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Biden’s margin of victory widens as Trump’s subversion efforts grow more frantic



Overturning elections sounds like the stuff of secret deals in smoke-filled rooms, but President Donald Trump’s not even trying to hide his effort to subvert the results of the election as President-elect Joe Biden’s margin widens to more than 6 million votes.

Trump’s efforts to deny Biden the White House traveled from the courts to state legislatures on Friday with Trump’s personal reception with Republican lawmakers from Michigan — and their counterparts in Pennsylvania may be next on the list.
But there were signs, even among Republicans, that Trump’s efforts need some evidence.

“As legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election,” Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield said in a joint statement after their meeting at the White House.

Importantly, they acknowledged there is no actual evidence of wrongdoing, a blow to a President and his allies who’ve been peddling baseless claims about fraud.

“Allegations of fraudulent behavior should be taken seriously, thoroughly investigated, and if proven, prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And the candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan’s electoral votes. These are simple truths that should provide confidence in our elections,” the Michigan lawmakers said.

Another blow for Trump came on Friday in Georgia, where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the paperwork that officially grants the state’s 16 electoral votes to Biden. A federal judge on Thursday had rejected a last-ditch lawsuit that tried to block certification, and Biden’s victory was certified Friday afternoon by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican.

Other setbacks came in Nevada, where a district judge on Friday denied a request brought by a conservative activist to halt the certification next week of the state’s election results — which show Biden leading by more than 33,000 votes — and in Wisconsin, where elections officials in the Democratic stronghold of Dane County rejected requests from the Trump campaign to throw out tens of thousands of absentee ballots on Friday as the state kicked off its partial presidential recount.

Testing out loopholes
To succeed, Trump would need to bulldoze the Electoral College system. But for all the angst he’s sparked about a coup, the President doesn’t seem to have a plan so much as a shameless sense of entitlement to the White House. What he’s doing is exploiting loopholes and prying at technicalities to see if any of them will give.

He’s clearly trying to generate the heat and noise he craves. But he’s also casting about for an unexpected opening, as he’s done so many times before.
Trump refused to take questions at the White House Friday at what he had falsely billed a “press conference,” where he discussed prescription drug prices and gave a business-as-usual veneer to the democratic subversion he’s orchestrating from the Oval Office and the raging pandemic he appears to be largely ignoring. The appearance came just as Covid hospitalizations and new daily cases hit a record again and news emerged that his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has tested positive. Cases to continue to climb in Congress, too, with Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida — a staunch Trump ally — becoming the latest to test positive.

Trump skipped a special side-conference focused on the coronavirus pandemic on Saturday during the Group of 20 summit, the opening session of which he spent tweeting before going to play golf at his Virginia club.

Perhaps in a brief moment of reality on Friday, Trump appeared to acknowledge his impending departure from the White House, implying that it will be up to the new administration to maintain the drug pricing rules he was announcing. But he quickly repeated during the same lie that he won the election, despite the results, and he promised, “We’ll find that out.”

What he meant was this: If he can delay certification, whether in Michigan or Pennsylvania or another Biden-won state with a Republican-run legislature, then he can maybe lean on lawmakers to appoint pro-Trump slates of presidential electors.

That’s why Trump met with the Michigan GOP lawmakers on Friday. He’d need to turn them and a majority of the Michigan statehouse into accomplices if his effort is to succeed, after previous legal attempts all failed. Trump’s top campaign attorneys — Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis — did not attend the meeting after Giuliani’s son, who works at the White House, tested positive for Covid-19. Also not in attendance: Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, who is from Michigan.

But Michigan’s just the first part of Trump’s puzzle. Biden has 306 of the 538 available electoral votes, which means Trump would need to find a way to claw back 37 to bring Biden under the 270 normally needed to win. So he’d need to poach votes in at least three states where a majority of voters said Biden should be President.

The clear focus by the White House is on Michigan (16 electoral votes), Wisconsin (10 electoral votes) and Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes).

Overturning the results of one state’s election would be brazen and horrible enough. Overturning three would be a macabre triple Lindy.

That doesn’t mean Trump won’t try. Two sources tell CNN there are discussions currently underway with the President about inviting Republican state legislators from Pennsylvania to the White House. It’s not clear if those invitations have been extended yet, but Trump has expressed interest in doing so as he tries to insert himself into the vote certification process.

The election certification deadline for both Michigan and Pennsylvania is Monday, so the plotting will have to move into overdrive if it’s to be anything more than a delusional sideshow.

One state is off the map, though, with Georgia’s Republican governor certifying the election results after his Republican secretary of state formalized the fact that Biden won, very narrowly. Every small normally procedural step is under scrutiny during this strange time, and these Republicans were true to the democratic result.

Legal experts have made clear that it would be incredibly difficult for Trump to hack any path from his current deficit to a second term.
For starters, they’ve pointed out that if Trump can get electoral votes thrown out or contested so that they’re not approved in Congress, it changes the 270 threshold and doesn’t necessarily gain Trump ground.

As Michael Morley, a professor of election law at Florida State University and a member of National Task Force on Election Crises, said, “In short, under any remotely plausible scenario, the election will be settled in the Electoral College without triggering a contingent election in the House.”
Read the fine print
As his effort to stay in the White House becomes more frantic, Trump’s continuing to ask for more money.
But as CNN’s Fredreka Schouten notes, donors need to read the fine print of the solicitation, in which Trump’s political team says it has upped to 75% the share of the money that goes to Trump’s leadership PAC, Save America. It had been a 60% cut last week.

This money is not primarily geared at Trump’s legal efforts, but rather could fund Trump’s post-presidential political efforts.
That Trump’s adviser and aides are tacitly eyeing what comes next is not news, but the extent of his efforts to gum things up and make things more difficult for Biden continues to become clear.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, for instance, is defending a decision to claw back billions the government had given the Federal Reserve to help American small businesses. It’s a program more easily ended than spun back up. And while the move certainly creates political headaches for Biden, it’ll also have a negative impact on everyday Americans still living in a pandemic.

Biden moves forward with his Cabinet
Even if Trump continues to block a formal transition, Biden is carrying forward with his own preparations to take office. On Friday, his 78th birthday, he met in Wilmington, Delaware, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer.

What they’ll be able to accomplish on Capitol Hill and who Biden will be able to place in his Cabinet depends very much on who wins the twin Senate runoffs in Georgia on January 5, the day before Electoral College votes are counted on Capitol Hill.

Biden said he’s already selected his Treasury secretary, but will make the announcement in the coming week.
As Trump’s agitating leads him to darker, more dangerous places, the former vice president’s mandate has only grown. He had won nearly 80 million votes, as of Friday evening, which is more votes than any US presidential candidate in history by a considerable margin. Trump has received nearly 74 million votes.

While most of GOP leadership continues to back Trump’s efforts to contest those results, a growing number of veteran Republicans pushed back on Trump’s tactics and expressed frustration about the transition being held up.

“The President-elect should be receiving the briefings, office space, and access to government resources he needs to be ready to govern on Inauguration Day,” Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who won a competitive reelection earlier this month, said in a statement Friday, adding that states should certify their results as planned.

“There is a right way and a wrong way for the incumbent President to pursue his rights to contest what he perceives as election irregularities,” she said. Trying to pressure state election officials, she added, “undermines the public’s faith in our election results without evidence and court rulings to support the allegations.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who’s retiring at the end of this year, also called for the transition to move forward.
“If there is any chance whatsoever that Joe Biden will be the next president, and it looks like he has a very good chance, the Trump administration should provide the Biden team with all transition materials, resources, and meetings necessary to ensure a smooth transition so that both sides are ready on day one,” Alexander said in a statement Friday.

“That especially should be true, for example, on vaccine distribution,” the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions chairman added.
“I think that it’s time to move on,” 12-term Rep. Kay Granger of Texas said Friday when asked about Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results. “I think it’s time for him to really realize and be very clear about what’s going on.”

Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking member of House GOP leadership, said in a statement on Saturday that if Trump and his lawyers have “genuine evidence” of widespread fraud, “they are obligated to present it immediately in court and to the American people.”

“If the President cannot prove these claims or demonstrate that they would change the election result, he should fulfill his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States by respecting the sanctity of our electoral process,” she added.

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Arizona GOP chair Kelli Ward rejects calls for audit of party elections




Kelli Ward on Friday rejected calls for an audit into her recent reelection as the chair of the Arizona Republican Party and other party races, arguing that the state GOP does not have the structure to review them.

“We don’t have the structure to be able to do an audit,” she said on KFYI’s radio show “The Conservative Circus with James T. Harris,” adding, “But we welcome their input to make elections bigger.”
She added that the structure for an audit “doesn’t exist in our process, our procedures, our bylaws, in statute.”
Ward, one of the most fervent proponents of former President Donald Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him, claimed not only that an audit was not possible, but that calls for it were being pushed as a way to attack her.
She argued that the only people demanding an audit are Sergio Arellano — a Tucson small business owner who challenged Ward for the top state party job — and people who were part of his campaign.
Arellano did not respond to CNN’s request for a response to Ward on Friday.
Last week, Ward secured a second stint as chair of the state party, beating Arellano by 3 percentage points. Arellano on Thursday requested an audit of the votes cast in the race for Arizona GOP chair and other party elections.
“I anticipate the State GOP will do a solid job here and provide election officials around the state with an example of how to conduct a timely audit and how important ballot security and paper backups are,” Arellano said in a statement posted to Facebook.
He claimed that a “reversal of the stated results” in another party race prompted a “number of state committeemen” to raise concerns and reach out to him to ask that he request an audit. Sandra Dowling was announced the winner of a bid for Arizona’s 8th congressional district’s member-at-large committee, only to have the win pulled back because of an error.
During the radio interview, Ward went on to attack the media, saying stories about the possible audit were trying to “gin up something that just doesn’t exist” and that “everything was above board” with the election.
Ward’s tenure as chair of the party has been defined by her unwavering support for Trump, having repeatedly backed his maneuvers to overturn the presidential election results, including in Arizona, which Joe Biden won by more than 10,000 votes.
The former vice president became the second Democrat since Harry Truman in 1948 to win Arizona in 2020. In the wake of Biden’s win, Ward lashed out at some Republicans who backed the new President, including Cindy McCain, the late Sen. John McCain’s widow, and former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.

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Senate impeachment trial arguments to start February 9




The second Senate impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is scheduled to begin on February 9 after Senate leaders reached a deal to push it back, giving Trump’s legal team more time to prepare and Senate Democrats a chance to consider Covid-19 legislation and to confirm President Joe Biden’s Cabinet.

House Democrats will formally walk over the single article of impeachment against Trump to the Senate on Monday evening, but the agreement between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will push back the substance of the trial until February. Without an agreement, the trial would have started the afternoon after the article was transmitted to the Senate.
“We have made good progress in our efforts to determine the timing and structure of the impeachment trial of Donald J Trump,” Schumer said Friday evening announcing the trial schedule, saying it would begin the week of February 8.
Under the agreement, the ceremonial functions of the trial will occur next week, with the articles being presented on Monday and senators being sworn in as jurors on Tuesday. Then the trial will pause, while the House impeachment managers and Trump’s legal team exchange pre-trial briefs for two weeks. The final briefs would be due on February 9, allowing the trial itself to begin.
A delay to the impeachment trial also makes sense for Democrats because the trial had threatened to stall the confirmation of Biden’s Cabinet, as well as put a stop to any consideration of another Covid stimulus package, as Senate Republicans said Friday they would not allow the Senate to confirm nominees at the same time the trial is going on. The trial’s timing had been one of several logistical hurdles the Senate is tackling amid broader negotiations between Schumer and McConnell over how the 50-50 Senate will be governed.
McConnell had proposed delaying the trial until early February, arguing that Trump’s legal team should be given ample time to prepare after the House’s swift impeachment of Trump for “incitement of insurrection” earlier this month. The timeline Schumer announced Friday evening is one week earlier that what McConnell had proposed, but the Kentucky Republican’s team praised the agreement Friday.” This is a win for due process and fairness,” said McConnell spokesman
The length of the trial is still an open question and will depend both on whether the House impeachment managers seek to call witnesses and the length of senators’ questions for the legal teams. But sources say most believe the trial will be shorter than the three-week 2020 impeachment trial for Trump.
The timing for the trial had remained unsettled on Friday morning as the negotiations continued between Senate leaders. On Friday morning, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would transmit the impeachment article to the Senate on Monday, in effect setting a deadline for the Senate to cut a deal on the trial timing.
“We are respectful of the Senate’s constitutional power over the trial and always attentive to the fairness of the process, noting that the former president will have had the same amount of time to prepare for trial as our Managers,” Pelosi said Friday. “Our Managers are ready to begin to make their case to 100 Senate jurors through the trial process.”
Republicans made clear Friday that Biden’s agenda would have been frozen until the Senate finished the trial, had it taken place next week.
“We won’t be doing any confirmations, we won’t be doing any Covid-19 relief, we won’t be doing anything else other than impeaching a person who’s not even president,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of Senate GOP leadership.
Cornyn said Republicans haven’t given consent to bifurcate the trial days to take up nominations during the trial. “No, it’s not gonna happen,” he said.
In order to convict Trump, Democrats need a two-thirds majority, meaning at least 17 Republicans would have to vote to convict Trump, assuming that all 50 Democrats do. Ten House Republicans joined with Democrats to impeach.
Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, considered a swing GOP vote, said Friday that the process “has to be fair.”
“My thought process is to see what happens as this unfolds,” she said. “You know, we learned this morning that Speaker Pelosi is going to transmit the article on Monday. As I understand, right now, there hasn’t been an agreed-to schedule on the pre-trial. I think what McConnell laid down was eminently reasonable, in terms of making sure that we got process. Got to have process and the process has to be fair. So yeah, so we’ve got to get started, I guess.”
The Biden administration has publicly taken a hands-off approach to the impeachment process has publicly taken a hands-off approach to the impeachment process. Biden has never had a strong appetite for impeaching Trump, advisers say, but he also has little desire for allowing the Senate trial to drag out any longer than necessary.
“We need to move past this,” a Biden official told CNN. “The only way for that to happen is for the trial to begin.”
But Biden said at a White House announcement Friday that he saw the upside to waiting on the trial. “The more time we have to get up and running and meet these crises, the better,” he said.

‘It will be a full trial’

A faction of Senate Republicans has argued that the impeachment trial would be unconstitutional because Trump has already left office. It’s an argument that Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, has suggested Trump’s legal team should adopt.
“I think it’s obvious that the post-presidential impeachment has never occurred in the history of the country for a reason, that it’s unconstitutional, that it sets a bad precedent for the presidency and it continues to divide the nation,” Graham said Friday.
But Schumer pushed back on that argument, noting that both liberal and conservative legal scholars have said there is precedent for an impeachment trial of a former official.
“The Senate will conduct a trial of the impeachment of Donald Trump,” Schumer said. “It will be a full trial. It will be a fair trial. But make no mistake, there will be a trial, and when that trial ends, senators will have to decide if they believe Donald John Trump incited the insurrection against the United States.”
McConnell said Friday that the Senate should give Trump a “full and fair process” to mount his impeachment defense.
“This impeachment began with an unprecedentedly fast and minimal process over in the House. The sequel cannot be an insufficient Senate process that denies former President Trump his due process or damages the Senate or the presidency itself,” McConnell said. “Senate Republicans strongly believe we need a full and fair process where the former president can mount a defense and the Senate can properly consider the factual, legal, and constitutional questions at stake.”

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‘QAnon Shaman’ Jake Angeli charged over pro-Trump riots




A prominent follower of the baseless conspiracy theory QAnon has been charged over the US Capitol riots.

Jacob Anthony Chansley, known as Jake Angeli, is in custody on charges including violent entry and disorderly conduct.

Mr Chansley, who calls himself the QAnon Shaman, is allegedly the man pictured with a painted face, fur hat and horns inside Congress on Wednesday.

Donald Trump faces another impeachment charge for his role in the unrest.

Democrats accuse the president of encouraging the riots, in which five people died.

The FBI has been appealing to the public to help bring the assailants to justice.

Mr Chansley has not commented publicly on the charges.

A statement from the federal attorney for Washington DC said: “It is alleged that Chansley was identified as the man seen in media coverage who entered the Capitol building dressed in horns, a bearskin headdress, red, white and blue face paint, shirtless, and tan pants.

“This individual carried a spear, approximately 6 feet in length, with an American flag tied just below the blade.”

The statement said police had also detained a man from Florida believed to have been photographed carrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern from the House of Representatives chamber.

Adam Johnson, 36, is being held on charges including one count of theft of government property and one count of violent entry.

Also among those charged is West Virginia lawmaker, Derrick Evans. He is alleged to have posted a video of himself online, standing outside the building with Trump supporters, and then going inside.

He was arrested on Friday and is also accused of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol Grounds, the Department of Justice statement said.

More than a dozen people have now been charged in offences related to the assault on the Capitol building. They include an Alabama man allegedly found with 11 Molotov cocktails near the unrest.

Mr Trump is due to leave office in 11 days. Democrats in the House of Representatives plan to introduce an article of impeachment against him on Monday, for “incitement of insurrection”.

A White House spokesperson said impeaching the president at this late stage would only further divide the country.

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