Biden warns of fatal consequences as Trump stonewalls on the transition, and Whitmer faces more blowback over the restrictions in Michigan. It’s Tuesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.
Where things stand
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris yesterday outlined their plan to help restore the economy while battling the coronavirus, calling on Congress to act immediately and insisting on the need for bipartisan cooperation.
Biden and Harris spoke from Wilmington, Del., immediately after meeting via Zoom with business and labor leaders. In his remarks, the president-elect described that conversation as “very encouraging,” painting it as an example of his campaign message — national unity — in action.
He said that both the C.E.O.s and the union bosses had agreed that the government must act boldly to bring the economy back up to speed. “I wish you could’ve heard — corporate leaders and labor leaders singing the same hymnal here,” he said.
As he did throughout the campaign, Biden put climate at the center of his proposal, pledging that the recovery would include huge investments in clean energy and would create over a million union jobs.
He foreshadowed a new era in the fight against Covid-19 by listing core components of the national coronavirus framework that he plans to put in place. And he said pointedly that his team would benefit from a little cooperation from the White House, which still refuses to acknowledge Biden’s now-two-week-old victory, preventing the president-elect from access to information about the administration’s vaccine-distribution plans.
Asked by a reporter what the effects of the administration’s stonewalling might be, Biden didn’t mince words. “More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” he said.
In another sidelong dig at Trump, Biden said that when he and President Barack Obama were mapping out the recovery to the 2008 recession and deciding where to allocate funding, they didn’t make decisions based on how places had voted.
“We didn’t care whether the city had voted for us or against us, the state voted for us or against us,” he said. “We worked with everyone. And we recovered and rebuilt together as one nation. We can do this again.”
He added: “The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a conscious decision, it’s a choice that we make. If we can decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate.”
But if you needed a sign that the country’s political divisions probably aren’t going away any time soon, look no further than Michigan, where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is facing a new round of blowback over lockdown restrictions.
Back in April, as she tightened restrictions on public activity in response to the virus’s surge, far-right groups stormed the Michigan State Capitol, with some people toting firearms and Confederate flags. The president fanned the flames with an infamous message on Twitter: “Liberate Michigan!” Months later, F.B.I. agents arrested a group of men on charges of domestic terrorism in a plot to kidnap Whitmer.
Whitmer lifted many of those restrictions, but this week, with the virus roaring back, she put in place a new set of lockdown measures. On Sunday she announced that she would shut down indoor dining, close casinos and movie theaters, and halt in-person learning at high schools and colleges for three weeks.
Dr. Scott Atlas, President Trump’s coronavirus adviser, immediately denounced the decision in a tweet, calling on people to “rise up” against the measures. A Republican legislator in Michigan called for Whitmer to be impeached.
Yesterday, Whitmer responded forcefully to Atlas’s comments, calling them “incredibly reckless, considering everything that has happened.”
Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, said yesterday that Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a close Trump ally, had asked him if he could invalidate all mail ballots in counties with higher rates of mismatched signatures.
“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” Raffensperger said in an interview with The Washington Post.
Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called the statement “ridiculous,” adding that he had simply been asking Raffensperger for details about Georgia’s signature verification process.
Meanwhile, with more than two-thirds of Georgia’s recount completed, little has changed in the overall vote tally — suggesting that Biden is on track to hold onto his clear, if narrow, victory there.
And in the latest sign that Trump’s Republican allies are starting to abandon his effort to contest the election’s legitimate outcome, Georgia was one of four swing states in which plaintiffs backed by Republicans filed notice yesterday that they would be ending their attempts to legally challenge the integrity of the election.
Photo of the day
Biden and Harris speaking about the economic recovery in Wilmington, Del., yesterday.
Will Trump face federal prosecution?
One of Trump’s lawyers argued in court last year that the president was immune from prosecution throughout his term in office.
Could the president, an appeals court judge asked, shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and get away with it, as he had talked on the campaign trail about doing? “That is correct,” the president’s lawyer, William Consovoy, replied.
It was a bold claim — and one that few legal scholars have endorsed. But what about after Trump leaves office? What’s to stop him from being prosecuted then?
Trump is already the subject of multiple investigations in New York stemming from his private business conduct: a criminal inquiry by the district attorney of Manhattan, and a civil investigation by the attorney general of New York State.
Yet there could be more, as our reporter Jonathan Mahler writes in a new article for The Times Magazine that seeks to answer the question of just how legally vulnerable Trump will be once he leaves the White House. Potentially criminal activity has unfolded throughout Trump’s term, Jonathan writes, and the only way to hold him legally accountable for things he did as president would be through federal prosecution.
Precedent points to leniency here: Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon in 1974, citing a need for national healing. Biden’s old boss, Obama, declined to prosecute former George W. Bush administration officials for authorizing the unlawful torture of detainees. But Trump’s case feels different.
“Every president seeks to exploit the immense power of the office, but Trump’s exploitation of this power represented a difference in both degree and kind,” Jonathan writes. “Trump stretched the limits of his authority not just to enrich himself and his family but to block investigations into his personal and official conduct and to maintain his grip on power.”
Prosecuting a former president — especially one who just received the second-most popular votes in United States history, and who continues to command the support of a devoted following — would be a complicated and risky gambit. You can read the full article, or listen to a narrated audio version of it, at this link.
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