Posts tagged with "The Washington Post"

In hourlong phone call, Trump entreats, bullies Georgia secretary of state to overturn election results

January 5, 2021

He lost the general election last November 3, but he refuses to accept the well-documented results. Indeed, on Sunday, January 3, President Donald Trump begged Georgia’s secretary of state to overturn the election results during an astounding hourlong phone call.

NBC News reports that the network has obtained a tape of the unprecedented phone conversation, during which the president offered a smorgasbord of false claims about voter fraud and repeatedly berated state officials.

“So look,” Trump told Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, “All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”

Excerpts of the call, which took place Saturday, were first published Sunday by The Washington Post.

The conversation is revealing in that it not only documents Trump’s threats against Raffensperger, but hints at what may have been said in talks between the president and other state and political officials nationwide since the POTUS lost the election to President-elect Biden by a decisive 7 million votes.

The phone call featured Trump, days before he is set to leave office, pleading with Raffensperger to alter the vote total and launching into a barrage of discredited conspiracy theories about the election. Trump even suggested that Raffensperger might face criminal consequences should he refuse to intervene in accordance with Trump’s wishes.

Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel, Ryan Germany, pushed back against Trump’s claims and said President-elect Joe Biden’s victory of about 12,000 votes in the State of Georgia was accurate.

“The people of Georgia are angry. The people in the country are angry,” Trump said in the call. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.

“There’s no way I lost Georgia,” Trump said. “There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes.”

Raffensperger responded, “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.”

“We now have irrefutable proof of a president pressuring and threatening an official of his own party to get him to rescind a state’s lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place,” Biden Senior Adviser Bob Bauer said in a statement. “It captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump’s assault on American democracy.

At an event in Savannah, Georgia, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris referred to the call as “a bald, bald face, bold abuse of power by the president of the United States.”

Georgia has conducted multiple recounts and audits of the vote since November. Recently, an audit of signature matches in Cobb County found “no fraudulent absentee ballots,” Raffensperger’s office announced.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses stuck in warehouses until federal orders, Pfizer says

December 21, 2020

Millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are languishing in warehouses awaiting shipment instructions from the Trump administration—even as states and first responders are clamoring for them—vaccine manufacturer Pzifer said in a statement on Thursday, December 17.

The startling bottleneck is occurring as America is breaking daily COVID-19 death tolls, The Huffington Post reports. The nation lost more people on Decemeber 16, alone (3,611), than the number of people who died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Officials in several states said they were told Wednesday that their second shipments of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine next week has been mysteriously reduced, CNN reported. That triggered fears by states that the Trump Administration may be incapable of hitting the target of delivering enough vaccine doses for 20 million injections by the end of the year.

Indeed, Illinois Governjor J.B. Pritzker (D) said Wednesday that federal officials informed states that the expected total shipments of doses nationally over the next two weeks have been cut in half to about 4.3 million doses for each week.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee (D) tweeted Thursday that the state’s vaccine allocation will be cut by 40% next week and that “no explanation was given.” He called it “disruptive and frustrating.”

States are reportedly already scrambling to cut back and reorganize planned vaccinations.

A source told The Washington Post that Pfizer executives were “baffled” that the Trump administration wasn’t immediately shipping out all of the vaccine.

Pfizer defended itself amid the rising fears about vaccine delivery, noting that it has no production problems—and has doses ready to go.

“This week, we successfully shipped all 2.9 million doses that we were asked to ship by the U.S. government to the locations specified by them,” Pzifer said in its statement. “We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses,” the company added.

A unidentified federal official blamed the delivery change on states’ requests for expedited delivery, leaving less time for inspection and clearing of supplies, the Post reported. “We are sending doses that have been produced, verified and released,” the official said. But that would appear to be contradicted by Pfizer’s statement that millions of doses have been ready for inspection, the newspaper

Pfizer said it has continually kept President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed program, as well as his administration’s Department of Health and Human Services up to date on “every aspect of our production and distribution capabilities,” and officials have “walked the production lines” at company facilities.

Pfizer has a successful and long track record of producing and distributing large volumes of complex vaccines that the world can trust―and we are continuing to extend this track record with our COVID-19 vaccine,” it said.

On top of Pfizer’s 2.9 million doses already shipped, millions of more doses of Moderna’s vaccine are ready to go out next week if they’re approved, which is likely. Pfizer will provide an additional 2 million doses next week, according to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

The Post characterized the upcoming number as a sharp dropoff from what states were expecting.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Mar-a-Lago neighbors to Trump: Spend your post-presidency elsewhere

December 17, 2020

Outgoing President Donald Trump will not receive a warm welcome to the neighborhood, if he chooses to spend his post-POTUS days at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Florida, The Washington Post reports.

After hearing about his plans to retreat to the property he now uses as his Winter White House, area residents have a message for the Trump: We don’t want you  here.

According to the Post, that message was formally delivered Tuesday morning in a demand letter delivered to the town of Palm Beach and also addressed to the U.S. Secret Service asserting that Trump lost his legal right to live at Mar-a-Lago because of an agreement he signed in the early 1990s when he converted the storied estate from his private residence to a private club.

The legal maneuver could, at long last, force Palm Beach to publicly address whether Trump can make Mar-a-Lago his legal residence and home, as he has been expected to do, when he becomes an ex-president after the swearing-in of Joe Biden on January 20.

The contretemps sets up a potentially awkward scenario, unique in recent history, in which a former Oval Office occupant would find himself having to officially defend his choice of a place to live during his post-presidency. It also could create a legal headache for Trump because he changed his official domicile to Mar-a-Lago, leaving behind Manhattan, where he lived before being elected president and came to fame as a brash, self-promoting developer. (Trump originally tried to register to vote in Florida using the White House in Washington as his address, which is not allowed under Florida law. He later changed the registration to the Mar-a-Lago address.)

In the demand letter, obtained by The Washington Post, an attorney for the Mar-a-Lago neighbors says the town should notify Trump that he cannot use Mar-a-Lago as his residence. Making that move would “avoid an embarrassing situation” if the outgoing president moves to the club and later has to be ordered to leave, according to the letter sent on behalf of the neighbors, the DeMoss family, which runs an international missionary foundation.

For years, various neighbors have raised concerns about disruptions, such as clogged traffic and blocked streets, caused by the president’s frequent trips to the club. Even before he was president, Trump created ill will in the town by refusing to comply with even basic local requirements, such as adhering to height limits for a massive flagpole he installed—and frequently attempting to get out of the promises he had made when he converted Mar-a-Lago into a private club.

“There’s absolutely no legal theory under which he can use that property as both a residence and a club,” said Glenn Zeitz, another nearby Palm Beach homeowner who has joined the fight against Trump and had previously tangled with him over Trump’s attempt to seize a private home to expand his Atlantic City casino. “Basically he’s playing a dead hand. He’s not going to intimidate or bluff people because we’re going to be there.”

A White House spokesperson and Palm Beach’s mayor did not respond to requests for comment. To date, Palm Beach has made no public attempt to prevent Trump from living at Mar-a-Lago or from using it as his legal residence.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Rocking the pandemic: Texas nature path becomes a wonderland of tiny stone paintings

November  18, 2020

Chris Penny figures that his mail carrier must have spectacular biceps by now. Most every day for the past seven months, when the carrier arrives at Penny’s home in Grapevine, Texas, he unloads a few heavy bins and hauls them, one by one, up the driveway to Penny’s front porch.

The boxes are filled with packages containing painted rocks—most of them intricate works of art, handmade and mailed from people all over the country, The Washington Post reports.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, people have been sending them to Penny so that he and his family can place them along the Parr Park Rock Art Traila mile-long public walking path that has become a wonderland of more than 4,000 art rocks.

“These aren’t just any rocks;

Above, a wagon loaded with new rocks to be displayed along the rock trail. (Photo source Chris Penny)

they’re works of art,” said Penny, 44. “The other day, I had 11 big boxes to unpack in my living room. It’s incredible to see that people from all over are now painting rocks to turn my community into a trail of happiness.”

The rocks—painted to resemble everything from the Beatles to Mickey Mouse to a face mask—started arriving at Penny’s house ever since he bought a bunch on eBay after noticing a dozen painted rocks scattered along a nature trail in Parr Park. Penny said he knew right away that he wanted to flood the trail with them and make it a destination.

Penny learned that the colorful rocks he’d stumbled upon were painted by Ron Olsen and his three grown children in March, after Olsen returned from a trip to Iceland and discovered that Grapevine, a city of around 46,000 people, had practically become a ghost town due to the nationwide coronavirus shutdown.

Olsen said he wanted to do something for the community, so he gathered his family together on March 28 to paint a few rocks—including one covered with blue bonnet flowers and another decorated with balloons—and scatter them along his favorite trail in Parr Park.

Soon, he and Penny decided to join forces to transform the trail into an artsy attraction for anyone in Grapevine and beyond who wanted to escape the stress of COVID-19 for a while.

“We wanted to make it a getaway for people and give parents something safe to do outdoors with their children,” Olsen, 62, who works in Grapevine as a photographer and RV dealer, told the Post.

“Anyone can paint a rock,” he said. “And if you put hundreds and hundreds of them together, it really adds up to something amazing.”

Penny, who runs the nonprofit Broken Crayon, focused on helping women and children living in poverty in the United States and Ghana, said the project has provided his family with something fun and positive to do close to home during the pandemic.

In the early days in March, after he’d painted several dozen rocks with his daughters and bought dozens more online, Penny posted on Facebook, asking anyone who would like to contribute to the project to mail him their rocks and he’d pay for the shipping.

“I thought that a few people might want to pitch in, but I was stunned when I went to get my mail one day and found tons of rocks on the porch,” he said. “Pretty soon, we were the talk of the post office.”

For Lissa Critz, who visits the park regularly with her two children, told the post that the rock trail has provided some much-needed diversion from home schooling in Grapevine.

“It’s become like a game when we go to the park to locate all of the new rocks,” said Critz, 41. “The rocks are so well done and so much time and care has been put into the project. We love it.”

There are sections devoted to wildlife, teachers, health-care heroes, firefighters, Disney princesses, patriotism, movie stars, video games and travel, said Olsen, who visits the trail several days a week to photograph all of the new rocks and post them on the park’s Facebook page.

“Of course, we have a rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame, and we also have a dog park,” said Olsen, adding that they have cat rocks but they haven’t yet made a “cat park.”

“I guess we’d better get busy on that,” he added.

 

Research contact: @washingtonpost

Georgia elections official says Lindsey Graham pressured him to toss out legal ballots

November 18, 2020

Georgia’s top elections official said on November 16 that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)—who has served as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee since 2019—pressured him during a November 13 phone call to toss out legally mailed ballots, as the recount of the presidential election continues in that state.

Indeed, Politico reports, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said that he has heard from a number of Republicans, who are seeking to sway election results in President Donald Trump’s favor.

Speaking with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday evening, Raffensperger said that Graham asked whether he could check signatures on mail-in ballots during Georgia’s recount and use a high frequency of mismatches to justify throwing away mail-in ballots in certain counties.

Raffensperger said he took Graham’s comments as “an implication of look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out.”

When contacted by Politico, Graham denied pressuring Raffensperger to throw away legal ballots,saying that he had a “very pleasant” conversation about the state’s signature verification process.

The Washington Post first reported the conversation, which reportedly took place last Friday—on the same day a Georgia lawyer sympathetic to Trump filed a lawsuit to prevent the state from certifying the election until all signatures could be verified. When presented with Graham’s denial on CNN, Raffensperger pointed out that the lawsuit sought to use a tactic similar to the one Graham proposed to stop the inclusion of absentee ballots in the state.

Georgia wound up being one of the key battlegrounds of the 2020 presidential election, with a razor-thin margin that eventually tipped in Democrat Joe Biden’s favor. But Trump has refused to concede and has gone after election officials in critical states — including Georgia — with conspiracy theories that the race was stolen from him.

During his CNN interview, Raffensperger balked at the idea of tossing legally cast ballots, and rejected the notion that election workers were not thoroughly verifying votes.

“We feel confident the election officials did their job,” Raffensperger said.

Raffensperger also said he was surprised by the vitriol from his fellow Republicans toward his performance verifying the election. His wife has received menacing messages on her cellphone relating to the election, he told Blitzer. Raffensperger and his wife have been isolating after she was diagnosed with coronavirus.

“You always think, I’m on this side of the aisle, obviously, and you always think your side wears the white hats,” Raffensperger said. “But people are really upset about this.”

He added: “I’m going to probably be disappointed because I was rooting for the Republicans to win,

Research contact: @politico

Jared Kushner’s company reportedly moves to evict hundreds as pandemic rages

November 9, 2020

An apartment management company co-owned by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner has taken action in court to evict hundreds of tenants whose finances have taken a hit from COVID -19, The Washington Post first reported November 5.

Westminster Management has moved against largely low- and middle-income tenants in the Baltimore area, many of them Black, whose apartments are managed by the company, The Huffington Post also said.

A state moratorium protects tenants against evictions as people struggle with loss of jobs during the pandemic. A federal moratorium for government-supported housing, which includes some run by Westminster, also offers tenant protections during the crisis.

But Westminster, which manages some 20,000 apartments, and other management companies are eager to get started on the process against tenants with past-due rent. Westminster, part of the Kushner family’s Kushner Cos., said in a statement that Westminster’s actions are fully compliant with state and federal eviction bans.

Jared Kushner claimed that he gave up managing Kushner Cos. when his father-in-law, President Donald Trump, made him a senior White House adviser. But he maintained his ownership in the company. Kushner earned $1.69 million from his stake in Westminster last year, according to his financial filings.

One resident of a Westminster-managed apartment Tashika Booker, told the Post that she lost her job working for an online education company because of the pandemic. She said she’s struggling to pay rent as she seeks other work.

Westminster is fighting a lawsuit by Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh that accuses the company of violations concerning tacked-on fees and poor housing conditions, the HuffPost said.

Months before the suit was filed, Trump slammed the Baltimore congressional district represented by the late Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings’ (D-Maryland) as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”

Kushner properties in the area at the time had racked up hundreds of building code violations. An earlier lawsuit described one Kushner apartment as having a leaking bedroom ceiling, maggots in the living room carpet and raw sewage spewing form the kitchen sink.

As for the suit filed by Frosh, Kushner Cos. managers have denied the charges, and claim the court action is politically motivated.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Secret Service plans to ramp up protection of Biden

Novembr 9, 2020

The Secret Service will send reinforcements to Wilmington, Delaware, starting November 6, to buttress protection for former vice president Joe Biden as his campaign prepares for the possibility that he may soon claim victory in his bid for the White House, The Washington Post reported, based on interviews with two inside sources.

The Secret Service summoned a squad of agents to add to the protective bubble around Biden after his campaign told the agency that the Democratic nominee would continue using a Wilmington convention center at least another day—and could make a major speech as early as Friday, according to the same sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the security protocols.

In addition, there have been several media reports of threats leveled at the former vice president from followers of President Donald Trump.

Secret Service spokesperson Catherine Milhoan declined to comment— stressing that the agency does not publicly discuss security planning for the president or candidates it protects. A Biden campaign aide also declined to comment.

The additional security for Biden doesn’t give him a full protective detail that accompanies a president-elect, but it moves closer in that direction. It remains unclear when the Secret Service would provide that level of security for Biden should he win.

The agency typically ramps up protection for a president-elect immediately after that person has been declared the winner by assigning a new raft of agents to the incoming president. Historically, that increase in protection has happened late into election night after one candidate has conceded and the other has given a victory speech.

However, the Post points out, this year’s race has been marked by a drawn-out vote count and a flurry of unsubstantiated attacks by President Trump on the integrity of the election.

In a tirade delivered from the White House on Thursday night, Trump declared without evidence that “corrupt” state officials were unfairly counting invalid votes in the states where he is behind Biden.

His campaign has launched efforts to stop the ballot-counting process in several states and intends to continue echoing the president’s unsubstantiated claims that fraud has tainted the election, as the Post reported.

If Biden is considered the clear winner and Trump does not concede, the Secret Service could wait under agency protocol until the Electoral College meets in mid-December to certify the vote results before officially treating Biden as the president-elect.

But Secret Service would probably feel duty-bound to ramp up protection before then, a former agent said.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

At late-night Miami rally, Trump threatens to boot Fauci ‘after the election’

November 3, 2020

President Trump revealed at a rally early Monday morning that he was leaning toward firing America’s leading infectious disease expert—Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)—after Election Day, further escalating the tension as the number of new coronavirus cases in the United States reaches record highs.

His supporters did not seem to have a problem with that plan—chanting, “Fire Fauci! Fire Fauci!” after Trump revealed his intentions. The president listened in silence for a few moments before remarking: “Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election. I appreciate the advice,” The New York Times reports.

The president spoke well past midnight at the Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport in Florida at his fifth and final rally of the day. Indeed, his comments about Dr. Fauci  came toward the end of what was a whirlwind day of campaigning across five states — Michigan, Iowa, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida—nd he spoke even as a local curfew aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus took effect at midnight.

 On Friday, more than 99,000 coronavirus infections were reported across the country, a single-day record. Nonetheless, the Times noted, Trump has maintained without citing evidence that the United States has “turned the corner” in fighting the virus, a point he reiterated at the rally early Monday.

That assertion is strongly disputed by Dr. Fauci, who told the The Washington Post in an interview published on October 31 ththe United States “could not possibly be positioned more poorly” as it heads into at winter. A White House spokesman later called Dr. Fauci’s comments “unacceptable.”

By contrast, former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, has said repeatedly that if he were to win the presidency, he is hopeful Dr. Fauci would remain in his role and serve in his administration.

According to the Times, Trump’s quip about Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was part of an hourlong mix of meanspirited jokes, misstatements, hyperbole, self-congratulation, and occasional on-script arguments he made for his re-election.

Mr. Trump has adopted Florida as his home turf, and it is a swing state that he desperately needs to win to open paths to another four-year term. Although he narrowly prevailed there in 2016, polls, including one released November 1 by The New York Times and Siena College, have shown him trailing Mr. Biden in a tight race.

Research contact: @nytimes

Proud Boys deny sending threatening emails to Democratic voters in multiple states

October 22, 2020

Law enforcement officials have been notified that voters in multiple states have received personalized emails purporting to be from the Proud Boys—a far-right, neo-fascist white supremacist group. The messaging is filled with intimidating threats aimed at Democrats, if they do not change their vote to Republican, The Hill reports.

CNN and The Washington Post first reported that voters in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Alaska, and Florida all said they received threatening emails warning them to vote for President Donald Trump in the upcoming election, adding that the mysterious sender claimed to have access to voter history and “will come after you” should they fail to vote for the president.

“You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you,” reads one email obtained by the Post,. Dozens were reportedly sent, including more than 180 to students, faculty and staff of the University of Florida, a school spokesperson told CNN.

Chris Krebs, the director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency tweeted that the agency was “aware of threatening emails with misleading info about the secrecy of your vote.”

“This is what we mean by not falling for sensational and unverified claims. The last line of defense in election security is you—the American voter. So be prepared, be a smart consumer and sharer of information. Vote with confidence,” added Chris Krebs.

Elections officials in Alaska and Florida confirmed to CNN that they were aware of the emails, with Alaska’s Division of Elections telling the network that federal authorities had been alerted. Representatives with elections boards in Pennsylvania and Arizona did not immediately return The Hill’s requests for comment. A spokesperson for the FBI’s field office in Anchorage also did not immediately return a request for comment from the Post.

The leader of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio, told USA Today and CNN in a statement that his group was not responsible for the emails, which appeared to have been sent from an email address affiliated with the group but may have been the result of spoofing software, one expert told CNN.

“No, it wasn’t us. The people [who sent the emails] used a spoofing email that pretended to be us,” Tarrio said. “Whoever did this should be in prison for a long time.”

“We have spoken to the FBI and are working with them. I hope whoever did this is arrested for voter intimidation and for maliciously impersonating our group,” he added.

Trump recently faced criticism after he demurred follow his prompting by Fox News’s Chris Wallace to disavow the group during the first presidential debate between him and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

“Stand back and stand by,” Trump said during the contentious debate.

Research contact: @thehil

Editor’s note: According to multiple sources, U.S. officials on Wednesday night accused Iran of targeting American voters with faked but menacing emails and warned that both Iran and Russia had obtained voter data that could be used to endanger the upcoming election.

 

Trump’s resolve to attend next week’s debate is seen as part of his ‘pattern of recklessness’

October 8, 2020

President Donald Trump’s tweet on Tuesday, October 6, saying that he looks forward to the October 15 presidential debate in Miami, alarmed some medical and public health experts—who warned that his coronavirus infection might still be contagious at that time and could endanger others, including Joe Biden, The Washington Post reports.

.The tweet came just one day after the president was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center following a three-night hospital stay—during which he was put on an aggressive mix of treatments usually reserved for the most severe cases of COVID-19.

But from removing his mask on the White House balcony to refusing to use PPE in the West Wing, Trump immediately tried to project an image of being fully in charge and able to conduct all of his regular activities after returning to Pennsylvania Avenue.

According to the report by the Post, some outside health experts, have characterized Trump’s determination to attend the debate “as part of a pattern of recklessness that has defined his response to the pandemic, with the president and his aides not wearing masks or observing social distancing.”

  At least 19 people in Trump’s orbit have tested positive for the virus during the past week.

On Tuesday, White House physician Sean P. Conley, who is a doctor of osteopathic medicine, continued to give upbeat reports on Trump’s recovery, issuing a three-sentence memo saying the president “reports no symptoms” and has stable vital signs. “Overall, he continues to do extremely well,” the memo said.

Neither Conley nor other White House officials have said how they will determine when it might be safe for Trump to go out in public — for his own health, or for others near him.

Several outside medical experts suggested that the president’s actions indicate he is unchastened by his own experience contracting a virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans — or by the spreading infections among his own staff and supporters.

Trump’s removal of his mask moments after returning to the White House on Monday evening, and his subsequent assertion that he would appear at the debate “is irresponsible and reckless, and frankly that borders on malicious,” said Michael Mina, a physician and assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

“We should be throwing the kitchen sink at him, not just for treatment, but for ensuring that he is safe to be out in society and he is not imposing a risk to citizens of this country,” Mina said.

Mina noted that the president’s medical team has many ways to determine the status of his infection. Beyond administering the “PCR” test, considered the most definitive way of assessing whether someone has the virus, he said doctors could ask him to cough onto a petri dish to see whether the virus grows, swab his nose to culture the specimen, or administer antigen tests to see whether he has the virus’s protein in his nose.

“The average American doesn’t have tools to go through this,” Mina said, “but the president is a very special person. We have tools to do this.”

Research contact; @washingtonpost