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CIA Director Haspel not included in Trump’s intelligence briefing Friday


President Trump’s in-person daily intelligence briefing on Friday did not include CIA Director Gina Haspel, whose job has been on the line, according to several current and former officials familiar with the situation.

The meeting was organized by the Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, the former Texas congressman and strong Trump partisan during the impeachment proceedings against the president.

Some Trump allies, including former acting DNI Richard Grenell, have been pushing for Haspel’s ouster, according to current and former officials. She has also been criticized on Twitter by the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.  

Haspel and National Security Agency head Gen. Paul Nakasone opposed the president’s often-stated desire to declassify more of the intelligence that undergirded the launch of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. They are known to believe declassifying the intelligence would dangerously expose critical sources and methods. 

Concern among Haspel’s supporters grew last week after Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the administration installed several new Pentagon officials who had worked with or been closely allied to House Intelligence Committee raking member Devin Nunes, of California, a fierce Republican critic of the Russia investigation. A former White House official has also been appointed as general counsel at the NSA under Nakasone and would have great influence over the legal justification for any declassification. The president or Ratcliffe could release the documents without Ms. Haspel’s approval. 

Justice Alito takes aim at gay marriage in ‘politically charged speech’

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito criticized same-sex marriage as a harbinger of the erosion of free speech in America, drawing renewed concern from LGBTQ advocates about the future of this recently gained right.

In a virtual address Thursday to the conservative Federalist Society, Alito took aim the landmark 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision that guaranteed gay marriage rights across the country, as well as restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus and talk of restructuring the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary more broadly.

“You can’t say that marriage is a union between one man and one woman. Until recently, that’s what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now, it’s considered bigotry,” Alito said in his speech. “That this would happen after our decision in Obergefell should not have come as a surprise.”

Alito then cited his dissent in which he theorized that the majority’s opinion in the case would lead to those who “cling to traditional views on marriage” being “labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers and schools.” He then warned that freedom of speech is “falling out of favor in some circles” and at risk of becoming a “second-tier constitutional right.”

Paul Smith, a professor at Georgetown Law School, told NBC News that while Alito has spoken at Federalist Society events for years, his latest address was “aggressive in tone,” in contrast to past talks. That contrast, according to Smith, could be due to the event being streamed live, instead of behind closed doors as other Federalist Society events have been.

Read more here.

Trump campaign shuts down ‘voter fraud’ hotline after it’s flooded with prank calls

The Trump campaign has closed down its “voter fraud” hotline after about a week in operation, a campaign official confirmed to NBC News.

The campaign is now directing people to an already-existing website to submit any claims.

A main reason for the switch? The phone line was being flooded with prank calls. The campaign had dedicated a conference room of staffers to the hotline effort in the days after the election.

Neither Trump nor the campaign has provided evidence of to back up their claims of voter fraud, which numerous election experts have said is not widespread.

Biden presses Trump for ‘urgent action’ against Covid-19 during months before inauguration

President-elect Joe Biden on Friday afternoon called on the Trump administration to take “urgent action” on combatting the Covid-19 pandemic, “starting with an acknowledgment of how serious the current situation is.”

In a statement released just moments before Trump was scheduled to hold a Rose Garden press conference on “Operation Warp Speed,” Biden said, “this crisis demands a robust and immediate federal response, which has been woefully lacking.”

“I am the president-elect, but I will not be president until next year. The crisis does not respect dates on the calendar, it is accelerating right now. Urgent action is needed today, now, by the current administration — starting with an acknowledgment of how serious the current situation is,” Biden added. 

Biden also reiterated his call “for every American, regardless of where they live or who they voted for, to step up and do their part on social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing to protect themselves and to protect others.”

As of Friday, nearly 245,000 people in the U.S. had died of Covid-19, with more than 10.7 million confirmed cases in the U.S.

With final states called, Biden’s projected Electoral College victory matches Trump’s in 2016

President-elect Joe Biden is the apparent winner in Georgia and President Donald Trump has won North Carolina, NBC News projected Friday, bringing the presidential race to a close.

Those last two calls by NBC News — coming 10 days after polls closed on Election Night — were the final calls by the network in a tumultuous post-election stretch that included the tense four days it took for news outlets to call the race for Biden.

With 99 percent of the vote counted in Georgia, Biden had received 49.5 percent of the vote, while Trump had 49.2 percent. Biden’s margin in his apparent victory over Trump in the state was 14,152 votes, according to NBC News. His apparent win there is the first by a Democratic presidential candidate in the state since 1992. The outcome in Georgia, however, is subject to a planned recount of the state’s votes.

With 99 percent of the vote counted in North Carolina, Trump had 50 percent of the vote, while Biden had 48.6 percent. Trump’s margin of victory over Biden in the state was just over 73,600 votes.

Biden’s projected win in Georgia added 16 Electoral College votes to his tally, while Trump’s projected win in North Carolina added 15 Electoral College votes to his own. On Thursday, NBC News projected that Biden wins Arizona, a pickup of 11 Electoral College votes for Biden. As a result, Biden’s final projected Electoral College vote victory over Trump amounted to 306 to 232, according to NBC News.

Read the story.

Top CEOs met to plan response to Trump’s election denial

More than two dozen CEOs of major U.S. corporations took part in a video conference on Nov. 6 to discuss what to do if Trump refuses to leave office or takes other steps to stay in power.

During the conference, which lasted more than an hour, the CEOs agreed that while Trump had the right to pursue legal challenges alleging voter fraud, if he tries to undo the legal process or disrupts a peaceful transition, the CEOs discussed making public statements and pressuring GOP legislators, said Yale Management Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, who convened the meeting.

Action could include threats to stop donations to political action committees or even corporate relocations, Sonnenfeld said.

The CEOs weren’t worried about reprisals against their businesses but emphasized acting together. They referred to a Benjamin Franklin quote at the signing of the Declaration of Independence: “Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately,” according to Sonnenfeld.

YouTube says it wants ‘discussion’ of election results, even when it’s been debunked

YouTube is facing growing criticism for allowing election misinformation after it decided not to remove or individually fact-check videos that spread unfounded conspiracy theories alleging voter fraud.

While all internet platforms are struggling to contain the volume of misinformation since voting ended last week — and all have been criticized to some degree by researchers for their handling of the situation — YouTube has staked out a position that is less aggressive than its social media competitors, most notably Facebook and Twitter.

YouTube said before the election that it wouldn’t allow videos that encourage “interference in the democratic process,” but now, as state officials are working to certify vote tallies, the company said it wants to give users room for “discussion of election results,” even when that discussion is based on debunked information.

Somewhere in between those two policies it has decided to leave up videos challenging Joe Biden’s election, and some have received millions of views.

Read the story.

Sen. McSally concedes to Democrat Mark Kelly in Arizona

Sen. Martha McSally, an Arizona Republican, conceded Friday to Democrat Mark Kelly, one week after NBC News called the race for him.

McSally said in a statement that she has “trust God will lead me to my next mission to make a difference.” 

“With nearly all the votes counted, I called Mark Kelly this morning to congratulate him on winning this race,” McSally said. “I also offered support in his transition to ensure Arizonans are best served during this time. I wish him all the best.”

McSally lost by 2.4 percentage points — the same margin as her defeat by Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in 2018.

After that loss, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey appointed McSally, a former congresswoman and Air Force fighter pilot, to the Senate to replace Jon Kyl, who had returned to Washington temporarily after the death of his friend and former colleague, Sen. John McCain. 

Trump to make first public remarks in a week

President Donald Trump is scheduled to make public remarks on Friday afternoon, his first public comments since Joe Biden was projected the winner in the presidential race — snapping the longest stretch of silence in his presidency.

The Rose Garden appearance is his first comments since Nov. 5th and is slated to focus on Covid-19 vaccines. Trump initially had no public events scheduled, but the White House sent out an update in the early afternoon saying he’d make remarks about Operation Warp Speed in the Rose Garden at 4 p.m. ET.

Trump received an update Friday on the coronavirus vaccine development and delivery program. The virus that’s already killed over 244,000 in the U.S. has surged across the country in recent weeks, with spikes in infections and hospitalizations from coast-to-coast.

Trump’s failure to concede is already affecting his successor’s plan to combat the virus by blocking his ability to communicate with government officials about their current efforts.

That has doctors close to Biden’s transition team working to develop their own plans to mass distribute a coronavirus vaccine, concerned that Trump administration planning will leave them underprepared when he leaves office.

Read more here.

Trump says he could ‘stop by’ the Million MAGA March on Saturday

President Trump said Friday that he might attend an expected large gathering of supporters in Washington, D.C., dubbed the Million MAGA March, on Saturday.

Trump tweeted his thanks to supporters for “rallies springing up all over the Country, including a big one on Saturday in DC.”

“I may even try to stop by and say hello,” he continued. 

At the gathering, the president’s supporters are expected to protest the election results, which NBC News and other news organizations called for Joe Biden last week. D.C. officials told NBC affiliates they expect street closures throughout the district. 





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