Trump’s conspiracy claims will have long hangover

Trump’s conspiracy claims will have long hangover

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On the roster: Trump’s conspiracy claims will have long hangover – I’ll Tell You What: Struggle can build character – Georgia Senate runoff spending tops $ 120M – Pelosi to hold on, points to 2022 departure – Idaho lineman seeks round raccoon

TRUMP’S CONSPIRACY CLAIMS WILL HAVE LONG HANGOVER
Do you remember when we learned that college and pro football coaching legend Pete Carroll took a sympathetic view of the 9/11 Truth conspiracy theory?

That’s the kind of revelation that makes one reconsider either the man or the movement, and usually not the latter.

Carroll welcomed the association. But for most of those who know, the movement is repulsive. The theory held by a small but still substantial number of devotees is that the government was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

While some, like the kooks who believe school shootings are staged, say it was faked, the mainline orthodoxy seems to hold that the federal government killed thousands of people to start a war or control the masses or because of the Jews – whatever codswallop motivated the reasoning of whichever kooks.

We’re not here trying to pick on Carroll. He’s got enough trouble trying to get Russell Wilson to hold on to the football.

But we are trying to illustrate to you that not all conspiracy theories are alike.

There are scads of other dubious concepts or beliefs – the living Elvis, the existence of sasquatches and skunk apes out there bigfooting around, the earth is flat, the designated hitter isn’t cheating – that enjoy relatively widespread support or sympathy. But these bad ideas don’t really ask much of their adherents.

Do you think Adolf Hitler faked his own suicide? Maybe he was a barber in Buenos Aries after the war? That’s an extremely low-cost belief.

Like a whole universe of things that large numbers of Americans believe in that are either demonstrably untrue or impossibly far-fetched, believing that der Führer spent his golden years in an Argentinian smock is kind of a freebie.

The idea, though, that you live in a nation where the federal government is so evil and amazingly competent that it could engineer a conspiracy that includes thousands of people to murderous ends? That sounds like an action item to us.

Do you flee the country? Build a Unabomber-style shack in Wirt County? Start an armed resistance? Whatever you do, it doesn’t seem like you would just head back to the couch or go get Icees (orange, obviously) with your buds.

Like powerful truths, powerful falsehoods make their own demands.

Which brings us to President Trump’s firing of Chris Krebs, who until Tuesday night, led the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency – the government office in charge of safeguarding elections from hacks and attacks.

Trump’s Twitter announcement has drawn widespread, bipartisan rebukes from lawmakers, even some who typically toe Trump’s line.

You must be bored by now with the ever-evolving narrative behind Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the election that ended two weeks ago. So, here’s the short version: As it became clear that state-level complaints or recounts could not deliver the hundreds of thousands of votes he would need to overturn the results, Team Trump slid into a deeper, broader conspiracy that seeks to delegitimize the election on a national level.

The initial strategy, backed by most Republicans, was to pursue challenges through counties and courts. But that strategy ends when local officials and judges won’t put their careers on the line in support of unsupported claims of massive fraud.

That leaves Trump & Co. in need of a more elusive enemy that can support claims that, like in every good conspiracy theory, are ultimately impossible to disprove.

Not to say they can’t be well debunked, though. We highly recommend today’s WSJ editorial on the subject of rigged voting machines and election interference.

One point it makes is that we are in a much swampier version now of where we were 20 years ago: “In the George W. Bush years, the conspiratorial left focused on Diebold, a maker of electronic voting machines. It would be a mistake for anyone on the right to go down a similar dead end…”

But it’s become pretty clear now that the conspiratorial right is going all the way down the lane on Dominion Voting machines, George Soros, Venezuela, something, something, something…

Mainstream Republicans are jumping off the Trump train as it banks into this turn. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sounds like a man ready to disembark. Other Republican senators, meanwhile, didn’t seem too afraid of Trump to put his polarizing pick for the Federal Reserve on ice.

Indeed, some of those who are now “just asking questions” about whether America’s democratic system is a thorough fraud will disregard the conspiracy as quickly as they picked it up when it’s no longer useful. Trump himself may fall into that very category.

But Trump has set as the asking price of his supporters to believe that America did not conduct a free, fair election – or at least say they do. Dominion serves something like 40 percent of U.S. voters with contracts in 28 states. If Dominion switched nearly a million votes in Pennsylvania as “Stop the Steal” theorists claimed, then that would put 70 million or so votes elsewhere in question.

What is Trump willing to do about a conspiracy so monstrous and vast, though?

He was willing to fire Krebs, presumably in search of a more pliant acting chief who would contradict his predecessor’s findings that the elections were well-conducted and without interference. Or maybe just muddy the water enough to keep the Stop the Stealers along for the ride.

But if you were the president and really believed that the Soroses and other shadowy globalists had torn our temple of democracy asunder, wouldn’t you have more to say or do than tweet about it and make a symbolic firing? Would you be sulky and bunkered in at the White House or would you be appearing on television, marshaling law enforcement officials, convening your national security team?

He won’t do those things because that’s exactly when elected Republicans will turn on him in larger numbers. They may be willing to play along with the counties-and-courts strategy for a while, but coup claims beyond the confines of Twitter would be a no-no.

Trump already has a whole conspiracy theory network of adoring supporters in the QAnon movement, which now boasts two supporters in the next House of Representatives.

While Trump, like Pete Carroll, may be free later to be casual about the claim that America is being controlled by sinister forces others do not see, many of his core supporters are likely to understand the world very differently after this – and live accordingly.

The Stealers probably will migrate out to a small but persistent fringe group, like the Truthers and the Birthers. But for now, they have the president urging them on, and most Republicans leaders are too afraid to speak up because they will either face a primary backlash or draw more attention to the mess.

We’ll be living with the consequences of a falsehood this powerful for years to come.

THE RULEBOOK: FRIENDS OF THE ENDS
“Were the plan of the convention adverse to the public happiness, my voice would be, Reject the plan. Were the Union itself inconsistent with the public happiness, it would be, Abolish the Union.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 45

TIME OUT: JUST LIKE MOM
Scientific American: “Guilt is difficult to define, but it pervades every aspect of our lives… Humans seem to be hardwired for justice, but we’re also saddled with a curious compulsion to diagram our own emotional wiring. This drive to assign a neurochemical method to our madness has led to the generation of vast catalogs of neuroimaging studies that detail the neural underpinnings of everything from anxiety to nostalgia. In a recent study, researchers now claim to have moved us one step closer to knowing what a guilty brain looks like. Since guilt carries different weight depending on context or culture, the authors of the study chose to define it operationally as the awareness of having harmed someone else. A series of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments across two separate cohorts, one Swiss and one Chinese, revealed what they refer to as a ‘guilt-related brain signature’  that persists across groups.”

Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.

GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: STRUGGLE CAN BUILD CHARACTER
In Chris’s absence, Dana Perino is joined by Jason Bonewald. They discuss some takeaways from the election, including what 2000 can teach us about recounting and mobile voting in 2020, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy‘s comeback, and the Democratic Party’s identity crisis. They also discuss the student loan crisis and the latest developments from the COVID-19 pandemic. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

GEORGIA SENATE RUNOFF SPENDING TOPS $ 120M
Fox Business: “With the Senate majority up for grabs in Georgia’s runoff elections, money is flooding into the twin showdowns. In the two weeks since Election Day, the campaigns of the four candidates, the national political parties, and outside groups such as super PACs have already shelled out nine figures to reserve time to run TV commercials in the Jan. 5 elections, according to AdImpact, a top national ad tracking firm formerly known as Advertising Analytics. ‘With control of the Senate at stake, total ad expenditures for both Georgia runoffs will top $ 120 million as of today since the general election,’ AdImpact vice president John Link told Fox News on Wednesday. And AdImpact says that number will likely more than double by early January. The biggest spender so far is appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who has reserved more than $ 40 million in ad time. Her Democratic opponent, Raphael Warnock, has put nearly $ 24 million toward ad reservations.”

Loeffler will debate Warnock, Perdue refuses to face Ossoff again – Fox News: “A debate between Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock is on for Dec. 6 after the Atlanta Press Club (APC) confirmed Tuesday that both campaigns are committed to the event. The debate is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will air on Georgia Public Broadcasting. Warnock has challenged Loeffler, R-Ga., to three debates after the candidates mutually canceled one ahead of the general election. The Loeffler campaign had expressed interest in a debate facilitated by the APC during the runoff, after she and Warnock participated in a virtual debate run by the APC in October. … The same day as the Loeffler-Warnock debate, the APC has an event scheduled with Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, though Perdue’s campaign has said he will not participate.”

PELOSI TO HOLD ON, POINTS TO 2022 DEPARTURE
AP: “House Democrats nominated Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday as the speaker to lead them into Joe Biden’s presidency, and shortly afterward she seemed to suggest that these would be her final two years in the post. Democrats, scattered around the country, used a voice vote to pick Pelosi to guide a smaller and ideologically divided House majority in shepherding Biden’s agenda toward enactment. It was the party’s first virtual leadership election, a response to the coronavirus pandemic. At a news conference afterward, Pelosi, D-Calif., came close to affirming that these next two years leading the House would be her last. Asked about her longevity, she cited her statement two years ago when she said she’d abide by a move to limit her speakership then to four more years. ‘I don’t want to limit any leverage I may have, but I made the statement,’ Pelosi, 80, told reporters Wednesday. Even so, she stopped short of explicitly saying these would be her final two years in the post.”

Clark beats Cicilline for key post – Roll Call: “House Democrats elected Massachusetts Rep. Katherine M. Clark as assistant speaker on Wednesday, making her the second-highest ranking woman ever in Democratic leadership, behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Clark, 57, who got her start in leadership this Congress serving as caucus vice chair, beat Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, 59, the outgoing chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, for the No. 4 position in the caucus. The vote was 135-92. Clark entered the House in 2013 after winning a special election to replace Edward J. Markey, who became a senator. She has quickly climbed the ranks in a caucus that has a reputation for stagnant leadership.”

McCarthy rides success to re-election – AP: “Rep. Kevin McCarthy easily won reelection as House Republican leader, a stunning turnaround as the entire GOP leadership team was rewarded by their colleagues for reducing the Democrats’ House advantage in the November election. McCarthy faced no opposition Tuesday to return as minority leader during the closed-door gathering under COVID-19 protocols. After a quick vote, he won a standing ovation, according to an aide who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private session. For the California Republican, it cements his role as a political survivor who brushed back naysayers and parlayed an alliance with President Donald Trump to revive his path to one day possibly becoming House speaker. ‘Our country has faced unbelievable challenges,’ he said afterward. House Republicans are ‘the most united and energized’ he’s ever seen after their ‘historic political upset.’”

DEMS GRAPPLE WITH A REDDENING FLORIDA 
Politico: “For Democrats in Florida, Election Day 2020 was a tipping point in a long, painful buildup to irrelevancy. After suffering crushing losses from the top of the ballot down, the state party now is mired in a civil war that could have profound consequences for future elections. High hopes for gains in the state Legislature have given way to recriminations and finger-pointing. Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo is almost certain to lose her job, but no one has stepped up to claim her mantle. Prospective 2022 gubernatorial candidates, including state Rep. Anna Eskamani and state Sen. Jason Pizzo, are slinging blame. And redistricting, which could deliver Democrats into another decade of insignificance, is around the corner. Even as Joe Biden heads to the White House, state Democrats know that President Donald Trump did more than just win in Florida. He tripled his 2016 margin and all but stripped Florida of its once-vaunted status as a swing state. His win, a landslide by state presidential standards, was built on record turnout and a Democratic implosion in Miami-Dade County, one of the bluest parts of the state.”

Ricchetti’s loyalty ensured his spot in the West Wing – NYT: “Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign was foundering before the first votes of 2020 had been cast, so Steve Ricchetti, Mr. Biden’s adviser and longtime friend, summoned a group of Democrats who felt swept aside by what then seemed the party’s populist wave — the big donors. … That intervention was a critical moment in Mr. Biden’s then-struggling campaign: The $ 1.2 million raised that day was needed to bankroll the candidate’s travel, and it kept Mr. Biden in the fight long enough to overcome his early stumbles and win the Democratic nomination. Mr. Ricchetti, 63, has been a key player in Mr. Biden’s life since joining the vice president’s staff in 2012, but his dogged efforts on behalf of a candidate many viewed as past his prime ensured he would have a powerful, free-ranging role in the Biden White House.”

Biden picks former Alito clerk as counsel – Politico: “But one of his appointments has a line on her resume that would also make Republicans proud: Onetime clerk to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Dana Remus, who most recently served as general counsel to the Biden campaign, will become counsel to the president in the new administration. Before joining the campaign, Remus worked as the General Counsel of the Obama Foundation, and as the Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Counsel for Ethics during the Obama administration. A Biden transition official described Remus as ‘a distinguished attorney with years of experience serving as counsel to Democratic leaders’ who is ‘fully committed to helping execute President-elect Biden’s bold agenda for our country.’ But it’s Remus’ experience clerking for Alito in 2008 that could prove especially valuable to the Biden administration as it gears up for repeated clashes with the Court’s 6 to 3 conservative majority in the years ahead.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Unemployment cliff dead ahead – WaPo

Texas attorney general said to be target of FBI probe – AP

Newsom caught on camera breaking his own corona rules with lobbyist at foodie haven – FOX 11

AUDIBLE: PUT THIS ON THE UNDERHILL’S ACCOUNT
“The arrangement is, we’ll work it out at the end.” – Rudy Giuliani, in response to reports that he asked the president’s campaign to pay him $ 20,000 a day for his legal work. He denies the request and added whoever said he made the request “is a liar, a complete liar” per the NYT.

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

IDAHO LINEMAN SEEKS ROUND RACCOON
KFOR: “An Idaho line worker who came to Central Oklahoma to help restore power can now use a little help himself after his beloved pet raccoon went missing in Norman. George Simmons, once upon a time, rescued a tiny raccoon that he named Coonsie. George has a habit of taking in critters in need – squirrels, birds and even a beaver – getting them better and then getting them back into the wild. Coonsie, however, did not want to leave George and she became his forever raccoon, or one of his two pet raccoons, actually. His other pet raccoon is named Lucy Lui. George’s girl Coonsie has since grown into a 50-pound fluffball. She loves veggies, potato chips and Arizona sweet iced tea. … Helpful Oklahomans meet up with George each night to search. The search party on Tuesday was 20-people strong. George usually searches late into the night.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“His unquiet final acts were, in part, overshadowed by a successor who refused to come in quietly and, in part, by Obama’s own endless, sentimental farewell tour.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing about former President Obama’s final acts as president in the Washington Post on Jan. 19, 2017.

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 here.

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