Headlines: November 10, 2020
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A majority of Republican Senators are refusing to accept Joe Biden’s presumptive win of the electoral college and acquiescing to Donald Trump’s refusal to concede. As of Monday evening the only GOP Senators to have acknowledged Biden’s win were Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski. In remarks on Tuesday morning Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this. However four years ago when Mr. Trump won the electoral college vote in razor thin margins in key states, McConnell wasted no time in saying just days after that election that the results were, “Clearly an indication the American people would like to try something new.” Trump and his allies are claiming the election was rigged and have legally challenged the results. When asked by reporters to provide evidence of the voter fraud that she and others have repeatedly alluded to White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany could not name a single one. On Monday, McEnany’s claims of voter fraud sounded so dubious that even Fox News cut away from her remarks in disgust.
On Monday Attorney General William Barr handed federal prosecutors the authority to investigate claims of voter fraud, giving political weight to Trump’s outlandish assertions. The move is typical for Barr who has politicized his office for Trump’s benefit. The move was so egregious that Richard Pilger, a man the New York Times described as, “a career prosecutor in the department’s Public Integrity Section who oversaw voting-fraud-related investigations,” has now resigned, presumably in protest. Joining the partisan war, Republican State Attorneys General are also signing on to help Trump after a group of them asked the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge a lower court ruling extending the mail-in ballot deadline. Some lawyers at the firms representing the Trump legal challenges are now reportedly uneasy over being part of an obviously politicized effort designed to erode trust in U.S. elections.
Emily Murphy, a Trump appointee and the head of the General Services Administration, is still refusing to sign a letter formally authorizing the transition of power to Biden. There are national security implications over Murphy’s refusal as Biden and his team have not been privy to presidential daily briefings or classified information. A bi-partisan group of former Homeland Security secretaries signed an open letter saying that Trump’s, “legal claims cannot and must not prevent the transition process from beginning.”
In Georgia where an official winner has still not been declared and where there are two Senate runoff races scheduled for January, there is major infighting within the GOP as state officials pushed back against Trump’s claims of voter fraud. The two Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler who will face the runoffs have asked Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to resign saying he mismanaged the election. But Raffensperger said, “That is not going to happen.” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution explained that the Senators’ move, “was a brazen effort to appease Trump, who has falsely claimed electoral fraud despite no evidence of any wrongdoing as he and his supporters try to discredit Biden.” The AJC’s reporters wrote, “We’re told the president and his top allies pressured the two Republican senators to take this step, lest he tweet a negative word about them and risk divorcing them from his base ahead of the consequential runoff.” Republican official Gabriel Sterling who manages the state’s voting system dismissed the concerns of the two senators and President Trump saying that claims of widespread voter fraud were, “fake news” and “disinformation,” “[h]oaxes and nonsense.” Sterling said, “Don’t buy into these things. Find trusted sources.”
In other news, arguments were heard in the Supreme Court on Tuesday in the case against the Affordable Care Act. Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who was President Barack Obama’s solicitor general defended the case on behalf of the Democrat-controlled House. He said to justices, “In view of all that transpired in the past decade, the litigation before this court, the battles in Congress, the profound changes in our health-care system, only an extraordinarily compelling reason could justify judicial invalidation of this law at this late date.” The Republican Party has worked feverishly for a decade to overturn the healthcare law without offering an alternative other than returning to the pre-Obamacare normal when millions more Americans than now were uninsured or underinsured. Remarks by Justices John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh signal their willingness to leave the law intact. Meanwhile President elect Joe Biden gave a speech defending the ACA on Tuesday.
Lawyers who had been tasked by the government to locate the parents of 545 immigrant children separated by the Trump administration now say the number is higher. It turns out there are 666 children, and nearly 20 percent of them were under the age of 5 when they were first ripped out of their parents’ care. While Trump claimed during the last Presidential debate that his office was working hard to reunite the children with their parents, in truth the government appears to be doing nothing. The lawyer representing the children has written to the Justice Department saying, “we would appreciate the government providing any available updated contact information, or other information that may be helpful in establishing contact for all 666 of these parents.” And, the Guatemalan Migration Institute has released a report showing that since the pandemic began, the U.S. has deported about 1,400 unaccompanied minors to Guatemala using the virus as justification.
The former head of the Food and Drug Administration Scott Gottlieb warned that the pandemic is, “about to explode” across the United States as massive numbers of new infections are documented each day and more than 10 million infections have been reported. Dr. Michael Osterholm echoed this assessment saying, “We are about to enter COVID hell.” Osterholm is a renowned infectious diseases expert and a member of Joe Biden’s newly formed Coronavirus Task Force member. On Monday there were nearly 60,000 hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients across the U.S. – the largest number at any given time. While Health and Human Services secretary Alex Azar said that there would be a general vaccination program by the Spring, Biden has warned that the vaccine approval process must be guided by science and not politics.
In international news, Peru’s president Martín Vizcarra has just been impeached by his Congress and faces a vote to remove him from office. A minority of Peruvians supported the impeachment and some are calling it a coup.
Armenia has accepted an agreement with Azerbaijan brokered by Russia in the violent conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the New York Times, “Under the deal, the warring sides were to halt fighting and prepare for the peacekeepers’ arrival.”
And finally, senior Palestinian negotiator Saab Erekat has died of the coronavirus. Mr. Erekat was a prominent voice for Palestinian independence and was a confidante of Palestinian Authority leaders Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas.