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On the roster: Rise of the illegitimizers – I’ll Tell You What: Why we wait – Trump sacks pentagon boss, hinting at messy transition – Biden gets busy on transition, starting with pandemic – Golden ironman
RISE OF THE ILLEGITIMIZERS
It comes as a surprise to no one that a person who claimed massive fraud in a presidential election he won would be crabby about the results of one he lost.
For President Trump, it is always Festivus.
Which is fine. There’s no law or constitutional provision that requires magnanimity in the chief executive. Trump and his administration are allowed to object and deflect. If Trump never conceded, never eased the transition of power, never attended his successor’s inauguration, never said President-Elect Joe Biden was legitimately elected, he would still be within his rights.
But we doubt he’ll last that much longer in his refusals.
Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri is where the Republican leadership seems to be: “It’s time for the president’s lawyers to present the facts, and it’s time for those facts to speak for themselves,” Blunt told ABC News. “It seems unlikely that any changes could be big enough to make a difference, but this is a close election, and we need to acknowledge that.”
“I look forward to the president dealing with this however he needs to deal with it,” he added.
While that sounds more than a little patronizing, it’s the way that Senate Republicans have dealt with Trump throughout their always strained but largely productive relationship. Trump can “deal with” his loss however he wants as long as he moves along.
States will start certifying election results starting Wednesday. By the start of December, all but eight states will be finished. California comes last with official results due on Dec. 11.
We’ll find out whether Biden wins with as few as 290 electoral votes or as many as 321, but barring proof of massive voter fraud in multiple states, the transition will progress and Biden will peacefully assume power at noon on Jan. 20.
It seems more likely that rather than trying to prevent Biden from becoming president, Trump and his campaign are working to de-legitimize his successor’s administration.
Hillary Clinton and Democrats did this in reverse order four years ago.
Perhaps because she had made so much about Trump’s refusal to say he would abide with the results of the 2016 election, Clinton swiftly conceded to Trump and wished him well. Given the closeness of the results that year she would have been as much or more entitled to bellyache about recounts and rigged elections as Trump is now.
What she did instead, was to spend the next four years saying that Trump was an illegitimate president. Her and many in her party insisted, despite a lack of convincing evidence, that Trump would not have won without the help he received from Russia.
Perhaps they felt entitled to this because of the way some Republicans, including Trump, worked to delegitimize Barack Obama’s presidency with unsupported claims that Obama was a secret Kenyan and a stealth Muslim.
Maybe those Republicans felt entitled to smear Obama because of the Democratic efforts to delegitimize George W. Bush’s 2000 victory.
What Trump is doing now is the next and seemingly inevitable escalation of civic gracelessness in American politics. It’s not that he can’t use his remaining six weeks in office to try to sabotage his successor. It’s what happens when that kind of conduct becomes seen as normal or expected.
When Richard Nixon got swindled in 1960 by the Kennedys and the organized crime-backed Democratic machine in Chicago he could have filed lawsuits and complained of fraud. As the sitting vice president he might even have been able to direct some resources to highlighting the serious, credible claims of corruption.
But he did not. For reasons relating to the preservation of his career, yes, but also relating to American’s confidence in our system and our nation’s standing in the world he opted to stay silent and wish his rival the best.
There has never been an American election without fraud. Elections today are far cleaner than they were back in Kennedy’s time, but fraud is still a thing. Look no further than North Carolina in 2018 where the result of a congressional race was thrown out because of alleged fraud on behalf of the Republican candidate.
But as elections have gotten generally cleaner, accusations of election fraud have seemed to have gotten worse. This is no doubt partly due to the rise of social media and the ability for individuals to share claims, whether they be true or false.
But it also relates to a willingness among candidates and campaigns to decrease confidence in the system.
The chances of finding enough voter irregularities to change the outcome of the election are rock-bottom low. But the chances of finding enough examples, real or just alleged, of fraud to feed conspiracy theories and give some Republicans an excuse for never accepting the results of the election or treating Biden with the respect due to his office are 10/10.
THE RULEBOOK: POWER CHECK
“I shall be told, that however dangerous this mixture of powers may be in theory, it is rendered harmless by the dependence of Congress on the State for the means of carrying them into practice; that however large the mass of powers may be, it is in fact a lifeless mass.” – James Madison, writing about objections to the new plan, Federalist No. 38.
TIME OUT: MAPPING OUT A LIFE WELL LIVED
National Geographic: “Television icon Alex Trebek, longtime host of the trivia game show Jeopardy! and the founding host of the National Geographic Bee, died early Sunday, a year and a half after being diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in early 2019. Beyond his legendary role at Jeopardy!, Trebek—a longtime advocate for geography education—had deep ties to the National Geographic Society, where he hosted the National Geographic Bee from 1989 to 2013. Trebek didn’t just ask the bee’s questions: He transformed it into a nationally broadcast contest among 10 contestants drawn from thousands of school-age competitors across the United States. In 2013, Trebek pledged $1 million to fund an endowment in support of the National Geographic Bee. ‘He was a huge believer in geography education and was someone who deeply believed in the need to educate the population about geography—it was one of his great passions,’ says Gary Knell, the chairman of National Geographic Partners and former CEO of the National Geographic Society.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.
I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: WHY WE WAIT
After days of Election Coverage, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt reconvened for a catchup session. They discuss how they’ve fared over the last week, how The Fox News Decision Desk made their call for Arizona and other key states, and how claims of election fraud from the Trump campaign will impact the ultimate election result. Plus, Chris answers electoral map trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
TRUMP SACKS PENTAGON BOSS, HINTING AT MESSY TRANSITION
Fox News: “President Trump on Monday said he fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and that Christopher Miller, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will take over as acting defense secretary ‘effective immediately.’ ‘Mark Esper has been terminated,’ Trump tweeted, his first ousting of a Cabinet official since the election was called for Democratic nominee Joe Biden. ‘I would like to thank him for his service.’ Fox News has learned that Esper was involved in meetings at the Pentagon Monday morning, and was behaving as defense secretary. Sources told Fox News that the president’s announcement caught some of his staff off guard. Recently, there have been reports that Esper could be removed from his post or could be preparing resignation letters, but some members of his staff believed that he would remain through inauguration. Esper’s firing comes five months after he said he did ‘not support invoking the Insurrection Act,’ amid nationwide protests over the summer. He has not held a press conference in the Pentagon briefing room since July.”
Some in Trump world push for bitter-end strategy – Axios: “GOP leaders and confidants of President Trump tell Axios his legal fight to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory — which they admit is likely doomed — could last a month or more, possibly pushing the 2020 political wars toward Christmastime. Most top Republicans have followed Trump’s orders not to accept the Biden victory, and to allow all legal options to be exhausted. That could mean weeks of drama — and, more importantly, distractions from the vital work of transitioning government for a change of power. Axios is told an internal effort is underway to dissuade Trump from pursuing a blitz (with Rudy Giuliani as the tip of the spear) that could mean three to six weeks of legal challenges, discovery and rulings — at the same time that Biden is talking daily about a message of healing. Some top sources tell Axios that Trump has no plan to call for national unity. ‘No chance,’ says a person who talks often to the president.”
GOPers jockey for position, but quietly – Politico: “President Donald Trump’s defeat has set off a flurry of activity as would-be successors start to position themselves for 2024 and a battle to lead a Trump-less Republican Party begins to take shape. Likely Republican candidates are about to descend on Georgia to campaign in a pair of Senate runoffs that will determine control of the chamber. They’re taking to Fox News to defend Trump’s refusal to concede. The Republican National Committee is bracing for a possible fight over its chairmanship. And Donald Trump Jr. is aggressively staking out a role as a future GOP powerbroker. Party officials, meanwhile, are grappling with how to keep intact the massive political infrastructure that Trump helped assemble with him on his way out of the White House. While Trump has been defeated, he has not been vanquished. After receiving the second-highest popular vote total in history, and enjoying a core of supporters numbering tens of millions strong, he is positioned to wield outsized power over where the GOP goes from here. Anyone who wants to run in 2024 will have a hard time winning the nomination against his opposition.”
Kremlin says Putin will congratulate Biden after ‘official vote count’ – NY Post: “Russian strongman Vladimir Putin will not be congratulating President-elect Joe Biden for his election win until the ‘official vote count’ is in and ‘legal processes’ are resolved, his spokesman said Monday. Putin has remained mum on the issue since Biden clinched the presidency on Saturday, four days after the Nov. 3 election, clearing the threshold of 270 Electoral College votes needed for the win. ‘We think it appropriate to wait for the official vote count,’ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. ‘I want to remind you that President Putin repeatedly said he will respect the choice of the American people.’”
Kraushaar: ‘Why pollsters missed the election results so badly’ – National Journal: “Of all the embarrassing polling misses in the 2020 election, the biggest disconnect between polling and reality came from the House-race landscape. The consensus among the top electoral handicappers was that Republicans would lose 10-15 House seats, with all the late movement benefiting Democrats. … Instead, Republicans are on track to net at least seven House seats, and may end up winning as many as 13 Democratic-held seats when all the votes are counted. It’s likely that not a single House Republican will lose reelection. That’s a whopping error that can’t be dismissed lightly. These misses mostly were the result of misleading data coming from numerous proprietary House-race surveys commissioned by Republican and Democratic campaigns and committees alike. This information is often shared privately with campaign reporters and analysts to help guide their coverage and assessment of numerous downballot battlegrounds.”
BIDEN GETS BUSY ON TRANSITION, STARTING WITH PANDEMIC
AP: “As he begins his transition to the presidency, Joe Biden is pivoting from a bitter campaign battle to another, more pressing fight: reining in the pandemic that has hit the world’s most powerful nation harder than any other. On Monday, Biden announced the members of his coronavirus task force that will develop a blueprint for fighting the pandemic. It includes doctors and scientists who have served in previous administrations, many of them experts in public health, vaccines and infectious diseases. Notable among the members is Rick Bright, a vaccine expert and former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. He had filed a whistleblower complaint alleging he was reassigned to a lesser job because he resisted political pressure to allow widespread use of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug pushed by President Donald Trump as a COVID-19 treatment. … The U.S. is now averaging more than 100,000 new coronavirus infections a day, frequently breaking records for daily cases. Hospitals in several states are running out of space and staff, and the death toll is soaring. So far, the U.S. has recorded more than 9.8 million infections and more than 237,000 deaths from COVID-19.”
Vaccine breakthrough lifts spirits, markets – WSJ: “A vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. PFE +6.39% and partner BioNTech SE proved better than expected at protecting people from Covid-19 in a pivotal study, a milestone in the hunt for shots that can stop the global pandemic. The vaccine proved to be more than 90% effective in the first 94 subjects who were infected by the new coronavirus and developed at least one symptom, the companies said Monday. The positive, though incomplete, results bring the vaccine a big step closer to getting cleared for widespread use. Pfizer said it is on track to ask health regulators for permission to sell the shot before the end of this month, if pending data indicate the vaccine is safe. The timetable suggests the vaccine could go into distribution this month or next, though U.S. health regulators have indicated they will take some time to conduct their review.”
Buttigieg looks like a lock for a cabinet post – Axios: “One near-certainty about Joe Biden’s Cabinet: Pete Buttigieg will be in it. Biden officials have made clear to donors and party officials the question surrounding Buttigieg is not if, but where, he lands, Democrats close to Biden tell Axios. Behind that certainty, though, are a range of questions about how to put his obvious political talent to use. The multilingual Buttigieg has told friends he wants U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, but he may face internal competition from Julie Smith, a longtime Biden foreign policy confidant. Former diplomats Wendy Sherman and Linda Thomas-Greenfield are other possibilities. Rep. Ted Deutch from Florida also has expressed interest. Other slots for Buttigieg range from Housing and Urban Development to Veterans Affairs to the Office of Management and Budget.”
OBAMACARE RETURNS TO A CHANGED HIGH COURT
Politico: “President Donald Trump will leave office without making good on his pledge to wipe out Obamacare. But the Supreme Court he reshaped will soon indicate if it’ll finish the job. The court will hear a lawsuit Tuesday that likely represents Republicans’ last chance to knock out a health care law they’ve opposed for over a decade, and that President-elect Joe Biden is vowing to expand. One of the most-watched participants at the oral arguments will be Trump’s latest appointee to the high court, Amy Coney Barrett. Democrats during last month’s confirmation hearings portrayed her as the pivotal vote who could bring about the law’s demise amid an intensifying pandemic that’s sickened millions. The case takes up whether Congress, by eliminating the penalty for not having health insurance, made all of Obamacare unconstitutional. It marks the third major challenge to the health care law heard by the Supreme Court and is regarded in legal circles as perhaps the weakest among those. Few in the $3.6 trillion health care industry believe even the court’s fortified 6-3 conservative majority would overturn a law whose protections for people with preexisting conditions and coverage for 20 million Americans have become essential features of American health care.”
“I feel very close to him. It feels as though I’ve also won the election after hearing about (Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s) projected win” – Yutaka Umeda, the mayor of a small Japanese town, became an internet sensation after it was observed the characters of his name are phonetically read as “Jo Baiden,” per the Japan Times.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I’m a long-time listener of the podcast (actually since the summer before the 2016 election, when you were claiming Donald Trump would never win). I love listening to you and Dana, and I love the Halftime Report. My husband and I, for the life of us, cannot understand why your election desk [insisted] on calling AZ for Biden so early in the game. Is it simply for bragging rights? … And why can’t we wait and count the votes and THEN announce the results?” – Dianne Tiberii, Towson, Md.
[Ed. note: First, thank you for all the years of listening and reading. We are continually amazed by the loyalty and good nature of our readers and listeners. As for why we call races, it is because we think you want to know. The practice of projecting results goes back more than 150 years but plenty has changed with technology. Our decision desk seeks to provide the correct answer as soon as we can. Of course we play no official role and don’t have anything to do with counting the votes. If we hadn’t forecast Arizona in Biden’s column it would not have changed a single vote. We understand why the Trump campaign is so angry about our projection since it affected their ability to create a narrative around the election’s outcome. But the results are the results.]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
Tampa Bay Times: “A 21-year-old Florida man made history Saturday as the first person with Down Syndrome to compete in and finish a grueling Ironman Florida triathlon, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run in a single day. The Ironman organization congratulated Chris Nikic with a Facebook post late Saturday, calling his accomplishment ‘a defining moment in IRONMAN history,’ and proof that ‘anything is possible.’ Nikic had 17 hours to complete the event, using most of it and finishing with a run that was recorded and posted online. Nikic signed up for a new triathlon program with the Special Olympics Florida in 2018. After a training session, those who successfully completed a 1-kilometer swim in Orlando lake could sign their names on a wall. Nikik eagerly wrote ‘Chris world champ.’ His father Nik Nikic said that led to a talk about doing triathlons and, eventually, an Ironman.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“It is fate, destiny, nemesis. Perhaps the dawning of knowledge, the coming of sin. … Every life has such a moment. What distinguishes us is whether — and how — we ever come back.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) in a piece about Rick Ankiel in the Washington Post on Aug. 17, 2007.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.