Rush Limbaugh Slams Trump Legal Team

Another sign that we’re seeing the beginning of the end of the farce that is the Trump challenge to the election results: he’s lost El Rushbo.

Mediaite (“Rush Limbaugh Slams Trump Legal Team: ‘They Promised Blockbuster Stuff and Then Nothing Happened’“):

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh is unimpressed by the efforts of President Donald Trump’s legal team to advance his baseless claims that the 2020 election was rigged.

On Monday, Limbaugh opened his show by saying he didn’t know what to make of the Sidney Powell situation, now that the Trump team is distancing themselves from her after days of her unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. The Trump campaign claims Powell is “not a member of the Trump Legal Team” nor a personal lawyer to the president. But Limbaugh pointed out that it’s hard to deny her involvement after her appearance at the news conference led by Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis last Thursday.

“It’s a tough thing to deny she was ever a part of it because they introduced her as part of it,” Limbaugh said. “She was at that press conference last week.”

Shrewd observation, no?

Moving on to the presser itself, Limbaugh recalled that Team Trump seemed like they were about to release devastating evidence for their legal case, but the radio host was underwhelmed.

You call a gigantic press conference like that — one that lasts an hour — and you announce massive bombshells, then you better have some bombshells. There better be something at that press conference other than what we got…I talked to so many people who were blown away by it, by the very nature of the press conference. They promised blockbuster stuff and then nothing happened, and that’s just, it’s not good.

Limbaugh concluded his thoughts on this with “If you’re gonna do a press conference like that with the promise of blockbusters, then there has to be something more than what that press conference delivered.”

Indeed. Aside from an unprecedented assault on American democracy, it’s just bad television.

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SSL Issue

Some of you are likely seeing something like this as you try to load our site:

You’re not in any danger. Indeed, unless you have top-level posting privileges, you don’t use a password and we don’t collect credit card information.

We made the shift to the more secure HTTPS protocol a couple years back and apparently our free license has expired. I’ll get it updated as soon as possible.

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Avril Haynes Biden’s Director of National Intelligence Nominee

Another career professional with Obama administration ties has been chosen for Biden’s cabinet.

NBC (“Biden picks Avril Haines as director of national intelligence“):

Joe Biden has selected Avril Haines, who held top national security jobs under President Obama, to become director of national intelligence in the Biden administration.

Having served Obama as a national security lawyer and deputy CIA director, Haines, 51, has been playing a key national security role in the Biden transition. She will become the first woman in the DNI job, which was created after the 9-11 attacks to better coordinate the sprawling American intelligence bureaucracy. Among other things, the DNI oversees the presidential intelligence briefing process.

That no woman has held the DNI job isn’t that surprising; it’s a relatively new billet. But no woman was the Director of Central Intelligence, the predecessor job going back to 1947, either. (Gina Haspel was the first woman to hold the CIA Director’s job but that office lost the DCI role when DNI was created.)

Haynes is extremely well-qualified:

Haines served as deputy chief counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2007 to 2008, when then-Sen. Biden was chairman.

She joined the State Department as a legal adviser in 2008, and in 2010 became deputy assistant to the president and deputy counsel to the president for national security affairs at the White House.

She served as deputy CIA director from 2013 to 2014, and was the first woman to hold that office. In that role, she decided not to discipline CIA personnel who were involved in a dispute with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which had accused the CIA of improperly accessing the committee’s computers.

She returned to the White House in 2014 to become deputy national security adviser.

Haines continues to fill out an administration that looks to be the exact opposite of Donald Trump’s: career professionals whose views are well within the mainstream. And, yes, Biden is clearly trying to put together a cabinet that “looks like America” but without resorting to tokenism.

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Alejandro Mayorkas Biden’s Pick for Homeland Security

President-elect Joe Biden is flooding the zone with cabinet picks today, presumably to make the announcements himself before they’re leaked.

NPR (“Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s Pick For DHS Head, Would Be First Latino In Post“):

President-elect Biden announced Monday his intent to nominate Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban émigré, to head the government agency that oversees immigration issues, the Department of Homeland Security.

Unlike literally everyone else Biden has named thus far, I had never heard of Mayorkas. But, like all the rest of them, he’s unquestionably qualified for the post:

Mayorkas, who would be the first Latino and first immigrant to hold that job, previously served as head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a DHS agency, during the Obama administration, and then as deputy secretary of DHS.

Following the announcement, Mayorkas tweeted that “When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge. Now, I have been nominated to be the DHS Secretary and oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones.”

While I’ve long since tired of the identity politics of the first woman that and the first Black/Latino/whatever that, there’s actually a special significance to having a Latino immigrant in this particular post. And that’s doubly so after the divisive outrages of the Trump administration.

That, as with Avril Haynes as Director of National Intelligence, Biden was able to achieve a “first” without resorting to tokenism—indeed, picking someone who would have naturally been atop any reasonable list of Democratic nominees for their posts—makes it even more noteworthy. It’s a strong signal that we’re nearing the point where cataloging these “firsts” will be a thing of the past as women and minority talent is in sufficient abundance that their selection will be natural—if intentional—rather than a compromise.

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Janet Yellen Biden’s Treasury Secretary Pick

President-elect Joe Biden promised late last week that his pick for the post would satisfy both progressives and moderates. Time will tell* but it’s plausible that he’s hit that sweet spot with this choice.

CNBC (“Biden chooses former Fed Chair Janet Yellen to be Treasury secretary“):

President-elect Joe Biden has chosen former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary, a historic decision that could make her the first woman to lead the department, according to people familiar with the matter.

Yellen, 74, is widely seen as a politically “safe” pick for the role, likely to garner support from Senate Republicans as someone capable of pursing bipartisan compromise during an otherwise fragile time for the economy.

A graduate of Brown and Yale universities, Yellen was also the first woman to serve as Fed chair after her Senate confirmation in 2014.

Aside from the wisdom of choosing a 74-year-old for a rather senior post, the choice would seem unassailable. Indeed, I can’t think of a previous modern nominee for the post that enjoyed this stature at the time. (Alexander Hamilton, the first occupant, was obviously a household name but not for economic expertise. The only modern choice that comes close is James Baker, who took over at Treasury after a star turn at State. Lloyd Benson, who was a failed Vice Presidential nominee and longtime chair of the Senate Finance Committee, deserves honorable mention.)

Her four-year tenure at the helm of the Fed, marked by an improving jobs market and historically low interest rates, may also boost her odds for confirmation.

Political strategists say hopes for a more progressive choice, such as noted Wall Street critic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, had been abandoned after it became clear Democrats would not win a sizable majority in the Senate.

“Janet is a big name, with significant experience highlighted by her time at The Fed,” wrote Alli McCartney, managing director at UBS.

“I am not surprised markets are reacting favorably as this choice is reassuring, especially with the challenges that lie ahead including avoiding a double dip recession and getting people back to work amidst rising virus cases.”

Again, there could have been more exciting choices. But the country has enough excitement for a while.

*UPDATE: Democracy For America has put out a glowing statement.

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Certification Day in Michigan

At noon central time the Michigan Board of State Canvassers is set to certify the votes cast in the 2020 general election. Via the NYT, here’s What We Know About a Suddenly Important Michigan Elections Board, with the most salient being the following (emphasis mine):

While election law experts say the certification vote is a strictly ministerial duty that the board members are obligated to fulfill, political operatives in Michigan are preparing for a chain of events in which the two Republicans on the board follow the Trump campaign’s wishes.

A count has been done. Their job is to certifying that the count has been done so that the results can made official. This does not stop further audits or investigations if needed. Indeed, if you think about it, how can unofficial results be challenged? A certified number and the commensurate records are needed as something to challenge.

As the piece notes:

Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, said on Sunday that state law dictated that no audit or investigation could be done until the election was certified, because state elections officials cannot legally gain access to poll books or ballot boxes before then.

CNN’s write-up tells us What to know about Monday’s Michigan State Board meeting to certify election results:

The role of the board is very narrow and limited. It is to canvass and certify election results. Michigan election law experts told reporters on a press call Friday that the language of the law, which states that the board “shall canvass the returns,” is key to understanding the requirements of the board.

“That’s a mandatory requirement,” John Pirich, a former assistant attorney general to the state of Michigan and current law professor at Michigan State University, said when explaining the laws that govern the board.

“The Michigan Supreme Court has been very clear that ‘shall’ means ‘shall.’ It’s mandatory. It’s ministerial. They have no choice,” said Mark Brewer, the longest serving chair of the Michigan Democratic Party and an attorney at the lawfirm Goodman Acker.

The board cannot ask for an audit prior to certification, according to Michigan law.”It’s clear. It says after certification, and it’s not to be used for recounts or certification issues,” Pirich said, referring to the law.

The NYT piece has bios of the four commissioners, and given the descriptions of the Republican members, it is not outside the realm of the possible for them to refuse to certify, as one member is a public supporter of Trump, and the other has already issued concerns about minor discrepancies in past elections:

Norm Shinkle, 70, of Williamston, near Lansing, is an open supporter of Mr. Trump’s, volunteering for the campaign and even singing the national anthem at a rally for the president in Michigan last month.

A longtime politician in Michigan, he has served as a poll challenger in the past. His wife, Mary Shinkle, was a poll challenger this year at the TCF Center in Detroit, where absentee ballots were counted, and she filed an affidavit complaining about the tense environment there.

[…]

Aaron Van Langevelde, 30, of Charlotte in mid-Michigan, is the unknown quantity on the board. Appointed in 2018, he has declined interview requests from The New York Times and other news outlets.

[…]

After the state’s primary elections in August, he said he was seriously worried about the number of precincts that had voting disparities in Detroit, despite the fact that the problems were relatively minor, and expressed reluctance to certify the results without a pledge that the secretary of state would take control over the city’s elections.

“I want to make sure we’re doing whatever we can to prevent the same thing from happening in November,” he said at the time. “That would be a disaster.”

So, we shall see.

Should there be a deadlock, the likely results would be the court ordering the certification since there is no grounds not to certify the results.

Further, two law professors note in a column in the Detroit Free Press: Refusing to certify legitimate votes is a felony

A canvassing board may not legally refuse to certify an election where no legitimate evidence undermines valid ballots. Michigan courts have repeatedly rejected wild claims of election fraud or improprieties as “incorrect and not credible.” The votes, at this point, speak for themselves. Should a member of the state canvassing board seek to misuse their authority, that obstruction won’t actually deliver a different result. First, understand what state canvassers do: certification just involves adding county tallies and declaring a winner. Michigan law provides a separate space to review the election process — a post-election audit, which does not delay or stop certification. The canvassers have one job. State courts can step in to make sure it gets done. Canvassers failing to do their duty may delay the inevitable for a moment — but not much more than that.

[…]

And then there’s federal law, backed by criminal penalties. Any refusal to certify an election based on meritless innuendo would likely violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Section 11(a) makes it illegal to ”willfully fail or refuse to tabulate, count, and report” lawful votes. 

I suspect it won’t boil down to charges of this nature, but given the way the 2020 process is playing out, I won’t be shocked if we get a 2-2 deadlock and then an exasperated judge having to order the Commission to do its job.

In normal times this would be an utterly boring an unremarkable process, but, alas, times are not normal.

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More on Kemp

SANDY SPRINGS, GA – MARCH 06: “I’m a Georgia Voter” stickers are seen at a polling station in St Andrew Presbyterian Church March 6, 2012 in Sandy Springs, Georgia. Ten states, including Georgia, hold caucuses and primaries today for voters to pick their choices for the Republican presidential nominee. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

As I noted earlier today, Governor Kemp (R-GA) did the right thing in terms of signing the certification of the vote in George as delivered by the Secretary of State. However, he is still playing some games. Via CBS News: Georgia governor calls for audit after state certifies election results.

But Kemp didn’t endorse the results, instead calling for another full hand recount. Kemp, who served as Georgia secretary of state before Raffensperger, has not publicly defended the state’s election process from accusations from the president and his campaign. He alleged Friday that the audit revealed significant errors made in several counties, including Floyd, Douglas and Walton. 

Kemp said the audit only looked at ballots, not the signatures on the absentee applications or the signatures on the ballot envelopes. He called for Raffensperger to “consider addressing these concerns” and conduct a “sample of audit of signatures on absentee ballot envelopes and compare those to the signatures on applications and on file that the secretary of state’s office.”

So, after the original count, and a hand recount as part of an audit, Biden was confirmed to have won twice. Now Kemp is calling for another hand recount and is bringing up the bogeyman of signatures.

Alas, there is this minor detail:

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office has said repeatedly that at this point in the process it is not possible to match signatures — which already took place as a part of a two-step signature verification process — because ballots are separated from envelopes to ensure the secrecy of voters’ selections.

No doubt this will be spun as a reason for Trump adherents to doubt the results.

Under the law, the only recourse left to team Trump is a machine recount, which one suspects will happen.

Since the results of the hand recount were still within the 0.5% margin, the Trump campaign may request another recount within two business days. If the Trump campaign does ask for another recount, it will be a machine recount.

More from the AJC: AJC Interview: Why Kemp formalized Georgia’s election despite Trump’s pushback.

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