Wednesday, 25 Nov 2020

Trump Admits Defea … Never Mind

Marchers assembled in the nation’s capital to show their support for the president, but top Republicans are increasingly urging him to accept the election’s result. It’s Monday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.

Where things stand

So does President Trump recognize that Joe Biden won the presidential election, or not? The president posted what seemed like a tacit concession on Twitter yesterday morning, acknowledging the results of the election, if not their legitimacy, when he wrote of Biden, “He won because the Election was Rigged.”

Observers seized on the first two words of that tweet, noting that it was the first time Trump had publicly accepted that Biden had prevailed. But an hour later, Trump was back with another message, clarifying that he had not given up the false narrative that the election’s result was in dispute.

“He only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA,” the president tweeted. “I concede NOTHING! We have a long way to go. This was a RIGGED ELECTION!”

Still, calls are growing from top Republicans for Trump to accept the election’s legitimate result. A number of Republican governors and former Trump administration officials spoke out yesterday, warning of dangerous consequences if the president continued his campaign of disinformation.

Asa Hutchinson, the Republican governor of Arkansas, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Biden was in line to become the next president, and that he should have access to intelligence briefings. Hutchinson emphasized the need for a smooth transition of power to guarantee the efficient distribution of a coronavirus vaccine.

“I expect Joe Biden to be the next president of the United States,” Hutchison said. “It was good actually to see President Trump tweet out that he won. I think that’s the start of an acknowledgment.”

John Bolton, the former Trump national security adviser who broke with the president after leaving the White House, said that if Trump made “life as difficult as he can” for the incoming Biden administration, it could have drastic results.

“I think it’s very important for leaders of the Republican Party to explain to our voters — who are not as stupid as the Democrats think — that, in fact, Trump has lost the election and that his claims of election fraud are baseless,” Bolton said on ABC’s “This Week.”

But for now Trump is still reveling in the support of his true believers — several thousand of whom descended on the nation’s capital on Saturday for the Million MAGA March and other demonstrations.

Protesters denouncing the outcome of the election gathered around Freedom Plaza in downtown Washington on Saturday afternoon, waving flags and marching. A number of far-right groups were represented.

Most of the demonstrations were peaceful, but at least one confrontation between Trump supporters and counterprotesters turned violent, with one man reportedly stabbed. The police made at least 20 arrests, including four on gun charges.

In addition to the Million MAGA March, a “Stop the Steal” rally and a Women for Trump event also took place in Washington on Saturday.

Trump himself showed up to offer support to his supporters, driving through the Million MAGA March and waving out the window of an S.U.V.

Joe Biden is likely to visit Georgia in the coming weeks to support the two Democrats running for Senate in runoff elections early next year, his chief of staff said yesterday.

“You’ll see the president-elect campaign down there as we get closer to Election Day,” Ron Klain, whom Biden named last week as his chief of staff, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We’re going to put people, money, resources down there to help our two good candidates win.”

The Georgia runoffs will determine which party controls the Senate: If the Democrats, Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, both win their races, the chamber will be split, 50-50, with Kamala Harris, the vice president-elect, set to cast the deciding vote in the event of a tie.

Money is pouring into Georgia on both sides of the aisle, with interest groups across the political spectrum keenly invested in the outcome of the Senate elections.

Historically, the state’s runoff system — whereby no candidate can win a Senate seat without earning the support of a majority of Georgia voters — has favored Republicans, thanks to the state’s strong base of white conservative voters. But Black voters now make up about a third of the state’s electorate, a big part of the reason that Biden won Georgia this year — and why Democrats think they have a fighting chance to retake the Senate.

Photo of the day

Trump supporters cheered as his motorcade departed Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., yesterday.

What’s the future of the Department of Homeland Security under Biden?

Trump put a harsh immigration policy at the center of his 2016 campaign, and as president he has largely followed through on that promise.

Biden, by contrast, made his opposition to Trump’s draconian border policies central to his campaign message — but he has stopped short of embracing many of progressives’ biggest hopes, including the dismantling of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Our reporter Zolan Kanno-Youngs interviewed over a dozen Biden transition advisers and current and former officials at the Department of Homeland Security, seeking clues into what priorities the incoming administration will bring to the department.

Zolan answered a few questions about what he found out.

Donald Trump centered much of his 2016 campaign on immigration issues, and many of his major initiatives as president ran through the Department of Homeland Security. How much of an effect did Trump have on the department’s mission and its day-to-day operations? Would you say he’s been successful at carrying out his policy goals?

President Trump has had immense impact on the Department of Homeland Security. The president centered his campaign on the border wall and restricting immigration into the United States, and those themes carried over to his term in office. The department was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks with a broad array of responsibilities, responding to natural disasters, terrorism and threats to aviation, maritime security and cybersecurity.

But for much of his term, Trump has had a simple measure of success for the agency: lowering the number of illegal crossings at the border and building his wall. He has pulled his secretaries away from trips to discuss other security matters at the last minute to discuss (and at times berate about) the border. He repeatedly questioned how fast they were constructing the wall, siphoning billions from the Defense Department in the process and directing his officials to file lawsuits against private landowners.

And while the wall is not built from sea to shining sea, Trump has without a doubt changed the U.S. immigration system. A maze of policies have created an “invisible wall,” restricting the ability of asylum seekers to remain in the country. The refugee system has been gutted. And when he refocused his campaign against protesters to frame himself as a “law and order” president, he turned to D.H.S. again. Many of the tactical agents sent to Portland to clash with demonstrators were from the department.

Activists and proponents of immigrants’ rights have long called for the dismantling of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is housed within D.H.S. Are such ideas something that a President Biden will entertain?

No. The president-elect has never called for abolishing any of those agencies. Don’t expect the new president to move any D.H.S. agencies to other departments, either (The Trump administration proposed moving the Secret Service to Treasury, and there have been calls for Biden to consider moving Citizenship and Immigration Services, the nation’s legal immigration agency, to the Justice Department).

One adviser working on the transition told me the belief was that the better approach was to install the right people in these agencies. Biden’s immigration platform does call for independent oversight over ICE and Customs and Border Protection, as well as increased training for the personnel.

You also write that Biden plans to more fully integrate climate-related concerns into D.H.S.’s operations. Why is that so relevant to the kind of work that the department is doing?

Biden’s immigration platform calls for tackling the “root causes” of migration. Most of the migrant families who have crossed the border have sought protection from poverty, violence or persecution from the Northern Triangle region of Central America. Biden’s advisers have discussed relying on climate science to predict migration from places like Guatemala, where coffee rust has disrupted the crops farmers rely on.

The Homeland Security secretary can also lobby others in the administration to invest State Department aid into the region to improve the economies there. The Trump administration froze such aid in 2019 to pressure the governments in the region to do more to curtail illegal migration.

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