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

@LauraClawson

Is Trump Camp Complaining About Rules So They Can Ditch Final Debate?

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Donald Trump is claiming that he will still debate despite the rule change that will cut off the candidates' microphones while their opponent delivers his initial two-minute response to each of the debate's topics. But everything else Trump and his campaign are saying sounds like they're laying the groundwork to back out.

"I will participate," Trump told reporters Monday night. "But it's very unfair that they changed the topics and it's very unfair that again we have an anchor who's totally biased." At his Arizona rally Monday, Trump attacked moderator Kristen Welker as a "radical Democrat" and claimed she had "deleted her entire account," which is false. Trump's campaign manager, Bill Stepien, went further in his whining about the debate.

Stepien touted a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates as "Our letter to the BDC (Biden Debate Commission)." That letter came before the CPD announced that it would mute microphones for portions of the debate in response to Trump's constant interruptions at the first debate, though Stepien knew such a decision was likely coming, writing, "It is our understanding from media reports that you will soon be holding an internal meeting to discuss other possible rule changes, such as granting an unnamed person the ability to shut off a candidate's microphone. It is completely unacceptable for anyone to wield such power, and a decision to proceed with that change amounts to turning further editorial control of the debate over to the Commission which has already demonstrated its partiality to Biden."

Shooooot, here I thought it was generous to Trump that the microphones will only be cut to give each candidate two uninterrupted minutes, leaving Trump the remainder of each 15-minute debate segment to interrupt.

But what did Stepien mean by "other possible rule changes," you ask? What was the first rule change? Well, it wasn't one. Stepien wrote to strongly complain that "We write with great concern over the announced topics for what was always billed as the 'Foreign Policy Debate' in the series of events agreed to by both the Trump campaign and the Biden campaign many months ago." Welker's announced topics include "Fighting COVID-19, American families, Race in America, Climate Change, National Security, and Leadership," Stepien complained, using this as a launching pad to attack Biden on foreign policy.

Except this debate was never billed as a foreign policy debate. It's true that in past years, the third debate has sometimes focused on foreign policy, but here in 2020, the CPD's original announcement of debate formats and moderators said of the third debate, "The format for the debate will be identical to the first presidential debate," and the first debate "will be divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes each on major topics to be selected by the moderator."

So even before the CPD finalized the decision to prevent Trump from interrupting for two minutes in each of six segments, so 12 minutes out of a 90-minute debate, Team Trump was falsely complaining that the debate was rigged. No wonder—as a Biden campaign spokesman noted, the Trump campaign is upset "because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous Covid response."

Trump has lost one debate and backed out of one debate. If he goes into this one with the attitude he's showing now—attacking the moderator, attacking the topics, enraged that he can't interrupt for two entire minutes at a time—he's going to lose this one, badly, once again hurting his already weak reelection prospects. So which will it be? Back out and have that be the story, or alienate one of the largest audiences of the entire presidential campaign by showing what kind of person he is?

GOP Judge Smacks Down Trump Campaign In Pennsylvania

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee's efforts to steal the election in Pennsylvania were handed a setback on Saturday by a Trump-appointed judge. The Trump campaign and RNC were trying to block Pennsylvania from having ballot drop boxes, force signature matches between voter registration records and ballots, and pave the way for bringing in an army of nonresident "poll watchers" to intimidate voters.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Ranjan wasn't having it. "While Plaintiffs may not need to prove actual voter fraud, they must at least prove that such fraud is 'certainly impending.' They haven't met that burden. At most, they have pieced together a sequence of uncertain assumptions," he wrote in a 138-page opinion.

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California Republicans Promoting Phony, Illegal Ballot Drop Boxes

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

California Republicans are so concerned about voter fraud that they're flagrantly breaking election laws. They're promoting "official ballot drop off boxes" that are not only not official, they're illegal. Republicans are promoting the "official" drop boxes on social media, with the boxes reportedly located at churches, gun stores, and candidate campaign offices in at least three counties.

Republicans have claimed that the practice is legal under a 2016 California law that allows people to designate a person to drop off their ballots—a benefit to people who have disabilities or are elderly or otherwise might not be able to return their ballots in person. Republicans actually sued to overturn this law, but now they say it allows their unofficial drop boxes. Except it doesn't. Leaving a ballot in an unsecured box does not equal giving it to a designated person.

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Nothing But Bad News For Trump In New Covid-19 Poll

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The United States has learned how much to trust Donald Trump: Just 12 percent of people in a new CNN poll say they trust almost all of what the White House is saying about Trump's health. By contrast, 69 percent said they trust little of what they're hearing from the White House.

People also know how we got to this point: 60 percent disapprove of Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and 63 percent say Trump was irresponsible in his handling of the risk of infection to people around him. Women in particular say Trump was irresponsible.

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Secret Service Agents Furious Over Trump’s Disregard For Their Health And Safety

The Secret Service isn't saying how many of its agents have tested positive for COVID-19 or been forced to quarantine, but in private, agents are angry at Donald Trump's contempt for their health and safety.

"He's never cared about us," one agent told a confidant who in turn told The Washington Post. "This administration doesn't care about the Secret Service," another said in an internal discussion group also reported by the Post. "It's so obvious."

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Debate Commission Reconsidering Rules After Trump’s Appalling Behavior

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

How bad was Tuesday night's debate? So bad that the above-the-fray Commission on Presidential Debates is planning on rule changes for the next debates.

"Last night's debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues," the CPD said in a statement. "The CPD will be carefully considering the changes that it will adopt and will announce those measures shortly."

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How Working Stiffs Might Think About Trump’s $750 Tax Bill

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The $750 in federal income taxes that Donald Trump paid in 2016 and 2017 is an attention-grabbing number—in large part because $750 is a number that a lot of people can wrap their heads around. It's not on the massive scale of federal budget numbers or even of only-for-billionaires expenditures. For people making minimum wage or just above, it may in fact be their annual tax bill. "We're talking about someone who works at a McDonald's, and not someone who is managing it," Joseph Bankman, a tax law expert at Stanford Law School, told The Washington Post. "This is an hourly worker at a fast-food restaurant."

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Cindy McCain Endorses Biden, Cites Trump’s Insulting Attitude Toward Troops

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Cindy McCain, widow of the late Sen. John McCain, formally endorsed Joe Biden for president on Tuesday night, saying she would participate in virtual campaign events and in person when Biden visits her home state of Arizona. McCain's support for Biden doesn't come as an enormous surprise given the video about her husband's relationship with Biden she narrated for the Democratic National Convention, but her plan to be involved in the campaign is another serious step.

"The most important thing that moved me a great deal was talking about troops' being 'losers,'" McCain said of her endorsement. "You know we have children in the military, as did the Bidens." The man who called the troops losers and suckers for getting captured or killed in combat responded with predictable grace.

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Iconic Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Dead At 87, Left A Parting Wish

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one incredibly tough woman. Ginsburg was one of the few members of recent Supreme Court benches who would have been a significant historical figure even absent her time on the nation's highest court, due to her pioneering work in women's legal rights through the 1970s.

In her 80s, as a survivor of two different kinds of cancer, her workouts became legendary, her will to live palpable in what she put herself through. And she knew the stakes of her death, dictating to her granddaughter in the final days of her life the statement: "My most fervent wish is that i I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

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Teacher Who Voted For Trump Takes Her Regrets Public In Union Ad Campaign

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

In 2016, Pennsylvania special education teacher Jane Scilovati voted for Donald Trump, because "I thought he was going to shake up the system." In 2020, she's so committed to not voting for Trump that she appears in an American Federation of Teachers ad against Trump.

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Biden Campaign Invests Heavily To Protect Mail-In Ballots

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Donald Trump is launching an unprecedented attack on the U.S. Postal Service to help boost his own election changes. That needs to be taken very, very seriously—and, Greg Sargent reports, the Biden campaign is doing just that.

The Biden campaign has taken a hard look at what Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major Republican donor, are up to. The conclusion, which other observers have also reached: It's not just the operational changes slowing mail delivery. While those could absolutely have an effect on an election where voting by mail is going to be of unprecedented importance due to the coronavirus pandemic, Trump's ongoing ranting against voting by mail is also a serious problem.

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Attacks On Postal Service Hurt Democracy — And That’s The Point

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Donald Trump continues to both demonize the idea of vote by mail and dismantle the U.S. Postal Service, and it's making a predictable mess. The House Oversight and Reform Committee is calling new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to testify about changes to the Postal Service, but they're letting that testimony wait until September 17, because apparently this isn't super urgent, even though "While these changes in a normal year would be drastic, in a presidential election year when many states are relying heavily on absentee mail-in ballots, increases in mail delivery timing would impair the ability of ballots to be received and counted in a timely manner—an unacceptable outcome for a free and fair election," as committee Chair Carolyn Maloney wrote to DeJoy.

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Hospitals In New Virus Epicenters Are Dangerously Full

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Coronavirus is starting to overwhelm hospitals in the states that have become the new epicenters of the disease. Arizona and Nevada reported their highest levels of hospitalizations (so far) in recent days and, according to Austin, Texas, Mayor Steve Adler, "If we don't change this trajectory, then I am within two weeks of having our hospitals overrun."

Donald Trump, who got us here, said over the weekend that "99 percent" of COVID-19 cases are "totally harmless." Which would likely come as news not just to the more than 130,000 people who have died so far but to the people in those hospitals in danger of being "overrun."

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Coronavirus Spiking In Tulsa As Judge Approves Trump Rally

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos.

Donald Trump's big return to campaign rallies can go ahead, a Tulsa judge said Tuesday in rejecting a bid by Tulsa residents and business owners to block the event as a coronavirus risk. The lawsuit described the plans for an indoor rally in the 19,000-seat BOK Center as "a substantial, imminent, and deadly risk to the community."

Charles Brewster, the attorney who filed the suit, said: "Over the last several days, we were hoping this lawsuit would not be necessary, that the people putting the rally on would listen to reason and understand that such a collection of people in such tight quarters would result in a 'super spreader event.'" But obviously the Trump campaign is not going to listen to reason, and the venue management's position is that "government officials have advised that the campaign rally as planned is consistent with the guidance." Sure, if "the guidance" is wildly irresponsible.Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum is trying to distance himself from the event without actually doing anything to stop it.

"Do I share anxiety about having a full house at the BOK Center? Of course. As someone who is cautious by nature, I don't like to be the first to try anything. I would have loved some other city to have proven the safety of such an event already," he said in a statement.

A Tulsa World editorial called this "the wrong time" and Tulsa "the wrong place" for a big Trump campaign rally, even after Trump changed the rally's date to not coincide with Juneteenth.

In line with rising COVID-19 across the South, Oklahoma set a new state record for infections on Tuesday. Trying to bolster the case for the rally, Mike Pence recently claimed that "Oklahoma has really been at the forefront of our efforts to slow the spread, and, in a very real sense, they flattened the curve. And today, their hospital capacity is abundant. The number of cases in Oklahoma has declined precipitously." But, uh, no. In fact, Tuesday's new record was the third such record in a week's time: "The one-week average is now higher than it was when the outbreak first peaked," a local ABC affiliate reported.

House Republicans Seek To Stonewall Voter Suppression Probe

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Republicans are strongly hinting to state officials that they should stonewall the House Oversight Committee’s investigation into voter suppression. A letter signed by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and other Republicans claims that the investigation raises “serious federalism concerns” and is “partisan.” Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the committee chair, responded forcefully: “With a Democratic President, there was no allegation too small to investigate, but now that Donald Trump is in the White House, there is apparently no scandal too big to ignore.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the chair of the civil rights subcommittee carrying out the investigations into voter suppression in Kansas, Texas, and Georgia, likewise pushed back, citing a “solemn duty” to investigate “state-based assaults on popular democracy like the reported purges of hundreds of thousands of voters and the relocation of municipal polling places outside of municipal boundaries.” And that solemn duty is absolutely within the committee’s rights, Raskin added: “It is obviously within our power under the Supremacy Clause and the Bill of Rights to conduct constitutional oversight in order to protect voters’ rights in the states, resistance by partisan state officials notwithstanding.”

This isn’t the first time House Republicans have tried to get the subjects of Democratic investigations to stonewall. They’ve also been sending letters to drug companies suggesting they not comply with information requests on prescription drug prices.

Those Republicans sure do like to stand up for the little guy, taking sides against voters and people struggling to pay for prescription medications.

IMAGE: Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), ranking member of the House Oversight Committee.