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What Matters: Welcome to the transition


GSA administrator won’t “ascertain” Biden win, blocks transition — The GSA administrator, a Republican named Emily Murphy, has the power of “ascertainment,” which means to acknowledge a candidate has won before results are officially verified and disburse federal funds and office space to the incoming administration.

Usually these funds are disbursed right away. But one case — 2000, when it took a month for George W. Bush to be declared the winner — the process took longer.

The federal government is run by an army of bureaucrats who serve in Republican and Democratic administrations. But it’s led by political appointees. And there’s a legal process that’s supposed to help make this as seamless as possible — specifically, the Presidential Transition Act of 1963.

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign continues to say the election is not over, even as their multi-front legal war doesn’t seek to overturn actual vote totals.

Biden will focus on Covid. He’s getting help from a Trump whistleblower. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris got a coronavirus briefing Monday and Biden briefly addressed reporters.

Biden again implored people to wear masks. He’s previously said he’ll work with governors and mayors to encourage mask usage.

“It doesn’t matter who you voted for; where you stood before Election Day,” Biden said Monday. “It doesn’t matter your party, your point of view. We could save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months. Not Democrat or Republican lives — American lives.”

Read here about Biden’s approach to Covid

Among Biden’s advisers is Rick Bright, who was fired from the Trump administration and registered as a whistleblower, saying he was pushed out for raising concerns about the approach to Covid under Trump.

Biden’s other advisers:

  • former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy
  • former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David Kessler
  • Yale University’s Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith
  • Dr. Luciana Borio, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations
  • Dr. Zeke Emanuel, one of the architects of the Affordable Care Act and an ex-Obama health adviser.

Biden’s team has not yet approached Dr. Deborah Birx, who has worked with Trump’s Covid task force and wants to continue in government service.

Related: The US passed 10 million Covid cases Monday.

: Trump, fired by voters, fires his own defense secretary

Trump’s not yet willing to admit he was fired by voters, but he was more than happy to fire his secretary of defense on Monday.

Sure, he was frustrated by Mark Esper’s unwillingness to use the US military against American protesters, and they disagreed on policy.

But Trump’s move, which may have made a President who is losing his power feel briefly powerful, only adds to the perception that the US leader is flailing his way to the exit.

It does not appear that Trump has the ability to fire, say, Dr. Anthony Fauci, as he’s previously suggested, but he could send FBI Director Christopher Wray packing and had already been considering firing Wray, according to The Washington Post.

Wray’s term currently lasts until 2027, so firing him would simply hand the appointment to Biden unless Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell conspire to push someone else through.

Cabinet officials and political appointees will be looking for work in January, although the head of the White House personnel office has, according to CNN reporting, made it clear he’ll fire anyone early who he hears has been looking for a job. Read more about that and everything else that’s going on inside the Trump West Wing.
In other news about Trump aides, HUD Secretary Ben Carson has contracted Covid, after appearing maskless at Trump campaign events in the lead-up to Election Day. So has David Bossie, the adviser overseeing the Trump campaign’s legal challenges, according to CNN’s Kaitlan Collins and Kate Bennett.

They are the latest in the string of Trump officials, including White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, to come down with the disease at the end of the campaign.

: What happens to Trumpism?

Trump may not be President much longer, but Trumpism is probably here to stay, in some form or another, after more than 70 million people voted for the guy.

If you were expecting a”return to normalcy,” you may be shocked.

Just a handful of Republican senators have congratulated Biden on his win, which is either evidence of pique within the party at having been defeated, or, more likely, evidence that Republican officeholders aren’t yet sure what kind of power Trump will continue to hold in the party once his time in actual power is over.

Of the Republican senators who congratulated Biden, one voted that Trump should be removed from office (Mitt Romney), while another voted Trump’s Supreme Court nominee (Susan Collins) and a third voted against him on Obamacare (Lisa Murkowski).

Bottom line: Trump’s not yet ready to move on from the White House. Republicans aren’t yet ready to move on from Trump.

Here’s what Michelle Obama said on Instagram: “Let’s remember that this is just a beginning. It’s a first step. Voting in one election isn’t a magic wand, and neither is winning one. Let’s remember that tens of millions of people voted for the status quo, even when it meant supporting lies, hate, chaos, and division. We’ve got a lot of work to do to reach out to these folks in the years ahead and connect with them on what unites us.”

5 key segments of Trumpism — The strains of Trump’s coalition are held together in part by the man himself, according to Jeff Goodwin, an NYU sociologist, who is quoted in a story by CNN’s Greg Krieg and Dan Merica.

Goodwin described Trumpism as a “contradictory, unstable amalgam” of five key ideological pieces:

  • Social Conservatism, as seen in Trump’s anti-abortion and anti-LGBT polices;
  • Neoliberal Capitalism, characterized by tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation;
  • Economic Nationalism, which is not inherently right-wing, but can be steered that way, as Trump has;
  • Nativism in the form of anti-immigrant rhetoric;
  • and White Nationalism, underscored by the President’s refusal to disavow racist groups like the Proud Boys.

Goodwin: “A large part of Trumpism’s appeal is Trump’s personal appeal to a lot of people — as a celebrity, as a crass speaker of truth, as these people see him, someone who doesn’t mince words, someone who really tells it like it is. He’s figured things out, he’s a billionaire and he knows how the system works,” Goodwin said. “All these elements of Trump’s personality and character seem to have a lot of appeal to a big segment of the population. But I don’t know if there is Trumpism without Trump.”

Trump 2.0? Trump as a person has followers. But he’s a man, not a movement, which is important. This line from Krieg and Merica is key, for me: Whether there is a politician or celebrity outsider who can harness the fervor in the way Trump did, at least for a few years, is another open question. The President, even after he leaves office, will retain his Twitter account — and with it, the potential to become a GOP kingmaker. Two of his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, have already promised political retribution against Republicans who don’t promote their father’s lies about election fraud.


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