Republican members of Congress and two people who were convicted of crimes as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He also pardoned four military contractors convicted of killing 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007, and extended clemency to several people convicted of drug offenses, including some who had already benefited from initial commutations…. The first batch released Tuesday night shows how the president is using the power of his office to undo the work of the Russia probe that shadowed much of his term, undercut major cases that took on political corruption and wave away the crimes of Americans convicted of participating in a massacre during the Iraq War.” See also, I Sued Blackwater for the Massacre of Iraqi Civilians. Trump Just Pardoned Those Convicted Killers. The Intercept, Paul Dickinson, published on Wednesday, 23 December 2020.

Biden Assails Trump Over Handling of Russia Hacking, The New York Times, David E. Sanger, Tuesday, 22 December 2020: “President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. accused President Trump on Tuesday of ‘irrational downplaying’ of the widespread hack of the federal government and American industries, saying that the current administration was denying him intelligence and warning Russia that he would not allow the intrusion to ‘go unanswered’ after he takes office. ‘This assault happened on Donald Trump’s watch when he wasn’t watching,’ Mr. Biden said at a news conference in Delaware. ‘It is still his responsibility as president to defend American interests for the next four weeks, but rest assured that even if he does not take it seriously, I will.’ The direct critique was a remarkable departure from tradition, in which incoming presidents are careful about not second-guessing the actions of the incumbent. But Mr. Trump’s refusal to recognize Mr. Biden’s election victory, and his effort to subvert the results, has clearly poisoned elements of the transition process.” See also, Biden castigates Trump over recent cyberattack on U.S. Government, The Washington Post, Lisa Rein and Felicia Sonmez, Tuesday, 22 December 2020: “President-elect Joe Biden unleashed a broadside Tuesday against President Trump’s stewardship of national security, accusing his administration of opening the door to a far-reaching cybersecurity attack that has penetrated the networks of key federal agencies and U.S. companies.”

Rosemary Vrablic, Trump’s Longtime Banker at Deutsche Bank, Resigns, The New York Times, David Enrich, Tuesday, 22 December 2020: “President Trump’s longtime banker at Deutsche Bank, who arranged for the German lender to make hundreds of millions of dollars of loans to his company, is stepping down from the bank. Rosemary Vrablic, a managing director and senior banker in Deutsche Bank’s wealth management division, recently handed in her resignation, which the bank accepted, according to a bank spokesman, Daniel Hunter.”

Eric Coomer, a Top Employee of Dominion Voting Systems, Sues Trump Campaign and Allies, Alleging Defamation, NPR, Bente Birkeland, Tuesday, 22 December 2020: “A top employee of Dominion Voting Systems, who has gone into hiding after becoming the subject of conspiracy theories on the right since the election, is suing the Trump campaign, a number of campaign surrogates and pro-Trump media outlets, alleging defamation. Eric Coomer, director of product strategy and security for the Denver-based company, has been baselessly accused of using his position to mastermind a high-tech plot to steal the election for President-elect Joe Biden. Biden’s victory has been certified in the states by officials of both parties with no evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities. Coomer’s suit, filed Tuesday in Colorado state district court in Denver, accuses those responsible of spreading the falsehoods of intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy.”


Wednesday, 23 December 2020, Day 1,433:


Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Wednesday, 23 December 2020: U.K. Locks Down Further as Alarm About Coronavirus Variant Grows, The New York Times, Wednesday, 23 December 2020:

  • The U.K. imposes tighter virus rules on much of England, citing concern about the spread of a new variant.

  • Salt Lake City says it will reopen schools, which had been all-remote, once teachers are vaccinated.

  • Pfizer and the U.S. reach an agreement on additional vaccine doses.

  • Frustration rises at Britain’s ports over clearing a logjam of thousands of trucks.

  • A Black doctor spoke for many patients when she complained of racist treatment.

  • Tennessee cases surge while officials put local health boards in the cross hairs.

  • Even as infections rise, antibody drugs are going unused.

  • An Ohio county battles a ‘perfect storm’ of two epidemics: drug abuse and Covid.

Other significant developments are included in this article.

Some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, 23 December 2020: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announces that more than a million people in the U.S. are vaccinated in 10 days, The Washington Post, Brittany Shammas, Lateshia Beachum, Antonia Noori Farzan, Paulina Villegas, Derek Hawkins, Ruby Mellen, and Hannah Denham, Wednesday, 23 December 2020: “More than a million people in the United States have received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield announced Wednesday, calling it an ‘early but important milestone.’ Administration of the vaccine began 10 days ago, amid an unprecedented rise in cases across the nation. The average number of new cases per day has exceeded 200,000, and deaths have sat at more than 2,000 per day, according to Washington Post tracking.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

  • For the second day in a row, the United States on Wednesday set a new record for covid-19 hospitalizations. Nationwide, states reported that more than 119,500 people were hospitalized with the virus, according to Washington Post tracking. A day earlier, on Tuesday, that figure was just less than 118,000.
  • President Trump’s last-minute move to reject a sweeping coronavirus relief package is escalating panic among Republicans while setting the stage for a confrontation that could force GOP lawmakers to object to their own president’s demand for larger stimulus checks for Americans. The stock market closed mostly flat despite Trump’s position.
  • The NBA postponed the Houston Rockets-Oklahoma City Thunder season opener because several players had tested positive for covid-19 or were quarantining after coming in contact with those who had.
  • British officials have detected another coronavirus variant in the United Kingdom, with both cases confirmed in individuals who were in contact with recent arrivals from South Africa. A different variant of the coronavirus that had been identified in Britain may already be circulating in the U.S., the CDC acknowledged on Tuesday.
  • The Trump administration and Pfizer reached a deal for the pharmaceutical giant to provide 100 million additional coronavirus vaccine doses through the spring and summer.

Pfizer Seals Deal With the U.S. for 100 Million More Vaccine Doses, The New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere and Zach Montague, Wednesday, 23 December 2020: “The Trump administration and Pfizer announced a deal on Wednesday for the pharmaceutical company to provide an additional 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine by the end of July, easing a potential shortage. The agreement, along with orders for another vaccine made by Moderna, means the United States has now secured commitments for enough doses to vaccinate all but about 60 million of the roughly 260 million adult Americans who are eligible to be inoculated. Pfizer had agreed this summer, before its vaccine had even been proven effective, to provide an initial 100 million doses to the United States. Under the new agreement, Pfizer will provide an additional 70 million doses by the end of June and another 30 million by the end of July, doubling the deliveries it promised in the initial contract. So far, Pfizer and Moderna, the only two producers whose vaccines have been approved for emergency distribution to Americans, together have pledged to ship 400 million doses in the next seven months. Both vaccines require two doses. The U.S. government will pay $1.95 billion for the second order, or $19.50 per dose, according to a statement from the company. Pfizer’s vaccine was developed with a German partner, BioNTech.”

Presidential Transition Highlights: Trump’s Fierce Criticism of Stimulus Bill Leaves Republicans Torn, The New York Times, Wednesday, 23 December 2020:

  • ‘This bill has been tainted’: Trump’s criticism sends Republicans scrambling for a path forward on virus relief.

  • Loeffler and Perdue voted for a pandemic bill that Trump, their patron, just trashed. It’s awkward.

  • Trump vetoes a military bill that Congress passed with veto-proof majorities.

  • Biden introduces his nominee for education secretary, Miguel Cardona.

  • In threatening to blow up the stimulus aid bill, Trump stages a surprising but entirely predictable disruption.

  • Trump’s recent behavior sets the stage for an anxious four weeks.

  • Pfizer and the U.S. reach an agreement on additional vaccine doses.

  • Rental protections, nursing home funding, food stamps: Here’s what’s included in the stimulus bill.

  • In an unusual move, a judge temporarily blocked a Trump administration drilling project.

Presidential Transfer of Power: Biden introduces education secretary nominee Miguel Cardona; Trump vetoes defense bill and threatens not to sign stimulus legislation, The Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez and Colby Itkowitz, Wednesday, 23 December 2020: “President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday introduced his education secretary nominee, Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona, stressing the need for an educator with classroom experience to fill the critical post. If confirmed, Cardona will have achieved a meteoric rise, moving from an assistant superintendent in Meriden, Conn., to secretary of education in less than two years. President Trump had no public events. He left the White House in the afternoon to spend the Christmas holiday at his private Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla. Shortly before he left, Trump vetoed the bipartisan, $741 billion defense authorization bill, triggering votes next week in Congress on whether to override the veto. The legislation authorizes funds for ships, aircraft and a pay raise for the troops. The veto came a day after Trump asked Congress to amend another measure, the nearly $900 billion coronavirus relief bill, describing the legislation as ‘a disgrace.’

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

  • The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service are tracking nominees for about 800 politically appointed positions that require Senate confirmation.
  • Trump’s last-minute move to reject the sweeping coronavirus relief package is escalating confusion and panic among Republicans while setting the stage for an uncomfortable confrontation that could force GOP lawmakers to object to their own president’s demand for larger stimulus checks for Americans.
  • Biden unleashed a broadside against Trump’s stewardship of national security, accusing his administration of opening the door to a far-reaching cybersecurity attack.
  • Trump granted clemency to people who were convicted of crimes as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He also pardoned four military contractors convicted of killing 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in 2007.
  • Election results are under attack: Here are the facts.

Trump Gives Clemency to More Allies, Including Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Charles Kushner, The New York Times, Wednesday, 23 December 2020: “President Trump doled out clemency to a new group of loyalists on Wednesday, wiping away convictions and sentences as he aggressively employed his power to override courts, juries and prosecutors to apply his own standard of justice for his allies. One recipient of a pardon was a family member, Charles Kushner, the father of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Two others who were pardoned declined to cooperate with prosecutors in connection with the special counsel’s Russia investigation: Paul Manafort, his 2016 campaign chairman, and Roger J. Stone Jr., his longtime informal adviser and friend. They were the most prominent names in a batch of 26 pardons and three commutations disclosed by the White House after Mr. Trump left for his private club in Palm Beach, Fla., for the holiday. Also on the list released on Wednesday was Margaret Hunter, the estranged wife of former Representative Duncan D. Hunter, Republican of California. Both of them had pleaded guilty to charges of misusing campaign funds for personal expenses. Mr. Hunter was pardoned by Mr. Trump on Tuesday, as part of a first pre-Christmas wave of grants of clemency to 20 convicts, more than half of whom did not meet the Justice Department guidelines for consideration of pardons or commutations. They included a former Blackwater guard sentenced to life in prison for his role in the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007.” See also, Trump pardons Charles Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone in latest wave of clemency grants, The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, Colby Itkowitz, and Jonathan O’Connell, Wednesday, 23 December 2020: “President Trump on Wednesday granted pardons or other clemency to another 29 people, including real estate developer Charles Kushner, his son-in-law’s father, and two former advisers who were convicted as part of the FBI’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election — once again using his executive power to benefit his allies and undermine an investigation that dogged his presidency. With his time in office nearing its end, Trump pardoned former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted in 2018 of committing financial fraud and conspiring to obstruct the investigation of his crimes, and he upgraded to a full pardon the sentence commutation he provided earlier to longtime friend Roger Stone. Trump also pardoned Kushner, the father of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who pleaded guilty in 2004 to having made false statements to the Federal Election Commission, and he subsequently pleaded guilty to witness tampering, and tax evasion stemming from $6 million in political contributions and gifts mischaracterized as business expenses.” See also, Trump vowed to drain the swamp. Then he granted clemency to three former congressmen convicted of federal crimes. The Washington Post, Michael Kranish, Wednesday, 23 December 2020: “As Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency in 2016, his vow to ‘drain the swamp’ included outrage at past use of presidential pardons. Citing the way President Bill Clinton had pardoned a fugitive financier during his last week in office, Trump fumed, ‘People couldn’t believe it.’ Yet now, in the closing days of his term, Trump has added to his portfolio of pardons and commutations several people who seemed to exemplify the very swamp that Trump said he would drain, including former political allies as well as three former members of the House of Representatives. Trump pardoned former congressmen Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.), who pleaded guilty to misuse of campaign funds, and Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who was in prison after being convicted of securities fraud. The president commuted the sentence of former congressman Steve Stockman (R-Tex.), who was convicted of misusing charitable contributions. Hunter and Collins were early and avid supporters of Trump’s campaign.” See also, All the people Trump has pardoned since the election, The Washington Post, Kevin Uhrmacher, Tim Meko, Atthar Mirza, and Colby Itkowitz, Wednesday, 23 December 2020. See also, Trump Corrupted the Presidential Pardon. Biden Must Repair It. The New York Times, The Editorial Board, Wednesday, 23 December 2020: “President Trump doesn’t use his pardon power often, but when he does, he abuses it for all it’s worth. In less than four years in office, Mr. Trump has made a mockery of mercy, doling out clemency to some of the most deplorable people in the country, an alarming number of whom happen to be his friends, while ignoring tens of thousands of more deserving applicants.”

Trump Vetoes Military Spending Bill, Setting Up a Congressional Showdown, The New York Times, Emily Cochrane, Wednesday, 23 December 2020: “President Trump on Wednesday made good on his promise to veto the annual military policy bill, setting up what could be the first veto override of his presidency after both chambers of Congress overwhelmingly approved the legislation. In refusing to sign the bill, Mr. Trump cited a series of provisions, including one that would direct the military to strip the names of Confederate leaders from bases. He has also demanded that the bill include a provision that would repeal a legal shield for social media companies that he has tangled with, a significant legislative change that Republicans and Democrats alike have said is irrelevant to a bill that dictates military policy.” See also, Trump vetoes defense bill, teeing up holiday override votes in Congress, The Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian, Wednesday, 23 December 2020: “President Trump made good Wednesday on his repeated threats to veto a $741 billion defense spending bill, setting up what is expected to be the first successful veto override of his presidency during his last weeks in office. The impending rebuke, coming on the heels of his decisive election loss, threatens to end the White House tenure he promised would be full of ‘winning’ instead in stinging defeat. The near-certainty that both the House and Senate will override Trump’s veto is also a harbinger of a similar fate awaiting the president if he tries to veto a pending bill to fund the government and address the coronavirus crisis, which he hinted this week he might do.”

A President Unhappy, Unleashed, and Unpredictable, The New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Wednesday, 23 December 2020: “With four weeks left in President Trump’s term, he is at perhaps his most unleashed — and, as events of the past few days have demonstrated, at the most unpredictable point in his presidency. He remains the most powerful person in the world, yet he is focused on the one area in which he is powerless to get what he wants: a way to avoid leaving office as a loser. He spends his days flailing for any hope, if not of actually reversing the outcome of the election then at least of building a coherent case that he was robbed of a second term. When he has emerged from his relative isolation in recent days, it has been to suggest out of the blue that he would try to blow up the bipartisan stimulus package, driving a wedge through his party in the process, and to grant clemency to a raft of allies and supporters, mostly outside the normal Justice Department process. On Wednesday, he vetoed a defense bill backed by most of his party. He has otherwise sequestered himself in the White House, playing host to a cast of conspiracy theorists and hard-core supporters who traffic in ideas like challenging the election’s outcome in Congress and even invoking martial law, seeking to give some of them government jobs.”

Despite Trump’s intense hunt for voter fraud, officials in key states have so far identified just a handful of cases resulting in criminal charges, The Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman, Jon Swaine, and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Wednesday, 23 December 2020: “In Pittsburgh, the police department this year received 10 complaints of possible fraudulent voting in the November election. Eight of those cases have already been closed without charges or findings of wrongdoing. Wisconsin officials have charged one woman with voter fraud — a resident of suburban Milwaukee accused of attempting to cast a ballot in the name of her partner, who died in July. In Michigan, two people have been charged with fraud, both accused of forging the names of their own daughters to obtain or cast a ballot. After an intense hunt by President Trump’s allies to surface voting irregularities in this year’s election, law enforcement agencies in six key swing states targeted by the president have found just a modest number of complaints that have merited investigation, according to cases tracked by state officials. So far, only a handful of cases have resulted in criminal charges alleging wrongdoing — some of them against Republican voters aiming to help Trump, according to officials, including a man charged Monday with trying to cast a ballot in Pennsylvania for the president in the name of his deceased mother. The tiny number of incidents further undercuts Trump’s barrage of false allegations that there was widespread manipulation of the vote — claims that continue to be echoed by many Republican officials, including some who acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden’s victory but assert that fraud was prevalent.”

Trump White House staffers receive conflicting messages about their departure. Staffers were first told that they ‘will start departing’ on the week of Jan. 4. They were later told to disregard the memo. Politico, Quint Forgey and Daniel Lippman, Wednesday, 23 December 2020: “Conflicting internal memos created confusion inside the White House on Wednesday about when staffers in the Executive Office of the President should begin preparing to leave work ahead of the transition next month. In an email Wednesday morning from the White House Management Office, EOP staffers were instructed to ‘please disregard’ an earlier memo that had been sent Tuesday informing them that they ‘will start departing’ on the week of Jan. 4. Both messages were obtained by POLITICO. The Tuesday memo also included information pertaining to outgoing employees’ payroll, benefits, sick leave, records, ethics debriefing and security clearance. Staffers were notified that they would receive a ‘comprehensive checklist’ in the coming days and be directed to ‘take inventory of your office space.’… The initial White House communication sent Tuesday had contradicted the ongoing public effort by President Donald Trump and his top aides to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election. By Wednesday morning, the White House Management Office had advised in its new email that ‘updated information will be shared in the coming days.'”


Thursday, 24 December 2020, Day 1,434:


Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Thursday, 24 December 2020: Southern States Are Facing an Explosion of Virus Cases, The New York Times, Thursday, 24 November 2020:

  • Six states in the South are overwhelmed by virus cases after dodging the fall surge.

  • A few N.Y.C. hospitals fumble the vaccine rollout, with lower-risk workers cutting in line.

  • Calling on Yankee grit, New England governors urge residents to be cautious ‘a little bit longer.’

  • Iran gets clearance to buy vaccine, despite sanctions.

  • U.S. inoculations are moving more slowly than expected, with 1 million vaccinated so far.

  • Don’t trust a drop in coronavirus case numbers over the next week.

  • Singapore Airlines rolls out a new digital health passport for passengers.

  • U.S. pastors are trying to reconcile the hope of Christmas with a desolate year.

Other significant developments are included in this article.

Some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, 24 December 2020: Experts believe vaccines will still work against new coronavirus variants, The Washington Post, Antonia Noori Farzan, Erin Cunningham, Paulina Firozi, Paulina Villegas, Ruby Mellen, Hannah Denham, Lateshia Beachum, and Meryl Kornfield, Thursday, 24 December 2020: “Coronavirus mutations identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Nigeria may be provoking alarm, but infectious-disease experts are optimistic the new variants are still vulnerable to newly authorized vaccines, which could be rapidly reprogrammed to remain effective. As of 7 p.m. on Christmas Eve, more than 18.6 million coronavirus cases and 321,000 fatalities have been reported in the United States since February, according to Washington Post tracking data.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

  • House Republicans blocked an effort by House Democrats to approve $2,000 stimulus payments for millions of Americans — a measure President Trump has demanded be added to an economic relief package before he will sign it.
  • The Trump administration and Pfizer have reached a deal for the pharmaceutical giant to provide 100 million additional coronavirus vaccine doses during the spring and summer, averting the possibility of a shortfall.
  • Although Americans were warned to avoid holiday travel, the Transportation Security Administration screened nearly 1.2 million people at airport checkpoints in the United States on Wednesday. That volume, officials say, marks the one-day high since the coronavirus pandemic began sweeping across the country in March.
  • China and Brazil joined dozens of other nations in suspending flights from Britain over a new variant of the coronavirus that health experts say is far more transmissible.
  • Mexico became the first country in Latin America to start vaccinating people against covid-19.
  • NORAD, which watches the airspace over the U.S. and Canada, says it’s tracking the movements of ‘Santa’ for the 65th year.

Answering Trump, Democrats Try and Fail to Jam $2,000 Payments Through House, The New York Times, Emily Cochrane and Luke Broadwater, Thursday, 24 December 2020: “The fate of $900 billion in pandemic aid will remain in limbo over the Christmas break after House Democrats tried and failed on Thursday to more than triple the size of relief checks, then adjourned the House until Monday, when they will try again. President Trump’s implicit threat on Tuesday to reject a relief compromise that overwhelmingly passed both chambers unless lawmakers agreed to raise the bill’s $600 direct payment checks to $2,000 has continued to roil Congress while rattling an already teetering economic recovery.”

For a Defeated President, Pardons as an Expression of Grievance. President Trump’s grants of clemency to convicted liars, corrupt congressmen and child-killing war criminals are a way to lash out at a system that he believes has treated him and his friends unfairly. The New York Times, Peter Baker, Thursday, 24 December 2020: “The statement announcing the latest raft of presidential pardons was officially attributed to the White House press secretary, but it bristled with President Trump’s own deep-seated grievances. His friend and longtime adviser Roger J. Stone Jr., the statement said, ‘was treated very unfairly’ by prosecutors. His former campaign chairman Paul Manafort ‘is one of the most prominent victims of what has been revealed to be perhaps the greatest witch hunt in American history.’ In complaining about ‘prosecutorial misconduct,’ though, Mr. Trump seemed to be talking as much about himself as his allies. In the flurry of 49 pardons and commutations issued this week, he granted clemency to a host of convicted liars, crooked politicians and child-killing war criminals, but the through line was a president who considers himself a victim of law enforcement and was using his power to strike back.”

Behind Trump Clemency, a Case Study in Special Access, The New York Times, Kenneth P. Vogel, Eric Lipton, and Jesse Drucker, Thursday, 24 December 2020: “Philip Esformes acquired a $1.6 million Ferrari and a $360,000 Swiss watch and traveled around the United States on a private jet, a spending spree fueled by the spoils from what federal prosecutors called one of the largest Medicare fraud cases in history. ‘Philip Esformes is a man driven by almost unbounded greed,’ Denise M. Stemen, an agent in the F.B.I.’s Miami field office, said last year after Mr. Esformes, 52, a nursing home operator, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the two-decade scheme that involved an estimated $1.3 billion worth of fraudulent claims. That prison term ended suddenly this week, when President Trump commuted what remained of Mr. Esformes’s sentence. His rapid path to clemency is a case study in how criminals with the right connections and resources have been able to cut through normal channels and gain the opportunity to make their case straight to the Trump White House.”

Trump wields pardon power as political weapon, rewarding loyalists and undermining prosecutors, The Washington Post, Toluse Olorunnipa and Josh Dawsey, Thursday, 24 December 2020: “Among the dozens of people who received pardons from President Trump this week were several who lied to investigators and obstructed a federal probe into the president’s links to Russia. Some had personal connections to Trump or his most loyal backers. A handful were Republican lawmakers rewarded for fealty to the president after betraying the public trust. Others abused their authority in more violent ways, killing or injuring unarmed civilians. Taken together, the rogues’ gallery of criminals receiving clemency this week showcased Trump’s willingness to exert raw political power for his own personal gain, handing out favors to friends at a time when he is seeking GOP support for his flailing bid to reverse his election loss. In a process White House aides describe as ad hoc, many of the pardon seekers ended up on the president’s radar after conservative activists, television commentators or other friends of Trump made personal appeals on their behalf.”

Giuliani told to preserve all records as lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems warn legal action is ‘imminent,’ CNN Politics, Kaitlan Collins, Thursday, 24 December 2020: “A defamation law firm representing Dominion Voting Systems has sent letters to White House counsel Pat Cipollone and President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani instructing them to preserve all records related to the company at the center of Trump’s conspiracy theories and warning Giuliani that legal action is ‘imminent.’ Through two well-known defamation attorneys, Dominion Voting Systems sent letters to Cipollone and Giuliani Tuesday, demanding Giuliani stop making ‘defamatory claims against Dominion’ and ensure there is ‘no confusion about your obligation to preserve and retain all documents relating to Dominion and your smear campaign against the company.’ The attorneys told Cipollone their preservation request is vast and includes conversations White House officials had with attorneys like Giuliani or Sidney Powell regarding Dominion.”