Donald Trump's failed insurrection is drawing attention and resources away from state efforts to manage through his failed pandemic response.
Good evening. Voting in the 2020 presidential election ended 73 days ago. The inauguration happens in just five days. This American interregnum is drawing to a close.
In December, I wrote to you that January would be one of the worst months in American history- for two reasons. The first was due to the pandemic, which is very much on track to take the lives of more than 100,000 Americans in this month alone. The second was due to the possibility that the President might make an attempt to cling to power, threatening chaos. What I did not understand then was the degree to which these disasters would collide. This week it became clear: states, most of which are facing dramatic budget shortfalls, are now contending with these two crises, both created by Donald J. Trump, and they are compounding one another.
Across the country, state capitols are on lockdown as the threat of violence looms. Some state legislatures have canceled sessions (see Michigan, South Carolina) while others are returning under heavy security. National Guard troops in multiple jurisdictions have been called up to protect institutions. Some of those troops are being diverted from fighting the pandemic. In Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam dispatched 2,000 Guardsmen to Washington DC to help provide security ahead of the inauguration, part of building an expansive military cordon around the Capitol that the Secret Service is un-ironically referring to as the Green Zone. He noted with regret that they were needed to protect the Capitol from Americans when he needs them at home running logistics for vaccination sites.
It gets worse. The Trump administration’s already catastrophic handling of the pandemic continues to degrade as nearly the whole of the federal government appears to be in utter disarray. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced this week that the feds would release additional reserves of vaccine for second shots. Turns out no such reserve exists. The Washington Post reports today that now “health officials across the country who had anticipated their extremely limited vaccine supply as much as doubling beginning next week are confronting the reality that their allocations will remain largely flat, dashing hopes of dramatically expanding access for millions of elderly people and those with high-risk medical conditions.” Governors across the country are livid:
Governor Kate Brown @OregonGovBrownLast night, I received disturbing news, confirmed to me directly by General Perna of Operation Warp Speed: States will not be receiving increased shipments of vaccines from the national stockpile next week, because there is no federal reserve of doses.
This monumental cockup, as the Brits might rightly put it, means the timeline for vaccine rollouts across the country is extended by some as yet difficult to determine quantity of time.
Troops in the streets. Death figures hovering between 3,000-4,000 and a quarter million more Americans infected each day. It indeed feels like one of the country’s darkest hours.
And yet it could be worse- this afternoon The MyPillow CEO, Michael Lindell, was photographed entering the White House to meet the President. His notes were captured in a photo by a Washington Post photographer. “Move Kash Patel to CIA.” “Make clear this is China/Iran.” “Martial law if necessary.” “This is raw QAnon/8kun stuff, straight to the president,” observed NBC News dystopia beat reporter Ben Collins.
Neither of these crises will be over in five days- when the nation will limp into a very different inauguration than to which it is accustomed (rehearsal was postponed yesterday because of security concerns). Instead, the extremist violence and the pandemic will dominate the first weeks and months of the Biden administration, a poisonous hangover from the Trump years. My colleague Melissa Ryan pondered the scope of President-elect Joe Biden’s challenge this week, while Greg Greene put the moment in historic context. Whether looking forward or looking back, it’s clear this moment is a dramatic, pivotal one. And for that reason alone, Joe Biden’s Presidency stands as potentially one of the most consequential in American history. Hopefully, America’s Governors will find in him a reliable partner.
Five days. No- four days, 17 hours. And counting.
Driving the Conversation
Experts warn of vaccine stumbles ‘out of the gate’ because Trump officials refused to consult with Biden team. Laurie McGinley, Amy Goldstein, Lena H. Sun and Isaac Stanley-Becker, The Washington Post.
The lack of coordination has alarmed public health officials and experts on presidential transitions, especially as a more contagious virus variant first identified in Britain spreads across the United States and the CDC projects as many as 477,000 COVID-19 deaths by Feb. 6. The dearth of coordination “means we are stumbling out of the gate with the vaccine,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. “We are failing at a government level on distribution because there is no game plan. There is a chaotic Trump one and a learning-curve Biden one.”
The package includes $1,400 direct stimulus checks, which would supplement the $600 checks Congress passed late last year. Biden also proposes an additional $160 billion for a national vaccine program, including $20 billion for distribution, and an additional $50 billion for expanded testing.
Republicans must unambiguously admit that Trump’s lies threaten more violence. Greg Sargent, The Washington Post.
Republican calls for “unity” are conditional: Unity can only be premised on a blanket agreement not to acknowledge the truth about who and what are actually to blame for violently tearing the country in half. Until Republicans tell the truth about all of this, their professed hopes for unity are empty nonsense, to be treated with derisive contempt.
An Impeachment Trial Will Be Good Practice for Actual Oversight. Alex Pareene, The New Republic.
Regardless of what happens at the end of that trial, there will be a temptation, on the part of Democrats, who now enjoy complete control of the legislature and executive branch, to think of the impeachment as the closing of the book on the Trump era. They will want to return to the feeling Jeffries expressed at the beginning of the month: It is time to look forward, to put Donald Trump behind us, to focus on solving problems and not dwell in the recent past. That would be a mistake. The best way to approach Donald Trump’s second impeachment is as practice for politicians who need to be reminded that they have real power to investigate abuses of power and hold those who perpetrated those abuses accountable for their actions.
Mike Pence Has Nowhere to Go: The vice president has no obvious place in GOP electoral politics. Peter Nicholas, The Atlantic.
Yet Pence has no obvious place in GOP electoral politics even if his party repudiates Trump. Grateful though they might be that Pence honored the popular vote, independents and Never Trump Republicans have plenty of plausible alternatives when the 2024 primary season rolls around. Consistent and unapologetic critics of the president, such as Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, would most likely attract those voters. In the meantime, the Trump base is more likely to gravitate toward one of the president’s adult children, or maybe one of the two GOP senators who pushed to reject the electoral-vote count: Ted Cruz of Texas or Josh Hawley of Missouri. Pence was never a lock for the presidency, but now he simply has no lane left.
Good lord! There are too many to list- visit BuildBackBetter.gov for announcements of new appointments to the White House Science Team, White House Staff, COVID-19 Response Team, and other key positions. Here is one I’m personally excited about- Laura’s appointment is good news for America:
Your moment of … ShantyTok
“Sea shanties are popular right now because behavioral synchrony feels really, really good to humans and many of us have been social distancing for months and deprived of this,” said one Twitter user. But the best shanties are on TikTok right now- will this cultural moment survive another week? Who cares! Live for the moment:
American Interregnum is a pop-up newsletter covering the Presidential transition period from November 3rd, 2020 to January 21st, 2021. It is written and edited by Justin Hendrix, Greg Greene, and Melissa Ryan. Got questions or comments? We love your feedback. Reply directly to this email. We read all responses and respond to most.