According to an analysis by MSNBC's Zeeshan Aleem, the enduring legacy of Donald Trump's four years as president will have nothing to do with what he did while in office, but what came after he lost to Joe Biden.
As the Biden administration picks up the pieces following the chaotic Trump years, Aleem claims the "audit" of the 2020 presidential ballots in Maricopa County -- and Trump's lies about what it supposedly found -- will resonate for years as a tool for Republicans to make voters suspicious -- and therefore hesitant -- about voting.
Pointing to the ex-president's speech in Arizona on Saturday and describing it as a "nearly two-hour speech [that] alternated between fantastical self-aggrandizement and falsehood-packed rants about his perceived political adversaries," Aleem said the big takeaway was his comments about the audit.
"...as Trump spoke before a roaring audience of loyalists and a wide set of Arizona Republican politicians keen to ride on the coattails of his popularity, Trump's agenda to triple down on his election fraud lies looked like more than just an attempt to burnish his legacy," the columnist explained. "It showed his commitment and capacity to turbocharge the GOP's agenda to unravel voting rights and underscored how his ability to do lasting damage to the republic is far from over," the analyst wrote before adding, "Of course, none of this hysteria about rigged election results is based in reality."
Nonetheless, because Trump lies so easily and because his rabid base takes his claims as gospel, Republicans at the state level will use his claims to do all they can to make it harder to vote.
Writing, "Trump, of course, has never particularly prioritized facts and had no qualms spreading misleading data and disinformation about Arizona's tally of votes," Aleem predicted, "...the mythology of a stolen election is accelerating a long-term GOP strategic mission to make voting increasingly difficult, based on the belief that Democrats thrive when the voting booth is more accessible."
"Trump may never run for president again," the columnist added before warning, "But it's clear that he's relishing his role as Republican kingmaker, and his insistence that the narrative of a stolen election is a top criterion for his approval could end up being of even greater consequence than much of his presidency."
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McCarthy blew up during heated call with Pelosi as she rejected his picks for Capitol riot committee: report
On Monday, CNN analyzed how the effort by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to install GOP lawmakers openly hostile to the January 6 investigation onto the committee have pushed his tense relationship with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to the breaking point.
"In a heated phone call last week, Pelosi informed McCarthy that she would reject two of his selections to the special House committee investigating the January 6 attack. Voices were raised, a source with knowledge of the matter said, and McCarthy protested, hinting the decision could come back to haunt her," reported Melanie Zanona and Manu Raju. "'What you're doing is unprecedented,' McCarthy told Pelosi, according to a second source familiar with the call."
McCarthy was also publicly furious over the decision, although Pelosi made clear why she was rejecting Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Jim Banks (R-IN): their history of conspiracy theories and open desire to sabotage the commission to which they were being appointed.
According to the report, the GOP's fury with Pelosi has been brewing long before this argument.
"Republicans ... say their frustration with Pelosi dates to before the Capitol attack," said the report. "They were furious that she instituted a form of remote voting during the pandemic, erected a plexiglass case to allow lawmakers under quarantine to still attend the vote electing her as speaker on January 3, and weakened a procedural tool used by the minority, among other things. Pelosi's decision to deny two Republicans from sitting on the select panel — which caught the GOP completely off guard — was the tipping point for many members."
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'Going in the wrong direction': Ron DeSantis under fire as Florida now accounts for 1 in 5 new US COVID cases
The state of Florida now accounts for one in five new coronavirus infections in the United States, making it the nation's most alarming hot spot as the highly transmissible Delta strain rips through undervaccinated communities and drives a surge in hospitalizations.
According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida has recorded 73,181 new Covid-19 cases over the past week, the most in the country. Florida also logged the most coronavirus deaths of any U.S. state in the last seven days—319—and hospitalizations are spiking, prompting dire warnings from physicians and calls for public safety measures to stop the spread.
But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican and likely 2024 presidential candidate, has recently taken to mocking such measures; earlier this month, the governor's team launched a new merchandise line that includes a koozie with the quote, "How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?"
Other items take aim at Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a frequent target of right-wing ire. "Don't Fauci My Florida," declares a shirt selling for $21 on a DeSantis campaign website.
While DeSantis has publicly stressed the importance of vaccination in recent days, Florida physicians have attributed the surge in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths in the state to the governor's rush to end public health restrictions.
"While hospitals in our state were filling up, DeSantis was shouting about 'Freedom over Faucism,'" said Bernard Ashby, a Miami-based cardiologist and head of the of the Florida chapter of the Committee to Protect Health Care. "If DeSantis were as concerned about stopping Covid-19 spread as he was about coming up with these clever jabs about Dr. Fauci, we might not be in this position."
As the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, epidemiologists argue that "various factors" are behind the Florida crisis, including: "large numbers of unvaccinated people, a relaxation of preventive measures like mask-wearing and social distancing, the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus, and the congregation of people indoors during hot summer months."
Chad Neilsen, director of accreditation and infection prevention at the University of Florida Health Jacksonville, told the Journal that hospitalizations are surging at a rate "we have not seen before ever." Data collected by Florida epidemiologists shows that recent hospital patients have been skewing younger, with more than half under the age of 60.
"It really has been unbelievable," said Neilsen.
In a scathing editorial last week, the Orlando Sentinel accused DeSantis of prioritizing his presidential aspirations over Florida's pandemic response.
"Florida was all over the news this past weekend with one of the nation's biggest spikes in Covid cases and hospitalizations," the editorial reads. "And where was Gov. Ron DeSantis as this health crisis resurged? Visiting hospitals? Consulting with physicians and public health experts? Huddling with his staff to brainstorm ways of persuading more Floridians to take the vaccine that would nip this pandemic in the bud?"
"Nope. Florida's governor was in Texas, 1,000 miles from Tallahassee, burnishing his 2024 presidential ambitions with a visit to the southern border," the article continues. "The governor was back in Florida on Sunday but, once again, not to focus on the Covid health crisis but this time to make fun of Anthony Fauci in a speech before a crowd of young conservatives in Tampa... And every few days, nearly as many people are dying from Covid as died in the recent collapse of a condominium in South Florida."
Florida's coronavirus surge comes in the context of a nationwide jump in infections that has federal officials worried about another devastating wave as vaccination rates slow and governments relax—and, in the case of Florida and other Republican-led states, aim to actively prohibit—public health requirements such as mask-wearing indoors.
The New York Times reported over the weekend that "hospitalizations have increased in 45 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico over the past two weeks."
"The only states where they have gone down are Maryland, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont," the Times noted. "Florida, Missouri, and Texas account for about 34% of all new cases nationwide. Greene County in southwestern Missouri reported 259 Covid-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday, up from a previous high of 237 on December 1. By Wednesday, that number was 265."
In an appearance on CNN Sunday morning, Fauci warned that the U.S. is "going in the wrong direction."
"This is an issue predominantly among the unvaccinated," said Fauci, "which is the reason why we're out there practically pleading with the unvaccinated people to go out and get vaccinated."
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