Kenny Stancil

'Certify the results!': GOP Michigan officials blasted for meeting Trump during his 'fascist coup attempt'

Two Republican lawmakers in the Michigan legislature were reprimanded on Friday as they made their way to the White House for a meeting with President Donald Trump, who has endeavored to overturn the election results in key battleground states won by President-elect Joe Biden.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) called the meeting between State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, Speaker of the State House of Representatives Lee Chatfield, and the president "an attempt to subvert our democracy and undermine the will of Michigan voters."

Shirkey was greeted with ridicule when he landed at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.

"Certify the results!" and "Shame on you!" activists chanted, as reporters asked questions, such as "Where is the evidence of fraud?" and "What did Trump promise you?"

Meanwhile, on Twitter, Chatfield was mocked for his attempt to justify his meeting with Trump.

"Yeah, legitimizing a fascist coup attempt makes a lot of sense," journalist Alex Kotch remarked sarcastically.

Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, one of the progressive advocacy groups behind the Friday protests, said the behavior of GOP members in his state is appalling.

"For too long, Republicans in Michigan have been able to hide behind gerrymandered districts and their lack of a moral compass to avoid any kind of accountability—but not anymore," said Scott. "We will not sit idly by and watch them attack our democracy and steal our votes."

Friday's protests are a "small taste of what's to come if they attempt to subvert the will of the people," Scott warned. "If Chatfield and Shirkey insist on seeing Trump today, it should be to tell him in no uncertain terms that this election is over, voters have decided, and it's time to move forward together."

Shirkey and Chatfield "have been mum about what specifically they will discuss," The Hill reported, but defenders of democracy have characterized the "meeting itself as inappropriate and part of a broader effort to subvert the will of the voters."

Bob Bauer, a legal adviser to the Biden campaign, described Trump's Thursday invitation as "an open attempt to intimidate election officials," which is "an abuse of office."

According to The Hill, "Dingell and others have expressed cautious optimism that state lawmakers will not cave if Trump urges them to reverse the results in Michigan, citing Shirkey's comments earlier this week that an electoral coup in the state is 'not going to happen.'"

When asked if Shirkey and Chatfield should be subject to investigation, Dingell explained that, while opposed to the meeting, "she would reserve further judgment until seeing what the state lawmakers do."

"It is telling that Michigan GOP legislative leaders Mike Shirkey and Lee Chatfield are jetting off to Washington, D.C. this week to meet with President Trump," the Michigan Democratic Party said in a statement on Thursday. "They are more focused on continuing the GOP smoke and mirrors show designed to hide Trump's humiliating defeat than taking care of the actual problems impacting Michiganders."

As The Hill reported, "Trump and members of his legal team have zeroed in on a long-shot bid to overturn the election results in Michigan and other states... [by] discounting large numbers of votes in urban areas like Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Milwaukee."

"On Tuesday we witnessed a racist attempt by the GOP to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters," Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) tweeted on Thursday in reference to the initial decision, later reversed, of two Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers to vote against certifying the results in a Democratic stronghold that includes a majority Black city.

Now, Trump wants Shirkey and Chatfield "to kiss the ring and steal the election," Tlaib added. "He lost, period. Stop being spineless. Focus on the pandemic. People are dying."

According to NBC News, the Michigan lawmakers "could be risking legal exposure back home depending on what actions they take in regards to the state's election results."

"Michigan law is clear," the news outlet continued. "According to the secretary of state: The state's 16 representatives to the Electoral College must go to the candidate who won the popular vote. Trump lost the popular vote to Biden by nearly 150,000 votes in Michigan."

Richard Primus, a constitutional law professor at the University of Michigan, cautioned Shirkey and Chatfield, writing that they "are being visibly invited to a meeting where the likely agenda involves the felony of attempting to bribe a public official."

'No vaccine for climate change': COVID is disastrous — but Red Cross says eco collapse poses greater threat

"The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how vulnerable the world is to a truly global catastrophe. But another, bigger, catastrophe has been building for many decades, and humanity is still lagging far behind in efforts to address it."

So begins Come Heat or High Water, the 2020 World Disasters Report (pdf) published Tuesday by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

While "Covid-19 has demonstrated that humanity has the capacity to recognize and respond to a global crisis," the authors wrote, "climate change is an even more significant challenge to humanity... one which literally threatens our long-term survival."

Indeed, "the impacts of global warming are already killing people and devastating lives and livelihoods every year," including in 2020, the report noted. "Climate change is not waiting for Covid-19 to be brought under control."

The analysis showed that more than 100 climate change-related disasters occurred in just the first six months of the pandemic, affecting over 50 million people.

"Many people are being directly affected by the pandemic and climate-driven disasters all at once," the report said, drawing attention to what researchers called "compounding shocks."

"And the world's poorest and most at-risk people are being hit first and hardest," which is consistent with "trends in vulnerability and exposure" that have led scholars to describe climate as a "risk multiplier."

While there is hope that one or more vaccines will soon provide protection against the coronavirus, IFRC Secretary-General Jagan Chapagain told reporters that "unfortunately, there is no vaccine for climate change."

To the contrary, the report stressed that climate-driven disasters "will only get worse without immediate and determined action."

According to the IFRC:

  • In the past 10 years, 83% of all disasters triggered by natural hazards were caused by extreme weather- and climate-related events, such as floods, storms and heatwaves;
  • The number of climate- and weather-related disasters has been increasing since the 1960s, and has risen almost 35% since the 1990s;
  • The proportion of all disasters attributable to climate and extreme weather events has also increased significantly during this time, from 76% of all disasters during the 2000s to 83% in the 2010s;
  • These extreme weather- and climate-related disasters have killed more than 410,000 people in the past 10 years, the vast majority in low and lower middle-income countries; and
  • Heatwaves, then storms, have been the biggest killers. A further 1.7 billion people around the world have been affected by climate and weather-related disasters during the past decade.

Governments "may well be 'busy' with the pandemic" right now, the Red Cross acknowledged, but the climate crisis is getting worse—not taking a break—meaning "there's still never been a more urgent time to... adapt to its realities."

"We must work to limit the deaths and damage that climate-driven disasters are already" causing, the report noted, while also "taking action to reverse climate change."

The good news, the authors wrote, is that "the massive stimulus packages that are being developed around the world in response to Covid-19 are an opportunity to build back better."

Even though the climate crisis is much more dangerous to human life on Earth than the pandemic, the $10 trillion spent on the global response to the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis is far more than the amount of money the Red Cross said is necessary to "adapt to current and imminent climate-driven disaster risks."

According to the IFRC, "it would take an estimated $50 billion annually to meet the adaptation requirements set out by 50 developing countries for the coming decade."

The report advocated for investing "not only [in] a green recovery, but an adaptive one, using funds to... create jobs [while] making communities safer and more resilient."

Using "resources well" is crucial, the authors argued, given the "uneven geographic impacts of... hazards between regions," as well as how land-use patterns and socio-economic inequalities "affect who is at greatest risk... within countries."

The Red Cross pointed out that "funding for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction does not seem to consistently prioritize the countries at highest risk and with the lowest ability to adapt and cope with these risks."

"Many highly vulnerable countries are left behind, receiving little climate change adaptation support," the analysis showed. "None of the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change and to climate- and weather-related disasters were among the 20 highest per person recipients of climate change adaptation funding."

"An additional challenge is ensuring that funding reaches the most at-risk people within these countries," the report continued. "Many communities may be particularly vulnerable to climate-related risks, from people affected by conflict whose capacity to manage shocks is already strained, to migrants and displaced people who may struggle to access the services and assistance they need, to urban poor people and other marginalized communities."

We must "get the priorities right," the authors added, and ensure that support reaches the "communities that are most exposed and vulnerable to climate risks."

"Let's not miss our chance," the report said, calling on society to "act effectively before it's too late."

'Going to get a lot of people killed': COVID cases soar to new heights as Trump sabotages transition

"I hope we don't run out of mobile morgues," is what epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding said in response to data demonstrating the out-of-control nature of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States—which became the first country to surpass 10 million Covid-19 infections and whose healthcare system is expected to be overwhelmed before President-elect Joe Biden assumes office.

Although Biden—who has created his own coronavirus task force—is trying to plan a coordinated federal response to the unrelenting public health and economic emergency he is set to inherit, President Donald Trump's refusal to authorize a smooth administrative transition amid what journalist David Dayen called a "completely stupid and brazen" effort to hold onto the White House is wreaking deadly havoc on the nation.

"We're in an unbelievably dangerous moment with coronavirus where the full weight of government at all levels needs to be focused on saving lives," tweeted Dayen, "and instead Donald Trump is trying a ham-fisted theft of the election."

As Dayen wrote in The American Prospect on Wednesday, "the world's worst coup attempt... is going to get a lot of people killed."

"Every moment Donald Trump tries to steal the election is a moment that he's not paying any attention to the most harrowing moment of the coronavirus crisis," Dayen added.

The figures are indeed harrowing. As CNBC reported Wednesday:

Ohio has had an "unprecedented spike" in Covid-19 hospital admissions. ICU beds in Tulsa, Oklahoma, are full. North Dakota's hospitals don't have enough doctors and nurses. And hospital administrators in Iowa are warning that they are approaching their limits.
The U.S. is heading for a "dark winter," a "Covid hell," the "darkest days of the pandemic." However you describe it, the next few months of the coronavirus pandemic will be unlike anything the nation has seen yet.

According to data from Johns Hopkins, the number of coronavirus infections in the U.S. increased by more than 136,000 between Tuesday and Wednesday, while over 1,420 Americans died from Covid-19 during that time period, bringing the death toll to roughly 240,000.

Feigl-Ding expects the U.S. "to hit 200,000 new cases per day by the end of November if we continue at this rate."

This is incredibly worrisome to public health officials because, as The Atlantic reported Tuesday, there is already a nationwide surge of Covid-19 hospitalizations, which are now at an all-time high.

"We have not even come close to the peak and, as such, our hospitals are now being overrun," Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infections Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNBC.

"The next three to four months are going to be, by far, the darkest of the pandemic," said Osterholm, who is a member of Biden's coronavirus advisory board.

As Feigl-Ding pointed out on social media, "deaths usually lag cases by about three weeks."

And "despite rhetoric offered by President Trump about a plunge in the deadliness of the virus, the link between new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths has been consistent for months," the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

As Dayen put it, "The executive branch has completely checked out on any responsibility for this massive public health crisis at precisely the moment when the crisis is most acute."

Trump's sabotage of the presidential transition process is making everything worse. As Politico reported Tuesday, "the incoming administration [is] locked out of key health agencies" at the moment.

"The delayed start could ultimately set the Biden transition teams back by several days or weeks," Politico noted, "forcing them to turn an already-fraught process into an all-out sprint ahead of Inauguration Day."

Apart from attention to the election and its chaotic aftermath, Americans are also focused on the upcoming holiday season, which Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto, said creates "the potential for innumerable super-spreading events across the country" that could "introduce and reintroduce the virus to new areas and... further exacerbate community transmission."

"Pandemic fatigue has fully set in at the worst possible time," Dayen said.

Nonetheless, public health officials are still pushing for more people to wear masks, which they predict can prevent up to 130,000 deaths from Covid-19 in the U.S. through spring 2021.

Looking beyond masks, "we know exactly what to do here," which is what makes the federal government's inaction so frustrating, Dayen argued.

"Restaurants, gyms, cafes, and other indoor venues accounted for 80 percent of all new infections during the first three months of the pandemic, based on cell phone data," he wrote.

"If we just shut down these venues and pay them to stay closed we would get a shockingly large handle on the situation," Dayen pointed out. "Yet we've had absolutely no discussion of this in the highest levels, and no leadership in Washington looking seriously at this option."

"It's absolutely infuriating that we're going to consign people to death and suffering," he added, "because nobody in the White House or Congress can be bothered."

Trump's purge at the Pentagon is increasing fears of a coup-in-progress

Fears that a possible slow-motion coup is in progress in the United States continued to grow on Wednesday, as observers sounded the alarm over President Donald Trump's decision to install "extreme Republican partisans" at the Pentagon after his firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper resulted in resignations by numerous top officials at the department earlier this week.

The stacking of the Pentagon with Trump loyalists—combined with the president's ongoing refusal to accept his electoral defeat and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's Tuesday comment that "there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration"—has heightened concerns about the Republican Party's authoritarianism and left experts and lawmakers warning that the country is in the midst of an extremely dangerous moment.

The Guardian reported that defense experts believe "there was little the new Trump appointees could do to use their positions to the president's advantage" given that high-ranking military leaders, including General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have vowed to keep the armed forces out of the political process.

Nevertheless, others view this week's personnel changes, which amount to the appointment of pro-Trump officials to key national security roles during the interregnum, as more evidence that Trump intends to use what one current defense official called "dictator moves" to cling to power despite receiving more than five million fewer votes than President-elect Joe Biden, who—based on current results reported by the Associated Press and other outlets—won the Electoral College by a margin of 290 to 217.

Appearing on CNN Tuesday night, William Cohen, former Secretary of Defense and Republican senator, told network host Don Lemon the president's conduct is "more akin to a dictatorship than a democracy."

"It is hard to overstate just how dangerous high-level turnover at the Department of Defense is during a period of presidential transition," wrote Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, on Tuesday.

The development, he said, "should alarm all Americans."

"If this is the beginning of a trend—the president either firing or forcing out national security professionals in order to replace them with people perceived as more loyal to him—then the next 70 days will be precarious at best and downright dangerous at worst," Smith added.

"Defense Secretary Mark Esper... was just the beginning," wrote Spencer Ackerman, senior national security correspondent at The Daily Beast, on Tuesday night. "Also out are Esper's chief of staff Jen Stewart and the Pentagon's top officials for policy and intelligence [James Anderson and Joseph Kernan]."

Ackerman explained that Trump is rushing to fill the recently "purged Pentagon" with "infamous MAGA figures" who are faithful to the president.

Esper was replaced by Chris Miller, previously the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, even though, as Ackerman reported, the "law unambiguously mandates" that David Norquist, the deputy secretary of defense, should have been named acting secretary.

Ackerman reported that Miller's chief of staff is Kash Patel, who—as a senior aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.)—"crafted a dubious memo, denounced by the FBI, to discredit the origins of the investigation into the Trump team's contacts with Russia."

"The new acting undersecretary for policy," Ackerman noted, "is Anthony Tata, who called Barack Obama a 'terrorist leader' in 2018 and claimed Obama is secretly Muslim."

In response to the appointment of Tata, Scott Simpson, public advocacy director at the civil rights organization Muslim Advocates, said in a statement that "every day that he serves as undersecretary of Defense is a day where all Americans are in danger."

Finally, "the top Pentagon official for intelligence is now Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a former National Security Council (NSC) aide to the convicted Mike Flynn."

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) described Cohen-Watnick as a "34 year-old who... advocated for the CIA to orchestrate an overthrow [of] the Iranian regime...[and] was promptly fired from his job as soon as Gen. McMasters took over."

"That Ezra Cohen-Watnick is the acting undersecretary of defense for intelligence would be comical if it weren't so terrifying," a former NSC official in the Trump White House told Ackerman.

Murphy sounded the alarm on Tuesday night, tweeting that "the purge happening at the Department of Defense, in the middle of a messy transition, should worry us all."

"This is the making of a coup," warned author Keith Boykin, pointing not only to Trump's reshuffling of the Pentagon but also to the president's refusal to concede following his election loss as well as the dishonesty and complicity of Pompeo and Attorney General Barr.

According to The Guardian, former defense officials and "military analysts argued that the post-election changes, while highly unusual, were not a reason to fear that the Pentagon would be weaponized in Trump's desperate efforts to hold on to power."

Regardless of whether or not a military coup is on the table, The Daily Poster's David Sirota argued on Tuesday night that Americans ought to be equally concerned by Trump's attempts to stage a judicial coup, which he said has not received sufficient attention from the Democratic Party.

According to Sirota, the president's strategy is to create enough "public perception of fraud" that Republican-dominated legislatures in key states can "try to invoke their constitutional power to ignore their states' popular votes, reject certified election results, and appoint slates of Trump electors."

"Even if the GOP fails to pull this off in 2020, the shit they're pulling right now is a test run of a plan they will use in the future to try to steal a presidential election and end whatever's left of American democracy," Sirota tweeted on Wednesday morning.

"And the next time," he added, "it may work."

Here's a winning message Democrats could use to clinch the Senate in Georgia runoffs

For Democrats to win both runoff races planned for January 5 in Georgia and secure a Senate majority, they're going to need a winning campaign message.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) shared a suggestion on social media: "If Democrats take back the Senate," he said on Monday afternoon, "we will increase the minimum wage from a starvation wage of $7.25 an hour to a living wage of at least $15 an hour."

Sanders' tweet implied that vocally fighting for a higher minimum wage could be the key to victory for candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Georgia, where 47% of workers make less than $15 an hour and 71% of voters support increasing the federal minimum wage.

As Common Dreams reported last week, voters in Florida—despite casting roughly 370,000 more ballots for outgoing President Donald Trump than President-elect Joe Biden—approved a ballot measure to establish a $15 minimum wage with support from nearly two-thirds of the state's electorate.

After Floridians passed a minimum wage increase by a margin of 61% to 39% while Biden lost the state by capturing only 47.8% of the vote compared to Trump's 51.2%, progressives criticized the Democratic Party for what some characterized as an inadequate embrace of progressive positions, ineffective communication, or both.

After all, critics noted, it is Biden, not Trump, who actually supports the $15 minimum wage policy that will give nearly 2.5 million low-income workers in Florida a much-needed raise.

With a major potential victory for progressives in sight, Sanders offered a campaign message for candidates Ossoff and Warnock that could prevent the Democrats from coming up short in Georgia and handing Senate control to the Republicans.

His messaging idea, which seeks to excite people about the possibility of a Democratic-led Senate delivering a minimum wage hike, reflects his desire to see Ossoff and Warnock champion a living wage policy that can generate enthusiasm amongst voters and spark a strong turnout for the special Senate elections in Georgia.

As TIME reported last week, Atlanta's above-average turnout among young voters (18-29 years old), and particularly young Black voters, 90% of whom voted for Biden, was instrumental in securing victory for the president-elect. If Democrats are to win a Senate majority, replicating a high turnout of voters who oppose the GOP's reactionary agenda will be crucial.

Data from Oxfam America and the Economic Policy Institute suggests that strongly advocating for a living wage, which researchers have pointed out would substantially reduce racial inequality, could propel a high turnout among working class populations that are electorally significant but often underrepresented at the polls.

In Georgia, 69.4% of Hispanic, 59.4% of Black, 41.9% of Asian American, and 39.9% of white workers make less than $15 an hour. Furthermore, of the workers in the state who make less than $15 an hour, 24% are under 25 years old while 36% are between the ages of 25 and 39.

In other words, Sanders is suggesting that many of the same Atlanta residents and other people around the state in young and nonwhite demographic categories who voted overwhelmingly for Biden are probably more likely to support Ossoff and Warnock in January 2021 if the candidates' campaigns make it clear that low-income workers in Georgia stand to benefit from a Democratic Senate majority.

As HuffPost reported last week, organized labor played a key role in successfully rejecting Trump at the ballot box in 2020, with union leaders encouraging members and other working class households, particularly Black and Hispanic voters in urban areas of swing states, to get to the polls to support a Biden administration, which organizers said "would protect their healthcare and do more to raise their wages."

Sanders is now highlighting how a Democratic-led Senate could pass a $15 minimum wage and advocating for the party to make the case to Georgians that they'll benefit from helping to defeat the Republican Party and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Resurfaced video shows Bernie Sanders' dire prediction about the election that's now coming true

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont called it.

Trump is seething because after lying on Election Night that he had already won—rejecting the legitimacy of yet-to-be-counted absentee votes that he vowed to invalidate through GOP-friendly courts—the president's early lead in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and possibly others is being negated as the ongoing counting of mail-in ballots continues to shift the race in Democratic nominee Joe Biden's favor.

The aftermath of November 3 is, in short, unfolding almost exactly as Sanders said that it would.

Now that Trump is acting exactly as many progressives warned, renewed attention is being paid this week to Jimmy Fallon's interview with Sanders on October 23, where the senator issued a warning that has since been vindicated.

When Fallon asked the senator when he thought Americans would know the election results, Sanders shared a prediction on "The Tonight Show" last month.

After jumping out to a temporary lead thanks to a higher rate of in-person voting among Republicans, Trump would try to prematurely claim an Election Night victory, Sanders explained.

As election officials counted millions of mail-in ballots, more likely to be cast by Democrats, Biden would gain ground and overtake Trump in key battleground states, he continued.

"At which point Trump says, 'See? I told you the whole thing was fraudulent. I told you those mail-in ballots were crooked and we're not going to leave office,'" Sanders said.

That's almost precisely what happened, as Common Dreams reported Wednesday.

"Bernie called it," said actor Mark Ruffalo on social media, while another person pointed out that Sanders "called it WORD for WORD."

The following clip "went viral on Twitter," where the video has been viewed more than 29 million times as of Thursday.

As prescient as Sanders was in that clip, he and many others had been working tirelessly, well before late October, to warn Americans that Trump posed an existential threat to U.S. democracy.

Many analysts were especially concerned that the president would provoke post-election chaos by accusing the Democratic Party of rigging the election when the delayed counting of absentee votes eroded his early lead.

As Common Dreams reported, Sanders sounded the alarm in early September about the authoritarian nature of Trump's frequent, baseless attacks on the legitimacy of mail-in ballots and preemptive claims that if he were to fall short in his bid for reelection, it could be attributed solely to electoral fraud.

Trump, Sanders warned in an interview with Politico, was laying the groundwork for a "nightmarish scenario" in which the president would bombard the public with "lies and misinformation to sow confusion and chaos in the election process and undermine American democracy."

In a late-September speech at Georgetown University, the senator reiterated his urgent message about the "unprecedented and dangerous moment" in which Americans find themselves as a result of Trump's willingness to maintain his grip on power by attacking the integrity of the election or by refusing to accept the results and leave office voluntarily if voted out.

Sanders was adamant that the country must be prepared to counter any attempt by Trump to stage a coup.

"Now, in this unprecedented moment," the senator said on Wednesday afternoon, "is the time to reaffirm our belief in democracy and to give states the time they need to count every ballot so that the will of the American people is heard."

One thing is very certain after Election Day: 'Coronavirus is spreading like wildfire'

Political uncertainty remains as vote-counting continues after an Election Day which saw millions of voters head to the polls across the U.S., but one thing that's for sure is that "coronavirus is spreading like wildfire" throughout the country.

According to Johns Hopkins data, the U.S. recorded 91,350 new Covid-19 infections on Tuesday. This marked the second-highest single-day figure to date, CNBC reported, while CNN noted that the five days with the highest number of coronavirus cases have all occurred since October 29.

As the national caseload has ballooned in the past week, the seven-day average of daily new cases surpassed 86,000, CNN reported:


Meanwhile, Forbes reported that Harvard and Brown's Covid-19 risk assessment map—which assigns a rating to each county based on its weekly average of cases per 100,000 people—puts over half the U.S. "at a tipping point," meaning that the risk of transmission is high and the "level of spread is difficult to control without a circuit-breaking intervention such as a stay-at-home order."

Furthermore, 1,130 Americans died from Covid-19 on November 3, and according to reporting from the Star Tribune in Minnesota, only nine intensive care beds were available in the Twin Cities on Wednesday morning as the pandemic sends a growing number of people to area hospitals.

All of these data points confirm what epidemiologists have been sounding the alarm about for more than a week: Covid-19 is spreading rapidly nationwide. The U.S. finds itself in the midst of a third surge that is, as CNN put it, "well underway and will only get worse."

While evidence indicates that the public health catastrophe is worsening, Tuesday night exit polls found that nearly half of the country thinks that "U.S. efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic are going... very well or somewhat well."

Support broke down along partisan lines, with Democrats holding a more negative view of the nation's pandemic response and Republicans rating the government's actions more favorably.

HuffPost reported Wednesday that President Donald Trump "actually performed better this year than he did in 2016 in counties with high Covid-19 death rates... despite [his] brazen negligence in handling the coronavirus."

While the president was able to maintain support among a large share of the electorate, a November 2 internal report from Dr. Deborah Birx obtained by the Washington Post revealed a top White House coronavirus adviser contradicting Trump's false claims that the U.S. is "rounding the turn" on the pandemic.

Birx warned that the country is "entering the most concerning and most deadly phase of this pandemic... leading to increasing mortality," and pleaded for a more aggressive approach to containment.

According to information obtained by Politico, "Joe Biden is planning to create his own task force to help grapple with the country's surge in cases should he win [the] election."

Philly DA warns 'wannabe fascists'  who dress 'up like GI Joe' to intimidate voters will be prosecuted

Philadelphia's Democratic district attorney Larry Krasner is warning armed, so-called "poll watchers" to stay away from the city's voting precincts unless they want to find themselves explaining to a jury why they "thought it was okay to come to Philly and steal our votes."

"If you want to dress up like a G.I. Joe and claim you are protecting the polls when we all know what you're really doing is intimidating voters," Krasner told CNN on Friday, "you're getting locked up."

"Wannabe fascists stay home," he added. "If your idea of how to have a democratic election is to steal it, then I've got something for you. I've got a jail cell, and I've got criminal charges."

CNN 10 30 2020 07 29 53

Krasner's fierce condemnation of potential voter intimidation in Philadelphia—described by the DA as not only the biggest city in one of the most important battleground states in the country but also "the birthplace of American democracy"—preceded a press conference on Monday, during which he explained the steps that an election task force made up of more than 90 city prosecutors and detectives are taking to ensure that Philadelphians are able to cast ballots without fear on Tuesday.

"I want Philly voters to be assured that we are all working together to make sure you have a clean and fair Election Day" Krasner said Monday. "I do not expect any threats or harassment tomorrow, but let me be clear: Anyone intending to steal Philadelphians' votes by breaking the law to disrupt a fair and free election could find themselves in a jail cell, facing criminal charges and a Philadelphia jury wondering why you thought it was okay to steal their votes."

As the New York Times reported on Sunday, "many jurisdictions have sought to educate both the public and law enforcement of what is permissible at the polls," a task that has taken on heightened importance due to President Donald Trump's repeated incitement of political intimidation and violence that has prompted dozens of historians of authoritarianism to warn about the existential threats facing democracy.

According to the Times, Krasner "issued a six-page memo on the law to the police, noting for example that anyone can face five years in jail for a misdemeanor if they 'unlawfully strike, wound, or commit an assault and battery upon the person of any elector' in or near a polling place."

Whereas Philadelphia normally deploys a task force of 60 prosecutors and detectives to safeguard presidential contests, Krasner activated this year's beefed-up, 90-plus person task force on October 7, much earlier than usual.

Citing the "historic and unprecedented nature of the 2020 election" and warning "against armed militias and violence," Krasner vowed last month that the DA's Office would "work alongside the city commissioners and our partners in law enforcement, government, and community to ensure that no Philadelphian is intimidated, misled, threatened, or harmed as they cast their ballot."

Krasner denounced "voter suppression efforts" being encouraged by the president, saying that "brandishing a firearm in an attempt to menace voters or election workers... is dangerous and anti-American behavior, and it will be prosecuted by my office."

Last week, Krasner told Trump to "keep your Proud Boys, goon squads, and uncertified 'poll watchers' out of our city."

"The Trump administration's efforts to suppress votes amid a global pandemic fueled by their disregard for human life," Krasner said, "will not be tolerated."

"Philadelphians from a diversity of political opinions believe strongly in the rule of law, in fair and free elections, and in a democratic system of government," he added. "We will not be cowed or ruled by a lawless, power-hungry despot."

Krasner's comments on Monday echoed those he made last month, when the DA said that "anyone who comes to the cradle of American democracy to suppress the vote, and violates the law and commits crimes, is going to find themselves in a jail cell talking to a Philadelphia jury."

PA secretary of state calls on Barrett to recuse herself in crucial mail-in ballot case

Newly sworn-in U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Tuesday was asked by Pennsylvania's secretary of state to recuse herself from participating in a case regarding the extension of the state's deadline for counting mail-in ballots.

Barrett officially joined the court late Monday night after being rushed through the confirmation process by the Republican Party in time to possibly decide disputes related to the re-election bid of President Donald Trump, who admitted as much when he appointed her.

As Common Dreams reported earlier Tuesday, Pennsylvania Republicans made a second request to stop a mail-in ballot deadline extension on Friday night, just days after the Supreme Court, in a 4-4 decision, blocked efforts by the state's GOP to suppress voting rights amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While the eight-person Supreme Court deadlocked over the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's ruling that absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by November 6 must be accepted, the state's Republican Party—emboldened by the fact that Barrett's addition to the high court has created a definitive majority of conservative justices—asked for another "fast-track[ed] formal review" of the lower court's decision, as The Hill reported.

If the GOP's attempt to roll back absentee voting accommodations is successful, a substantial number of mail-in voters—disproportionately the backers of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden given that they are more likely than Trump's supporters to vote by mail—could be disenfranchised in Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground state in the 2020 election that the incumbent won four years ago by fewer than 45,000 votes.

"Although a federal statute requires that a justice must disqualify herself in any matter where 'impartiality might reasonably be questioned,' little guidance exists about what circumstances fall under that phrase," Renee Jefferson, a professor of law at the University of Houston, explained in an op-ed published by the New York Daily News on Monday night.

"And, in any event, whether or not an individual justice will recuse is subject to that justice's unilateral choice, which no one can challenge," Jefferson added.

The recusal motion (pdf), filed Tuesday by the Lezerne County Board of Elections, argued that Barrett should be recused from opining on the extension of Pennsylvania's deadline for accepting mail-in ballots, stating that her "participation could be catastrophic to the delicate foundation of integrity and public confidence upon which the judiciary sits."

In the motion, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar described the "unprecedented" nature of Barrett's nomination and confirmation, referring to its proximity to the presidential election.

Boockvar added: "As concerning as that is, what is even more troubling is the language Trump has used in consideration of this nomination, linking it directly to the electoral season at hand, with implications for his own re-election."

The motion cited late September reporting by the Washington Post, which noted that "Trump predicted that the Supreme Court will be called upon to determine the winner of the presidential election and that whomever he nominates on Saturday to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg might cast the decisive vote in his favor."

"I think this will end up in the Supreme Court. And I think it's very important that we have nine justices," Trump said. "It's better if you go before the election, because I think this scam that the Democrats are pulling—it's a scam—the scam will be before the United States Supreme Court. And I think having a 4-4 situation is not a good situation."

Echoing the argument invoked by Boockvar, Jefferson pointed out that "Trump demanded Barrett's immediate confirmation without delay precisely because he wants her to cast a vote when, as he predicts, a dispute about the presidential election arrives at the Supreme Court."

According to Jefferson, "it is reasonable to infer that, in Trump's mind, Barrett must repay his appointment by refusing to recuse, and then by voting both to secure his election and to gut the Affordable Care Act."

"If there were ever a circumstance where impartiality might be reasonably questioned, Barrett's confirmation will lay it out for all to see," Jefferson added. "She will have received a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court in the midst of an election that the president expects to be resolved by her, in his favor."

Boockvar argued in the motion calling for Barrett's recusal that her participation in 2020 election litigation "raises a terrible 'appearance' problem which can only engulf the Supreme Court in a political stew with poisonous consequences for the independence and perceived integrity of the judiciary."

New analysis shows the dangerous cost of Trump's reckless campaign rallies

Half of the 22 campaign rallies held by President Donald Trump between June and September were followed by county-level increases in Covid-19 cases, suggesting that these frequent in-person events attracting thousands of people may be unnecessarily intensifying the spread of coronavirus and "endangering host communities" throughout the United States.

That's according to a new analysis from the Center for American Progress (CAP), based on an examination of county-level data on Covid-19 from the New York Times.

By comparing the number of daily new cases and the seven-day moving average of new cases during the 21 days before and after each rally, researchers were able to discern the extent to which Trump's rallies "were associated with heightened cases."

While the authors stress that "multiple factors prevent a definitive, causal connection," CAP found "unambiguous increases" in county-level cases after rallies in the following cities:

  • Mankato, Minnesota
  • Bemidji, Minnesota
  • Henderson, Nevada
  • Londonderry, New Hampshire
  • Swanton, Ohio
  • Middletown, Pennsylvania
  • Old Forge, Pennsylvania; and
  • Newport News, Virginia

CAP also detected a more "subtle" increase in the county-level case count trend after Trump's rallies in Vandalia, Ohio; Latrobe, Pennslyvania; and Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

According to the analysis, "counties that had a lower Covid-19 incidence—a measure of new cases per capita—prior to the rally were more likely to have a visible increase in cases after the rally, perhaps because any uptick in cases was more likely to stand out against the pre-event level."

"By virtually any standard, Trump's rallies ignore every public health recommendation to mitigate the spread of Covid-19," said Thomas Waldrop, policy analyst at CAP and co-author of the report, in a statement released Tuesday.

"They involve thousands of people, packed closely together, with few people wearing masks and no attempts at social distancing," he added.

Emily Gee, a health economist at CAP and co-author of the analysis, noted that "eight months into the pandemic, we know the factors that can stop the spread of the coronavirus."

"The president and his team have flouted the rules at every turn," Gee said. "These rallies offer a boost to the president's ego but risk leaving behind a trail of sickness and increased strain on local public health departments and medical systems."

Trump announced Tuesday morning via Twitter that he has "three BIG rallies today" in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. In response, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisc.) pointed out that Wisconsin on Monday passed 200,000 Covid-19 cases, with half occurring in "just the last 36 days."

According to CAP's report, the majority of Trump's rallies—where attendees typically do not wear masks or spread out—"have been in violation of local or state restrictions on gatherings to limit the spread of Covid-19."

Calling Trump "nothing but a thug," The Daily Beast's Michael Daly on Monday described the president's insistence on holding dangerous rallies with closely-packed audiences in spite of public health precautions prohibiting large gatherings as a criminal act that flies in the face of Trump's professed respect for authority and law enforcement.

"The self-declared law-and-order president," Daly wrote, "proved to be a flat-out gangster by declaring himself willing to place the lives of who knows how many [people] in jeopardy."

Eric Feigl-Ding recently commented that "the biggest difference between public health and astrophysics is that rocket scientists don't have to convince a science denialist for mission success."

"But we epidemiologists have to fight... denialism" about the risks of coronavirus exposure and the efficacy of masks in minimizing it, he added. "And if we fail, people die."

A recent report (pdf) by researchers at Columbia University estimated that of the more than 217,000 lives lost to Covid-19 in the U.S. as of October 16, "at least 130,000 deaths and perhaps as many as 210,000 could have been avoided with earlier policy interventions and more robust federal coordination and leadership."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Monday registered his disgust with Trump's "pathetic" mishandling of the public health disaster relative to other countries:

Compared to many other countries, the U.S. pandemic response has been hobbled by a lack of universal healthcare, paid sick leave, and additional structural disadvantages.

But, as CAP's new analysis shows, the country has also been hampered by the Trump administration, which has consistently eschewed the guidance of public health officials throughout the crisis and has "fostered a culture that discourages common-sense mask-wearing and social distancing."

"It's unbelievable," said Waldrop, "that the president has continued to hold these events, which present a risk to public health, despite contracting Covid-19 and being hospitalized himself."

alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.