December 3, 2020

First Thing election special: Barr authorises baseless voter fraud investigation – The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/nov/10/first-thing-election-special-barr-authorises-baseless-voter-investigation

Good morning.

The attorney general, William Barr, has authorised federal prosecutors to investigate “substantial allegations” of voter irregularities in the election, despite a total lack of evidence. Trump supporters reacted to the news with joy, while lawyers and election officials expressed skepticism. The justice department official overseeing voter fraud investigations resigned a few hours later.

The news came after Donald Trump’s campaign team insisted he had no intention of conceding the election, with one senior campaign adviser saying “the word is not even in our vocabulary right now”. But even Fox News isn’t buying it. The famously Trump-supporting news outlet cut away from a White House press briefing that repeatedly peddled the Trump campaign’s accusation that “illegal votes” were being counted.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany reiterated Trump’s unfounded message that ‘illegal votes’ should be discounted.



White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany reiterated Trump’s unfounded message that ‘illegal votes’ should be discounted. Photograph: Fox News


“Whoa, whoa, whoa – I just think we have to be very clear. She’s charging the other side as welcoming fraud and welcoming illegal voting. Unless she has more details to back that up, I can’t in good countenance continue to show you this,” Fox News host Neil Cavuto said.

Trump has sacked his defence secretary in a last-hour rage

In a final interview, Mark Esper predicted he would be followed by a ‘yes man’. ‘And then God help us,’ he added.



In a final interview, Mark Esper predicted he would be followed by a ‘yes man’. ‘And then God help us,’ he added. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Trump fired his defense secretary, Mark Esper, by tweet yesterday, compounding fears that the presidential transition would not be a smooth one. Esper, who has contradicted Trump on a number of issues, will be replaced with immediate effect by Christopher C Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Esper’s sacking also raises questions about the state of the foreign policy that Biden will inherit, with fears that Trump might take drastic steps on Iran or Russia in the final throes of his presidency.


“This is less a lame-duck period and more of an adrenaline-infused mallard,” said Naysan Rafati of the International Crisis Group.

However, a ‘normal’ Democratic leadership might give birth to another Donald Trump figure, warns Bhaskar Sunkara. He argues that Democrats must offer something different, with a focus on bread-and-butter economic issues, if they’re to fully unravel Trump’s legacy.

How a red senate could hamper green action

Biden plans to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and has outlined a $1.7tn investment in a green recovery from the Covid crisis.



Biden plans to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and has outlined a $1.7tn investment in a green recovery from the Covid crisis. Photograph: Eva Hambach/AFP via Getty Images

While Biden’s record on the climate has made some environmentalists optimistic, Republican control of the Senate may make it difficult for him to act. Spending on green infrastructure, like renewable power and electric vehicles, might still press ahead, but more significant action, such as climate restrictions on businesses, seem unlikely. Emily Holden looks at the climate action we can expect from Biden, and the limitations the Senate might place.

In other election news …


Joe Biden: US still facing ‘very dark winter’ despite promising coronavirus vaccine news – video
  • Biden warned against over-optimism about a coronavirus vaccine as news broke that company Pfizer’s was 90% effective yesterday. While he said the news was encouraging, the president elect said it could be ‘many months’ before the vaccine was widely available and many lives could be lost before then.

  • An Arkansas police chief has quit after calling for violence against Democrats on the rightwing social media app Parler. Lang Holland’s posts included reiterating Trump’s claim that the election was ‘stolen’ and calling for ‘death to all Marxist democrats’.

  • Trump’s election night watch party might have been a super-spreader event, with two senior attendees testing positive for the virus so far. There were few masks worn, and no social distancing in place.

Stat of the day

The US passed the grim milestone of 10m cases of coronavirus yesterday, with a death toll that stands at 238,251. Illinois experienced the highest increase in daily cases, with more than 10,000 new cases recorded, followed by Michigan and California. While promise of a vaccine led to an outpouring of optimism around the world, Trump accused developer Pfizer on Twitter of withholding the vaccine until after the election.

Don’t miss this

California is a bastion of Democratic support, declaring that its 55 electoral college votes would go to Joe Biden minutes after the polls closed. But many conservative candidates still find support there. The state has sided against stronger rent control, new business tax and greater support for gig economy work. Gabrielle Canon explores the politics behind the US’s “most misunderstood state”.

Last Thing: Make America Rake Again

It was billed as a major press event at Philadelphia’s Four Seasons, but a briefing by Donald Trump’s lawyers was mercilessly mocked when it emerged the venue was not the plush hotel but a suburban garden centre.



It was billed as a major press event at Philadelphia’s Four Seasons, but a briefing by Donald Trump’s lawyers was mercilessly mocked when it emerged the venue was not the plush hotel but a suburban garden centre. Photograph: Bryan R Smith/AFP/Getty Images

It couldn’t have been much further from the glamour that Trump expected for his election campaign, but Four Seasons Total Landscaping – a Philadelphia groundskeeping company located between a crematorium and a sex shop – became the unlikely backdrop to a Trump campaign speech accusing the Democrats of election fraud. While the internet erupted into giggles, the firm sought to cash in on its newfound fame, launching a range of merchandise including stickers saying “MAKE AMERICA RAKE AGAIN” and “LAWN AND ORDER”.

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