Gangsters’ paradise?


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On the roster: Gangsters’ paradise? - Barr to Trump: No evidence of significant fraud - Trump’s ‘election defense fund’ feeds his own super PAC - Georgia Republicans brace for Trump rally - Nancy was not amused

GANGSTERS’ PARADISE?

Washington has a tendency when it comes to bipartisanship to see it as the gift rather than the box the gift comes in.

There is a cult of bipartisanship that occasionally, in times such as these, rises up. We remember then-Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and the stillborn No Labels gang as the most recent previous incarnation, but it is an old, if not necessarily venerable, faith.

The movement has seen such little success over time because it is focused on means rather than ends. Just because something is bipartisan doesn’t make it good or bad for the citizenry. Lots of dumb ideas have enjoyed broad bipartisan support over time.

We are reminded again of the old joke about the fellow who had a gallon of ice cream and a gallon of horse manure: He found that putting a cup of ice cream in the horse manure didn’t make it edible, and that putting a cup of horse manure in the ice cream darned near ruined the taste.

What bipartisanship can be, is an indicator that a proposal might succeed. Not always, of course. The bipartisanship-as-policy crew in Congress is forever coughing up bills and amendments that go nowhere but look very virtuous in their deaths.

But in the Senate especially, significant numbers of members from both parties can indicate increased opportunity for success.

Now, we wouldn’t say that the $908 billion coronavirus stimulus offered up today by a group of senators including Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Mark Warner, D-Va., Bill Cassidy, R-La., Mitt Romney, R-Utah and Susan Collins, R-Maine, is likely to pass. But this may be the start of something.

While economics gurus for the outgoing Trump administration and the incoming Biden administration may not agree on much, they do concur on the fact that we are in some terrible trouble.

If President-Elect Joe Biden has a mandate for anything other than not being Donald Trump it is to lead the way on a blockbuster stimulus spending package. The robust performance of markets in recent days is not a reflection of what’s going on now, but the expectation that the next two months will bring big borrowing by Uncle Sam.

So we know today’s bipartisan gang is spelunking in the right cave. Even if this legislation doesn’t get passed in the current lame duck session, it could certainly be the genesis of the real thing after Jan. 20.

If that is the case, then we may be witnessing the birth of a new center of power in Washington. It would be wrong to call them “moderates” exactly since the senators who fall into this category hold a wide range of views ideologically. But they are certainly moderate in their attitudes and demeanors, and their willingness to cooperate with those across the aisle.

The NYT makes a great deal today of a liberated Manchin’s new role as power player, and there’s much to that. As a Democratic senator from the reddest of red states who won in 2018 despite an all-out effort to unseat him, Manchin has some special cachet.  

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has to be deferential to Manchin who can always retire early and give West Virginia’s Republican governor a Senate seat to fill. Republican senators have to pay attention since Manchin has been serving up populist corn pone since before Trump ever MAGAed his first MAGA. Manchin knows the Republican base better than most Republicans do.

But it’s not just him and the other four pushing the package today. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, will soon be joined by other moderate westerners, Sens.-elect Mark Kelly, D-Ariz. and John Hickenlooper, D-Colo. You start to see how there could be 10 or 12 senators who were open to some dealmaking in the initial phase of the Biden administration.

Keep an eye on Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., when it comes to this stuff. As much as he surely yearns for a spot in his fellow Delawarean’s cabinet, Coons will do his friend more good being a broker acting with the backing of the White House in the Senate.

If Biden is lucky not only will the moderators have success on the stimulus, that success will prove infectious.

Biden is sending every signal that he wants to see a 90s-style revival of budget and fiscal horse trading. With a public health crisis and a debt crisis on a collision course, now would seem like a good time.

There will be a lot of incentives for those on the right and left wings to explode any consensus that develops. America’s primary election system guarantees real consequences for any politician that takes on the extremists in their own party.

But given where we were a year ago, we can certainly say that there is progress being made when it comes to actual governance. Somebody may get really crazy and pass a law.

We’ll see how good Biden & Co. are at nurturing these green shoots of accord, and how good diehard partisans are at ripping them out.

THE RULEBOOK: IN DUE TIME
“A tolerable expertness in military movements is a business that requires time and practice. It is not a day, or even a week, that will suffice for the attainment of it.” – Alexander HamiltonFederalist No. 29

TIME OUT: ITS SUCCESS WAS NO MYSTERY
The Writer’s Almanac: “It was on this day in 1887 that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were first revealed to readers in the pages of Beeton’s Christmas Annual in the novella ‘A Study in Scarlet.’ A mildly successful physician named Arthur Conan Doyle had written a story about a detective who was also a violin collector, philosopher, and amateur chemist. … Conan Doyle claimed to have written it in just three weeks. Other publishers deemed the story either too long for a single issue or too short for serialization, but Mr. Beeton’s wife, Mary Beeton, read the story and loved it. The magazine sold for one schilling and the issue sold out in 14 days, not because of Sherlock Holmes, but because it was the Christmas issue. Nevertheless, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson quickly became popular with readers, and led the way for fictional sleuths like Hercule Poirot and James Bond. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote more than 60 Holmes and Watson stories over the next 40 years.”

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GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
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BARR TO TRUMP: NO EVIDENCE OF SIGNIFICANT FRAUD
AP: “Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. His comments come despite President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the election was stolen, and his refusal to concede his loss to President-Elect Joe Biden. In an interview with The Associated Press, Barr said U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but they’ve uncovered no evidence that would change the outcome of the election. ‘To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,’ Barr told the AP. The comments are especially direct coming from Barr, who has been one of the president’s most ardent allies. Before the election, he had repeatedly raised the notion that mail-in voter fraud could be especially vulnerable to fraud during the coronavirus pandemic…”

Barr taps special counsel to investigate origins of Russia probe - Fox News: “Attorney General Bill Barr appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as special counsel to continue investigating the origins of the Russia probe in the next administration, Fox News has confirmed. Barr appointed Durham as special counsel on Oct. 19—two weeks prior to Election Day. Barr notified the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, in a letter dated Dec. 1 obtained by Fox News, that Durham would be special counsel. ‘On May 13, 2019, I directed John Durham, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut, to investigate certain intelligence and law-enforcement activities surrounding the 2016 presidential election,’ Barr wrote. ‘Although I had expected Mr. Durham to complete his work by the summer of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as additional information he uncovered, prevented him from doing so.’”

TRUMP’S ‘ELECTION DEFENSE FUND’ FEEDS HIS OWN SUPER PAC
NYT: “President Trump has raised about $170 million since Election Day as his campaign operation has continued to aggressively solicit donations with hyped-up appeals that have funded his fruitless attempts to overturn the election and that have seeded his post-presidential political ambitions, according to a person familiar with the matter. The money, much of which was raised in the first week after the election, according to the person, has arrived as Mr. Trump has made false claims about fraud and sought to undermine public confidence in the legitimacy of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. Instead of slowing down after the election, Mr. Trump’s campaign has ratcheted up its volume of email solicitations for cash, telling supporters that money was needed for an ‘Election Defense Fund.’ In reality, the fine print shows that the first 75 percent of every contribution currently goes to a new political action committee that Mr. Trump set up in mid-November, Save America…”

Trump said to have talked to Rudy about a preemptive pardon - NYT: “Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer who has led the most extensive efforts to damage his client’s political rivals and undermine the election results, discussed with the president as recently as last week the possibility of receiving a pre-emptive pardon before Mr. Trump leaves office, according to two people told of the discussion. … Mr. Giuliani’s potential criminal exposure is unclear. He was under investigation as recently as last summer by federal prosecutors in Manhattan for his business dealings in Ukraine and his role in ousting the American ambassador there, a plot that was at the heart of the impeachment of Mr. Trump. … Mr. Trump has wielded his clemency powers liberally in cases that resonate with him personally or for people who have a direct line to him through friends or family… Last week he pardoned his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn broadly for potential legal troubles beyond the charge he had faced of lying to federal investigators.”

Jonathan Adler: Where’s the line on pardons? - Reason: “Last week, a lame-duck President pardoned a turkey, as is traditional for the Thanksgiving holiday, and then pardoned a former agent of Turkey, which is not. Could the most untraditional of pardons—a self-pardon—be next? If so, then what? Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution provides that the President ‘shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.’ This power, the pardon power, is among the broadest and least constrained of presidential powers. It has been described as ‘plenary,’ and faces no real limits other than those indicated in the text: It only applies to federal crimes (‘offenses against the United States’) and may not be used to overturn an impeachment conviction. Further, pardons must be for acts already committed–that is, the ‘offense’ must have occurred–but it need not have been investigated or previously disclosed, let alone charged.”

GEORGIA REPUBLICANS BRACE FOR TRUMP RALLY 
AP: “Some establishment Republicans are sounding alarms that President Donald Trump’s conspiratorial denials of his own defeat could threaten the party’s ability to win a Senate majority and counter President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. The concerns come ahead of Trump’s planned Saturday visit to Georgia to campaign alongside Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who face strong Democratic challengers in Jan. 5 runoffs that will determine which party controls the Senate at the outset of Biden’s presidency. Republicans acknowledge Trump as the GOP’s biggest turnout driver, including in Georgia, where Biden won by fewer than 13,000 votes out of about 5 million cast. That means every bit of enthusiasm from one of Trump’s signature rallies could matter. But some Republicans worry Trump will use the platform to amplify his baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud… That could make it harder for Perdue and Loeffler to keep a clear focus on the stakes in January and could even discourage Republicans from voting.”

Mark Walker starts stampede for North Carolina Senate seat - Fox News: “Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina is running for the Senate in a race that may end up becoming the most hotly contested and expensive Senate battle in the 2022 midterm elections. In a fast-paced video announcement Tuesday that was shared first with Fox News, the pastor and outgoing three-term conservative congressman says, ‘I’m running for the United States Senate because serving others is my life and I have the experience to fight and win in Washington.’ … Walker is the first candidate to launch a campaign in the race to succeed retiring three-term Republican Sen. Richard Burr. But it’s doubtful he’ll be the only Republican to declare his or her candidacy. The president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, is mulling a bid for the Senate in the state where she was born and raised.”

PANEL TO VOTE ON VACCINE ACCESS
NYT: “After months of deliberation and debate, a panel of independent experts advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to decide [today] which Americans it will recommend to get the coronavirus vaccine first, while supply is still short. The panel, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, will vote in a public meeting on Tuesday afternoon, and it is expected to advise that health care workers be first in line, along with residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. If the C.D.C. director, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, approves the recommendations, they will be shared with states, which are preparing to receive their first vaccine shipments as soon as mid-December, if the Food and Drug Administration approves an application for emergency use of a vaccine developed by Pfizer. … The committee will meet again soon to vote on which groups should be next to receive priority.”

DeWine scoffs at impeachment effort by fellow Republicans - The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine rebuffed efforts by fellow Republicans to impeach him over his response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. DeWine said he wished people who question the severity of the pandemic would listen to the nurses and health care professionals who say conditions are getting worse at their hospitals and to families who didn't take the virus seriously and have lost loved ones during the pandemic. ‘At some point, this foolishness has got to stop,’ DeWine said. ‘I'm not talking about most Ohioans – just a small number of people who for whatever reason just continue to think and act like this is some big joke and this is all some fantasy.’ A handful of state Republican lawmakers led by Rep. John Becker of Clermont County filed 12 articles of impeachment against DeWine on Monday, two more than initially proposed in August.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Trump pandemic attack dog, Scott Atlas, steps down Fox News

Harris names Clinton White House veteran as her chief of staff - Axios

Michael Tomasky: How Giuliani v. Dinkins foretold the political future - NYT

Pergram: Prize in Georgia House runoff is term of less than a month - Fox News

Wisconsin and Arizona, the last of the contested states, certify results WaPo

AUDIBLE: …AND BE LEGENDS
“Monday night, go to your favorite bar and party like it’s New Year’s Eve. Dress up. Uber. Whatever. Do it.” – Dave Stieren, communications director for Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, in a Facebook post after the announcement that Anchorage bars would have to end indoor service today as part of efforts to curb coronavirus.

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“You'd think that if there was so much fraud the Democrats would have done better down ballot.  As you also pointed out, all of this fraud talk from the President and Republicans might make the average Georgia Republican voter say why bother. Thanks for the breadth of your reporting.” – Bill Newton, Berkeley, Calif.

[Ed. note: The two narratives can’t coexist, so my bet is on the overwhelming number of Republicans embracing the one that has their party out-performing an unpopular incumbent. Politics, after all, is about self-interest.]

“I read your pro Biden approved article today and found the saying what is the definition of an idiot to be true, someone who does the same thing over and over and expecting a different result was me. Hopefully reading your pro Biden section in your todays article would change and would be a fair journalistic approach to journalism, well I’m that idiot because you haven’t quit your attacks on Republicans and Trump even though you man beat my man.” – Dick AlexanderPickerington, Ohio

[Ed. note: Oh, Mr. Alexander… I suspect you probably won’t believe me, but I feel obliged to say it again in hopes that it reaches you on some level: Advocacy and analysis should be two different things. I didn’t have a man in the race, and won’t in the next one. I hope everybody votes just as they wish, my only part is analyzing why and what will likely result. Your party is going through the start of a wrenching ordeal right now, and it’s the biggest story in recent political history -- and may yet surpass the significance of Trump’s 2016 upset victory. There are other things to talk about, and we do, but the domestic disturbance inside the GOP right now is certainly the most significant I know losing hurts, especially when the stakes were so ridiculously overblown, as they were in the recent contest. I don’t think you’re an idiot at all, in fact I think that coming around to read things that may be at odds with your own views is one of the best signs of an active, intelligent mind.]

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

NANCY WAS NOT AMUSED 
WJLA: “A Virginia woman was arrested after police say she opened fire on a vehicle that had crashed in her backyard. Police say they were dispatched to the 100 block of Brittany Lane in Warrenton just before 11:30 Saturday night for reports of shot fired. The caller was 74-year-old Nancy Blough of Warrenton who said she woke up to a vehicle crashing into things in her backyard, including her vehicle. Police say Blough fired several shots at the vehicle, striking it as it attempted to leave the area. The suspected occupant of the vehicle, Kaitlyn Yontz, 29, was found nearby unharmed and charged with being intoxicated in public, according to police. Police say an investigation is still ongoing. Blough is charged with reckless discharge of a firearm, and unlawful discharge of a firearm into an occupied vehicle. She was reportedly held on a $5,000 secured bond.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“France does not expect to rival America but to tame it, restrain it, thwart it — and to accept the world's laurels for having led the way.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing about “France’s Game” in Time magazine on March 17, 2003.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up 
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