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

While the country continues to reel from two mass shootings that claimed the lives of more than 30 people over the weekend, Trump has other things on his mind.

White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley told reporters Tuesday afternoon that Trump has no public events on his schedule for the day because he’s “meeting with staff on a wide range of policies, having conversations in prepping for his trip to these communities.”

Trump is planning to visit El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, later this week — the two cities devastated by deadly shootings, although in his carefully scripted statement Monday, Trump referred to “those who perished in Toledo.”

“This is a very, very serious moment in our country’s history,” Gidley said Tuesday. “This president recognizes the gravity of this moment. You saw that manifest in his speech in the Diplomat Room.”

But as Gidley was insisting to reporters that Trump was focused on, and aware of, the gravity of the moment, Trump was rage-tweeting about Google’s involvement in the 2016 election and accusing it of “very illegal” behavior.

Trump claimed that Google CEO Sundar Pichai assured him “that they didn’t help Crooked Hillary over me in the 2016 Election, and that they are NOT planning to illegally subvert the 2020 Election despite all that has been said to the contrary.”

Trump’s citation for this allegation is Fox host Lou Dobbs, whom Trump frequently quotes on Twitter. Trump also cited Peter Schweizer, the right-wing author of the widely debunked book Clinton Cash, tweeting that Schweizer “stated with certainty that they suppressed negatives stories on Hillary Clinton, and boosted negative stories on Donald Trump. All very illegal. We are watching Google very closely!”

As Matt Gertz of Media Matters noted, Trump’s baseless theories about Google — which he was tweeting about earlier in the morning but for some reason decided to tweet again in the middle of the day — come from watching Dobbs on Fox.

“The Trump-Fox feedback loop is particularly salient in giving the president targets for his ire, and the network’s obsession with tech platform bias has repeatedly resulted in angry Trump tweets,” Gertz explained. “This is at least the third time Trump has responded to Fox segments by tweeting that his administration would take action against Google.”

It’s bad enough that Trump is baselessly accusing companies of “very illegal” behavior just because he saw it on Fox News. But for the White House to insist that Trump is in fact spending his day having conversations that show he understands the “gravity of the moment” — when that is demonstrably not true — is insulting to the American people and to those communities Trump is supposedly thinking about.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

Photo by expertinfantry/ CC BY 2.0

At this moment, the president of the United States is threatening to "throw out" the votes of millions of Americans to hijack an election that he seems more than likely to lose. Donald Trump is openly demanding that state authorities invalidate lawful absentee ballots, no different from the primary ballot he mailed to his new home state of Florida, for the sole purpose of cheating. And his undemocratic scheme appears to enjoy at least nominal support from the Supreme Court, which may be called upon to adjudicate the matter.

But what is even worse than Trump's coup plot — and the apparent assent of unprincipled jurists such as Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh — is the Democratic Party's feeble response to this historic outrage. It is the kind of issue that Republicans, with their well-earned reputation for political hardball, would know how to exploit fully and furiously.

They know because they won the same game in Florida 20 years ago.

During that ultimate legal showdown between George W. Bush and Al Gore, when every single vote mattered, a Democratic lawyer argued in a memorandum to the Gore team that the validity of absentee ballots arriving after Election Day should be challenged. He had the law on his side in that particular instance — but not the politics.

As soon as the Republicans got hold of that memo, they realized that it was explosive. Why? Many of the late ballots the Democrats aimed to invalidate in Florida had been sent by military voters, and the idea of discarding the votes of service personnel was repellent to all Americans. Former Secretary of State James Baker, who was overseeing the Florida recount for Bush, swiftly denounced the Democratic plot against the soldiers, saying: "Here we have ... these brave young men and women serving us overseas. And the postmark on their ballot is one day late. And you're going to deny him the right to vote?"

Never mind the grammar; Baker's message was powerful — and was followed by equally indignant messages in the following days from a parade of prominent Bush backers including retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the immensely popular commander of U.S. troops in the Desert Storm invasion that drove Saddam Hussein's army out of Kuwait. Fortuitously, Schwarzkopf happened to be on the scene as a resident of Florida.

As Jeffrey Toobin recounted in Too Close to Call, his superb book on the Florida 2000 fiasco, the Democrats had no choice but to retreat. "I would give the benefit of the doubt to ballots coming in from military personnel," conceded then-Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Gore's running mate, during a defensive appearance on Meet the Press. But Toobin says Gore soon realized that to reject military ballots would render him unable to serve as commander in chief — and that it would be morally wrong.

Fast-forward to 2020, when many of the same figures on the Republican side are now poised to argue that absentee ballots, which will include many thousands of military votes — should not be counted after Election Day, even if they arrived on time. Among those Republicans is Justice Kavanaugh, who made the opposite argument as a young lawyer working for Bush in Florida 20 years ago. Nobody expects legal consistency or democratic morality from a hack like him, but someone should force him and his Republican colleagues to own this moment of shame.

Who can do that? Joe Biden's campaign and the Democratic Party ought to be exposing the Republican assault on military ballots — and, by the same token, every legally valid absentee ballot — every day. But the Democrats notoriously lack the killer instinct of their partisan rivals, even at a moment of existential crisis like this one.

No, this is clearly a job for the ex-Republicans of the Lincoln Project, who certainly recall what happened in Florida in 2000. They have the attitude and aptitude of political assassins. They surely know how to raise hell over an issue like military votes — and now is the time to exercise those aggressive skills in defense of democracy.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.