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Trump pardons former adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying in Russia probe

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – US President Donald Trump on Wednesday (Nov 25) pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn who had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to #GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

A retired Army general, Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about interactions he had with Russia’s ambassador to the United States in the weeks leading up to Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.

He has since sought to withdraw the plea, arguing that prosecutors violated his rights and duped him into a plea agreement. His sentencing has been deferred several times.

It was the highest-profile pardon granted by Trump since he took office.

Among others, the Republican president has pardoned Army personnel accused of war crimes in Afghanistan and Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff and hardliner against illegal immigration.

Flynn served as Trump’s first national security adviser but the president fired him in early 2017 after only 24 days as a controversy broke over the former general’s contacts with then Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak.

Flynn was one of several former Trump aides to plead guilty or be convicted at trial in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Moscow’s interference in the 2016 US election to boost Trump’s candidacy. Russia denied meddling.

Trump in March said he was strongly considering a full pardon for Flynn. He said the FBI and Justice Department had “destroyed” Flynn’s life and that of his family, and cited an unspecified, unsubstantiated report that they had lost records related to Flynn.

Flynn was supposed to help cooperate with the government as part of his plea deal. But he later switched lawyers and tactics, arguing that prosecutors in the case had tricked him into lying about his December 2016 conversations with Kislyak.

The Justice Department has repeatedly denied allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, and US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan rejected all of Flynn’s claims in December 2019.

Federal prosecutors had asked the judge in January to sentence Flynn to up to six months in prison, arguing in a court filing that “the defendant has not learned his lesson. He has behaved as though the law does not apply to him, and as if there are no consequences for his actions.”

Flynn also served as head of the Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency but was forced out in 2014 in part due to his management style and opinions on how to fight Islamist militancy.

He joined the Trump 2016 election campaign and at the Republican National Convention that year he led supporters in chants of “Lock her up,” in reference to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Other former Trump aides were convicted of federal crimes following the Russia inquiry.

Trump’s longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone was sentenced on Feb 20 to three years and four months in prison for obstruction of justice, witness tampering and lying to lawmakers investigating the Russian election interference.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, was sentenced last year to 3-1/2 years in prison after being convicted of unlawful lobbying and witness tampering, which combined with a sentence in a related case equaled a term of more than seven years behind bars.

Trump, defeated in a presidential election on Nov 3, is due to leave the White House on Jan. 20 when President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

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White House Weighs Pardon Blitz Before Trump’s Exit

WASHINGTON — It’s not just Michael T. Flynn. The White House is weighing a wave of pardons and commutations by President Trump in his final weeks in office, prompting jockeying by a range of clemency seekers and their representatives, including more allies of Mr. Trump.

Among those hoping for pardons are two former Trump campaign advisers, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, who like Mr. Flynn, the former national security adviser who is already said to be in line for a pardon from Mr. Trump, were convicted in cases stemming from the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

Alan Dershowitz, the law professor who represented Mr. Trump during his impeachment trial, is considering seeking clemency for two of his clients — a New Jersey man serving more than 20 years for defrauding investors, and a billionaire businessman convicted in what’s been called “one of North Carolina’s worst government corruption scandals.”

Mr. Dershowitz said he recently discussed the pardon process with the White House.

But it is not just the well-connected and wealthy who could benefit from one of Mr. Trump’s final exercises of executive power, lawyers in contact with the administration said.

Several groups that have pushed for a criminal justice overhaul are working with an ad hoc White House team under the direction of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, with a goal of announcing as many as hundreds of commutations for offenders now in jail for crimes ranging from nonviolent drug convictions to mail fraud and money laundering.

“Lists of people are being circulated,” said Brandon Sample, a Vermont lawyer who specializes in presidential pardons and has submitted several names of people to be considered. Among them is Russell Bradley Marks, 57, who has been imprisoned after pleading guilty in 1992 on a cocaine-related conviction for which he was given a mandatory life sentence.

The end of any presidential administration is a time for intense lobbying related to pardons.

But in Mr. Trump’s case, it extends to his own personal and political considerations, his lingering bitterness over the Russia inquiry and his transactional approach to governing.

The sheer number of people in the president’s circle to have gotten in trouble with the law has also made the question of pardons especially fraught. In addition to Mr. Flynn, Mr. Gates and Mr. Papadopoulos, Trump aides and associates who have been convicted include Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer; Roger J. Stone Jr., his longtime friend and adviser; and Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman.

Others in the president’s circle to face federal charges include Stephen K. Bannon, his former strategist, who was indicted in August on charges of defrauding donors to a campaign to support Mr. Trump’s plans to build a wall along the border with Mexico, and Elliott Broidy, a top fund-raiser, who pleaded guilty last month in a foreign lobbying case.

Lawyers say the White House is also focused on ways to use presidential clemency powers to further burnish Mr. Trump’s role in what is considered the most consequential criminal justice legislation in a generation, which reduced sentences for nonviolent offenders.

A blitz of late pardons or commutations for federal crimes — over which presidents have unchecked power — is seen by some criminal justice reform activists as another way to build his record on that issue.

Far more explosive in political terms is the possibility of pardons or commutations for allies, associates or even himself, reflecting Mr. Trump’s oft-stated belief that his presidency was undermined by law enforcement investigations, including the special counsel’s inquiry.

Word on Tuesday that Mr. Trump intends to pardon Mr. Flynn focused new attention on the president’s intentions.

Mr. Flynn has been seeking to have the case against him dismissed, after the Justice Department moved to drop charges against him, even though Mr. Flynn had twice pleaded guilty to lying to investigators who were examining his contacts with the Russian ambassador before Mr. Trump took office.

But with that case tied up in court and now looking like it might drag on past Mr. Trump’s tenure, the president has told aides he plans to move ahead with a pardon, a decision sure to give hope to other associates seeking clemency.

“The president knows how much those of us who worked for him have suffered, and I hope he takes that into consideration if and when he grants any pardons,” said Mr. Gates, who served as Mr. Trump’s deputy campaign chairman in 2016 before pleading guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators and becoming a star witness for the special counsel’s team.

A White House spokesman, Judd Deere, declined to comment.

So far, Mr. Trump has granted 28 pardons, which wipe out convictions, and 16 commutations, which reduce prison sentences. The combined total is the lowest so far for any president since at least William McKinley, who took office in 1897, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center.

President Barack Obama issued 212 pardons and 1,715 commutations during his eight years in office, most of which went to low-profile convicts who were facing long prison terms for nonviolent offenses.

Of the actions Mr. Trump has taken, many have benefited individuals with a personal or political connection to Mr. Trump.

They include Mr. Stone, who had been convicted of charges brought by the special counsel, the conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza and the former Wall Street executive Michael Milken, whose bid for a pardon drew support from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mr. Trump also has mused about pardoning Mr. Manafort, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for obstructing justice and violating financial and lobbying laws, in the highest-profile of the cases brought by the special counsel.

There is open speculation about whether he might go even further in using his clemency power in his self-interest, possibly issuing pre-emptive pardons to members of his family and even himself for federal crimes.

Even if such a self-pardon were possible — scholars differ on the legality — it would not inoculate Mr. Trump against possible charges stemming from ongoing investigations into his business and finances by city and state prosecutors in New York.

The planned clemency initiative, and the lobbying that has unfolded around it, has been hindered in some ways in recent weeks by Mr. Trump’s refusal to formally concede his loss to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Potential pardon seekers and their representatives said in interviews that they were waiting to escalate their appeals until Mr. Trump conceded, or at least signaled that he had started to come to grips with the looming end of his presidency. Appealing for clemency before then, people involved warn, risks backfiring, because it could be seen as acknowledging a defeat that Mr. Trump has thus far refused to accept.

“As long as they’re fighting this and there are court cases and the Electoral College hasn’t voted, it seems premature,” said Bud Cummins, a former U.S. attorney who was credited by the White House for helping persuade Mr. Trump to commute the sentence last year of one of his clients, a politically connected Arkansas businessman convicted of bribery related to Medicaid fraud.

Mr. Cummins, who was registered to lobby this year for a firm co-founded by two Trump campaign aides, said “lots of people” had approached him asking for help winning pardons from Mr. Trump. He declined to identify them.

Other potential pardon seekers and their allies are discussing a range of strategies to win over the president. They include highlighting donations to Mr. Trump, spending money at his properties, trying to hire lawyers or lobbyists seen as close to him and emphasizing business connections that could help Mr. Trump after he leaves office.

Some are echoing a theme that has resonated with Mr. Trump — grievances about unfair treatment at the hands of prosecutors and investigators.

Mr. Gates, who received a 45-day jail sentence after cooperating with investigators, published a book last month accusing the special counsel’s team of using devious strong-arm tactics to pursue Mr. Trump and his allies. Mr. Gates conceded that his criticism of the investigation could potentially help with a pardon, but he added that “my motivation in writing the book was not to seek a pardon; it was to expose the truth about the Russia investigation.”

Mr. Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. and served 12 days in jail, has also been very public in his embrace of Mr. Trump. He appeared at the Trump National Doral resort in Florida last month for a conference of conservative activists, where he promoted his book, “Deep State Target: How I Got Caught in the Cross Hairs of the Plot to Bring Down President Trump.”

In an interview, he said his support for Mr. Trump was not inspired by his pursuit of a pardon, adding that he did not expect he would get one but still hoped it would happen.

“Of course I would be honored to be pardoned,” Mr. Papadopoulos said.

Others seeking creative ways to forge ties to the president include Joseph Maldonado-Passage, the former Oklahoma zoo owner who is better known as Joe Exotic. His representatives have been running a carefully orchestrated campaign to try to persuade Mr. Trump to pardon Mr. Maldonado-Passage, who is one year into a 22-year sentence for trying to hire a hit man to kill an animal-rights activist.

They have focused on getting Mr. Trump’s attention through appeals to Donald Trump Jr. and Mr. Kushner, appearances on Fox News and a visit to the Trump International Hotel in Washington where, one organizer said, they ran up a tab of about $10,000 to try to get Mr. Trump’s attention.

Mr. Dershowitz helped clients secure pardons from Mr. Trump in 2017 and 2019. He is exploring applying for pardons on behalf of Greg E. Lindberg, a North Carolina businessman who was sentenced in August to more than seven years in prison for his role in a bribery scheme that shook the state’s Republican Party, and Eliyahu Weinstein, a New Jersey man sentenced to more than 20 years in prison for a real estate Ponzi scheme.

Mr. Dershowitz said he had not approached Mr. Trump about either case, though he did have a recent conversation with the White House about how its pardon process will work. And he recalled an earlier conversation in which he explained his general philosophy on the importance of pardons to Mr. Trump.

The president, Mr. Dershowitz said, “was very interested in the concept of the pardon power being more than just clemency, but being part of the system of checks and balances for excessive legislative or judicial actions.”

The effort to create a White House commutation program separate from the formal Justice Department office started last year after the 2018 passage of the First Step Act, which expanded an early release program and modified sentencing laws, including mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.

There are at least 13,700 people who have formally applied to the Justice Department for pardons that are listed as “pending.”

Representatives of inmates seeking sentence reductions have separately been sending the White House lists of names, typically focusing on people who received unusually long sentences for nonviolent crimes after declining to accept a plea agreement and others serving long sentences because of mandatory guidelines.

“Each of these are sad, sad situations,” said Norman Reimer, the executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “They show massive injustice and over- sentencing, and we hope he will act on them.”

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JFK assassination interest grows as Joe Biden pressured to release CIA files

He may not yet be President of the United States of America, but already Joe Biden is being pressured to release documents relating to the assassination of John F Kennedy.

The circumstances around the 1963 assassination of JFK still holds many secrets – almost 40 years after the tragic event.

President Kennedy was shot dead by former marine Lee Harvey Oswald as he was riding in a presidential motorcade through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, on Friday, November 22, 1963.

Oswald was subsequently shot dead by a nightclub owner named Jack Rudy while in the basement of Dallas Police Headquarters two days after the murder of JFK.

Rudy later died of cancer while awaiting trial four years later – while the series of events has led to rampant conspiracy theories about the assassination.

Documents relating to the assassination were made public as part of the 1992 John F Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act.

While remaining documents were due to be released by October 26, 2017, this was delayed by President Donald Trump at the request of the CIA "to protect against identifiable harm to national security, law enforcement, or foreign affairs".

Newsweek reports that 15,834 of the files still contain redactions and 520 remain unreleased in full.

  • Dog stolen 6 years ago before being found 200 miles from home reunited with owners

There are now hopes that President-elect Biden will release the files.

Biden – who will take office in January 2021 – will be in power when the CIA extension expires on October 26, 2021.

Russ Baker, a journalist, Kennedy and founder of the news website WhoWhatWhy.org told the Newsweek: "There's optimism that the Biden administration will finally comply with the JFK Records Act to override expected further obstructionism of U.S. intelligence agencies and fully release all documents.

"He actually just needs to do nothing at all. By law, all documents must be released in full, with no redactions, by October 26, 2021."

Jacob Hornberger, president of the Future of Freedom Foundation, has also urged for the documents to be released next year.

He said: "The American people have the right to know all the facts and circumstances surrounding the JFK assassination. The notion that national security will be threatened by the disclosure of records that are almost 60 years old is laughable."

However, he added: "If another extension for secrecy is sought in October 2021, and I believe that such an extension will be sought, Biden will grant the request."

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Trump’s Attempts to Overturn the Election Are Unparalleled in U.S. History

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election are unprecedented in American history and an even more audacious use of brute political force to gain the White House than when Congress gave Rutherford B. Hayes the presidency during Reconstruction.

Mr. Trump’s chances of succeeding are somewhere between remote and impossible, and a sign of his desperation after President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. won by nearly six million popular votes and counting, as well as a clear Electoral College margin. Yet the fact that Mr. Trump is even trying has set off widespread alarms, not least in Mr. Biden’s camp.

“I’m confident he knows he hasn’t won,” Mr. Biden said at a news conference in Wilmington, Del., on Thursday, before adding, “It’s just outrageous what he’s doing.” Although Mr. Biden dismissed Mr. Trump’s behavior as embarrassing, he acknowledged that “incredibly damaging messages are being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions.”

Mr. Trump has only weeks to make his last-ditch effort work: Most of the states he needs to strip Mr. Biden of votes are scheduled to certify their electors by the beginning of next week. The electors cast their ballots on Dec. 14, and Congress opens them in a joint session on Jan. 6.

Even if Mr. Trump somehow pulled it off, there are other safeguards in place to face the challenge, assuming people in power do not simply bend to the president’s will.

The first test will be Michigan, where Mr. Trump is trying to get the State Legislature to overturn Mr. Biden’s 157,000-vote margin of victory. He has taken the extraordinary step of inviting a delegation of state Republican leaders to the White House, hoping to persuade them to ignore the popular vote outcome.

“That’s not going to happen,” Mike Shirkey, the Republican leader of the Michigan State Senate, said on Tuesday. “We are going to follow the law and follow the process.”

Beyond that, Michigan’s Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, could send Congress a competing electoral slate, based on the election vote, arguing that the proper procedures were ignored. That dispute would create just enough confusion, in Mr. Trump’s Hail Mary calculus, that the House and Senate together would have to resolve it in ways untested in modern times.

Federal law dating to 1887, passed in reaction to the Hayes election, provides the framework, but not specifics, of how it would be done. Edward B. Foley, a constitutional law and election law expert at Ohio State University, noted that the law only required Congress to consider all submissions “purporting to be the valid electoral votes.”

But Michigan alone would not be enough for Mr. Trump. He would also need at least two other states to fold to his pressure. The most likely candidates are Georgia and Arizona, which both went for Mr. Trump in 2016 and have Republican-controlled legislatures and Republican governors.

Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona has said he will accept the state election results, although only after all the campaign lawsuits are resolved. Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, where a hand recount reaffirmed Mr. Biden’s victory on Thursday, has not publicly said one way or another who won his state.

Mr. Trump has said little in public apart from tweets endorsing wild conspiracy theories about how he was denied victory. Yet his strategy, if it can be called that, has become clear over two days of increasingly frenetic action by a president 62 days from losing power.

In just that time, Mr. Trump has fired the federal election official who has challenged his false claims of fraud, tried to halt the vote-certification process in Detroit to disenfranchise an overwhelmingly Black electorate that voted against him, and now is misusing the powers of his office in his effort to take Michigan’s 16 electoral votes away from Mr. Biden.

In many ways it is even more of an attempted power grab than the one in 1876. At the time, Hayes was governor of Ohio, not president of the United States. Ulysses S. Grant was, and when Hayes won — also by wrenching the vote around in three states — he became known as “His Fraudulency.”

“But this is far worse,” said Michael Beschloss, the presidential historian and author of “Presidents of War.” “In the case of Hayes, both sides agreed that the outcome in at least three states was in dispute. In this case, no serious person thinks enough votes are in dispute that Donald Trump could have been elected on Election Day.”

“This is a manufactured crisis. It is a president abusing his huge powers in order to stay in office after the voters clearly rejected him for re-election.”

He added: “This is what many of the founders dreaded.”

Mr. Trump telegraphed this strategy during the campaign. He told voters at a rally in Middletown, Pa., in September that he would win at the polls, or in the Supreme Court, or in the House — where, under the 12th Amendment, every state delegation gets one vote in choosing the president. (There are 26 delegations of 50 dominated by Republicans, even though the House is in the hands of the Democrats.)

“I don’t want to end up in the Supreme Court, and I don’t want to go back to Congress, even though we have an advantage if we go back to Congress,” he said then. “Does everyone understand that?”

Now that is clearly the Plan B, after the failure of Plan A, an improvisational legal strategy to overturn election results by invalidating ballots in key states. In state after state, the president’s lawyers have been laughed out of court, unable to provide evidence to back up his claims that mail-in ballots were falsified, or that glitches on voting machines with software from Dominion Voting Systems might, just might, have changed or deleted 2.7 million votes.

Those theories figured in a rambling news conference that Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, held with other members of his legal team on Thursday. The group threw out a series of disconnected arguments to try to make the case that Mr. Trump really won. The arguments included blaming mail-in ballots that they said were prone to fraud as well as Dominion, which they suggested was tied to former President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela (who died seven years ago), and had vague connections to the Clinton Foundation and George Soros, the philanthropist and billionaire Democratic fund-raiser.

“That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history,” Christopher Krebs, who was fired Tuesday night by Mr. Trump as the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Thursday afternoon.

“And possibly the craziest,” he went on. “If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re lucky.”

Mr. Krebs has often noted that the purpose of a reliable election system is to convince those who lost elections that they have, indeed, lost.

Even some of Mr. Trump’s onetime enthusiasts and former top aides have abandoned him on his claims, often with sarcastic derision. “Their basic argument is this was a conspiracy so vast and so successful that there’s no evidence of it,” said John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s third national security adviser, who was ousted last year.

“Now if that’s true, I really want to know who the people are who pulled this off,” he said on Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “We need to hire them at the C.I.A.”

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Amid coronavirus spike, pressure grows on US agency to approve Trump-to-Biden transition

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – A little-known agency that keeps the US federal bureaucracy running is the biggest impediment to new efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak, Democratic President-elect Joe Biden said on Wednesday (Nov 18).

“There’s a whole lot of things that we just don’t have available to us,” Mr Biden said, including real-time data on personal protective equipment and the distribution plan for Covid-19 vaccines.

Ms Emily Murphy, administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA), must “ascertain” the winner of the Nov 3 presidential election between Mr Biden and Republican President Donald Trump. That is a condition of releasing funds and resources to the winner, but she has so far not done so.

Despite a clear margin of victory for Mr Biden, Mr Trump has refused to concede, and his legal challenges are fizzling.

Ms Murphy has sole authority to release salaries, office space, official email addresses and intelligence briefings to an incoming administration, which formally takes over with Mr Biden’s inauguration on Jan 20.

“Unless it’s made available soon, we’re going to be behind by weeks or months,” in his administration’s coronavirus effort, Mr Biden told emergency responders, nurses and other frontline workers at an online event in Washington. “So, I just want to tell you that that’s the only slowdown right now that we have.”

A third wave of coronavirus infection has gripped the United States, and the country’s death toll crossed 250,000 people on Wednesday.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Wednesday described a “crazy situation” where he speaks daily with the White House coronavirus experts and has a separate channel of communications with Mr Biden’s advisory board on the virus.

“Those two camps aren’t speaking. And that’s a big problem,” Mr Murphy, a Democrat, told CNN. “That is a major problem that could put both the distribution of the vaccine at risk and, more broadly, lives at risk.”

The GSA’s Ms Murphy is under mounting pressure from election watchdogs, Democrats, a growing number of Republicans, the American Medical Association and her predecessor to recognise Mr Biden as the winner.

“She’s going to make an ascertainment when the winner is clear, as laid out in the Constitution,” a GSA spokeswoman said before Mr Biden’s remarks.

The bipartisan National Task Force on Election Crises said on Tuesday it was “past time” for the GSA administrator to certify Mr Biden.

More on this topic

“This isn’t about politics. It’s about honouring free and fair elections. It’s also about lost lives,” the group said.

Mr Trump claims, without providing evidence, that he was cheated out of a victory by widespread fraud and has fired off a flurry of lawsuits that judges have mostly rejected.

An administration official said the White House was not pressuring Ms Murphy to withhold recognition of Mr Biden as the winner.

2000 versus 2020

Ms Murphy is relying on precedent, her office said, citing the five-week delay after the 2000 election before Republican George W. Bush was declared the winner.

While the 2000 result hung on 537 votes in just one state – Florida – Mr Trump would need to reverse Mr Biden’s large margins in three of four closely contested states, something election experts and a growing number of Republicans say is virtually impossible.

The GSA did not say how or when Ms Murphy would make her decision, and the agency has not responded to a congressional letter asking the same questions, a House of Representatives Subcommittee on Government Operations official said.

Mr Trump administration sources said it was reasonable to wait until vote recounts are completed and the legal challenges have been resolved – a process that is continuing.

On Wednesday, the Trump campaign requested a partial recount in Wisconsin in two heavily Democratic counties.

More on this topic

Mr Dave Barram, who was GSA administrator in 2000, said Ms Murphy contacted him shortly before the election to discuss a possible repeat of a contested scenario like that between Democrat Al Gore and Mr Bush.

“In 2000, there was no clear winner, and both Gore and Bush knew it. This is different. It’s getting overwhelmingly evident that Trump should concede,” Mr Barram said.

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Opinion | Goodbye, Golden Goose

WASHINGTON — Many see a wannabe despot barricaded in the bunker, stubby fingers clinging to the levers of power as words that mean nothing to him — democracy, electoral integrity, peaceful transition, constitutionality — swirl above.

One presidential historian sees something different in Donald Trump’s swan song. Michael Beschloss has been tweeting pictures of Hollywood’s most famous divas, shut-ins and head cases.

Norma Desmond watching movies of herself, hour after hour, shrouded in her mansion on Sunset Boulevard as “the dream she had clung to so desperately enfolded her.” Howard Hughes, descending into germaphobia, madness and seclusion. Greta Garbo, sequestered behind her hat and sunglasses. Charles Foster Kane, missing the roar of the crowd as he spirals at Xanadu, his dilapidated pleasure palace.

The president and his cronies are likely to do real damage and major grifting in the next two months. But in other ways, the picture of the president as a pathetic, unraveling diva is apt.

Trump has said in interviews and at rallies that two of his favorite movies are the black-and-white classics about stars collapsing in on themselves, “Citizen Kane” and “Sunset Boulevard.”

In “Sunset Boulevard,” Max the butler and a camera crew conspire to make the demented silent film star believe she’s getting her close-up when she’s actually just being lured down the staircase to answer for her sins.

The Republicans enabling Trump’s delusion are like the camera crew, filming a scene with the disintegrating diva that is never going to be seen.

“What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time?” a senior Republican official told The Washington Post. “No one seriously thinks the results will change.”

Trump, who once wanted to be a Hollywood producer and considered attending U.S.C. film school, never made the pivot to being a politician. He got elected because he played a competent boss and wily megabillionaire on a reality TV show — pretty good acting now that we know he is neither — and he has stayed a performance artist and a ratings-obsessed showman.

Even after Georgia and Arizona were called and Joe Biden clinched 306 electoral votes — the same number Trump declared “a massive landslide victory” when he reached it in 2016 — the president is putting on a play within the play, one in which he’s still the star.

Trump Boswell Maggie Haberman reported that there is no grand strategy and the president “is simply trying to survive from one news cycle to the next,” playing his familiar game of creating a controversy and watching it play out.

As a growing number of Trump advisers and Republican Party leaders privately admitted the end was nigh — and as the Secret Service was rocked by coronavirus infections and quarantine orders from the president’s mask-defying, super-spreader campaign travel — White House officials propped up Donald’s grand illusions. This, even as his lawyers deserted him and judges ruled against him.

“We are moving forward here at the White House under the assumption there will be a second Trump term,” Peter Navarro, the White House trade adviser, said on Fox Business Friday.

Kayleigh McEnany chimed in that the president would “attend his own inauguration.”

In his remarks about Operation Warp Speed Friday afternoon in the Rose Garden, Trump showed how tortoise-slow he has been about accepting that he’s out.

“I will not go, this administration will not be going to a lockdown,” he said. “Hopefully, the — the, uh, whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration it will be — I guess time will tell.”

Time has told. Do we detect a sliver of reality creeping in?

The president, who has never shown much interest in governing, has finally dropped all pretense to focus on the core tenets of the Trump Doctrine: himself, cable news, Twitter, self-pity, and caterwauling about perceived slights.

[email protected] daytime ratings have completely collapsed,” he tweeted. “Weekend daytime even WORSE. Very sad to watch this happen, but they forgot what made them successful, what got them there. They forgot the Golden Goose. The biggest difference between the 2016 Election, and 2020, was @FoxNews!”

The goose was at Fox’s neck. What an unnatural and delicious sight.

The network helped Trump become president and allowed him to maintain his viselike grip on his base. Fox was the oxygen inside his alternate-reality bubble.

But because Trump is 100 percent transactional, he couldn’t accept pure math, training his laser beam on Fox when it dared to veer ever so slightly from total fealty by correctly calling the race early in Arizona.

Trump is right about this one thing: He has been a Golden Goose for the news business. Every time he opens his mouth, 50 headlines jump out.

But the Golden Goose is also a Silly Goose. He should just recognize that Biden winning is actually the best outcome for him. He doesn’t have to do the job anymore and can simply get on with the branding and the whining and the pot-stirring — the parts that interest him.

He certainly branded the Democrats very effectively with socialism, defunding the police, shutting down the country and ending fracking. Biden escaped but a lot of down-ballot Democrats didn’t.

Now Trump should move on and stick to what he knows best: promoting himself. Like Norma Desmond, he should give in to the fantasy of his life that he is so devoted to and leave the rest of us to live in the cold, cruel, unforgiving, inconvenient reality.

Mr. DeMille just called, Mr. President. He says he’s ready for your close-up. Keep your pancake makeup on and step on out of the house now. The cameras will be waiting.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: [email protected].

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China finally congratulates Biden on being elected president

BEIJING (AP) — China on Friday became one of the last major countries to congratulate Joe Biden on being elected U.S. president.

China, along with Russia, avoided joining the throng of governments that congratulated Biden last weekend after he was projected to have secured enough Electoral College votes in the Nov. 3 election to win the White House.

“We respect the choice of the American people,” said a foreign ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin. “We congratulate Mr. Biden and (vice presidential running mate) Ms. (Kamala) Harris.”

17 PHOTOSJoe Biden and Xi JinpingSee GalleryJoe Biden and Xi JinpingVice President Joe Biden gestures toward Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan during an arrival ceremony in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan are traveling to Washington for a State Visit.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)Vice President Joe Biden follows his wife Jill Biden to the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, for a state arrival ceremony for Chinese President Xi Jinping.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)Vice President Joe Biden gives the thumbs-up and his wife Jill Biden wives and Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan drive off in their motorcade vehicle after an arrival ceremony in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan are travelingto Washington for a State Visit.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vice President Joe Biden stand together as President Xi Jinping prepares to board a motorcade during an arrival ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)Chinese President Xi Jinping and Vice President Joe Biden walk down the red carpet on the tarmac during an arrival ceremony in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan are traveling to Washington for a State Visit.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)From left, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Vice President Joe Biden, Peng Liyuan and Jill Biden stand for the U.S. National Anthem during an arrival ceremony in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015. Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan are traveling to Washington for a State Visit. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands withU.S Vice President Joe Biden, left, as they pose for photos at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Lintao Zhang, Pool)U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, right, accompanied by Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao, left, review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Lintao Zhang, Pool)Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao, right, and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, left, review an honor guard during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. (AP Photo by Lintao Zhang, Pool)Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao, right,invites U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to view an honor guard during a welcome ceremony inside the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, in Beijing, China. (AP Photo/Lintao Zhang, Pool)FILE – In this file photo taken Friday, Feb. 17, 2012, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden hold t-shirts given to them by students during their visit to the International Studies Learning Center in South Gate, Calif. Xi, 59 and the country’s vice president is expected to take over as head of the ruling party in November, 2012, before becoming president in 2013 of an increasingly assertive China. Tall and heavyset, married to a popular folk singer in the military, Xi is at ease in groups, in contrast to China’s typically stiff and aloof leaders, such as current President Hu Jintao. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, left with Vice President Joe Biden, shows off a chocolate-covered macadamia nut, given to him by Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie, at the start of a meeting of Chinese and American governors, at Disney Hall, Friday, Feb. 17, 2012 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Jay L. Clendenin, Pool)Vice President Joe Biden meets with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, left, talks with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, right, as they visit the South Bridge that’s part of an ancient irrigation system in Dujiangyan on the outskirts of Chengdu, in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, center, hands over a basketball to students after signing his name near Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, right, as they visit the Qingchengshan High School in Dujiangyan on the outskirts of Chengdu, in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, right, prepares to shake hands with Sichuan Governor Jiang Jufeng before a meeting at a hotel in Chengdu in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)El vicepresidente de Estados Unidos, Joseph Biden, camina junto a su homólogo chino, Xi Jinping, mientras pasan revista a la guardia de honor durante una ceremonia de bienvenida en el Gran Salón del Pueblo en Beijing, China, el jueves 18 de agosto del 2011. (Foto AP/Ng Han Guan)Up Next

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Wang gave no reason for the delay but said, “the result will be confirmed according to U.S. laws and procedures.”

China’s government is mired in a tariff war with the Trump administration over Beijing’s technology ambitions and trade surplus.

Trump also has labeled China a security threat and imposed export curbs and other sanctions on Chinese companies.

Political analysts expect few changes under a Biden administration due to widespread frustration with Beijing’s trade and human rights record and accusations of spying and technology theft.

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I’m going NOWHERE! Donald Trump already preparing 2024 US Election campaign

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The US President is said to have told his advisers he is thinking about running for another term in the White House in four years time despite his efforts to contest the latest election result, according to the New York Times. The news comes as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo predicted a “second Trump administration,” in comments at odds with congratulatory phone calls from the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Ireland to Mr Biden.

Mr Trump has recently cemented his influence in the Republican Party by forming a leadership Political Action Committee (PAC).

Speaking about the PAC, Tim Murtaugh, Mr Trump’s campaign spokesman, told The New York Times: “The president always planned to do this, win or lose, so he can support candidates and issues he cares about, such as combating voter fraud.”

The Trump campaign has filed a string of lawsuits since Democrat Mr Biden captured the presidency.

Mr Biden’s victory in the November 3 election was propelled by wins in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

But Mr Trump, who will leave office on January 20, 2021, is yet to recognise the result of the race.

He prematurely declared victory well before the votes had been counted and has repeatedly complained without evidence that he is the victim of widespread voter fraud

But judges have already tossed lawsuits in Michigan and Georgia brought by the campaign, and legal experts say Mr Trump’s litigation has little chance of changing the outcome of the election.

And President-elect Mr Biden has vowed nothing would stop the transfer of power in the US government.

Mr Biden secured more than the 270 votes in the Electoral College needed to take the presidency by winning Pennsylvania on Saturday after four tense days of counting, which was delayed by a surge in mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic.

During a speech in Delaware, Mr Biden said his team was pushing ahead with forming a new administration to take over on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021, no matter what.

He said it was an “embarrassment” that Mr Trump has not conceded the election.

Mr Biden added: “We’re going to be going, moving along, in a consistent manner, putting together our administration, the White House, and reviewing who we’re going to pick for the Cabinet positions, and nothing’s going to stop that.”

When asked what he would say if Mr Trump was watching, he added: “Mr. President, I look forward to speaking with you”.

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Trump plans political action committee in hopes of keeping hold on Republican Party

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) – US President Donald Trump is planning to form a so-called leadership political action committee (PAC), a federal fundraising vehicle that will potentially let him retain his hold on the Republican Party even when he is out of office, officials said Monday (Nov 9).

The announcement is expected as soon as this week, just days after the major news networks and newspapers, as well as The Associated Press, called the 2020 election for former Vice-President Joe Biden.

Such committees can accept donations of up to US$5,000 (S$6,730) per donor per year – far less than the donation limits for the committees formed by Mr Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee – but a leadership PAC could accept donations from an unlimited number of people. It could also accept donations from other political action committees.

A leadership PAC could spend an unlimited amount in so-called independent expenditures to benefit other candidates, as well as fund travel, polling and consultants. Mostly, it would almost certainly be a vehicle by which Mr Trump could retain influence in a party that has been remade largely in his image over the past four years.

A Mr Trump campaign spokesman, Nr Tim Murtaugh, said the committee had been in the works for a while.

“The president always planned to do this, win or lose,” Mr Murtaugh said, “so he can support candidates and issues he cares about, such as combating voter fraud.”

Still, a PAC could give the president an off-ramp after a bruising election fight, as well as keep him as a dominant figure as the next Republican presidential primary races are beginning for a new standard-bearer.

“President Trump is not going anywhere anytime soon,” said Mr Matt Gorman, a Republican strategist. “He’s going to insert himself in the national debate in a way that’s unlike any of his predecessors.”

Before the election, Mr Trump told advisers, sometimes joking and other times not, that he might run again in 2024 if he lost to Mr Biden.

Even as Mr Biden has gathered more than the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win, and as he has taken leads of tens of thousands of votes in several battleground states, Mr Trump has maintained there was voter fraud on a wide scale, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

He has directed his campaign to march forward with legal challenges in states like Arizona and Nevada, despite most advisers believing that the race is over and that he should move on.

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But Mr Trump’s personal brand as a businessman is now intertwined with his political brand. And he has made clear he is not ceding the stage easily, even as advisers say he will most likely willingly leave the White House when his term ends.

Since the 2020 race was called Saturday, Mr Trump has told advisers he is seriously considering running again in 2024 if the vote is certified for Mr Biden, a development earlier reported by Axios.

While the leadership PAC could not help him in such an effort, it could provide an interim vehicle that would let him travel and engage in some political activity, even if he never actually runs again.

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Trump faces pressure to work with Biden on U.S. presidential transition plan

U.S. President Donald Trump is facing pressure to co-operate with President-elect Joe Biden’s team to ensure a smooth transfer of power when the new administration takes office in January.

The General Services Administration is tasked with formally recognizing Biden as president-elect, which begins the transition. But the agency’s Trump-appointed administrator, Emily Murphy, has not started the process and has given no guidance on when she will do so.

That lack of clarity is fueling questions about whether Trump, who has not publicly recognized Biden’s victory and has falsely claimed the election was stolen, will impede Democrats as they try to establish a government.

There is little precedent in the modern era of a president erecting such hurdles for his successor. The stakes are especially high this year because Biden will take office amid a raging pandemic, which will require a comprehensive government response.

“America’s national security and economic interests depend on the federal government signalling clearly and swiftly that the United States government will respect the will of the American people and engage in a smooth and peaceful transfer of power,” Jen Psaki, a Biden transition aide, tweeted Sunday.

The advisory board of the nonpartisan Center for Presidential Transition also urged the Trump administration to “immediately begin the post-election transition process and the Biden team to take full advantage of the resources available under the Presidential Transition Act.”

Biden, who was elected the 46th president on Saturday, is taking steps to build a government despite questions about whether Trump will offer the traditional assistance.

He is focusing first on the virus, which has already killed nearly 240,000 Americans. Biden will announce details on Monday of a task force that will create a blueprint to attempt to bring the pandemic under control that he plans to begin implementing after assuming the presidency on Jan. 20.

Biden has already named a former surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, and an ex-Food and Drug Administration commissioner, David Kessler, as co-chairs.

Biden was also launching agency review teams, groups of transition staffers that have access to key agencies in the current administration. They will collect and review information such as budgetary and staffing decisions, pending regulations and other work in progress from current Trump administration staff at the departments to help Biden’s team prepare to transition.

But that process can’t begin in full until the GSA recognizes Biden as president-elect. The definition of what constitutes a clear election winner for the GSA is legally murky, making next steps unclear, especially in the short term.

The GSA’s leadership is supposed to act independently and in a nonpartisan manner, and at least some elements of the federal government already have begun implementing transition plans. Aviation officials, for instance, have restricted the airspace over Biden’s lakefront home in Wilmington, Delaware, while the Secret Service has begun using agents from its presidential protective detail for the president-elect and his family.

There were other signs that some leaders were preparing for a new administration.

Biden aides said the president-elect and transition team had been in touch with Republican lawmakers. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, one of Trump’s closest allies, opened a Cabinet meeting on Sunday by congratulating Biden, a former vice-president and longtime senator.

“I have a long and warm personal connection with Joe Biden for nearly 40 years, and I know him as a great friend of the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said.

George W. Bush, the only living Republican former president, called Biden “a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country.”

But other Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, urged Trump to continue pursuing legal challenges related to the election, making a bumpy transition more likely.

Biden started his first full day as president-elect on Sunday by attending church at St. Joseph on the Brandywine near his home in Wilmington, as he does nearly every week. After the service, he visited the church cemetery where several family members have been laid to rest, including his son Beau.

He otherwise spent most of the day inside his home while some of his staff spent hours on a conference call focused on transition planning.

Those plans also may hinge on two Senate races in Georgia that have advanced to a Jan. 5 runoff. If Republicans hold those seats, they’ll likely retain the Senate majority and be in a position to slow confirmation of Biden’s top Cabinet choices and complicate his legislative goals, including sweeping calls for expanding access to health care and bolstering the post-pandemic economy with green jobs and infrastructure designed to combat climate change.

That could test Biden’s campaign pledge to move past the divisiveness of the Trump era and govern in a bipartisan manner.

During his victory speech on Saturday, he vowed to be a president who “seeks not to divide, but unify” and appealed to Trump supporters to “give each other a chance.”

Those close to Biden say he will navigate the period ahead by harnessing his sense of empathy that became a trademark of his campaign. Biden often spoke of the pain he experienced following the death of his wife and young daughter in a 1972 car crash, and Beau’s 2015 death due to brain cancer.

“My brother knows how to feel,” said Valerie Biden Owens, Biden’s sister and longtime top adviser. “Joe’s strength has been resilience and recovery and that’s what we need as a country.”

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