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► Congress really, truly, actually appears to have come to agreement on a coronavirus stimulus bill. As The Associated Press reports:
Top Capitol Hill negotiators sealed a deal Sunday on an almost $1 trillion COVID-19 economic relief package, finally delivering long-overdue help to businesses and individuals and providing money to deliver vaccines to a nation eager for them.
The agreement, announced by congressional leaders, would establish a temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and a $600 direct stimulus payment to most Americans, along with a new round of subsidies for hard-hit businesses and money for schools, health care providers and renters facing eviction.
It came after months of battling and posturing, but the negotiating dynamic changed in Republicans’ favor after the election and as the end of the congressional session neared. President-elect Joe Biden was eager for a deal to deliver long-awaited help to suffering people and a boost to the economy, even though it was less than half the size that Democrats wanted this fall.
House leaders informed lawmakers that they would vote on the legislation on Monday, and the Senate was likely to vote on Monday, too. Lawmakers were eager to leave Washington and close out a tumultuous year.
Nothing motivates Congressional Republicans more than threatening to cut into their vacation time. The New York Times has more analysis on what the new stimulus package does and does not accomplish.
► Soon-to-be-unemployed Attorney General William Barr is making some effort to show Americans that he still has a tiny bit of a soul. As The Washington Post explains:
Barr said that while he was “sure there was fraud in this election,” he had not seen evidence that it was so “systemic or broad-based” that it would change the result. He asserted he saw “no basis right now for seizing machines by the federal government,” and he would not name a special counsel to explore the allegations of Trump and his allies.
“If I thought a special counsel at this stage was the right tool and was appropriate, I would name one, but I haven’t, and I’m not going to,” Barr said.
Similarly, Barr said he would not name a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden, President-election Joe Biden’s son who revealed earlier this month he was under investigation for possible tax crimes. Barr said the investigation was “being handled responsibly and professionally” by regular Justice Department prosecutors, and he hoped that would continue in the next administration.
“To this point, I have not seen a reason to appoint a special counsel, and I have no plan to do so before I leave,” Barr said.
Barr announced his resignation earlier this month; his last official day is December 23.
► In his press conference on Monday, Barr also touched on a topic that appears to have little disagreement outside of the guy who sits at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office:
“From the information I have, I agree with Secretary Pompeo’s assessment. It certainly appears to be the Russians,” AG Barr says about the massive breach of the federal government, private companies. Trump claimed it could have been China, which none of his top aides have echoed.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) December 21, 2020
► Over the weekend, The Nation published a story wondering if civil war is brewing within the Republican Party. As The Denver Post reported on Sunday, we have long since reached that point in Colorado:
This is a low point for the Colorado GOP, now with less electoral power than at any time since World War II. Democrats control both chambers of the statehouse by comfortable margins — 41-24 in the House, 20-15 in the Senate. The governor, attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state are all Democrats. Next year, both of the state’s U.S. senators and four of its seven U.S. representatives will be Democrats. In November, the University of Colorado Board of Regents, previously the last statewide body controlled by the GOP, flipped blue for the first time in 41 years.
Just 18 years ago, roughly the opposite was true.
The Denver Post examined data and spoke to more than 20 Republicans, including many current and former elected officials, and found most attribute the powerlessness of a party that was competitive here just a few years ago, and dominant as recently as 2002, to a mix of factors: allegedly mismanaged campaign money; fundamental disagreements within the party over its direction and message; the increasing strength of the Democratic Party; demographic shifts that contributed heavily to the GOP’s disadvantage in voter registration; and the unpopularity of President Donald Trump, whom one pollster referred to as a “rocket booster” for Colorado Democrats.
More political (and coronavirus) news is available right after the jump…
As Promised, More Words…
► President Trump has been trying hard to downplay a massive cyberattack, which most U.S. intelligence experts blame on Russia. As CNN notes:
President Donald Trump on Saturday downplayed a massive cyberattack on US federal government agencies, contradicting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s public remarks linking the hack to Russia and leaving administration officials scrambling to reconcile the competing statements, according to people familiar with the matter.
“This was a very significant effort, and I think it’s the case that now we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity,” Pompeo had said of the cyber hack in an interview Friday on “The Mark Levin Show,” adding: “I can’t say much more as we’re still unpacking precisely what it is, and I’m sure some of it will remain classified.”
But Trump, in his first public comments on the issue, appeared to undercut Pompeo’s remarks in a pair of tweets Saturday, suggesting without evidence “it may be China” that’s responsible. Instead of condemning the attack, or Russia, he wrote that he had been “fully briefed and everything is well under control” — despite officials in his administration having said this week that the cyberattack “poses a grave risk” to networks across both the public and private sector.
White House officials had drafted a statement assigning blame to Russia for the attack and were preparing to release it Friday afternoon but were told to stand down, according to people familiar with the plans. Officials initially weren’t told why the statement was pulled back.
► In a not unrelated story, Russian media outlets are openly suggesting that President Trump might seek political asylum IN RUSSIA. As The Daily Beast reports:
Russian state media—a reliable barometer of the mood at the Kremlin—remains fixated on election-related events in America. Affectionately referring to Donald Trump as “our Donald,” “Trumpusha” and “Comrade Trump,” Russian lawmakers, experts and pundits repeatedly have expressed their concerns about the future of Moscow’s all-time favorite U.S. president.
Co-host of Russian state TV news talk show 60 Minutes Olga Skabeeva brought up the possibility that President Trump would end up seeking asylum in Russia to escape any prosecutions in the United States following the conclusion of his sole presidential term. Skabeeva emphasized that this was by no means a joking matter: “It’s all very serious,” she said, as she pondered out loud about the nature of criminal charges Trump might soon be facing.
Let’s be honest here: You wouldn’t even be surprised if it turns out that Trump was a Russian agent from the very beginning.
► And in another not-unrelated story,POLITICO examines the incredible efforts made by President Trump to overturn his loss in the 2020 election:
In total, the president talked to at least 31 Republicans, encompassing mostly local and state officials from four critical battleground states he lost — Michigan, Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania. The contacts included at least 12 personal phone calls to 11 individuals, and at least four White House meetings with 20 Republican state lawmakers, party leaders and attorneys general, all people he hoped to win over to his side. Trump also spoke by phone about his efforts with numerous House Republicans and at least three current or incoming Senate Republicans.
And it all occurred in parallel to his campaign’s quixotic efforts to launch recounts and file lawsuits demanding ballots be tossed.
Trump’s efforts to cling to power are unprecedented in American history. While political parties have fought over the results of presidential elections before, no incumbent president has ever made such expansive and individualized pleas to the officials who oversee certification of the election results. Trump even used his presidential perch to compel officials to talk with him, summoning state officials to the White House on a few-hours notice and insisting that his outreach was simply part of his presidential duties.
Worst. President. Ever.
► Here’s another reason to avoid travel this Holiday season: Construction projects on I-70 near Idaho Springs will cause massive delays for several weeks.
► Republicans in Colorado’s Congressional delegation are united in opposition to even funding a functional government:
Colorado votes on a one-day continuing resolution, which passed the U.S. House, 329-65. #copolitics
DeGette (D): ✔️
Neguse (D): ✔️
Tipton (R): ❌
Buck (R): ❌
Lamborn (R): ❌
Crow (D): ✔️
Perlmutter (D): ✔️
— Justin Wingerter (@JustinWingerter) December 21, 2020
► Another former attorney in the Trump administration is seeking absolution through acknowledgment.
► The newest branch of the military, the Space Force, announced new official titles for the men and women who serve. As Colorado Public Radio reports:
The Army has soldiers. The Navy has sailors. Now, one year after its creation, it’s official: The Space Force has “guardians.”
Vice President Mike Pence revealed the moniker during remarks celebrating the first anniversary of the military branch on Friday.
“It is my honor, on behalf of the president of the United States, to announce that, henceforth, the men and women of the United States Space Force will be known as ‘guardians,’ “
The ‘guardians’ moniker has (rightfully) been getting skewered online.
► If you are a Republican in Jefferson County, please become a regular reader of this feature. You can’t afford to get any more stupider.
► Congressman Ken Buck (R-Greeley) says he won’t take a COVID-19 vaccine, citing completely unconfirmed and unsubstantiated fears about bad side effects from the vaccination.
Of course, in that same announcement, Buck acknowledged that a vaccine will “save lives.”
Ken Buck should not be a Member of Congress.
► The Washington Post tries to answer questions about an aggressive new strain of coronavirus that appeared in England:
After officials in the United Kingdom said Saturday that the variant first identified there was spreading 70 percent faster than others, Google searches about the mutation have spiked. But American public health experts and federal officials say that although it appears that the variant may be more contagious, it is not any more dangerous than others already detected in the United States.
► As Tom Nichols writes for The Atlantic, there is a better strategy for dealing with the MAGA nuts:
I am talking about the people who are giving Trump their full-throated support to the very end, even as he mulls a military coup; the people who buy weird paintings of Trump crossing the Delaware, or who believe that Trump is an agent of Jesus Christ, or who think that Trump is fighting a blood-drinking ring of pedophiles. These supporters have gone far beyond political loyalty and have succumbed to a kind of mass delusion. It is not possible to engage them. Indeed, to argue with them is to legitimize their beliefs, which itself is unhealthy for our democracy.
I don’t want to treat our fellow citizens with open contempt, or to confront and berate them. Rather, I am arguing for silence. [Pols emphasis] The Trump loyalists who still cling to conspiracy theories and who remain part of a cult of personality should be deprived of the attention they seek, shunned for their antidemocratic lunacy, and then outvoted at the ballot box.
Oh, sweet, sweet silence.
Your Daily Dose Of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
► A pastor from a mega church who recently attended a maskless holiday party at the White House has tested positive for COVID-19? What are the odds?
Very good, actually. This is a pretty good combination for contracting COVID-19.
► Jupiter and Saturn will join forces tonight to
destroy earth provide a neat light show in the sky for a few hours.
► President Trump discussed naming nutjob attorney Sidney Powell as special counsel to investigate all of that non-existent voter fraud in 2020.
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