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What Matters: How YOLO will Trump go?


Trump will not be leaving quietly. He officially threatened to veto the massive annual National Defense Authorization unless lawmakers add in an unrelated provision to strip Section 230 from the Communications Decency Act, which protects internet providers and tech companies like Facebook and Twitter from being held legally liable for what is posted on their websites or how they manage the content.

There’s a valid debate to be had about Section 230, although Trump’s obsessed with it because he says the tech companies discriminate against conservatives in their content moderation. But neither Republicans nor Democrats on Capitol Hill seem to think the defense bill is the right place to talk about regulating Facebook, Twitter and Google. Even Republican senators seem determined to send him the bill as-is. That means Trump will have to choose between his political preference and pay raises for troops. Read more.

Presidential pardon power as a family insurance policy

CNN reported again Wednesday that Trump could try to preemptively pardon himself, his children or his lawyer. Read what I wrote about that here.

The law is murky and the power of the pardon is expansive, although impeachment and pardon expert Frank Bowman at the University of Missouri School of Law has written in a forthcoming paper that neither are okay.

I got completely sidetracked by Bowman’s history of the pardon, which includes a story about King Charles II, who took over during the Restoration in the 1660s. He was king, but he didn’t have enough money and Parliament wasn’t giving him enough. So he offered France neutrality in their war with the Dutch in exchange for a salary. Talk about a quid pro quo. Also, he was supposed to convert to Catholicism.

Anyway, the House of Commons impeached his confidant, the Earl of Danby. Charles II pardoned him. Years later Parliament excluded pardons from impeachments. And that’s got a lot to do with the Founders doing it here too.

Bowman is of the opinion that Biden’s Justice Department won’t spend much time investigating Trump since it wants to move on. But only Trump knows what he, his kids and his lawyer have done during his time in office.

Sean Hannity was preemptively defending the principle of pre-pardons on his radio show Monday, arguing Trump needs to protect himself and his family from a witch hunt that, otherwise, will never end.

The Covid crisis is escalating

The US on Wednesday hit a new record for daily reported Covid-19 deaths as cases continue to spike. Here are the numbers, according to data from Johns Hopkins University:

Deaths reported as of 10 p.m. ET on December 2: 2,674.

Deaths reported April 15: 2,603.

The record daily death toll marks a sad new reality, even as vaccines are starting to come into play.

Britain first. The UK has approved Pfizer’s Covid vaccine. When shots start going in British arms next week, it’ll be the first Western country inoculating people against coronavirus. The US is not far behind.
US vaccine process. Trump’s been frustrated there’s no US-approved vaccine yet. The FDA commissioner met for the second day this week with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Wednesday. The President wants credit for as many people as possible being vaccinated before he leaves office, an official told CNN.

An FDA official expressed annoyance that the White House didn’t seem to understand that there was a process.

“Let me be clear — our career scientists have to make the decision and they will take the time that’s needed to make the right call on this important decision,” Hahn said in the statement.

Front of the line. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says health care workers and those in long-term care facilities should get priority in the US.

HHS frontrunner driven by experience with sister’s disease, debt. The top choice of President-elect Joe Biden to lead the Department of Health and Human Services is Michelle Lujan Grisham, a former state health director, congresswoman and current governor of New Mexico, people familiar with the matter have told CNN.

From CNN’s report: She was driven to focus on health care because her sister, Kimberly, was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was 2 years old and died of the disease nearly two decades later at 21. Lujan Grisham’s husband, Gregory Grisham, also died of a brain aneurysm in 2004.

Lujan Grisham has said her experiences with her sister and the subsequent debt her family was saddled with due to her illness and treatment has “inspired” her to dedicate her life to improve affordable health care.

Frustration with restrictions — In this newsletter I’ve written a lot about our collective US decision to prioritize restaurants and bars over schools and the difficulty of properly opening places of learning.

But this Providence Journal story about a woman who wants to hold a small graveside service in Rhode Island for her mother who died from Covid is something else entirely. Her mother died in November, while her father survived Covid and is now in a hospital in Massachusetts.

“People can shop at Target, get their hair cut at a salon, eat indoors at restaurants but we cannot have a socially distanced burial outdoors for my mother? Her seven grandchildren cannot attend? Her older great-grandchildren cannot say goodbye? How can this be?” Holly Susi wrote to Rhode Island’s governor, according to the Journal.

Susi’s frustrations seem completely reasonable. More divisive is the accusation by a rural Virginia town that Gov. Ralph Northam, who has not enacted any of the most stringent lockdown procedures during the entire pandemic, is guilty of tyranny.

Northam’s transgression, according to The Washington Post, is mandating face masks in public places where distance is not possible, capping public gatherings at 25 people, and banning the sale of alcohol by restaurants after 10 p.m.

Keep an eye on this backlash to restrictions, particularly after Trump leaves office and we’ll have to compare it to the Tea Party backlash of 2010 after Democrats passed a bill that sought to extend health insurance to more Americans in part by charging them a tax for not having it. Anger at authority seems to be more actively piqued when the authority has to do with public welfare.

Weird story of the day. These bird researchers went to a remote atoll with no cell or internet service in February. Then they came home to the pandemic.



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