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The Washington Report: December 18, 2020 … “T-Minus 7 Hours (or so)”

18 Dec 2020

The Washington Report: December 18, 2020 … “T-Minus 7 Hours (or so)”

It Was Only Last Monday … Biden’s Electoral Win … Vaccinations Begin …AG Barr Quits … T-Minus 7 Hours (or so) … If This Had Been A Physical Attack We Would Be At War … AND THIS:  20 Good Things That Happened In 2020 … and other news of the week,
Best,
JR
Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners
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It Was Only Last Monday

In voting that went on throughout the day, California’s 55 electors put Joe Biden over the 270-to-win threshold at 5:29 p.m. ET. The final tally: 306 electoral votes for Biden to 232 for President Trump — the same margin that Trump bragged was a landslide four years ago.
PLUS … Attorney General Bill Barr quit under pressure — which would be a transcendent story on almost any other day.”
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T-Minus 7 Hours …

or so until the government shuts down. No bill. No stopgap. No Covid relief package. Nothing. Waiting. SQUARE THIS CIRCLE: Senate Majority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL on the floor this morning: “I’m even more optimistic now than I was last night that a bipartisan, bicameral framework for a major rescue package is very close at hand.”
AND COMPARE IT with this … Senate Democratic aide: “An agreement was in sight to deliver aid to the American people until Sen. Toomey and Republicans inserted an 11th hour purely political, unrelated provision to tie Biden’s hands and risk throwing the economy into a tailspin. The Toomey provision would be an unprecedented change to the law to strip the Fed chair of one of their most important tools to quickly respond to any future economic crisis.”
AND THIS.. The Hill “GOP Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) Friday blocked an effort to pass a second round of stimulus checks, arguing coronavirus relief needs to be targeted and raising concerns about the country’s debt. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) tried to get consent, which requires the cooperation of every senator, to pass his bill that would provide $1,200 for individuals who make up to $75,000 — the exact same language that Congress passed as part of the CARES Act in March. But Johnson objected. Under the Senate’s rules any one senator can request to pass a bill but any other senator can object and block it.
  • ALL THE MEANWHILE, SENATORS are walking around clueless, with no idea what to expect or when to expect it. They are killing time by voting on more executive branch nominations with 33 DAYS left in the TRUMP presidency. On Thursday, they plopped someone on the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Amazingly, McConnell seems to have run out of judges to put on the federal bench.
  • OUR GOVERNMENT and its technology infrastructure are under siege by Russia. Trump has said nothing.
  • THE PRESIDENT is still delusional, suggesting he has won the election.
  • 50 LAWMAKERS have contracted the coronavirus — per CNN.
  • COVID DEATHS are still spiking. Hospitals are getting more and more crowded.

THESE NEXT THREE DAYS will be white knuckle-inducing in D.C., as Congress tries to squeeze through a massive spending package and government funding bill. We anticipate a weekend session with lots of waiting. (Politico)

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Pence To Confirm Trump’s Loss

… and then leave town”: “On Jan. 6, Vice President Mike Pence will oversee final confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Then he’ll likely skip town. As vice president, Pence has the awkward but unavoidable duty of presiding over the session of Congress that will formalize Biden’s Electoral College victory — a development that is likely to expose him and other Republicans to the wrath of GOP voters who believe President Donald Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen from him.

“But Pence could dodge their ire by leaving Washington immediately for the Middle East and Europe. According to three U.S. officials familiar with the planning, the vice president is eyeing a foreign trip that would take him overseas for nearly a week, starting on Jan. 6.( Politico)

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You Can’t Make This Up

Business Insider “Jared Kushner helped create a Trump campaign shell company that secretly paid the president’s family members and spent $617 million in reelection cash, a source tells Insider.” AND “Trump’s Future: Tons of Cash and Plenty of Options for Spending It”: “NYT “Deflated by a loss he has yet to acknowledge, Mr. Trump has cushioned the blow by coaxing huge sums of money from his loyal supporters — often under dubious pretenses — raising roughly $250 million since Election Day along with the national party. More than $60 million of that sum has gone to a new political action committee, according to people familiar with the matter, which Mr. Trump will control after he leaves office.”
To Summarize … “over a half a billion dollars was diverted from the campaign and much of it ended in the pockets of Trump and his children.” (h/t WStone)
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If This Had Been A Physical Attack On America’s Secrets, We Would Be At War

Axios “… the cyberattack on the U.S. government and corporate America, apparently by Russia, is looking worse by the day — and secrets may still be being stolen in ways not yet discovered.

“We still don’t know the bottom of the well,” the official said. Stunningly, the breach goes back to at least March, and continued all through the election. The U.S. government didn’t sound the alarm until this Sunday. A damage assessment could take months. Microsoft President Brad Smith told the N.Y. Times that at least 40 companies, government agencies and think tanks had been infiltrated.

The hack is known to have breached the departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security, Treasury, Commerce, and Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — plus the National Institutes of Health. … Microsoft, which has helped respond to the breach, said in a statement that 80% of its 40 customers known to have been targeted are in the U.S., plus others in the U.K., Israel, UAE, Canada, Mexico, Belgium and Spain.
In unusually vivid language for a bureaucracy, the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, part of Homeland Security, said … the breach “poses a grave risk to the Federal Government and state, local, tribal, and territorial governments as well as critical infrastructure entities and other private sector organizations.
If this had been a physical attack on America’s secrets, we could be at war. “Imagine if during the Cold War, the Soviet Union had broken into a building in Washington and walked out with correspondence, budgets and more. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said. “It’s pretty hard to distinguish this from an act of aggression that rises to the level of an attack that qualifies as war. … [T]his is as destructive and broad scale an engagement with our military systems, our intelligence systems as has happened in my lifetime.”
The gravity wasn’t immediately apparent because this wasn’t the “cyber Pearl Harbor” that experts have warned about: No one took out a power grid, or stole a bunch of money or destabilized the markets. Instead, it’s more like someone has been walking in and out of your house for months, and you don’t really know what they took. And they may have built a secret door. “For someone to have access that long, who’s this sophisticated, it’s pretty likely they built other ways to get in that are hard to find,” one official said.

Trump Is Silent

Axios “Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called on the White House to “aggressively” condemn a suspected Russian cyberattack. … Why it matters: Since news broke that hackers tied to Russia penetrated U.S. government networks and companies, public officials including President-elect Biden have come forward with rebukes. President Trump has been largely silent … “It’s “quite extraordinary” that the White House isn’t “aggressively speaking out and protesting and taking punitive action,” Romney said”
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Transition

New Biden Cabinet nominees: Michael Regan to head the EPA and Rep. Deb Haaland — who would be the first Native American woman in a Cabinet post — to run the Department of the Interior.
… President-elect JOE BIDEN’S decision to tap Rep. Haaland (D-NM) is likely to leave Speaker Pelosi with a 219-seat majority for much of the first part of next year. That’s a one-seat margin to get bills across the floor.Design best-practices suggest a large font size for easy readability both on desktop and mobile devices.
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THE CORONAVIRUS CONTINUES TO RAGE … 17.2 MILLION Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus. … 310,782 Americans have died.

C.D.C. Stifled by the Trump Administration.

“Every time that the science clashed with the messaging, messaging won.”
– Kyle McGowan, former chief of staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.).
NYT [Kyle]…and his deputy, Amanda Campbell, were installed in 2018 as two of the youngest political appointees in the history of the world’s premier public health agency, young Republicans returning to their native Georgia to dream jobs. But what they witnessed during the coronavirus pandemic this year in the C.D.C.’s leadership suite on the 12-floor headquarters here shook them: Washington’s dismissal of science, the White House’s slow suffocation of the agency’s voice, the meddling in its messages and the siphoning of its budget.

“In a series of interviews, the pair has decided to go public with their disillusionment: what went wrong, and what they believe needs to be done as the agency girds for what could be a years long project of rebuilding its credibility externally while easing ill feelings and self-doubt internally.” “Everyone wants to describe the day that the light switch flipped and the C.D.C. was sidelined. It didn’t happen that way,” Mr. McGowan said. “It was more of like a hand grasping something, and it slowly closes, closes, closes, closes until you realize that, middle of the summer, it has a complete grasp on everything at the C.D.C.”

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Confusion

Axios “Hospitals around the country have been thrown into confusion after the administration informed state after state that they’ll be getting 25%-40% fewer COVID vaccine doses next week than they’d been expecting. Why it matters: The snafu reveals communication gaps between the Trump administration and Pfizer, and between the administration and the states.
What’s happening: A senior administration official told me that the states had been relying on planning numbers that were reduced because Pfizer committed to supplying fewer doses than originally forecast. Pfizer said in a statement that it is “not having any production issues.”
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All Eyes On Georgia

 “76K new Georgia voters registered before U.S. Senate runoffs,” “Nearly 76,000 new voters registered in Georgia since before the presidential election, enough to make a difference in the U.S. Senate runoffs if they turn out. The number of new voters was revealed in an updated voter registration list purchased from the secretary of state’s office by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. These voters signed up before the state’s Dec. 7 voter registration deadline and are eligible to participate in the Jan. 5 runoffs that will decide control of the Senate. They’re overwhelmingly young, with 56% of them under 35 years old. Some are new Georgia residents; others just turned 18. None has a voting record in the state.” (Politico)
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Because You Need To Read This …

WaPo
  1. A terrible plague struck humankind, but scientists responded with unprecedented speed and common purpose.
  2. Thousands of people volunteered to take the experimental vaccines — at some risk to themselves — so safety and efficacy could be tested and proven.
  3. We learned to appreciate the selfless dedication of nurses, orderlies, doctors and other health workers who risked their lives to save ours.
  4. Many of us felt isolated and frustrated in our social distancing, but many found meaning and connection with young or adult children, older relatives and other pod mates.
  5. We also connected and reconnected with friends, relatives, colleagues and therapists across great distances as we became accustomed to Zoom calls and FaceTime video chats.
  6. As movie theater chains struggled across the country, some family-owned drive-ins made a comeback, bringing a sense of community to small towns that had thought they were gone forever.
  7. A record number of Americans turned out to vote.
  8. As the president launched an unprecedented assault on the democratic process, local and state officials of courage and integrity stood up to his assault and did their jobs with honor. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Michigan Board of State Canvassers vice chair Aaron Van Langevelde and other Republicans stayed true to law and principle despite the corrupting pressure of their president, the cowardly silence of their national leadership, and, at times, vile and violent threats to them and their families.
  9. And… he lost. We realize that for 74 million Americans, that doesn’t count as a good thing, but the result was welcomed by 81 million.  And since this is our list, we celebrate the defeat of the worst president in U.S. history.
  10. Black women led the nation to this fortunate result, with more than 9 in 10 voting for Democratic candidate Joe Biden in an election that was far closer than it should have been.
  11. Black women “helped elect America’s first female vice-president, first Black vice-president and first Asian American vice-president: Sen. Kamala Harris.”
  12. The Supreme Court ruled that no one can be fired for being gay or transgender.
  13. When the country was really in trouble, Republicans and Democrats came together in Congress and the administration to pass the Cares Act, which provided relief to businesses and workers suffering through no fault of their own.
  14. The Federal Reserve under the leadership of Chairman Jerome H. Powell, mounted an innovative rescue effort that kept the economy battered, but afloat.
  15. One of the most horrifying acts of police brutality ever caught on video — the killing of George Floyd — led to an outpouring of protest and reflection and, in many cities and state capitals, the beginning of reform.
  16. NASA named its headquarters building in D.C. after Mary W. Jackson, the agency’s first African American female engineer.
  17. The United States (AND SPACE X) launched astronauts to the International Space Station on a U.S.-made rocket, after years of dependence on Russian technology. The reusable booster did its job and then returned safely, potentially opening an era of more cost-efficient space travel.
  18. Carbon dioxide emissions declined — in part due to the recession, yes, but also because the cost of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, is declining more quickly than many experts had predicted.
  19. With the United States set to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and China pledging to reach carbon neutrality by 2060, momentum grew for the global community to take its climate emergency seriously.
  20. After four years of an administration appointing mostly White men to the judiciary and the executive branch, the government was set to look more like America. And not just with its new vice president, but with a plethora of new faces including the most Native Americans elected to Congress, the most trans people elected to state legislatures, a burst of Republican women elected to Congress and a highly diverse and competent array of nominees for the incoming Cabinet.
Oh — and a panda was born at the National Zoo!
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2020 Ch-Ch-Changes In The Workplace

Axios “In less than a year, the pandemic shot us more than a decade ahead in the workplace transformation,
  1. We’re rethinking where we work and live. Around 20 million Americans are planning to leave dense and costly metros like New York and San Francisco and move to cheaper cities.
  2. Workplace priorities are changing. After months away from the office, in-person perks like free snacks or stunning city views don’t matter as much. People increasingly care about company culture and belonging, and that will be a key factor in firms’ abilities to recruit and retain talent.
  3. Companies have accelerated adoption of workplace technology. Besides tech for remote work, firms are also incorporating new forms of surveillance in the name of safety.
  4. We have more workplace flexibility. Getting dressed up seems superfluous now, and people have ditched business formal — and even business casual — for loungewear.
    The bottom line: The pandemic will be remembered as the great accelerant.

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Times Square Will Be Empty On New Year’s Eve

Axios “Times Square New Year’s Eve celebrations will have no public audience for the first time in the ball drop’s 113-year history, organizers announced. The ball drop will go ahead, and Gloria Gaynor will perform her 1970s disco hit, “I Will Survive.”
Like the rest of this year, it’ll be livestreamed.

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