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What Matters: Trump’s effort to steal the election is done


GSA ascertains Biden’s victory. After the Michigan board certified President-elect Joe Biden’s victory there, the Trump-appointed head of the GSA ended her blockade and “ascertained” Biden’s victory, unlocking funds for Biden to pay transition staff and work with the current government. Read more.

Trump tweeted that he let Murphy go ahead, but he will probably continue to grouse and complain and allege wrongdoing where there is none. However, if Michigan’s slate of Democratic electors are seated along with Georgia’s, this thing is mathematically over. The Electoral College meets December 14.

The next administration is taking shape. Biden continues to build out his administration-in-waiting, making clear a large slate of key national security picks who will be charged with protecting American democracy and encouraging democracy worldwide.

The world was waiting on Lansing. Biden’s new diplomats can start their tenure next year by explaining to the world the scene of American democracy live-streamed from Michigan’s capital on Monday — a normally technical state government meeting strangely given huge national importance.

Never before have the arcana, legalese and fine print of American election law been so widely scrutinized as Trump desperately searched for holes and a way to taint or delay results in multiple states.

Bottoms-up America. Monday was, however, a great reminder that in this country, not even the political apparatus behind a hugely powerful US president can influence a state election board.

It was two parts ‘Parks and Rec’ and one part airing of grievances. If you’ve never spent time watching your city, town or town council meeting, this is what it’s like, no matter the subject.

City election officials, county clerks, former Republican canvassers and Michigan legal experts told members of the four-member bipartisan board their duty was to certify the results, allowing audits and challenges to occur in court.

The Michigan GOP argued the results should be delayed to give more review to Wayne County in particular, pushing Trump’s unfounded conspiracy theories. That these insidious claims found an audience in a Republican member of the Michigan canvassing board despite the President’s loss by more than 150,000 votes was the latest ongoing drama of the after-election.

When I stopped watching to write this newsletter, there were more than 500 people waiting to speak and they were limiting each person to 1:30 of speaking time.

Read about the full meeting here.

Final result: The two Democrats and one Republican voted to certify the results. So Trump will have to look for a new loophole. He’s running out of states and he’s running out of options.

Damn the torpedoes. But the longer Trump can keep this going, the more money he can raise from supporters to help fund his next political act. And the more committed followers will sour on the US system. CNN’s Fredreka Schouten explains here.

If you don’t think Trump still holds sway over the GOP and over his supporters, look to the ratings dip at Fox News as he’s continued to vilify the network that for so long seemed like his state TV. And look to the fact that so few Republicans in Congress and elsewhere, still, have acknowledged Biden, although the number is growing.

: Biden’s Cabinet

Still waiting to begin his official transition, Biden has begun filling out his Cabinet in a big way and actually earlier than other previous recent presidents.

Here’s a snapshot:

Secretary of State — Anthony Blinken, longtime Biden adviser and former State official. He helped orchestrate Biden’s not-very-popular and never-implemented partition plan for Iraq. He’s associated with the Iran nuclear deal Trump scuttled.
National Security Adviser — Jake Sullivan, a former Biden adviser who was a top Clinton aide in 2016 and at 43 is relatively young to have the post.
Secretary of Homeland Security — Alejandro Mayorkas, who was born in Cuba, is a former deputy secretary of DHS, and would be the first immigrant to lead the DHS and change course at the agency that was the center of Trump’s hardline policy.
Director of National Intelligence — Avril Haines, a former top CIA official and deputy national security adviser, will also make history if confirmed by the Senate.
Ambassador to the UN — Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a top official in Obama’s state department, is a Black woman and Biden will re-elevate this position to Cabinet rank.
Secretary of Treasury — Janet Yellen, a former Fed chair, would be the first woman in charge of the nation’s finances at Treasury.

That’s a lot of Cabinet pieces. But he’s got a long way to go.

: Thanksgiving dilemma, continued

The New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo did a valuable exercise in which he talked about the difficulty of deciding whether to travel for Thanksgiving.

He talked about how carefully he’s been adhering to social distancing. But then he mapped who he actually comes into contact with. And who they come into contact with. And his bubble was suddenly very big indeed.

But what’s at the end of the story is the most incredible part. Despite proving the point about the bubble and how easily the disease is transmitted and the warnings of the CDC and epidemiologists, Manjoo decided his plans are within the letter of the recommendations — outdoors, a small number of people — and he’ll take the trip.

It appears by travel data and photos of crowded airports that millions of Americans are making this calculation. Let’s hope they’re all being as careful as Manjoo says he’ll be.

: So many people have died

The National Guard has been deployed to help deal with the morgue crisis in El Paso.

I went through some old editions of this newsletter and came across the one from April when the Americans dying of Covid were about to surpass the number of Americans who died in Vietnam.

“The country continues to try to figure out how to process tragic human loss on a wartime scale with the continued and unfathomable economic loss necessary to make sure fewer people die.”

When I wrote that, I would not have believed we’d blow past five times the American dead in Vietnam without seeming to slow down. But we seem to have lost the sense of scale of what’s happened and the number of deaths seems to be accepted

Outside RFK stadium in Washington, DC is a temporary memorial, with little white flags representing the lost American lives.

Even with universal mask wearing, according to the IHME’s least deadly Covid projection, more than 110,000 Americans will die between today and Super Bowl Sunday, on February 21. That’s nearly enough people to fill 65,000-seat Raymond James stadium in Tampa. Twice.


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