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The Disintegration of a Presidency Prime Badge

This story from the AP this afternoon, about a Trump political fixer booted from Main Justice, literally banned from the building, is part of a fascinating, much broader and highly significant story. Across the government, the agencies, departments, even in some cases Trump’s own appointees are becoming more resistant to his direction and power. I basically guarantee you that showing this woman the door at the DOJ does not happen before President Trump’s defeat.

We’ve seen this already most clearly at CDC, NIH and FDA. Fauci is back making statements from the White House. Nancy Messonnier, the CDC official who sounded the first real alarm about COVID back in February, suddenly piped up again last week after eight months of silence. The FDA is showing more outward resistance to President Trump’s demands over its vaccine approval process. Scott Atlas suddenly got the boot. But with the health care bureaucracy the process is a bit more complicated because Trump seems largely to have lost interest in COVID after the election. There’s resistance. But aside from his pet issue of emergency approvals for “his” vaccines Trump really doesn’t seem to care about COVID anymore. At the Justice Department and the Census Bureau developments Tierney Sneed has been covering we see the broader story: Donald Trump’s power as President is disintegrating.

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Trump Admin Salts The Earth As Biden Attempts A Transition Prime Badge
This Week in the Swamp: A weekly dive into the muck of the Trump administration.
Where Things Stand: The Squirming Prime Badge
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WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 09: RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel speaks during a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters on November 9, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump campaign and Republican Party officials continued to push theories of voter intimidation, fraud, and illegal votes but were unable to provide proof at the time of the press conference. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Ronna McDaniel

The ginger detachment commences.

And it appears the squirm away from Trumpism will involve quite a lot of calculated political maze navigation for the RNC.

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Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Light Prime Badge

The drama over Trump threatening to fire Bill Barr is so surreal, so absurd, so dark inasmuch as it is really just the pitiful acting out of a terrified, impulsive man raging against the dying of his vast and untrammeled power. We can focus on the craziness of Trump’s turning on Barr, who has abused his office so willingly and fulsomely on Trump’s behalf. But the reality is it simply doesn’t matter. Even that is irrelevant at this point. The administration is over. Barr is just there in a caretaker role. The people have already fired all of them.

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Real Voter Fraud Uncovered Prime Badge

A bizarre, hilarious and maddening story out of Georgia. A Florida Republican lawyer from Bay County, Florida is caught on tape encouraging Florida Republicans to claim phony residence in Georgia to vote in the run-offs. He says he’s registering at the address of his brother who lives in Georgia. When local reporter Nicole Carr asked the lawyer, Bill Price, about the video he said that it was all a joke and that of course he didn’t make a bogus registration at his brother’s address.

But she checked and he had registered. Now Price is being investigated for vote fraud by the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

After the joke excuse didn’t pan out Price apparently changed his story and insisted that he made the fraudulent registrations to prove how susceptible Georgia’s voting system was to fraud.

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Pro-Coup Trumpist Lawyer Lin Wood Seems to be Legit Bonkers Prime Badge
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 03: British diver Vernon Unsworth; L, watches his attorneys; Mark Stephen; R, and L. Lin Wood; C, speaks to members of the media while they arrive at US District Court, Central District of California in Los Angeles, U.S. on December 3, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. The British diver sued the Tesla CEO Elon Musk over calling him "'Pedo Guy" and rapist. (Photo by Apu Gomes/Getty Images)

Here’s something I didn’t know about in the annals of Trumpist mania and bad acting. You’ve probably seen the name Lin Wood come up. From my recollection, prior to his Trumpist incarnation, Wood was what you might call a regionally known celebrity lawyer. He was involved in a lot of high profile cases and was very successful. I don’t know how respected he was as a lawyer per se. And I don’t think he was known for supporting coups or being unhinged or evil.

More recently he was the lawyer for Nicholas Sandmann – the kid from Covington Kentucky involved with that incident with the Native American activist at the Lincoln Memorial – suing media organizations for defamation. He took on the case of alleged terrorist shooter Kyle Rittenhouse with funding from high profile Trump supporter Mike Lindell (the MyPillow guy). And now since the November election he’s been at the forefront of some of the wildest and most lurid pro-Trump fraud conspiracy theories and demands for overthrow of the government.

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Where Things Stand: Georgia Is A Litmus Test Of Trump’s Waning Relevance Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

No matter which way you splice it, Georgia is now all about Trump.

As his rhetoric puts the safety of innocent election workers, and even state officials, at risk, the outcome of the two runoff Senate races in the Peach State will show the value of President Trump’s waning political influence — at least over Republican voters in Georgia.

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Trump’s Refusal To Concede Is Bleeding Into Down-Ballot Races. And The Impact May Be Just As Damaging Prime Badge
For most of those Republicans who are refusing to admit defeat, the races weren’t even close.
And Now A Money for Pardons Scandal Prime Badge

Late this afternoon news broke of a federal investigation into an alleged bribery for pardon scheme targeting the White House. Matt Shuham has the basic details here. You can read the document here.

Let me run down a few initial reactions and clues in the document.

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The Proto-Fascist Cauldron Prime Badge

This situation with Joe DiGenova saying whistleblower (in the informal sense) Chris Krebs should be “taken out at dawn and shot” deserves our attention for a few reasons. The first, of course, is the sheer unacceptability and outrageousness of it. But it’s also a window into the permissive and transgressive far-right/Trumpist ecosystem.

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Acclimating to New Realities Prime Badge

You’ve probably noticed that my posts have been perhaps a bit more reflective than usual in recent days. Biden not only won and Trump is leaving but now Trump gets it and knows he’s leaving, even as he labors to manufacture a narrative in which he won but is being deprived of office by a conspiracy against him. Like TPM Reader MM below, there is a certain relaxing of muscles and tension. This really is over. And despite Trump’s still fairly successful efforts to project a reality in which he remains a presence past his presidency, I suspect it’s really over to a degree greater than we quite yet suspect.

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Where Things Stand: Diverging Realities Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

Not that we needed any more reason to declare it over, but, as of yesterday, all six states where President Trump has attempted to contest the results of the election have finalized their vote counts. Joe Biden was and is and will be the next president.

Yet, even after Wisconsin and Arizona both officially certified the results of their elections yesterday, the Trump campaign filed another lawsuit this morning — this time in Wisconsin. The campaign is alleging “abuse” of absentee ballots, targeting 270,000 ballots.

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Decline and Fall Prime Badge

TPM Reader MM channels some of my recent thinking …

I viewed that priceless video last night, and was delighted and unsurprised to learn that Trump was furious about it. That’s the thing about losing, when a majority hates you: nobody who matters is listening. Raised $170 million on lies? Delighted to see the money well wasted by those who contributed. Trump was politically successful in a restricted, time-limited sense, but a Trump propaganda organization fueled by supporters’ bucks? Money down the toilet, just like every other business enterprise ever undertaken by Trump. Keep the money flowing in! Give more next month!

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Policy Is Always About the Next Election Prime Badge

It’s hard for me to think of a point in American history where an incoming President has faced a greater range of compounding crises with as little freedom of action as Joe Biden will have on January 20th of next year. There is COVID. There is economic calamity COVID created. There is the seemingly more distant but gravely important wrecked international system which portends a rising tide of foreign policy crises and disruptions in trade which has the potential to ramify out for decades into the future.

It is still just possible that Democrats will control the Senate, if they pick up both Senate seats in Georgia. But assuming Republicans hold on, basically no legislation of any significance will be possible and Mitch McConnell will have a stranglehold over staffing and presidential confirmations, not even to mention judges.
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The Slapdowns To Trump’s Bid To Reverse His Defeat Are Getting More Painful Prime Badge
This Week in Voting Rights: A weekly roundup of news on Americans' access to the ballot box.
Where Things Stand: Even The Bare Minimum Isn’t Enough Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.
ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 10: Georgia Governor Brian Kemp speaks during a press conference announcing statewide expanded COVID testing on August 10, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Alas, even the bare minimum enforcement of basic elements of democracy is too much for President Trump.

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There It Is: Enemies of Democracy Prime Badge

On Wednesday I noted how critical it is that Democrats go on offense to protect democracy in this country. This is not only a critical policy imperative. It is also good politics. The critical point, as I argued, is that Democrats need to go on offense now – pushing a broad array of reforms to secure civic democracy in this country – because Republicans will certainly use this election as another excuse to impose further restrictions. And here we have one of the first of what will certainly be many examples.

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Where Things Stand: Even The Tiger King Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

President Trump has been laying the groundwork for years at this point.

Even if he had won the election, he’d probably continue floating it — letting a potential Michael Flynn pardon swing in the breeze while he waits for the right moment to let it drop. Now we’ve reached an hour so ripe with presidential turmoil that he might as well fling a distraction at his base.

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Offense on Democracy Prime Badge

President Trump’s decision to allow the full, formal transition process to move forward signals the end of any real attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. It’s been clear for a while that this effort would fail; now you can be sure of it. The real impact of the blizzard of lies and frivolous lawsuits about voter fraud, however, will be as the premise and predicate for a new round of voter suppression laws Republican legislatures and GOP-appointed judges will try to put into effect starting next year.

We’ve seen this pattern before, as predictable as day follows night.

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Democracy and Accountability Prime Badge

We know that Joe Biden, President-Elect of the United States, has vast expectations for his presidency resting on his shoulders. That challenge grew only greater when it became clear Democrats would likely not control the Senate for the first two years of Biden’s presidency. But beyond specific legislation or executive actions there is something more basic we should focus on – something Democrats have often done poorly at, not least in the presidency of Barack Obama, in which Biden served as Vice President. It is never enough to govern well and trust that voters will reward good governance. It simply never works that way.

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Where Things Stand: Cooperate But Don’t Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

The news out of the GSA last night was obviously newsworthy — the strongest indication yet that President Trump is running out of options to keep his claims of a stolen election afloat.

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Where Things Stand: Ex-GOP National Security Officials Have, Apparently, Had Enough Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing:

Perhaps it’s easier to speak out against President Trump and the flailing, chaotic, dwindling days of his presidency when you’re no longer in an official position.

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Trump’s Faux Coup Gets Weirder As Campaign Vows SCOTUS Bid After PA Slapdown Prime Badge
This Week in Voting Rights: A weekly roundup of news on Americans' access to the ballot box.
The Short, Happy, Bizarre Defenestration of Sidney Powell Prime Badge

There’s an important and clarifying subtext to Team Trump’s decision to jettison Sidney Powell from the zombie campaign’s legal team. Yes, her theories and accusations are terrifyingly demented. But, c’mon … do we think that’s really supposed to be a problem? The issue is the Georgia senate races.

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So What the Hell Happened? Prime Badge

I’m not sure quite what to make of this. Those two Michigan House and Senate leaders who went to visit President Trump at the White House appear to have given Trump an unqualified ‘no’. Indeed, not only do they appear to have given him an unqualified ‘no’ in the joint statement they released after the meeting. But they coupled this with an ask for more COVID relief.

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Where Things Stand: Whispers Of Moving On Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

At least three members of the Trump family inner orbit are looking to a future that might not necessarily involve the chief patriarch being president of the United States.

While the family publicly continues to hype Trump’s dangerous and ridiculous election delegitimization crusade, privately a few have their sights set on their own political futures.

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