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I lived in Chicago for thirty years and politically it managed pretty well — its elections invariably won by the Democrat Party machine. There hasn’t been a Chicago mayor from the Republican Party since 1931, but the Democrats take no chances. One graduate student I knew from a black neighbourhood of the city told me she had gone to vote in the morning, and been turned away. “You already voted”. As Richard J Daley, Chicago’s mayor for over twenty years was reported as saying, “Vote early — and often”.

Fast forward to 2020 and we find Britain now in reasonably good shape, despite potential Brexit problems just beyond the horizon. America on the other hand needs political healing. Has there been cheating, as Trump alleges? Of course. All the big cities are Democrat, and cannot entirely eliminate unofficial shenanigans, but the large-scale deception Trump alleges is highly improbable. Of course the antics of the extreme left — violent antifa protestors and BLM extremists who want to tear down the organs of state — cost the Democrats and helped the Trump campaign’s efforts to return their man for a second presidential term, but not enough to turn the tide. Yet Trump had good points to make, which is why he got elected in the first place. The America I visited in 1974 was largely self-sufficient and its manufacturing companies paid well. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan resonated with those who regretted what they saw as a sell-out to a global market place, where the well-educated prospered at the expense of others. Democracy seemed to have taken a back seat while the great ship of state was piloted by elites who did very well, thank you. Yet democracy in America is still very much alive despite divisions exacerbated by social media, and skilled Russian interference. But what makes it work? The primaries I learned about for the first time as a graduate student in America are fine, but not necessary. What is vital, but sadly missing in many parts of the world, is “loser’s consent”. Without that we’re all doomed.

Given his achievements on the economy, and the Middle East rapprochement he encouraged between Israel and its erstwhile enemies, Trump had a chance, but he was his own worst enemy. Now he needs to back off as gracefully as he can, and allow a fight-back from the Republicans in four years time, with a different candidate.

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\nIsraeli startup says it has edited cannabis plant gene to resist fungus\n

Israeli startup CanBreed said it has used gene editing technology to alter a gene in the cannabis plant to make the plant resistant to powdery mildew, a fungus that can be deadly for the plant.\n

CanBreed said that to the best of its knowledge, this is the first time a commercial company has managed to perform genome editing on a cannabis plant. The editing was done using CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology.\n \n

“It is very hard” to use the CRISPR technology on the cannabis plant, said Ido Margalit, CanBreed’s CEO, in a phone interview. Through the use of the technology, the startup’s R&D team, composed of geneticists, molecular biologists and agronomists, edited a gene that expresses a protein responsible for creating sensitivity to powdery mildew infection, he said.\n\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t

\n\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\n\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\tGet The Start-Up Israel\'s Daily Start-Up by email and never miss our top stories\n\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\n\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\n\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\tFree Sign Up\n\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\n\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t\t

By editing the gene, the protein is not expressed, he explained, potentially resulting in a powdery mildew-resistant plant. Now the startup has to prove that these gene-edited plants are in fact resistant to the fungus, he said, and will do so working together with scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.\n\n\t

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Ido Margalit, the CEO of CanBreed (Courtesy)

The company aims to create and then sell cannabis seeds that have the powdery mildew resistance trait, and hopefully use the same technology to edit additional genes to enhance other traits in the plant.\n

“By the end of 2021 we hope to have the first powdery mildew-resistant cannabis seeds for commercial sale,” Margalit said, adding that the firm’s “extraordinary achievement” could “change the face of cannabis cultivation in Israel and around the world,” by helping cultivators develop uniform and more resistant cannabis plants, paving the way to the “standardization of the industry.”\n

The company has patented the gene the confers the resistance to powdery mildew and has applied for “many other patents that confer important agronomical traits in cannabis,” he said.\n

CanBreed hopes that its cannabis seeds will allow growers to cultivate uniform plants in an efficient and repetitive manner, thus enabling cannabis cultivation practices that compare with those of other commodity crops such as tomatoes and wheat. Since cannabis is a medical plant, standardization and uniformity are required, and that can be attained by growing cannabis from stable seeds.\n

Powdery mildew is a fungus that attacks a wide range of plants, and without proper treatment it can kill the plant, reducing important crop yields. Infected plants display white powdery spots on the leaves and stems. Because cannabis is used for medical purposes, cultivators are not allowed to use fungicides, Margalit explained.\n

The firm said in August said that it had reached a licensing agreement to use CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology from Corteva Agriscience and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, which hold the rights to the technology.\n

CanBreed, based in Givat Chen, Israel, was founded in 2017 by Margalit and Tal Sherman.

Margalit is an agronomist with an MSc in the Management of Technology from the Polytechnic Institute of NYU. He has over 20 years of experience in the Israeli life science industry, and is a former business development manager at Syngenta Seeds. His co-founder Sherman is a plant scientist with MSc and PhD degrees in Plant Science from Tel Aviv University in Israel. Sherman is an expert in molecular biology and plant physiology, and has extensive R&D and plant-breeding management experience as the Stress Project Manager at Syngenta Seeds.

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That’s why we come to work every day - to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.

So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we haven’t put up a paywall. But as the journalism we do is costly, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help support our work by joining The Times of Israel Community.

For as little as $6 a month you can help support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREE, as well as accessing exclusive content available only to Times of Israel Community members.

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\nOpinion | How Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell can help each other\n

Dealt a hand he despised by the 2016 election, McConnell, the Republican majority leader, has concentrated on the Senate’s advice-and-consent role in filling the most important appointive offices. Thirty percent of all circuit judges — 53 of them — have been confirmed in the past four years. For the first time in four decades, there are no empty seats on appellate benches (other than Amy Coney Barrett’s). Chief Justice John Marshall extended the influence of President John Adams, who selected him, 34 years beyond Adams’s term. Portions of the judiciary McConnell has shaped will be serving in 2050.

Today, it is painful to watch his final accommodation to the post-2016 reality he has loathed. His chilly comments on President Trump’s resistance to post-election reality (Trump is “within his rights” to “look into” allegations of voting irregularities) reflect only this: Preservation of McConnell’s Senate majority depends on many Trump voters in Georgia’s two senatorial runoffs Jan. 5.

Soon, however, McConnell (Ky.) can turn to restoring constitutional equilibrium between the legislative and executive branches. Moderated Senate behavior would be a radiating balm for the nation and would restore Congress as a counterbalance to the overbearing modern presidency.

No president has had as much congressional experience as Biden. (Gerald Ford and Lyndon B. Johnson each had 24 years, 12 fewer than Biden.) Biden became a 30-year-old senator in 1973. As a 22-year-old, McConnell worked as a Senate intern and later on a senator’s staff before being elected in 1984. With a combined 72 Senate years (so far), Biden and McConnell are custodians of the Senate’s institutional memory.

Already the longest-serving Republican leader, McConnell in 2024 will pass Montana Democrat Mike Mansfield as the longest-serving leader of either party. In 1970, Mansfield made a Senate rule that has enabled behavior that has damaged the institution and embittered national politics. He created the “two-track” system, whereby the Senate can set aside a filibustered bill and proceed to other matters. Hitherto, filibusters had to hold the floor, testing their stamina but inconveniencing the majority, thereby incentivizing accommodation of the minority’s concerns.

The two-track system incites promiscuous filibustering, and erases the implicit principle — rules that lubricate civility often are uncodified — that extraordinary majorities should be required only for extraordinary matters. The Constitution does this by requiring super majorities for proposing constitutional amendments, overriding vetoes and ratifying treaties.

Trivialized filibusters — effectively, a 60-vote requirement for too many things — have fueled the clamor for something neither Biden nor McConnell desires: abolition of the filibuster, which would make the Senate even less deliberative and more acrimonious. But rather than repealing Mansfield’s mistake, it would be wholesome if McConnell and Biden could have recourse, as seasoned professionals do, to implicit understandings.

It could be transformative if they could tacitly agree that post-1970 filibustering has become injurious. If McConnell could get Biden to join him in encouraging all senators to rethink recent norms governing filibustering. And if McConnell could convince Biden to make his administration’s first significant proposal something — say, infrastructure — that has low ideological salience, involves splittable differences, and includes something for everyone. This could nourish a revival of neglected senatorial norms and political mores that have atrophied during recent decades, which could turn down the political thermostat, and wean Washington from its addiction to the gesture-politics of virtue-signaling to inflame the parties’ most fervid members.

McConnell’s skills and tenacity have made him the most important Republican since Ronald Reagan. He is securely in the pantheon of congressional, and national, history, partly because, unlike many senators — most conspicuously, Henry Clay, who McConnell has surpassed as the most illustrious Kentuckian — McConnell has never had presidential aspirations. Perhaps those were precluded because of his (this from National Review) “owlish, tight-lipped public demeanor reminiscent of George Will.” Whatever. His seventh term — only six of 1,984 senators have completed 42 years — will be his apogee if he applies his professionalism to the task of making the institution he reveres function civilly as a counterbalance to the power center 16 blocks away.

\n5 Things to Know About Pfizer\'s Coronavirus Vaccine | Voice of America\n

The news that a vaccine against the coronavirus may be on the horizon is raising hopes that the end of the COVID-19 pandemic may be in sight. 

Pfizer and partner BioNTech announced Monday that its vaccine was more than 90% effective in an early look at its clinical trial data. 

The news is cause for optimism, but experts say don\'t throw away your mask just yet. 

Promising, but preliminary 

Experts caution that outside scientists have not reviewed the data. Even if it holds up, the vaccine may not perform as well in the real world as it seems to have in a controlled clinical trial. 

But overall, they say the results are very encouraging. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Director Anthony Fauci said the finding that the vaccine is more than 90% effective is \"just extraordinary.\" 

\"Not very many people expected it would be as high as that,\" he added. 

Questions remain 

Pfizer has not yet released safety data. The company says that will come in late November, two months after most patients have received their second dose. 

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FILE - Trial kits for Pfizer\'s COVID-19 vaccination study are seen at the Research Centers of America, in Hollywood, Florida, Sept. 24, 2020.

In early testing, common side effects included sore arms, fever, chills and fatigue, but nothing severe. 

Two other companies\' vaccine trials had to pause while possible safety issues were cleared, but Pfizer\'s has run smoothly so far. 

While the preliminary results are good news, several key questions remain unanswered, including: 

How long does protection last?  

Does the vaccine prevent severe disease and complications? 

Can vaccinated people still carry and spread the virus? 

How well does the vaccine work in older adults? Elderly people are at higher risk from COVID-19, but their immune systems often do not respond as well to vaccines.  

Does it work better or worse in different ethnic groups? That information may come later. Pfizer says 42% of the trial participants are from racially diverse backgrounds.  

Waiting period 

Pfizer is expected to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency-use authorization in late November once the initial safety data comes in. The FDA will take a few weeks to review the data. 

Fauci said the first recipients may get the vaccine \"very likely before the end of this year.\" 

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FILE - Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 31, 2020.

But there will not be enough for everyone. Pfizer said it expects to produce up to 50 million doses this year, enough vaccine for up to 25 million people. The company committed 10 million doses to Britain. 

In the United States, priority likely will go to front-line health care workers, first responders and the most vulnerable. Experts do not expect widespread distribution before the middle of next year. 

Distributing a vaccine to the entire world never was going to be easy. But this type of vaccine adds an extra layer of difficulty. 

The shots need to be stored at minus 70 Celsius, or minus 94 Fahrenheit, much colder than normal freezers. Pfizer has developed shipping containers of dry ice to keep the vaccine cold during transport. But delivering to remote areas and places without special freezers will pose problems. 

First vaccine of its kind 

Pfizer\'s vaccine uses a new approach to prime the immune system to fight the coronavirus. 

Most vaccines inject a weakened or killed version of the virus, or a piece of it, which prepares the immune system to target the real virus. 

Pfizer\'s shot, however, delivers just the genetic instructions for a piece of the coronavirus. When injected into patients\' arms, their muscle cells produce the virus piece themselves. 

\n \n
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The exterior view of the headquarters of the German biotechnology company BioNTech is seen in Mainz, Germany, Nov. 9, 2020.

Pfizer acquired the technology from its German partner, BioNTech. U.S. biotech company Moderna has a similar vaccine nearing the end of its clinical trials. 

The coronavirus vaccine is the first test of this type of shot, but scientists are hopeful about its prospects for many other illnesses. Genetic code is much easier to produce than whole viruses or virus pieces, which must be grown in finicky living systems. And the code can be changed easily if the virus mutates. 

More vaccines are coming 

The world cannot rely on Pfizer alone to vaccinate the entire population, experts note. The company expects to produce up to 1.3 billion doses next year, but that still is far short of global demand. 

Other companies are close behind, however. 

Clinical trial results from Moderna are expected later this month. AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson said they will have data before the end of the year. Moderna has one trial wrapping up in Britain in early 2021 and another starting in the United States late this year. 

Pfizer\'s results are encouraging for these other vaccines, experts note. All of them target the spike protein the virus uses to enter cells and cause infection. 

Chinese companies CanSino Biologics, Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech have vaccines in late-stage trials in several countries. The Chinese government has approved CanSino\'s and Sinovac\'s for limited use in China, and the United Arab Emirates have approved Sinopharm\'s vaccine for health care workers. 

India\'s Bharat Biotech entered its vaccine in late-stage trials in October. Russia\'s Ministry of Health also has a candidate in testing. 

The World Health Organization tallies 47 vaccine candidates in some stage of human testing and 155 more in lab evaluations. 

\nBiden Plan To Lower Medicare Eligibility Age Faces Hostility From Hospitals : Shots\n
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\n President-elect Joe Biden\'s plan to lower the eligibility age for Medicare is popular among voters but is expected to face strong opposition on Capitol Hill.\n \n \n \n Joe Raedle/Getty Images\n \n \n hide caption\n

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President-elect Joe Biden\'s plan to lower the eligibility age for Medicare is popular among voters but is expected to face strong opposition on Capitol Hill.

\n \n Joe Raedle/Getty Images\n \n

Of his many plans to expand insurance coverage, President-elect Joe Biden\'s simplest strategy is lowering the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 60.

But the plan is sure to face long odds, even if the Democrats can snag control of the Senate in January by winning two runoff elections in Georgia.

Republicans, who fought the creation of Medicare in the 1960s and typically oppose expanding government entitlement programs, are not the biggest obstacle. Instead, the nation\'s hospitals — a powerful political force — are poised to derail any effort. Hospitals fear adding millions of people to Medicare will cost them billions of dollars in revenue.

\"Hospitals certainly are not going to be happy with it,\" said Jonathan Oberlander, professor of health policy and management at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Medicare reimbursement rates for patients admitted to hospitals are on average half what commercial or employer-sponsored insurance plans pay.

\"It will be a huge lift [in Congress] as the realities of lower Medicare reimbursement rates will activate some powerful interests against this,\" said Josh Archambault, a senior fellow with the conservative Foundation for Government Accountability.

Biden, who turns 78 this month, said his plan will help Americans who retire early and those who are unemployed or can\'t find jobs with health benefits.

\"It reflects the reality that, even after the current crisis ends, older Americans are likely to find it difficult to secure jobs,\" Biden wrote in April.

Lowering the Medicare eligibility age is popular. About 85% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans favor allowing those as young as 50 to buy into Medicare, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll from January 2019. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.)

Although opposition from the hospital industry is expected to be fierce, it is not the only obstacle to Biden\'s plan.

Critics, especially Republicans on Capitol Hill, will point to the nation\'s $3 trillion budget deficit as well as the dim outlook for the Medicare Hospital Insurance Trust Fund. That fund is on track to reach insolvency in 2024. That means there won\'t be enough money to pay hospitals and nursing homes fully for inpatient care for Medicare beneficiaries.

It\'s also unclear whether expanding Medicare will fit on the Democrats\' crowded health agenda, which includes dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, possibly rescuing the Affordable Care Act (if the Supreme Court strikes down part or all of the law in a current case), expanding Obamacare subsidies and lowering drug costs.

Biden\'s proposal is a nod to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which has advocated for Sen. Bernie Sanders\' government-run \"Medicare for All\" health system that would provide universal coverage. Biden opposed that effort, saying the nation could not afford it. He wanted to retain the private health insurance system, which covers 180 million people.

To expand coverage, Biden has proposed two major initiatives. In addition to the Medicare eligibility change, he wants Congress to approve a government-run health plan that people could buy into instead of purchasing coverage from insurance companies on their own or through the Obamacare marketplaces. Insurers helped beat back this \"public option\" initiative in 2009 during the congressional debate over the ACA.

The appeal of lowering Medicare eligibility to help those without insurance lies with leveraging a popular government program that has low administrative costs.

\"It is hard to find a reform idea that is more popular than opening up Medicare\" to people as young as 60, Oberlander said. He said early retirees would like the concept, as would employers, who could save on their health costs as workers gravitate to Medicare.

The eligibility age has been set at 65 since Medicare was created in 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson\'s Great Society reform package. It was designed to coincide with the age when people at that time qualified for Social Security. Today, people generally qualify for early, reduced Social Security benefits at age 62, but full benefits depend on the year you were born, ranging from age 66 to 67.

While people can qualify on the basis of other criteria, such as having a disability or end-stage renal disease, 85% of the 57 million Medicare enrollees are in the program simply because they\'re old enough.

Lowering the age to 60 could add as many as 23 million people to Medicare, according to an analysis by the consulting firm Avalere Health. It\'s unclear, however, if everyone who would be eligible would sign up or if Biden would limit the expansion to the 1.7 million people in that age range who are uninsured and the 3.2 million who buy coverage on their own.

Avalere says 3.2 million people in that age group buy coverage on the individual market.

While the 60-to-65 group has the lowest uninsured rate (8%) among adults, it has the highest health costs and pays the highest rates for individual coverage, said Cristina Boccuti, director of health policy at West Health, a nonpartisan research group.

About 13 million of those between 60 and 65 have coverage through their employer, according to Avalere. While they would not have to drop coverage to join Medicare, they could possibly opt to pay to join the federal program and use it as a wraparound for their existing coverage. Medicare might then pick up costs for some services that the consumers would have to shoulder out of pocket.

Some 4 million people between 60 and 65 are enrolled in Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for low-income people. Shifting them to Medicare would make that their primary health insurer, a move that would save states money since they split Medicaid costs with the federal government.

Chris Pope, a senior fellow with the conservative Manhattan Institute, said getting health industry support, particularly from hospitals, will be vital for any health coverage expansion. \"Hospitals are very aware about generous commercial rates being replaced by lower Medicare rates,\" he said.

\"Members of Congress, a lot of them are close to their hospitals and do not want to see them with a revenue hole,\" he said.

President Barack Obama made a deal with the industry on the way to passing the ACA. In exchange for gaining millions of paying customers and lowering their uncompensated care by billions of dollars, the hospital industry agreed to give up future Medicare funds designed to help them cope with the uninsured. Showing the industry\'s prowess on Capitol Hill, Congress has delayed those funding cuts for more than six years.

Jacob Hacker, a Yale University political scientist, noted that expanding Medicare would reduce the number of Americans who rely on employer-sponsored coverage. The pitfalls of the employer system were highlighted in 2020 as millions lost their jobs and their workplace health coverage.

Even if they can win the two Georgia seats and take control of the Senate with the vice president breaking any ties, Democrats would be unlikely to pass major legislation without GOP support — unless they are willing to jettison the long-standing filibuster rule so they can pass most legislation with a simple 51-vote majority instead of 60 votes.

Hacker said that slim margin would make it difficult for Democrats to deal with many health issues all at once.

\"Congress is not good at parallel processing,\" Hacker said, referring to handling multiple priorities at the same time. \"And the window is relatively short.\"

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation) that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

\nDocuments with order during Crimea\'s annexation are absent - Ukraines Defense Ministry destroys documents about Russias invasion in Crimea, - ex-official - 112.international\n
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The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed documents with information about orders of the leaders of the country and the Armed Forces of Ukraine during the invasion of Russia in Crimea in February-March 2014. These documents were destroyed in 2016-2017, as Hordon reported citing ex-head of the General Staff Volodymyr Zamana.

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“Any military man who was in Crimea, any military man at the General Staff knows about the orders (to resist the occupants, - 112.international). We filed a request to the Defense Ministry and got the response that the intelligence information about the violation of the air space of Crimea, use of the armed forces of Ukraine, order (of then acting president) Oleksandr Turchynov about the use of the Armed Forces is absent. The response is the following: all these materials were destroyed in 2016-2017. We received such a response from the Defense Ministry,” Volodymyr Zaman said.

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He added that the Defense Minister had no right to take such a responsibility and destroy the documents. Zamana believes that such an order was provided by the leadership of the country to conceal its inaction.

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Related: Border guards detain Ukrainian who helped occupants to prosecute Crimean citizens

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Ex-head of the General Staff also stated that he obtains information about the written order of Turchynov about the use of the weapon against the Russian occupants in Crimea in 2014. However, such information is absent at the General Staff.

\nMink Covid-19: People started coronavirus back-and-forth on farms, Dutch study shows\n

They said it\'s \"imperative\" that the fur trade not become a source of further spread of the virus into the human population, and noted the densely packed conditions on such farms are ripe for amplifying the virus in ways that could help it mutate.

A team in the Netherlands ran whole genome analyses of virus samples taken from animals and people on 16 mink farms in the Netherlands -- looking at the full genetic sequence of the virus for clues about where it may have come from, how it spread and whether it was mutating.

\"We conclude that the virus was initially introduced from humans and has since evolved, most likely reflecting widespread circulation among mink in the beginning of the infection period several weeks prior to detection,\" Bas Oude Munnink of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam and colleagues wrote in their report,

published in the journal Science.

The virus carries a genetic signature that links it to a strain that rapidly spread across Europe and into the United States early in the pandemic. It hit the farms around that time, in April.

\"Despite enhanced biosecurity, early warning surveillance and immediate culling of infected farms, transmission occurred between mink farms in three big transmission clusters with unknown modes of transmission. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of the tested mink farm residents, employees and/or contacts had evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection,\" they added.

People infected the animals, and the animals infected people, they found. And the virus has not yet spread from the farms into the wider community.

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So far, no troubling mutations have turned up, they added. Danish authorities have also seen spread on mink farms and seen mutations that don\'t necessarily seem harmful, but whose significance is not yet fully understood.

They looked especially deeply at several samples. \"In total 18 sequences from mink farm employees or close contacts were generated from seven different farms. In most cases, these human sequences were near-identical to the mink sequences from the same farm,\" they wrote.

Fur farms are a cause for worry because of the conditions. \"Mink farms have large populations of animals, living at high density, which could promote virus transmission,\" the team noted.

Viruses can mutate inside an individual animal or person during an infection, and each time one passes from one to another, there are new chances for change.

But since they cannot say when the virus was first brought to one of the fur farms, the researchers said it\'s difficult to track how fast the new coronavirus may have mutated as it passed from human to mink and back again.

One thing is clear, however, the researchers said.

\"It is imperative that fur production and trading sector should not become a reservoir for future spillover of SARS-CoV-2 to humans,\" the Dutch researchers wrote.

Coronaviruses originate in animals - probably bats, some scientists believe, but with an intermediate mammal likely serving as an incubator to allow the virus to change enough to help it more easily infect people. Cats, dogs, monkeys, hamsters, and rabbits are all vulnerable to infection from coronaviruses and from the new coronavirus.

But efforts to infect pigs and poultry have failed, the researchers note. That may be a piece of good news. Poultry and pigs are a source of influenza spread, and new influenza viruses can mix and mutate when they infect ducks and swine. Dangerous new flu strains often emerge on farms when people interact with these animals.

\nScientists Just Found a Mysteriously Hidden \'Gene Within a Gene\' in SARS-CoV-2\n

Researchers have uncovered a mysterious gene in the genetic code of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 – a segment virtually hidden from view in the virus\'s genome, and largely overlooked until now.

The newly identified gene – called ORF3d – is an example of what\'s called an overlapping gene: a kind of \'gene within a gene\' that\'s effectively concealed in a string of nucleotides, because of the way it overlaps the coded sequences of other genes.

\"In terms of genome size, SARS-CoV-2 and its relatives are among the longest RNA viruses that exist,\" explains bioinformatician Chase Nelson from the American Museum of Natural History.

\"They are thus perhaps more prone to \'genomic trickery\' than other RNA viruses.\"

Viruses are actually quite prone to hosting overlapping genes, so it\'s not exactly a shocking discovery. Whether ORF3d truly represents genomic trickery remains to be seen, but in any case, it\'s certainly tricky to see.

Overlapping genes are difficult to identify in genetic sequences, as genomic scan systems can often miss them when running through strings of genetic code: programmed to pick up individual genes, but not necessarily seeing overarching instructions shared between the nucleotides of adjacent genes in a sequence.

In the context of viruses like SARS-CoV-2, that could make for a serious blind spot. Scientists have been racing to understand as much as possible about this devastating virus since early this year, and while some aspects of its genetic make-up have been elucidated (including the firm consensus that it was not \'made in a lab\'), much remains that we just don\'t know yet.

\"Missing overlapping genes puts us in peril of overlooking important aspects of viral biology,\" Nelson says.

\"Overlapping genes may be one of an arsenal of ways in which coronaviruses have evolved to replicate efficiently, thwart host immunity, or get themselves transmitted.\"

As for ORF3d, there\'s much yet to learn about why it\'s there, lurking in the genome and straddling other genes.

Scanning through genomic databases, the researchers found the gene has been identified before, but only in one variant of coronavirus that affects pangolins (found in Guangxi, China).

It has also previously been misclassified as an unrelated gene, ORF3b – which is present in other coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV – but they are not actually the same thing.

\"The two genes are unrelated and encode entirely different proteins,\" Nelson says. \"This means that knowledge about SARS-CoV ORF3b should not be applied to SARS-CoV-2 ORF3d.\"

One thing we do know about the mysterious gene, based on previous blood work with human COVID-19 patients, is that ORF3d does elicit a strong antibody response.

As for whether T-cells would also be triggered – or what other viral purposes the overlapping ORF3d might have – we\'re still in the dark. It might be relatively benign. It might not be.

\"We don\'t yet know its function or if there\'s clinical significance,\" Nelson says.

\"But we predict this gene is relatively unlikely to be detected by a T-cell response, in contrast to the antibody response. And maybe that has something to do with how the gene was able to arise.\"

One thing\'s for sure. In a virus that only has about 15 known genes, the discovery of another one – let alone an overlapping gene – is a significant development. Just how significant, scientists will now try to find out.

The findings are reported in eLife.

\n\"\0Devastating: Top Pentagon leadership gutted as fears rise over national security - POLITICO\n

The firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper kicked off a rapid-fire series of high-level departures at the Pentagon on Tuesday, setting off alarms on Capitol Hill that the White House was installing loyalists to carry out President Donald Trump’s wishes during an already tense transition.

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In quick succession, top officials overseeing policy, intelligence and the defense secretary’s staff all had resigned by the end of the day Tuesday, replaced by political operatives who are fiercely loyal to Trump and have trafficked in “deep state” conspiracy theories.

\nTrump loyalists take top Pentagon positions after Esper\'s ouster | Recent Tweets | Michael Novakhov - SharedNewsLinks - michaelnovakhov-sharednewslinks.com\n

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Trump loyalists take top Pentagon positions after Esper’s ouster

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One is former aide to Devin Nunes, another was protégé of Michael Flynn, the third once called Obama a ‘terrorist leader’

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The Pentagon building in Arlington, Va. | GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

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WASHINGTON — A day after President Donald Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, three staunch loyalists to the president were named to top defense jobs. Among them was a former Fox News commentator who failed to get through Senate confirmation because of offensive remarks he made, including about Islam.

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The abrupt changes sent reverberations through the Pentagon as nervous civilian and military personnel waited for the next shoe to drop. And they fueled worries of a wider effort to drum out anyone considered not loyal enough to Trump.

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The unease was palpable inside the building throughout the day over concerns about what the Trump administration may do in the months before President-elect Joe Biden takes office and whether there will be a greater effort to politicize the historically apolitical military. While radical policy shifts seem unlikely before the Jan. 20 inauguration, the changes could further damage prospects for a smooth transition already hampered by Trump’s refusal to concede his election loss.

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James Anderson, who had been acting undersecretary for policy, resigned Tuesday morning and he was quickly replaced by Anthony Tata, a retired Army one-star general. A short time later, Joseph Kernan, a retired Navy vice admiral, stepped down as undersecretary for intelligence, hastening what had been an already planned post-election departure. Kernan was replaced by Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who becomes acting undersecretary for intelligence.

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The departures came on Christopher Miller’s second day on the job as defense chief. Miller also brought in his own chief of staff, Kash Patel, to replace Jen Stewart, who had worked in that job for Esper. Patel and Cohen-Watnick are both considered staunchly loyal to Trump and previously worked at the National Security Council.

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Patel was among the small group of aides who traveled with Trump extensively during the final stretch of the campaign. He also is a former prosecutor in the national security division of the Department of Justice and former staff member on the House Intelligence Committee. In that post, he was a top aide to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., leading the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

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Patel was linked in media accounts to efforts to discredit the investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. He moved to the National Security Council in February 2019, and earlier this year, he traveled to Syria for rare high-level talks aimed at securing the release of two Americans who have been missing for years, including journalist Austin Tice.

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Cohen-Watnick was a protégé of Trump’s initial national security adviser, Michael Flynn, but was replaced in the summer of 2017 by Flynn’s successor, H.R. McMaster, as part of a string of shakeups at the White House and National Security Council.

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While the personnel changes added to the tumult in the wake of Esper’s departure, it’s not clear how much impact they could have on the massive Pentagon bureaucracy. The department is anchored by the tenet of civilian control of the military, and much of the day-to-day activities are conducted by career policy experts and military leaders in the U.S. and around the globe who adhere to a strict chain of command. 

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Also, many of Trump’s policies and defense priorities have already been put in motion by Esper and his predecessors, guided by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including the chairman, Army Gen. Mark Milley. All of those military leaders remain in place.

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This is Trump’s second attempt to secure the policy job for Tata. Earlier this year, Trump appointed Tata to the post, but the Senate canceled a hearing on the nomination when it became clear that it would be difficult if not impossible to get him confirmed. Tata withdrew his name from consideration for the job, which is the third-highest position in the department. Trump then appointed Tata to serve in the job of deputy undersecretary.

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There has been continuing tumult in the Pentagon’s policy shop. John Rood was forced to resign as undersecretary for policy in February after he drew White House ire for warning against the U.S. withholding aid to Ukraine, the issue that led to the president’s impeachment.

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Tata will be “performing the duties of” the undersecretary job, rather than holding the “acting” title. Officials who carry the “acting” title have more authority than those who are “performing the duties of” the job.

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According to reports, Tata posted tweets in 2018 calling Islam the “most oppressive violent religion I know of,” and he called former President Barack Obama a “terrorist leader” and referred to him as Muslim. The tweets were later taken down.

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At the time of the Senate hearing, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash. and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said Trump must not prioritize loyalty over competence and install someone in a job if the “appointee cannot gain the support of the Senate, as is clearly the case with Tata.”

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Defense officials said Miller, who previously was director of the National Counterterrorism Center, continues meeting with staff and becoming familiar with the Pentagon and its wide range of complex and critical national security issues and mission.

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Anderson’s departure was first reported by Politico. 

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\nMcCabe defends Russia probe during partisan hearing\n
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Former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday about the 2016 Russia probe. He defended the decision to open the investigation, while acknowledging errors in requesting wiretap warrants for former Trump campaign aide Carter Page

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“We didn’t open a case because we liked one candidate or didn’t like the other one… We opened a case to find out how the Russians might be undermining our elections. We opened a case because it was our obligation — our duty — to do so. We did our job,” McCabe said during his opening statement. 

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He also said in his opening remarks that he is “shocked and disappointed” with errors made in applications by the FBI to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court requesting the Page wiretap warrants.

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“Any material misrepresentation or error in a FISA application is unacceptable. Period,” McCabe said Tuesday. “The FBI should be held to the standard of ‘scrupulous accuracy’ that the court demands. FISA remains one of the most important tools in our country’s efforts to protect national security. The FBI is the custodian of that tool.”

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The FBI obtained a warrant in 2016 to eavesdrop on Page on suspicions that he was secretly a Russian agent. The Justice Department renewed the Page warrant three times, including during the early months of the Trump administration. The DOJ concluded in January that it should have ended its surveillance earlier because of “insufficient predication” to continue the surveillance.

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McCabe said at the hearing that he “fully support(s) every effort to ensure that the FBI’s use of FISA maintains the high standards the court, and the American people, demand and deserve.”

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Senator Lindsey Graham, who presided over the hearing, and his fellow Republican committee members repeatedly claimed on Tuesday that the former acting FBI director intentionally mislead the surveillance court. McCabe refuted that characterizations of the FBI’s actions, and said it would have been a “dereliction of duty” for the agency not to open the investigation given that Russian intelligence services targeting American political institutions were potentially working with members of the Trump campaign. He also noted that the FBI’s concerns were later “proven true” by the Mueller Report, which found that multiple Trump campaign officials, including Carter Page, had contacts with Russians. 

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The committee also probed whether McCabe knew the source for the so-called Steele “dossier” was discredited but still used it to secure the initial warrant and three renewals. McCabe has denied having ever told Congress that the warrant would not have been sought without information from the dossier. He called that claim a “fundamental misrepresentation” of what he had said privately to the committee. Graham said, based on what is public, and what he knows privately, he “doesn’t see how” federal prosecutor John Durham, who is leading the DOJ’s investigation, could not indict.

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In admitting errors in the investigation’s process — not its motivation — McCabe stressed to the committee that the focus should now be on preventing those errors from happening again. Graham agreed in part; “That’s the purpose of the hearing, find answers to why the system failed,” he said, adding, “We’re going to find somebody accountable for something.”

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McCabe authorized the FBI investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia after the president fired former FBI Director James Comey, making him a recurring target of Mr. Trump and his allies. He himself was fired in March 2018 and has claimed in a lawsuit that his ouster was in “retaliation” for opening the investigation.

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During a heated exchange with Senator Marsha Blackburn on Tuesday, McCabe said “I’ve now been a subject of a baseless investigation for two years and I know I didn’t do any crimes in the FBI and yes, I feel I was fired for not good reason.” 

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Several Democratic lawmakers noted that Tuesday’s hearing, originally scheduled to take place before the 2020 presidential election, is the fourth by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois agreed that Carter Page was treated unfairly, but asked the committee: “How many more times do we have to say it?”

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“This is the fourth hearing we’re having going over this well-plowed ground,” Durbin said. He suggested that the body instead focus on “pertinent” issues, such as the 545 children who were separated from their families by U.S. immigration authorities at the southern border and have not yet been reunited. 

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Senator Amy Klobuchar also noted that the hearing was originally set to take place before Election Day, and she asked him if the most recent election showed any improvements in how the U.S. handles foreign interference in the political process. McCabe said it appeared that the changes made in response to 2016 were “time and effort well spent.” He warned, however, that the “calm of the 2020 election” does not mean Russian interference is no longer a threat to American democracy. 

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“The Russians were successful beyond their wildest imagination in accomplishing their goals in 2016,” McCabe said. “Their successes serve as encouragement to other hostile nations intent on undermining our security, safety and stability. Simply put, the Russians, and others, will be back.”

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He also stressed that, while foreign terrorists appear to be in a state of “less organization,” the United States’ “most serious concern right now” is domestic terrorism. “The domestic terrorism scene has not tailed off, but risen” in recent years, he said.

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\nAs an ex-president, Trump could disclose the secrets he learned while in office, current and former officials fear\n

All presidents exit the office with valuable national secrets in their heads, including the procedures for launching nuclear weapons, intelligence-gathering capabilities — including assets deep inside foreign governments — and the development of new and advanced weapon systems. 

But no new president has ever had to fear that his predecessor might expose the nation’s secrets as President-elect Joe Biden must with Trump, current and former officials said. Not only does Trump have a history of disclosures, he checks the boxes of a classic counterintelligence risk: He is deeply in debt and angry at the U.S. government, particularly what he describes as the “deep state” conspiracy that he believes tried to stop him from winning the White House in 2016 and what he falsely claims is an illegal effort to rob him of reelection. 

“Anyone who is disgruntled, dissatisfied or aggrieved is a risk of disclosing classified information, whether as a current or former officeholder. Trump certainly fits that profile,” said David Priess, a former CIA officer and author of “The President’s Book of Secrets,” a history of the top-secret intelligence briefings that presidents and their staff receive while in office. 

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How Trump is creating roadblocks in Biden\'s transition process

\n\t\t\tThe Post\'s Lisa Rein explains how the Trump administration is adding challenges to the transition process for President-elect Joe Biden. (Video: Monica Akhtar/Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)\n\t\t

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

As president, Trump has access to all classified information in the government and the authority to declassify and share any of it, for any reason. After he leaves office, he still will have access to the classified records of his administration. But the legal ability to disclose them disappears once Biden is sworn in January.

Many concerned experts were quick to note that Trump reportedly paid scant attention during his presidential intelligence briefings and has never evinced a clear understanding of how the national security apparatus works. His ignorance may be the best counterweight to the risk he poses. 

“A knowledgeable and informed president with Trump’s personality characteristics, including lack of self-discipline, would be a disaster. The only saving grace here is that he hasn’t been paying attention,” said Jack Goldsmith, who ran the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department in the George W. Bush administration and is the co-author of “After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency.” 

“He probably doesn’t know much about collection details. But he will have bits and pieces,” said retired Brig Gen. Peter B. Zwack, who served as a military intelligence officer and was the senior U.S. defense attache to Russia from 2012 to 2014.

The chances are low that Trump knows the fine details of intelligence, such as the name of a spy or where an intelligence agency may have planted a surveillance device. But he almost certainly knows significant facts about the process of gathering intelligence that would be valuable to adversaries.

“The president is going to run into and possibly absorb a lot of the capacity and capabilities that you have in intelligence,” said John Fitzpatrick, a former intelligence officer and expert on the security systems used to protect classified information, including after a president leaves office. The kinds of information Trump is likely to know, Fitzpatrick, said, include special military capabilities, details about cyber weapons and espionage, the kinds of satellites the United States uses and the parameters of any covert actions that, as president, only Trump had the power to authorize.

He also knows the information that came from U.S. spies and collection platforms, which could expose sources even if he did not know precisely how the information was obtained. In a now infamous Oval Office meeting in 2017, Trump told Russia’s foreign minister and ambassador to the United States about highly classified information the United States had received from an ally about Islamic State threats to aviation, which jeopardized the source, according to people familiar with the incident.

By bragging about intelligence capabilities, Trump put them at risk. And he has been similarly careless when trying to intimidate adversaries. In August 2019, he tweeted a detailed aerial image of an Iranian launchpad. Such photos are among the most highly guarded pieces of intelligence because they can reveal precise details about technical spying capabilities.

Using publicly available records, Internet sleuths were able to determine which satellite took the image and identify its orbit based on the image Trump disclosed.

Experts worry that Trump’s braggadocio may lead him to spill secrets at a rally or in a tete-a-tete with a foreign adversary. One former official imagined Trump boasting about the technical features of Air Force One, or where the United States had dispatched spy drones.

Trump has also demonstrated a willingness to declassify information for political advantage, pushing his senior officials to reveal documents from the 2016 probe of Russian election interference and possible links to Trump’s campaign.

Last month, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, a Trump loyalist, made public a set of handwritten notes and a referral to the FBI concerning intelligence that the United States had obtained on Russia, and its belief that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign would try to tie the hacking and leaking of Democratic Party emails to Russia to deflect from the controversy around Clinton’s use of a private email server.

Those declassified documents were heavily redacted. But according to people familiar with their contents, they may have revealed enough information to point the Russian government to a valuable source of intelligence the United States has, and is now at risk of losing.

Experts agreed that the biggest risk Trump poses out of office is the clumsy release of information. But they didn’t rule out that he might trade secrets, perhaps in exchange for favors, to ingratiate himself with prospective clients in foreign countries or to get back at his perceived enemies. When he leaves office, Trump will be facing a crushing amount of debt, including hundreds of millions of dollars in loans that he has personally guaranteed.

“People with significant debt are always of grave concern to security professionals,” said Larry Pfeiffer, a veteran intelligence officer and former chief of staff to CIA Director Michael V. Hayden. “The human condition is a frail one. And people in dire situations make dire decisions. Many of the individuals who’ve committed espionage against our country are people who are financially vulnerable.”

As a practical matter, there’s little that the Biden administration can do to stop Trump from blurting out national secrets. Former presidents do not sign nondisclosure agreements when they leave office. They have a right to access information from their administration, including classified records, said Fitzpatrick, who served as the director of the Information Security Oversight Office at the National Archives and Records Administration, which houses former presidents’ records.

They’re expected to safeguard information, as they did while in office. “But outside the confines of the Presidential Records Act, there is no boundary except the president’s behavior,” he said.

A President Biden could refuse to give Trump any intelligence briefings, which ex-presidents have received before meeting with foreign leaders or embarking on diplomatic missions at the current president’s request. 

“I think that tradition ends with Trump,” Priess said. “It’s based on courtesy and the idea that presidents may call on their predecessors for frank advice. I don’t see Joe Biden calling up Trump to talk about intricate national security and intelligence issues. And I don’t think Biden will send him anywhere as an emissary.”  

The last line of defense, like so many chapters in Trump’s presidency, would pose unprecedented considerations: criminal prosecution. The Espionage Act has been successfully used to convict current and former government officials who disclose information that damages U.S. national security. It has never been used against a former president. But as of Jan. 20, 2021, Trump becomes a private citizen, and the immunity he enjoys from criminal prosecution vanishes.

\nThe definitive list of the 20 presidential norms Trump broke and how Joe Biden can restore them\n
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At a frenetic and freewheeling rally in Macon, Ga., in mid-October, with less than three weeks to go before the election, President Trump turned introspective. He reflected on what sets him apart from every other president in American history: his refusal to be presidential.

“I always said, it’s much easier to be ‘presidential’ than to do what I do. ... I’m more presidential if I wanted to be, but I got to get things done,” he said. “I don’t have enough time. ... I can be more presidential than any president in our history — with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln when he wore the hat. That was tough to beat.”

What does it mean to be presidential? Article II of the Constitution describes the office in just a handful of paragraphs. To a remarkable extent, the presidency is shaped by unwritten traditions and expectations that historians and political scientists call “norms” — what political scientists Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt call the “soft guardrails” of American democracy.

Violating presidential norms doesn’t equate to breaking the law. Can Trump steer taxpayer money to his businesses? Can he call for the investigation of his political rivals? Can he fire people in oversight positions and replace them with loyalists? Yes — technically — he can. But should he?

One of the things Trump has forced presidential scholars to realize “is the extent to which shamelessness in a president is really empowering,” says Jack Goldsmith, a former Justice Department official in the George W. Bush administration who teaches at Harvard Law School. The current presidency also reveals “the extent to which the whole system before Trump was built on a basic assumption about a range of reasonableness among presidents, a range of willingness to play within the system, a range of at least a modicum of understanding of political and normative constraints.”

Goldsmith and others argue that Trump’s steamrolling of norms could do lasting damage to both the stature of the presidency and the institutions of democracy if reforms aren’t devised to bolster the fragile tissue of these shared understandings.

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(Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

And yet, Trump’s transgressions have been a source of his populist power. His delight in breaking norms — and the establishment’s shock at his antics — provides proof to his supporters that he is doing something right. Sean Spicer, the president’s first press secretary, says that Trump’s style has allowed him “to actually get things done.” Spicer cites trade policy and the 2017 tax cut as examples. “You can argue that it’s not the most presidential thing to tweet at Angela Merkel about, you know, the percent of GDP that Germany pays to meet their NATO obligation. But it’s worked. ... There are some things in which his disruptive nature has really moved policy forward,” Spicer says. “And there’s some areas where it’s probably not been so helpful.”

“While some on the Left or even in the media might say that the President has been one to break ‘norms,’ I would argue just the opposite,” White House spokesman Judd Deere wrote in an email. “President Trump has been the person who has returned power to the American people, not the Washington elite, and preserved our history and institutions, while others have tried to tear them down.”

In a sense, the election was a referendum on Trump’s norm-breaking. Now, as Trump shatters yet another norm by refusing to accept the result of the vote count, the office’s structural weakness, one that allows chief executives to act in ways the framers of the Constitution never imagined, has been exposed. There are calls from Congress and from outside government to recast some norms as laws, and to craft other reforms. America must decide what it means to be presidential.

To read about the 20 most important norms that Trump has ignored or undermined, scroll or use the drop-down menu below. Also included: why norms are important, other presidents who’ve broken norms, and whether we can restore norms once they’re broken.

Personally profiting from official business

1. Personally profiting from official business

Since Jimmy Carter, most presidents have used blind trusts or other means to separate themselves from active control or ownership of assets to assure the public that they would not make decisions out of financial self-interest. (Barack Obama did not set up a blind trust. His money was in mutual funds, Treasury bills and the like.)

President Trump correctly pointed out that presidents are exempt from conflict-of-interest rules placed on federal officials, so he did not have to distance himself from his businesses. Yet the norm has been for presidents to act as if the rules applied to them. Trump turned over day-to-day management of his empire to his sons but insisted on staying informed and maintaining ownership. He had visited his properties more than 280 times as of late October, according to a Washington Post tally, thus raising their profile and drawing political, business and foreign customers seeking to curry favor with the administration. The Secret Service and other government agencies have paid at least $2.5 million for rooms and other expenses at Trump properties, and his campaign and fundraising committee have paid $5.6 million more in fees for events, according to Post reporting.

Trump keeps promoting his private company at White House events

“The president not only holding on to his businesses, but very explicitly advancing them while president ... is a whole set of norms that has been kind of thrown out the window,” says Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “The idea that you can’t use government for your own personal financial gain is crucial for people to believe that government is working in their interest.”

Not releasing tax returns

2. Not releasing tax returns

The tax-release tradition began after Richard Nixon’s tax scandal in 1973, when he famously declared, “I’m not a crook.” Nixon released several years of returns in 1974, months before resigning amid the separate Watergate scandal. His successor, Gerald Ford, released years of summary tax data, including income, major deductions and taxes paid. Starting with Jimmy Carter, every president has released full tax returns — until President Trump. He has maintained that he can’t release his returns because they are under audit, even though that is not an obstacle to releasing them.

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President Richard Nixon in 1973. (Associated Press)

In Trump’s case, tax returns would show if he has personal financial connections to foreign nations, the extent to which he has paid his fair share of taxes and given to charity, and the extent to which he might benefit personally from tax policies he supports, according to Duke law professor Neil S. Siegel in a 2018 piece for the Indiana Law Journal, “Political Norms, Constitutional Conventions, and President Donald Trump.” “These norms and conventions, although not ‘in’ the Constitution, play a pivotal role in sustaining the Constitution,” Siegel wrote.

3. Refusing oversight

This past spring, President Trump fired or removed five inspectors general: the internal watchdogs for the intelligence community, the Defense Department, Health and Human Services, the Transportation Department and the State Department.

In some cases, the dismissals appeared to be retaliation for actions that angered Trump or his allies. When he fired intelligence inspector general Michael Atkinson, Trump mentioned his displeasure with Atkinson’s handling of the whistleblower complaint about the Ukraine phone call that led to Trump’s impeachment. The ouster of Christi Grimm, the acting inspector general for Health and Human Services, came a month after she issued a report finding “severe shortages” of coronavirus testing kits and “widespread shortages” of protective equipment like masks.

The job of inspector general was a post-Watergate reform, created in 1978 across the government as a quasi-independent check on waste, fraud and abuse. Never has a president terminated so many inspectors general in the middle of his term. (Ronald Reagan dismissed holdovers from the previous administration on his first day in office, but rehired several; Barack Obama fired one.)

“President Trump’s spate of inspector general removals this spring is alarming, and every American should be concerned about the state of federal government oversight,” David C. Williams, a former inspector general for six agencies under four presidents, wrote in The Post. “But the problem with Trump’s actions is not simply removing the watchdogs — it’s also the chilling effect left on those who remain and the fact that the president is replacing some of the ousted officials with thinly credentialed political loyalists.”

Interfering in Department of Justice investigations

4. Interfering in Department of Justice investigations

Since at least the 1970s, administrations have generally taken care to insulate the Department of Justice from presidential meddling and limit White House communications about investigative details.

Not the Trump administration. Early on in his term, he tried to browbeat Attorney General Jeff Sessions into reversing his recusal from the Russia investigation. He asked FBI Director James B. Comey not to pursue a case against Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser, according to Comey’s congressional testimony, which Trump denied. He criticized the cases prosecutors built against both Flynn and Roger Stone, Trump’s friend and former informal political adviser. He asked White House counsel Donald McGahn to fire special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, then pressured McGahn to lie about having been asked, according to the Mueller report.

Trump has frequently called for the investigation and prosecution of Hillary Clinton, former president Barack Obama and other members of the previous administration.

“The norm of not attempting to influence traditional law enforcement functions, either in favor of one’s personal or political friends or against one’s personal political enemies — Trump has utterly departed from that norm,” says David Kris, co-founder of Culper Partners consultants, who served in the Justice Department under Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. “This is not normal and it is not safe.”

Abusing appointment power

5. Abusing appointment power

President Trump has flouted the constitutional appointments process to fashion a government reliant on acting officials who have not been confirmed by the Senate. He is the first president since before Ronald Reagan to have more acting than confirmed Cabinet secretaries, according to Anne Joseph O’Connell, writing earlier this year in the Columbia Law Review.

Presidents of both parties, including Trump, have found it difficult to get officials confirmed in the face of Senate filibusters or inaction. But partisanship alone can’t explain Trump’s record. Of the top 757 positions requiring confirmation, Trump has not nominated anyone for 133 slots, according to research by The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service.

Instead, Trump has stretched federal vacancy rules to delegate authority to unconfirmed loyalists across the government. This allows him to fire officials who displease him without having to go through the hassle of a Senate confirmation. “I sort of like ‘acting,’ ” Trump told reporters in 2019. “It gives me more flexibility.”

But the approach has consequences. In August, the Government Accountability Office found that Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and Ken Cuccinelli, the acting DHS deputy, are serving unlawfully in their roles. The Trump administration rejected the finding. In September, a federal judge ordered the removal of William Perry Pendley, who had been effectively serving as acting director of the Bureau of Land Management for more than a year.

“The President cannot shelter unconstitutional ‘temporary’ appointments for the duration of his presidency through a matryoshka doll of delegated authorities,” U.S. District Judge Brian Morris wrote in his order, referring to Russian nesting dolls. Pendley responded by offering reporters the novel logic that he couldn’t be ousted — since he was never formally appointed.

\"President
President Trump at a rally in Goodyear, Ariz., in October. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Why Are Norms Important?

The framers of the Constitution had a general idea of the type of people who would be president and how those people would act. The job’s description has been fleshed out over the centuries by the practices of each chief executive and the reaction of the public and the other branches to those practices.

The most important norms reinforce values, such as preventing self-dealing and making decisions less arbitrary, wrote Daphna Renan in a 2018 Harvard Law Review piece. The system has evolved this way for many reasons. In some areas, it may be against the constitutional separation of powers for Congress to legislate a presidential norm. Georgetown law professor Josh Chafetz, who has also written on presidential norms, says that “in many cases, you actually don’t want to solidify things as much as you would by writing them down. You want to leave a little bit of play in the joints.”

“If you try to legislate too much, you can really screw up the necessary speed, agility, adaptability and so forth of government,” says David Kris, a former Justice Department official. “There is [also] danger in too little regulation in the sense that norms are more easily violated perhaps than laws.”

Times of polarization — exactly like today, writes Renan — are when norms are most in peril.

Insulting allies while cozying up to authoritarians

6. Insulting allies while cozying up to authoritarians

To hear President Trump tell it, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is “very dishonest.” French President Emmanuel Macron is “foolish” with low approval ratings. A telephone call with then-Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was “the worst call by far.” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen’s rejection of Trump’s idea to buy Greenland was “nasty.” Theresa May made “a mess” with her handling of Brexit when she was Britain’s prime minister. Trump is also the first U.S. president since NATO’s founding to abdicate moral leadership of the treaty organization, and his punitive trade policies have further antagonized allies.

Meanwhile, Trump has shown an affinity for strongmen such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. He has spoken glowingly of the “love letters” he received from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “a tough guy who deserves respect.” He congratulated Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for the “unbelievable job” he was doing on his country’s drug problem, despite reports of thousands of extrajudicial killings.

A president will need to deal with a variety of world leaders — but there’s always an end goal in mind, says Nancy McEldowney, former director of the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute. “The very last thing you ever do is grant an Oval Office meeting, or a presidential meeting, or a summit-level meeting, which conveys legitimacy,” McEldowney said, referring to Trump’s one-on-ones with Kim, Duterte and others. “He seems to rush to embrace these leaders without getting anything in return.”

Coarsening presidential discourse

7. Coarsening presidential discourse

President Trump has communicated more unfiltered words to the public than any other chief executive — not just through Twitter, but via rambling rally speeches and impromptu jousts with reporters. This stream of presidential consciousness is like “a fireside rant, but one that has no beginning and no end,” Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes write in their book “Unmaking the Presidency.”

Trump’s rhetoric is unprecedented not just in volume, but in character, according to scholars of presidential speech. His name-calling, personal insults and public swearing have almost ceased to shock. He periodically invokes violent imagery, promising protesters that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” and praising a congressman for having body-slammed a reporter.

Trump “uses language like a dangerous demagogue and not like a president, and he’s very successful with it,” says Jennifer Mercieca, historian of American political rhetoric at Texas A&M University and author of “Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump.” “He outrages his base and provokes them on a minute-by-minute, hourly basis. He outrages his opposition. It keeps all of us attentive to his message, and so he’s been able to dominate and control the public sphere.”

Politicizing the military

8. Politicizing the military

President Trump has trampled the line between politics and the military from the second week of his presidency, when he chose the Pentagon room dedicated to the most highly decorated military heroes as the setting to sign his controversial order barring refugees and blocking travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. In 2018, his campaign soundtrack blared when he arrived to address troops in Iraq and Germany, using his talks to attack Democrats and autograph Make America Great Again hats for uniformed service members. He regularly refers to “my generals” and “my military.”

Just before the 2018 midterm elections, he deployed thousands of troops to the southern border, and in the past two years, when Congress didn’t appropriate sufficient funds for the border wall, he used the defense budget as a piggy bank, redirecting nearly $10 billion from the Pentagon to pay for the wall. As protests for racial justice broke out across the country, he threatened to deploy active-duty troops to confront demonstrators. After police cleared protesters across from the White House, he led Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark A. Milley through Lafayette Square for a photo op. Milley later apologized in a graduation speech: “I should not have been there. My presence in that moment, and in that environment, created the perception of the military involved in domestic politics.”

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Military personnel during Trump’s surprise visit to Bagram air base in Afghanistan last Thanksgiving. (Alex Brandon/Associated Press)

Trump is not the first president to ensnare the military in politics, but “President Trump has aggravated and accelerated this trend by [breaching] so many of the norms about the way a president will behave towards the American military,” says Kori Schake, director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “That has potentially really damaging effects for the country, and not just for the relationship between our public and our military, but for the relationship between our military and our foreign policy goals.”

9. Attacking judges

Past presidents have signaled displeasure with court rulings, but they have not challenged the legal system’s legitimacy as Trump has.

Trump reacted angrily to a series of legal setbacks involving his 2017 attempts to impose a travel ban from Muslim countries. On Twitter he called a federal judge in Seattle a “so-called judge” whose ruling “essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country.”

In 2018 he slammed “an Obama judge” for blocking his asylum policy at the Mexico border, prompting Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. to issue a rare rebuke: “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said in a statement. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.” Trump quickly replied on Twitter: “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.”

In a lecture before the American Law Institute last year, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman surveyed the damage of Trump’s verbal attacks on judges: “We are witnessing a chief executive who criticizes virtually every judicial decision that doesn’t go his way and denigrates judges who rule against him, sometimes in very personal terms. He seems to view the courts and the justice system as obstacles to be attacked and undermined, not as a coequal branch to be respected. … This is not normal.”

Politicizing diplomacy and foreign policy

10. Politicizing diplomacy and foreign policy

All diplomacy carries a whiff of politics — Republican foreign policy is different from Democratic foreign policy — but President Trump has put a uniquely electoral stamp on foreign affairs. In June 2019, Trump asked China’s Xi Jinping to help with his reelection prospects by buying more soybeans and wheat, according to a memoir by former national security adviser John Bolton. (Trump has dismissed Bolton’s recollections as “pure fiction.”)

A year earlier, at a dinner for top donors at Trump’s hotel in Washington, a business executive with interests in Ukraine informed the president that the American ambassador to that country was disloyal. “Get rid of her!” Trump can be heard responding in a video recording released later. The ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, was perceived as an impediment to powerful actors with interests in Ukraine who later also claimed to be willing to provide dirt on Trump’s potential campaign opponent, Joe Biden. Yovanovitch was removed in April 2019. A few months later, in the infamous phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump asked Zelensky for help in gathering information on alleged misdeeds by Biden and Biden’s son Hunter.

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Former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in 2019. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

This past August, undoubtedly with Trump’s blessing, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brought foreign duties directly into the political sphere with a speech for the Republican National Convention from Jerusalem, where he was on an official trip. Less than a month before the 2020 presidential election, after urging by Trump, Pompeo said the department would try to release a batch of Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails.

While “every president has their own slant, their own style and their own policy preferences,” says Nancy McEldowney, the State Department veteran, “Trump has politicized not just the content of the policy, but the conduct of the diplomacy, to such an extreme extent.”

Other Presidential Norm-Breakers
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Thomas Jefferson: The Constitution requires the president to report to Congress on the state of the union. After George Washington and John Adams delivered oral presentations, Jefferson changed the norm to a written report. Giving a speech, he wrote in 1801, was inconvenient and would interfere with Congress’s ability to respond thoughtfully.

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Andrew Johnson: The Founders feared the prospect of a demagogue in the White House and frowned upon the notion of a president making direct appeals to the unruly passions of the people. Johnson broke this norm and used popular rhetoric to reach the masses. His subsequent impeachment in 1868 was partly connected to this breach.

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Woodrow Wilson: He restored the original norm — and broke Jefferson’s model — by reporting on the state of the union in speeches to Congress, starting in 1913. Most presidents since have followed his lead. Building on Johnson’s populism and Theodore Roosevelt’s “bully pulpit” view of the presidency, Wilson also used speeches to firmly establish the norm of the so-called rhetorical presidency, where appealing directly to the people is seen as key to the job and a source of modern presidential power.

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Franklin D. Roosevelt: Frustrated with the Supreme Court after it knocked down some New Deal legislation, FDR concocted a bill in 1937 to try to add justices to the court. The norm against meddling with the court was so strong that his own Democratic Party in Congress rejected the plan. FDR successfully flouted another norm: that presidents should serve no more than two terms. After FDR’s three reelections, the two-term norm was hardened into the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1951.

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Richard Nixon: He violated norms in ways that were more shocking than illegal. He launched a secret war in Cambodia, ordered wiretapping and tax audits of reporters and other perceived foes, cut corners on his own taxes, and attempted to evade congressional oversight. A raft of post-Watergate reforms reinforced norms of transparency and ethics, and also created new ones: Presidents started voluntarily releasing tax returns, steps were taken to insulate the FBI and the Justice Department from the White House, and internal watchdogs were created — all of which President Trump has challenged.

Undermining intelligence agencies

11. Undermining intelligence agencies

President Trump called the intelligence chiefs who served under Barack Obama “dirty cops” and “sleazebags,” while he has continued to feud with the agencies and his own appointed directors. He bristled at their conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in support of his campaign and tried to do the same in 2020. At a 2018 Helsinki summit, he said Russian President Vladimir Putin told him “it’s not Russia.” When intelligence officials testified counter to his views on Iran and North Korea, Trump tweeted that they were “extremely passive and naive.” He added, “Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!” In 2019, he called the FBI “badly broken”; this year, he said the FBI was letting members of the far-left antifa movement “get away with ‘murder.’”

Unsatisfied with his own appointed director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, Trump nominated a replacement in 2019, John Ratcliffe, saying “the intelligence agencies have run amok.” This fall, Ratcliffe said that, at Trump’s request, he was declassifying documents related to the 2016 campaign — which Trump quickly used to press his false case that the Democrats were responsible for the Russia probe. Trump tweeted that he has authorized declassifying all documents to expose “the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax.” Now his lawyers are fighting to keep the documents from being released. In September, when his appointed FBI director, Christopher A. Wray, told Congress that the Russians were at it again — while downplaying the threat of ballot fraud and antifa — Trump told reporters, “I did not like his answers.”

“When you pound the Justice Department and pound the intelligence community as being corrupt, incompetent, making up stories about what they do, it’s enormously demoralizing for those institutions,” says Jack Goldsmith, the former Justice Department official. “It reduces the legitimacy of those institutions in the eyes of the country.”

Publicizing lists of potential Supreme Court picks

12. Publicizing lists of potential Supreme Court picks

President Trump took the novel approach of releasing lists of potential picks for the Supreme Court. As the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee in 2016, he issued the first version of the list with the names of 11 conservative figures. This was a masterful tactic by a candidate whose conservative bona fides were still somewhat in question, as it had the desired effect of convincing conservatives and evangelicals that Trump would not disappoint them in filling the seat left vacant after Antonin Scalia’s death. Trump expanded the list that fall, and it helped him win the election. He added to it twice more as a sitting president, publicizing each iteration.

This was a giant step toward cementing the idea that the court is political, with the meaning of the Constitution in question, depending on whether Democratic justices or Republican justices are in control. SCOTUSblog has noted that Trump’s tweet promising the latest update to the list came in June, shortly after the Supreme Court handed him two stinging defeats on immigration and LGBTQ rights.

September’s additions notably included a half-dozen women — a constituency Trump needed for reelection — and a few conservative senators he may have wanted to flatter. Outside conservative groups played a huge role in curation, but the strategy was all Trump: “When it came to making the list public and the politics of it,” former White House counsel Donald McGahn told “Fox News Sunday” in October, “that was 100 percent the president.”

Making far more false or misleading claims than any previous president

13. Making far more false or misleading claims than any previous president

Through Aug. 27, the sum was 22,247, to be exact, according to The Post Fact Checker’s database. The most repeated claim: “Within three short years, we built the strongest economy in the history of the world,\" which Trump has declared 407 times. Other favorites: “My job was made harder by phony witch hunts, by ‘Russia, Russia, Russia’ nonsense” (236 times). And: “We’ve done a lot: the largest tax cuts ever” (232 times). He also says things like “I was honored as the Man of the Year in Michigan at a big event,” which never happened (11 times). And: “My father came from Germany” (five times); his father was born in the Bronx. “Did you know I was number one on Facebook?” he boasted in April at a press briefing on the coronavirus response. (Actually, at the time, Barack Obama had nearly twice as many Facebook fans, and actor Vin Diesel nearly four times.)

“If the president is repeatedly seen to lie about matters big and small, it presents an enormous problem for the United States in the world,” says Trevor Potter, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and president of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center watchdog group. “What does the world think when the president says something? When they know he says whatever he wants to say, regardless of whether it’s true or not?”

14. Abusing the pardon power

George H.W. Bush was criticized for pardoning Iran-contra figures, Bill Clinton for pardoning a fugitive financier, and George W. Bush for commuting the sentence of an official in a case related to the leak of an undercover CIA agent’s identity. But President Trump’s 44 pardons and commutations have been especially self-serving. All but five of the people who received clemency through early February had connections to the White House or resonance with Trump’s political base, according to a Washington Post investigation. He has rarely followed the normal process of vetting pardons through the Justice Department.

He’s also the first president who has mused publicly about pardoning himself. “No other president has, like Trump, used pardons systematically to serve political and personal goals,” write Bob Bauer and Jack Goldsmith, lawyers who served in the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations, respectively, in their book of proposed norms reforms, “After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency.”

Recipients of Trump pardons or commutations have included former sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, a hard-line anti-immigrant Trump supporter; conservative activist and writer Dinesh D’Souza; former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich; junk-bond king Michael Milken; disgraced New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik; and former media mogul Conrad Black, who wrote a flattering biography of Trump. Trump appears to be the first modern president to have pardoned people convicted of murder, in the cases of two soldiers sentenced for war crimes.

Most notoriously, in July, against the recommendation of the Justice Department, Trump commuted the sentence of friend and ally Roger Stone, who was convicted of lying about his efforts to learn about hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 campaign. Republican Sen. Mitt Romney tweeted in response: “Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president.”

Using government resources for partisan ends

15. Using government resources for partisan ends

From his first full day in office, when President Trump ordered the National Park Service to produce photographic evidence that his inauguration crowd was larger than Barack Obama’s (it wasn’t), he has used the levers of government to score personal or political points. When federal meteorologists in Alabama publicly contradicted his false forecast of a hurricane’s path in 2019, he pressured officials in the Commerce Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to issue a statement undercutting the meteorologists and justifying his Sharpie-scrawled weather chart. He attacked political enemies during official presidential addresses, such as his speech to the 2017 Boy Scouts’ National Scout Jamboree that was so partisan that the head of the Scouts later apologized.

Ethics watchdogs say this behavior reached a crescendo during the Republican National Convention in August, when the White House served as a backdrop for days of campaign activity. Trump presided over a naturalization ceremony and issued a pardon in the White House, with both events replayed during the convention program. From a stage before the White House portico, Trump’s 70-minute speech accepting the Republican nomination was a scathing attack on Democrats followed by fireworks that spelled the word “TRUMP” over the Mall.

The president is exempt from the Hatch Act, which bars political activity by government officials while at work, but, says Trevor Potter, the former FEC chairman, “The norm is that you try to separate the White House from your political activity. ... The Hatch Act doesn’t apply to the president, but it applied to all those people who had to help him put that together at the White House.”

White House officials told The Post at the time that it was mainly campaign staff who executed the events, in compliance with the Hatch Act; government officials were working on their own time. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said of the Hatch Act to Politico: “Nobody outside of the Beltway really cares.”

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Trump supporters and Proud Boys in September in Portland, Ore. (Paula Bronstein for The Washington Post )\n\n

Can We Restore Broken Norms?

With Trump’s presidency coming to an end, it’s tempting to assume that respect for these soft guardrails of democracy will naturally be restored and reinvigorated — that even a narrow repudiation of Trump at the polls will be taken as proof by future presidents that norm-breaking is not a winning strategy.

But that’s a naive faith. More likely, future presidents will assess how some of the latitude seized by Trump could be useful. “My guess is it’s somewhere between what it used to be and what Trump has done,” says Trevor Potter, the former FEC chairman and head of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center. “They will do things that are convenient for them. ... Because once these lines have moved this way, it is very hard to move them back.”

The only way to counter normative drift is to stiffen the guardrails. “It’s going to take deliberate effort to return our system to one where democratic traditions predominate as they have in the past,” says Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “One of the things we have learned is that there may be a need to codify a whole lot of things that maybe people thought were laws or rules but were, in fact, just traditions, because it never occurred to most of us that anybody would want to systematically flout the kinds of practices that protect a strong democracy.”

In their book “After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency,” Bob Bauer and Jack Goldsmith, lawyers who served in the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations, respectively, propose more than 50 changes to bolster norms, focusing on protections against abuses of power for personal or political gain, interference with the Justice Department and other areas. House Democrats recently assembled a package of reforms, including restrictions on the president’s pardon power, protections for inspectors general, and tougher rules against presidents enriching themselves or using government resources for political or personal ends.

But reforming norms is a delicate business. Not all norms can be reduced to statute — nor should they be. Part of the genius of the American system is that norms fill in subtle spaces around laws and provide essential flexibility for the presidency to evolve.

The norm of restraint — of not doing something, even if it’s technically legal and you have the power — is endangered not just in the White House, but on Capitol Hill and across Washington. It’s the most vital norm of all — and the hardest to preserve.

Making racialized appeals and attacks

16. Making racialized appeals and attacks

No president in the modern era has relied so heavily on racialized appeals to his base. In 2019, President Trump tweeted that four congresswomen of color should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” (even though three of them were born in the United States). It was one of several examples over the years of Trump suggesting that citizens of color or naturalized immigrants are less American than White people.

After Joe Biden picked Sen. Kamala Harris to be his running mate, Trump echoed the racist birther theory he once employed against Barack Obama to suggest that Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, might not be eligible to serve as vice president. He called Black Lives Matter a “symbol of hate.” Complaining that children “have been fed lies about America being a wicked nation plagued by racism,” he called in September for a “pro-American” curriculum in schools, and he sought to ban anti-racism training in federal agencies. That month, in the first presidential debate, he asked the far-right group the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

Dividing the nation in times of crisis

17. Dividing the nation in times of crisis

During national crises, presidents are expected to hold the country’s hand and pull us together, if only for a little while. Think of Franklin D. Roosevelt after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Ronald Reagan after the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, or Barack Obama singing “Amazing Grace” at the funeral for the pastor killed in the 2015 Charleston, S.C., church massacre.

President Trump has declined to do this. Instead, he drew lines. He saw “very fine people, on both sides” after a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville turned deadly in 2017. He called racial justice protesters “thugs.” As the coronavirus pandemic was killing more than four times as many Americans as died in the Vietnam War — and counting — he attacked Democratic governors for their pandemic response. Speaking at Mount Rushmore ahead of Independence Day in what the White House billed as an official presidential address — not a campaign event — Trump veered quickly into a dystopian description of a nation split between a “left-wing cultural revolution” and those “strong and proud” Americans who “will not allow our country and all of its values, history and culture to be taken from them.”

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try,” wrote former defense secretary Jim Mattis in the Atlantic in June, after Trump called for troops to respond to protests. “Instead, he tries to divide us.”

18. Contradicting scientists

Norms guiding the presidency are meant to ensure that decisions on policy aren’t arbitrary or overly political, and that the best expert guidance is heeded. President Trump’s rejection of these customs has been on display during the coronavirus pandemic. His fancy with the antimalarial hydroxychloroquine pressured the Food and Drug Administration to grant emergency approval for the drug’s use in covid-19 treatments — which the FDA later withdrew when the drug’s risks became evident.

Trump contradicted top scientists on the Coronavirus Task Force over guidance on wearing masks and avoiding large crowds — including the president’s own rallies — while political appointees inside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tried to block critical reports that suggested the pandemic was not under control. Instead of relying on infectious-disease experts like Anthony Fauci, Trump appeared to favor doctors who were skeptical of masks and expanded testing.

Promising a vaccine at “warp speed,” Trump was furious when the FDA imposed tough safety standards that all but ensured a vaccine would not be available before Election Day. He attacked his own appointed scientific directors for plotting against him: “New FDA Rules make it more difficult for them to speed up vaccines for approval before Election Day,” Trump tweeted, tagging FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn in the tweet. “Just another political hit job!”

Derailing the tradition of presidential debates

19. Derailing the tradition of presidential debates

Presidential debates are not always illuminating, with candidates resorting to talking points and the occasional well-rehearsed zinger. But the first 2020 presidential debate was an unprecedented cacophonous fiasco, largely because President Trump ignored the agreed-upon rules and interrupted Joe Biden 71 times in 90 minutes. “I never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did,” moderator Chris Wallace told the New York Times afterward. “I guess I didn’t realize … that this was going to be the president’s strategy, not just for the beginning of the debate but the entire debate.”

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Trump during the final presidential debate in October in Nashville. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

“This is the first time we’ve faced anything that existed like last night,” Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, said following the first debate, and he vowed reforms. After the second debate was canceled because Trump refused to participate in a virtual event, the final debate featured a microphone mute button to cut down on interruptions.

Undermining faith in the 2020 election results

20. Undermining faith in the 2020 election results

Every incumbent president in American history has accepted the prospect of a peaceful transfer of power. No sitting president in modern memory has gone into an election predicting fraud and illegitimate results. President Trump is the radical exception. In the months leading up to the election, he repeatedly forecast a rigged debacle and speculated that the winner may never be known.

In September, he told reporters: “We want to make sure the election is honest, and I’m not sure that it can be.” When asked whether he would commit to a “peaceful transition of power,” he responded, “We’re going to have to see what happens.”

“No other president has ever said anything like that, because this is an active, ongoing attempt to undermine confidence in our election system,” says former FEC chairman Trevor Potter. “Trump is trying to convince a significant piece of this country — his supporters — that if he loses, it was stolen. That is a tactic of authoritarian leadership. ... And that is, in my knowledge of American history, completely unprecedented, at least in the last hundred years.”

In the days after the election, Trump has seemed determined to do still more damage on this front. As Joe Biden began to overtake him in key states, Trump told reporters: “If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us.” On Saturday, hours after media outlets called the election for Biden, Trump tweeted: “I WON THE ELECTION, GOT 71,000,000 LEGAL VOTES.” He still refuses to concede. This presidency, it seems, will be abnormal to the end.

\nEurasia Review: Trump Fired, Biden Hired, What Next? Analysis\n

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After the tight 2020 election, theres only one way President-elect Joe Biden can win over both Americans and other nations. He has to deliver in multiple fronts, amid a divided nation and huge challenges.

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Trump has launched ill-advised trade wars, against the United States friends and foes alike, that are hurting the American middle class, President-elect Joe Biden wrote when he set the tone of his 2020 campaign. The next US president will have to take immediate steps to renew US democracy and alliances, protect the US economic future, and once more have America lead the world.

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Internationally, the hope is that Biden would restore US multilateralism, moderate trade conflicts, alleviate economic damage and push real struggle against the pandemic. Most immediately, Biden will seize a series of executive orders to reverse Trumps policies and bring an end to the era of demonization.

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The premise is that the new White House can avoid violence and legal roadblocks during the transition. The legal issues must be cleared by early December when the states must certify their results prior to the meeting of the Electoral College.

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But when the Biden administration begins its work, it is expected to deliver. In a nation thats highly polarized in terms of politics, economy, society, and attitudes toward the forever wars, thats an overwhelming task. If, in addition to the House, Democrats can keep the control of the Senate, the task could be less challenging.

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Heres whats ahead.

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Another $2 trillion stimulus package

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According to polls, every third American regards the coronavirus and health care the nations most immediate priority. Thats why, as the COVID-19 cases will exceed 10 million in America, President-elect Biden will launch his coronavirus task force.

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Americans second priority is the economy. Following the 2020 election, the only real winner is campaign finance (in which Biden will seek to marginalize the role of big private money). Despite total campaign costs soaring to $14 billion, legislative ineffectiveness is likely to continue. 

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Soon political spotlight  will shift to Capitol Hill. Senators will return on November 9 and House members a week later for lame duck session of Congress. At the top of the agenda will be the third wave of the coronavirus in the US, still another round of coronavirus aid and the contested economic stimulus.

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While both Democrats and Republicans agree on the need for a new fiscal package, theres been great disagreement about the details. In spring, Democrats starting bid was $3.5 trillion, as against the Republicans $1 trillion. After months of wheeling and dealing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca) has slimmed her bid to $2.2 trillion, while Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has upped the White Houses offer to $1.9 trillion. 

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The $2+ trillion compromise will not appeal to the progressive left, which considers it too little too late, or the Republicans ultra-conservative right, which regards it as too much too soon.

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Without new deal, government shutdown

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In the past, the Senates Republican majority has bitterly fought large stimulus packages. As that majority has diminished, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the pragmatic Washington insider, could prove more flexible.

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Before the election, Congress could not pass a single one of the dozen appropriations bills. To avoid a government shutdown, Congress has approved a deal to finance government operations until December 11. 

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If Congress fails to find a deal by then, a government shutdown will loom after December 12. 

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Moreover, Capitol Hill is soon expected to witness a series of hearings focusing on financial regulators, particularly on the issue of lending to the ailing small-and-medium size entreprises (SMEs) amid the pandemic. 

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Furthermore, the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter are expected to testify before the Senate, which is likely to be a prelude to the big techs primetime in early 2021. 

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After 16-month investigation into the anti-competitive conduct by Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, House Democrats say theyre ready to go after Americas monopolistic tech giants.

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Economic erosion 

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As a longer-term objective, Democrats support significant tax legislation, which further divided the divided Congress. With a narrow majority in the Senate, however, the new administration could test increases in the top individual tax rate, corporate tax rate, plus changes to the estate tax, the treatment of capital gains and so on.

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But after four years of Trump excesses, economic erosion is the cold reality. 

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True, until the third coronavirus wave fully kicked in and COVID-19 infection rates soared, retail sales increased 5.4% year-to-year still in September, but thanks to huge government support, low interest rates, and equally low inflation. 

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Despite four years of misguided tariff wars, the recovery of US exports proved very slow contracting by almost 15% still in August. US real GDP is likely to contract by 4% to 5% in 2020. As a net effect, the trade deficits that Trump pledged to eliminate soared to $80 billion in August. 

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US consumption-led recovery is leveraged to the hilt It relies far too much on costly fiscal stimuli thats been necessitated by the failed response to the pandemic, and rapidly-rising debt, which both distort the real role of consumption. 

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As a share of GDP, US fiscal stimulus packages (13%+) are currently twice as large as those in China (7%). Thanks to Federal Reserve and overactive printing presses, ordinary Americans and foreign investors will end up having to pay much of the bill. 

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US national debt has soared to an $27.2 trillion, which puts US federal debt-to-GDP ratio at 128%. The ratio is at par with that of Italy amid its recent debt crisis. But unlike Italy, US is one of the worlds anchor economies.

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What happens in America will not stay in America. 

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Old new foreign policies

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The Biden administration will seek to present a very different tone, rhetoric and multilateral stance. The substance is a different story. 

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Last summer, Biden garnered a network of over 2,000 foreign policy advisors. Yet, his narrow inner circle comprises mainly veterans from the Obama and Clinton administrations, including his key adviser Antony Blinken, Hillary Clintons Jake Sullivan, as well as old hands Tom Donilon, Nicholas Burns, Kurt Campbell, and Michèle Flournoy, Blinkens consultancy partner.

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Unlike the consensus Democrats, the partys progressive left remains concerned for the great horror show looming ahead: the collusion between liberal interventionists and Republican neoconservatives (who voted Biden rather than Trump). 

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President-elect Biden wants to be the president of all Americans. The real question is whether thats something all Americans want and whether he can restore US credibility after four years of domestic and international disasters. 

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Based on Dr Steinbocks global briefing on Nov 8, 2020

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The article Trump Fired, Biden Hired, What Next? – Analysis appeared first on Eurasia Review.



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