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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

President Donald Trump’s appearance for a so-called “virtual town hall” on Fox News Tuesday to discuss the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic crisis was, as expected, filled with lies, distortions, and petty asides that characterize his favored form of rhetoric.

He’s still unable to treat the situation with the seriousness it requires, and he seems far too eager to abandon the best public health advice as he rushes forward to advocate returning to normal economic activity. Meanwhile, he’s indulging in his own petty feuds and insults to defend an abysmal federal response effort instead of showing the leadership the moment requires.

Here are seven of the most ridiculous parts of the event:

1. Trump tried to goad Dr. Birx into attacking Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Dr. Deborah L. Birx, one of the leading medical experts on the coronavirus task force, tried to give a serious answer explaining why New York City is suffering some of the most severe impacts from the pandemic. But Trump, obsessed with political point-scoring and blame, used the opportunity to get in a dig about Gov. Cuomo. She completely ignored his snide comment.

2. Trump tried to downplay the potential death toll of the coronavirus.

Trump either doesn’t realize that the death toll for the coronavirus could be much more significant than the cost in human life from car accidents or the flu, or he doesn’t care. And he has repeatedly neglected the observation that the timing of the coronavirus outbreak can overwhelm health systems, which may make the morality from nearly all causes worse because it impairs medical treatment.

3. Trump picked a random date to propose resuming normal social relations and business with no clear basis in public health science.

Bloomberg’s Noah Smith explained why this attitude is so misguided.

4. Trump continues to refuse any responsibility for his administration’s botched testing regime.

Trump also claimed that he didn’t call the tests “perfect” — but he did. And in fact, they weren’t perfect. First, many of the tests were rolled out with significant errors that made them unusable. After that problem was fixed, there were far too few tests to meet the country’s demand. The United States may now finally be getting enough tests out, but it’s much too late.

5. Trump bashed governors for requesting life-saving equipment from the federal government.

Trump was particularly peeved at Gov. Cuomo, who said Tuesday that New York will need 30,000 ventilators to deal with the influx of patients. He said the federal government has provided 400 ventilators, and he pleaded for it to produce many more.

6. Trump was far too optimistic about what returning to normal economic activity could achieve.

This is a big mistake. Trump seems to be assuming that there’s some kind of trade-off between public health and the economy. But this is not necessarily so. If the country begins to resume social contact and economic activity too soon, it could make the spread of the virus much worse, and this could be even more damaging for the economy than the initial social distancing measures. Despite Trump’s sudden embrace of the phrase, it’s far from clear that the “cure is worse than the disease.”

7. Trump claimed he made the decision in January to limit travel from China based on “instinct” and said he learned about the coronavirus through media coverage, rather than from the government he oversees. 

Trump has also repeatedly claimed that his initial decision to limit travel from China was extremely controversial. In fact, he received little pushback at the time. And it was far less effective than he claims.

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Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

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Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

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