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How Martin Luther King Jr.’s Imprisonment Changed American Politics Forever

By Raymond Arsenault | The New York Times

Alfred Lucero for (CNT) City News Talk #local-all

https://CityNewsAndTalk.Com

NINE DAYS

The Race to Save Martin Luther King Jr.’s Life and Win the 1960 Election
By Stephen Kendrick and Paul Kendrick

The African-American struggle for freedom and civil rights is replete with dramatic and harrowing stories, many involving intimidation and threats of violence from white supremacist defenders of the status quo. One of the most consequential of these stories is the subject of “Nine Days,” a compelling narrative written by the father-and-son team of Stephen and Paul Kendrick, co-authors of two previous books on race, law and politics.

The story begins in mid-October 1960 with Martin Luther King Jr.’s incarceration (his first) in a Georgia jail cell and ends three weeks later with John F. Kennedy’s narrow victory over Richard M. Nixon in the most competitive presidential election of the 20th century. Kennedy’s razor-thin triumph depended on several factors ranging from his youthful charm to Mayor Richard J. Daley’s ability to pad the Democratic vote in Chicago. But, as the Kendricks ably demonstrate, one crucial factor in Kennedy’s electoral success was the late surge of Black voters into the Democratic column. In all likelihood, this surge represented the difference between victory and defeat in at least five swing states, including Illinois, Michigan and New Jersey, ensuring Kennedy’s comfortable margin (303 to 219) in the Electoral College.

This last-minute shift was precipitated by two impulsive phone calls: one from John Kennedy to Coretta Scott King, expressing his concern for her jailed husband’s safety; the second from the candidate’s younger brother Robert to Oscar Mitchell, the Georgia judge overseeing King’s incarceration. Arrested on two minor charges — participating in a student-led sit-in at Rich’s department store in Atlanta and driving with an Alabama license after changing his residency to Georgia — King was thought to be in grave danger after a manacled, late-night transfer from an Atlanta jail to a remote rural facility in Klan-infested DeKalb County, and soon thereafter to the state’s notorious maximum-security prison in Reidsville.

Coretta King, panic-stricken that her husband might be murdered or even lynched, contacted Harris Wofford, a friend and longtime civil rights advocate working on Kennedy’s campaign. Along with Kennedy’s brother-in-law Sargent Shriver and the Black journalist Louis Martin, Wofford was part of a campaign initiative charged with expanding the Black vote for Kennedy by offsetting the senator’s mediocre record on civil rights — somehow without alienating the white South.

On Oct. 26, after consulting with Wofford, Shriver persuaded Kennedy to call Mrs. King. The conversation was brief, but the message was powerful: “I know this must be very hard for you. I understand you are expecting a baby, and I just wanted you to know that I was thinking about you and Dr. King. If there is anything I can do to help, please feel free to call on me.” When Bobby, Jack’s campaign manager, learned what had happened, he was furious, fearing this was a liberal stunt that would destroy his brother’s chance of winning the South. But after cooling down and realizing that the die was cast, he called Judge Mitchell to plead for King’s release on bail.

Mitchell agreed, King was soon released and on the last Sunday before the election, the Kennedy campaign blanketed the nation’s Black churches with a flier later known as the Blue Bomb. The choice was clear, the bright blue flier insisted: “‘No Comment’ Nixon Versus a Candidate With a Heart, Senator Kennedy.” With Black ministers leading the way, Kennedy won an estimated 68 percent of the Black vote on Election Day, 7 percent higher than Adlai Stevenson’s showing in 1956.

No brief review can do full justice to the Kendricks’ masterly and often riveting account of King’s ordeal and the 1960 “October Surprise” that may have altered the course of modern American political history. Suffice it to say that any reader who navigates the many twists and turns and surprises in this complex tale will come away recognizing the power of historical contingency.

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A police officer paid for a family’s Christmas groceries instead of charging two women with shoplifting

By David Williams, CNN

Ellen Britt for (CNT) City News And Talk 

http://CityNewsAndTalk.com 


 

(CNN)A Massachusetts police officer used his own money to buy Christmas dinner for a family in need instead of charging two women with shoplifting.

Somerset Police Officer Matt Lima was called to a Stop & Shop grocery store on December 20 after store security said the women didn’t scan everything that they put in their bags at a self-checkout register, according to a statement on the police department’s website.

The women, who had two small children with them, were stopped as they left the store, police said.

“I have two girls myself, similar on age to the two girls that were there, so it kind of struck me a little bit,” Lima told CNN affiliate WJAR.

Lima took one of the women aside so they could talk about what happened without the children hearing. Store employees kept the kids occupied, so they wouldn’t know what was going on.

“The woman I talked to, she explained she was working, but the mother of the children was not working and had some other family issues going on and that what she had taken was Christmas dinner for the kids,” Lima told WJAR.

He looked at the receipt to see what the women had planned to buy and saw they were just getting food.

“Obviously, this family was in need and I can’t imagine having to make the decision to go to Stop & Shop and just only pay for what I can afford — or do I go there and try to take things for Christmas dinner for the kids?” Lima told WJAR.

He served them with a notice not to trespass, but did not press charges, police said.

“They were very thankful, they were kind of shocked. I’m sure a lot of people in that same situation would be thinking that there was going to be a different outcome, and maybe they would be arrested or have to go to court.”

Lima bought a $250 gift card for the women, so they could buy their groceries at a different store.


 

 

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Larry King has been hospitalized with Covid-19

By Dakin Andone and Brad Parks, CNN

Ellen Britt for (CNT) City News And Talk  http://CityNewsAndTalk.com 
 

(CNN)Legendary talk show host and former CNN interviewer Larry King has Covid-19, according to a source close to the family.

King, 87, has been hospitalized at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for more than a week, the source said. Due to protocols at the hospital, King’s three sons have been unable to visit him, according to the source.

King, who has Type 2 diabetes, has confronted a series of medical issues over the years, including several heart attacks and quintuple bypass surgery in 1987. In 2017, King revealed he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and successfully underwent surgery to treat it. He also underwent a procedure in 2019 to address angina.

His own medical issues inspired him to start the Larry King Cardiac Foundation, a non-profit aimed at helping those without health insurance afford medical care.

King hosted CNN’s “Larry King Live” for 25 years, interviewing presidential candidates, celebrities, athletes, movie stars and everyday people. He retired in 2010 after taping more than 6,000 episodes of the show.

But he couldn’t stay off the airwaves for long.

In 2012, he became the host of “Larry King Now,” a thrice-weekly show on Ora TV, an on-demand digital network he co-founded with Mexican telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim, according to Forbes.

Last year, two of King’s adult children died within weeks of each other. His son, 65-year-old Andy King, passed away of a heart attack in late July, followed by King’s 52-year-old daughter Chaia King, who died in August shortly after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

King’s Twitter feed, @kingsthings, has 2.4 million followers. His most recent tweet was on November 26, when he wished his followers a happy Thanksgiving.


 

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Nearly a dozen Republican senators announce plans to vote against counting electoral votes

By Jake Tapper, Lauren Fox and Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

Ellen Britt for (CNT) City News And Talk 

http://CityNewsAndTalk.com 


 

(CNN)Nearly a dozen Republican senators and senators-elect announced Saturday they will vote against counting electoral votes next week when Congress is expected to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory — despite no credible evidence suggesting widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

The 11 Republican lawmakers said they intend to support an objection to the Electoral College votes, if one is brought, and propose an election commission to conduct an “emergency 10-day audit” of the election returns in the “disputed states.” The group includes Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Steve Daines of Montana, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, and Mike Braun of Indiana, and Sens.-elect Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.

“A fair and credible audit—conducted expeditiously and completed well before January 20—would dramatically improve Americans’ faith in our electoral process and would significantly enhance the legitimacy of whoever becomes our next President. We owe that to the People,” they said in a statement, adding that Congress’ vote on January 6 is the “lone constitutional power remaining to consider and force resolution of the multiple allegations of serious voter fraud.”

As CNN has previously reported, the objection from President Donald Trump’s Republican allies has virtually zero chance of changing the election outcome, only to delay for a few hours the inevitable affirmation of Biden’s victory as the Electoral College winner and the next president.

There have been no credible allegations of any issues with voting that would have impacted the election, as affirmed by dozens of state and federal courts, governors, state election officials and the departments of Homeland Security and Justice. And not one of the Republican officeholders objecting to Biden’s victory have objected to Trump’s wins, or in some cases their own wins, on the same day.

On Wednesday, Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley became the first senator to announce plans to object to the results — a significant move since both a House member and senator are required to mount an objection when Congress counts the electoral votes. CNN previously reported that at least 140 House Republicans are expected to vote against counting the electoral votes in Congress, according to two GOP House members.


 

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As US inches closer to 350,000 Covid-19 deaths, one model projects about 115,000 more could die in next four weeks

By Christina Maxouris, CNN

Ellen Britt for (CNT) City News And Talk 

http://CityNewsAndTalk.com 

(CNN)The US topped 20 million total infections and inched closer to 350,000 Covid-19 deaths on the first day of 2021 — proof of a grim reality continuing into the new year.

More people have died across the US than anywhere else: nearly 348,000 Americans since the pandemic’s start. Another 115,000 could die over the next month, according to projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

For comparison, more than 77,500 died in December, the country’s deadliest month.

Hospitalizations are at the highest levels they’ve ever been. The US reported a record 125,379 hospitalized Covid-19 patients nationwide Thursday, according to the Covid Tracking Project. That number dipped slightly Friday, with 125,057 hospitalizations reported — about an 163% increase from two months ago.

A California doctor said hospitals have hit a “breaking point.”

“We’re also worried that at some point soon we’re going to have a really tough time finding the space and the staff to take care of all the sick patients coming in with Covid-19 who really need our help,” said Dr. Nicole Van Groningen of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Friday’s milestone also means the nation has recorded by far the most Covid-19 infections. It’s double what No. 2 India has reported and almost triple what No. 3 Brazil has.

But the worst may not be over. Experts fear that in the coming weeks — following holiday travel and gatherings — the US could see another surge of cases that could drive hospitalizations and deaths even higher.

Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN earlier this week the country has seen a surge that has “just gotten… out of control,” and that the coming weeks could be even worse.

“Once you get to large numbers of people at a dinner inside, poor air ventilation and circulation, that’s when you get in trouble,” he said. “That’s what we’re concerned about– that in addition to the surge, we’re going to have an increase superimposed upon that surge which could make January even worse than December.”

“We just have to assume that it’s going to get worse,” Fauci added.

How states are faring at the start of a new year

In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Friday the state reported more than 4,300 new cases — a record high he said comes “in the surge after Christmas travel and gatherings.”

“As we enter this new year, our first resolution should be to follow guidelines. We all must do our part,” he wrote on Twitter.

Georgia announced Friday a total of more than 8,700 new Covid-19 cases in the state — a new high. Maryland on the same day reported its second-highest number of daily cases. New York, meanwhile, added nearly 16,500 new cases — a day after it hit its highest ever one-day case count.

“As we start 2021, I encourage all New Yorkers to look to their better angels and continue the practices we know stop the spread of this virus – wash your hands, socially distance, and wear a mask,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

Texas health officials reported record-high Covid-19 hospitalizations across the state for the fifth day in a row, with more than 12,400 patients.

In California, a state that’s battled a brutal surge of new infections, hospitalizations and deaths, health officials reported a record daily death toll: more than 580 people lost to the virus.

ICU capacity in many parts of the state remains dangerously low. In Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley, zero beds are available. One health official said earlier this week the surge of patients has been pushing hospitals to the “brink of catastrophe.”

And that’s as some hospitals are having infrastructure issues that are preventing them from providing a high pressure supply of oxygen to patients.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services said design and construction experts from the US Army Corps of Engineers are being deployed to the Los Angeles region to “evaluate and where necessary upgrade oxygen delivery systems at six hospitals.”

Hospitals in the region, the office said, are treating an “unprecedented” number of Covid-19 patients and “the internal oxygen delivery systems built into many older hospitals are being overtaxed by the volume of oxygen flow required to treat patients with respiratory issues that arise from Covid-19.”

Testing company says virus variant not widespread in US

As officials nationwide battle the spread of the virus, they’re also monitoring for a variant that was first detected in the UK and could be more transmissible. The variant has been found in at least 30 countries and has also been detected in Colorado, California and Florida.

Health officials in California first said Wednesday a 30-year-old San Diego man tested positive for the UK variant. On Thursday, county health officials told CNN three new cases of the variant were reported in San Diego.

“The discovery of the additional cases leads county health officials to believe that the new strain of the virus is widespread in the community,” a county spokesperson said.

The new cases were found in two men in their 40s and a man in his 50s, officials said.

“Contact tracing shows two men did not travel outside of the county while the third case has yet to be fully interviewed,” officials said. “None of the men had any known interaction with each other or the other confirmed case.”

But while some experts have said it’s likely the variant is circulating in the US, testing so far does not indicate it’s common across the country, genomics company Helix told CNN.

Only four of 31 samples have turned up positive for the pattern of mutations first identified in the UK, Helix said. The genetic pattern was first caught by a testing glitch that technicians call S gene dropout.

“We also know that other labs in the Northeast sequencing S gene dropout samples have not found the UK variant in their populations,” Dr. James Lu, co-founder and president of Helix, told CNN by email.

“We cannot say with confidence when the B.1.1.7 strain emerged in the US,” Lu said. But it’s not common, which indicates it has not been circulating long.

But the US isn’t looking hard, Lu added.

“Currently, the US is doing less sequencing than many other countries — a recent report from (genomics database) GISAID estimated that the US is sequencing 0.3% of positive cases versus the UK that’s at about 7%.”

Fauci: US will continue giving vaccine doses weeks apart

Meanwhile, Covid-19 vaccinations are ongoing, but at a pace slower than some officials hoped.

More than 12.4 million vaccine doses have been distributed nationwide and more than 2.7 million doses have been administered, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So far, the vaccines approved in the US require two doses based a few weeks apart. And the nation will continue to do it that way and will not follow the UK’s decision to potentially delay second doses, Fauci told CNN on Friday.

“I would not be in favor of that,” Fauci said when asked about the UK’s new dosing regimen. “We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Earlier this week, British officials said the “UK will prioritize giving the first dose of the vaccine to those in the most high-risk group” and allow the second dose to be given up to 12 weeks later.

The UK adopted that strategy in order to give as many people as possible the first dose as quickly as possible, saying that it affords some amount of protection.

“The fact is we want to stick with what the science tells us, and the data that we have for both [vaccines] indicate you give a prime, followed by a boost in 21 days with Pfizer and 28 days with Moderna. And right now, that’s the way we’re going with it, and that’s the decision that is made,” Fauci said.

“We make decisions based on data. We don’t have any data of giving a single dose and waiting for more than the normal period of time” to give the second dose, he added.

CNN’s Rebekah Riess, Alexandra Meeks, Elizabeth Cohen, Naomi Thomas, Cheri Mossburg, Raja Razek and Andrea Diaz contributed to this report.


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Trump and Hawley set off Republican meltdown with Georgia elections looming

Analysis by Gregory Krieg, CNN

Ellen Britt for (CNT) City News And Talk 

http://CityNewsAndTalk.com 


 

(CNN)President Donald Trump is stoking division in the Republican ranks days before control of the Senate — and the balance of power in Washington — is decided in a pair of runoff elections in Georgia.

After more than four years of nearly unbroken fealty to the President, a heavy majority of Senate Republicans broke with Trump in a Friday vote overriding his veto of a bipartisan defense policy bill. With that loyalty test failed, Trump is also lashing out at Republicans who are refusing to get on board with a dead-end attempt to throw out the election results and erase his loss to President-elect Joe Biden when Congress counts the electoral votes next week.

Over the last 24 hours, Trump has called for a primary challenge to the second-ranking Senate Republican, South Dakota’s John Thune, praised GOP Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley for his plan to join House Republican members in objecting to the Electoral College count — a symbolic gesture that will not stop Biden from being sworn in on January 20 — and touted a protest in Washington scheduled for the day his defeat will be ceremonially rubber-stamped by Congress.

Trump’s last-gasp swirl of petulant threats against lawmakers from his own party are playing out against the backdrop of a pair of tight Senate contests in Georgia, where Republicans could lose their Senate majority if Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are swept by Democrats Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, respectively, on Tuesday. The Republican incumbents, who both voted for the defense bill initially, were absent from Friday’s vote — Perdue in quarantine after being exposed to Covid-19 and Loeffler sticking to the campaign trail.

The Georgia races will be the first meaningful temperature check of the Republican base since Election Day and it comes in a traditionally red state that, through a combination of GOP discomfort with the President and supercharged Democratic enthusiasm, flipped to Biden as he clinched a comprehensive national victory. Whether the GOP can bring together angry Trump supporters, who have followed him down a rabbit hole of baseless election fraud conspiracies, and more buttoned-down, business-friendly Republicans could also set the tone for Trump’s post-presidency — and decide how much sway he carries with him as he leaves the White House.

For now, though, Trump is dead-set on keeping a party that has indulged him, enabled him and been enabled by him at every pass onside for one more battle. The results of those efforts, though, have been uneven. The decision to dash his veto of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, which Trump opposed because it didn’t strike legal protections for social media companies and included a provision to rename military bases named after Confederate leaders, marked the first time during Trump’s presidency that Republicans openly and materially rejected his desires.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also blocked a vote on legislation, demanded by Trump, that would increase the size of stimulus to checks to many Americans from $600 to $2,000. In one of a string of Friday tweets, the President — bunkered in the White House after returning before New Year’s Eve from Mar-a-Lago — blasted GOP senators for defying 


 

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Virginia state senator dies at age 60 after contracting Covid-19

By Ganesh Setty, CNN

Ellen Britt for (CNT) City News And Talk 

http://CityNewsAndTalk.com 


 

(CNN) Virginia state Sen. Ben Chafin Jr. has died after contracting Covid-19, according to a statement from his office. He was 60 years old.

“State Senator Augustus Benton (Ben) Chafin, Jr., a native son of Russell County located in Southwest Virginia, passed away on January 1, 2021 from Covid-19 complications,” the statement said.

The Republican lawmaker’s family thanked the VCU Medical Center in Richmond for “its vigorous care and heartfelt support during his two weeks of medical services there.”

Chafin, a cattle farmer and attorney, served Virginia’s 38th District. He was elected to the state’s House of Delegates in 2013 before moving to the Senate in 2014.

His office remembered him Friday as “a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, economic development and health care coverage for hundreds of thousands of low-income Virginians.”

“He advocated jobs in his district, particularly in the coalfields where the decline of coal has devastated local economies,” the statement said.

In honor of Chafin, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam ordered the state flag atop Virginia’s Capitol to fly at half-staff until the senator’s interment.

“I knew Ben as a lawmaker, an attorney, a banker, and a farmer raising beef cattle in Moccasin Valley, working the land just as generations of his family had done before him,” Northam said in a statement. “He loved the outdoors, and he loved serving people even more. He pushed hard to bring jobs and investment to his district, and I will always be grateful for his courageous vote to expand health care for people who need it.”

The governor added, “This is sad news to begin a new year with the loss of a kind and gracious man. May we all recommit to taking extra steps to care for one another.”

Chafin is survived by his mother, sister, wife, three children and grandchildren.


 

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Execution date for the only woman on federal death row is reinstated

By Christina Carrega

Ellen Britt for (CNT) City News And Talk 

http://CityNewsAndTalk.com 

(CNN)A group of three judges on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that a lower court judge was wrong when he vacated an execution date for Lisa Montgomery, the only woman on federal death row.

The order says the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Michael Carvajal, was acting under the “governing regulation,” which allowed him to reschedule the execution because the original execution date had not passed.

Montgomery’s execution had been scheduled for December 8, but a judge postponed it after her attorneys said they were diagnosed with Covid-19 after flying from Texas to visit with Montgomery at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. On November 23, Carvajal rescheduled Montgomery’s execution for January 12 and because he set it at that date, the order said he was acting under the law, clearing the way for her execution later this month.

Montgomery’s attorney, Meaghan VerGow, said in a statement that she disagrees with the judges and is going to file a petition for them to reconsider their decision. The judges gave VerGow until Saturday to file.

“The federal government must be required to follow the law in setting any execution date, as the district court correctly held … Given everything we know about Lisa Montgomery’s mental illness, her lifetime of horrific torture and trauma, and the many people in positions of authority who could have intervened to save her but never did, there can be no principled reason to carry out her execution,” VerGow said. “The government should stop its relentless efforts to end her life.”

VerGow has asked for President Donald Trump to commute Montgomery’s sentence to life without the possibility of parole.

This is a breaking story and will be updated.


 

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With Trump a no-show, Mar-a-Lago guests left to party maskless with Rudy Giuliani and Vanilla Ice

By Kevin Liptak, CNN

Ellen Britt for (CNT) City News And Talk 

http://CityNewsAndTalk.com 

(CNN) Guests who paid four-figures for tickets to President Donald Trump’s annual New Year’s Eve party were left to party with his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, his two adult sons and various figures from the conservative media — none of whom wore masks — after the President made a last-minute decision to ditch the event and return to Washington.

No official explanation for the President’s early departure from Mar-a-Lago was given, though he remains consumed with efforts to overturn the election results and tensions are ratcheting up in the Persian Gulf ahead of the one-year anniversary of the US killing of Iran’s top general.

Without the President as the centerpiece, the wattage of Thursday evening’s party was somewhat dimmer. Performers whose heyday came decades ago — Vanilla Ice and Berlin — performed from the ballroom’s main stage. Guests angled for selfies with Giuliani, who was wearing a blue velvet tuxedo jacket, and Fox News host Judge Jeanine Pirro, along with personalities from the right-wing television network OANN.

Instead of their father, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump mingled among the guests with their respective significant others, Kimberly Guilfoyle and Lara Trump. Tiffany Trump also attended, though Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were not seen.

Tables set for 10 people, with no social distancing, were clustered in the ballroom with white floral arrangements and candles encased in a sculpture meant to look like the New Year’s Eve ball. The menu consisted of “Mr. Trump’s Wedge Salad” — the club has kept “Mr. Trump” instead of “President Trump” on the dish — cheese tortellini and Wagyu beef.

Many guests and entertainers were left disappointed upon learning from CNN late Wednesday that Trump would be leaving Florida early. Ticket prices for the New Year’s Eve gala have steadily increased since Trump took office, and reached up to $1,000 this year, a person familiar with the matter said.

Bookings for the party increased when it was clear Trump would travel to Florida for the holidays after skipping his traditional visit for Thanksgiving. Guests and performers initially were hesitant to commit to the event without knowing whether the President would show up.

As many as 500 tickets were sold for this year’s event, which is somewhat less — but not much — than in years past. The Donald J. Trump Ballroom at Mar-a-Lago has a capacity of 700.

The President had been expected to attend as late as Wednesday. But by the evening, word had emerged that he and the first lady would be departing early the next day. Trump remained largely out of sight at his club during his stay as he fixated on the election results and the January 6 effort to delay certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

That left the party without its usual centerpiece: a speech from the President and a chance to glimpse the first lady.

Like other gatherings at Mar-a-Lago this year, almost no guests wore masks.

That provided a bookend to the start of the pandemic, when a similarly maskless birthday party for Guilfoyle held in the Mar-a-Lago ballroom proved to be an early spreading event.


 

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Trump attacks No. 2 Senate Republican as the President turns on allies in his final days in office

By Betsy Klein, Ted Barrett and Ali Zaslav, CNN

Ellen Britt for (CNT) City News And Talk 

http://CityNewsAndTalk.com 


 

(CNN)President Donald Trump is spending his final days in office attacking leadership within his own party, this time the second-highest ranking Republican in the Senate, offering a possible preview of his broader post-presidential strategy to use his influence in the 2022 midterm elections and beyond.

Trump, back at the White House after his Mar-a-Lago holiday with no public events on his schedule, attacked Sen. John Thune, a South Dakotan who is the No. 2 Senate Republican, in an afternoon tweet on New Year’s Day.

“I hope to see the great Governor of South Dakota @KristiNoem, run against RINO @SenJohnThune, in the upcoming 2022 Primary. She would do a fantastic job in the U.S. Senate, but if not Kristi, others are already lining up. South Dakota wants strong leadership, NOW!” he wrote in a tweet.

Trump has railed against Republican leadership broadly multiple times this week, but this time is naming names. Thune, the Senate majority whip, had been one of the top Republicans to speak in favor of accepting the Electoral College results and President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, drawing Trump’s ire.

“Once somebody gets 270, I understand they’re ruling right now, but I think that’s the process we have, yes. … In the end at some point you have to face the music. And I think once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it’s time for everybody to move on,” Thune said ahead of the formal electoral college voting process last month.

Trump’s tweet comes just 19 days before he leaves the White House and days before a joint session of Congress is set to formally certify the Electoral College results, with some Trump allies planning to join his baseless efforts to overturn the results of the election.

The President returned to Washington ahead of the January 6 event, when as many as 140 House Republicans, joined by at least one senator, Missouri Republican Josh Hawley, could vote to throw out electoral votes in key swing states Trump lost. Trump praised Hawley in a tweet Thursday evening.

On Friday, Hawley told reporters he has yet to decide how many states’ Electoral College results he plans to object to, saying, “I haven’t worked out the mechanism yet.”

Several of Hawley’s Republican colleagues expressed concern Friday over his plans, and the impact such a move could have on American democracy. Retiring Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said he thinks Hawley’s planned objection is a mistake, while Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, a vocal Trump critic, said that “spreading this kind of rumor about our election system not working is dangerous for Democracy here and abroad.”

McConnell, who called the congressional certification “the most consequential vote” of his career, would not answer Friday when asked by CNN if he was considering any sanctions or punishments against the freshman senator if he goes through with the challenge that GOP leaders have strongly opposed.

Thune told reporters on Friday that “this is an issue that’s incredibly consequential, incredibly rare historically, and very precedent setting. So, our members are — this is a big vote, they’re thinking about it.”

“I think now that we’re locked in to do it, we’ll give air to the objections and people can have their day in court and we’ll hear everybody out and we’ll vote,” he continued. “Like I said, I think in the end, I don’t think anything changes.”

“We are letting people vote their conscience,” Thune said, with several Republican members saying there’s not much they can do to stop Hawley from objecting.

Trump is already beginning to preview how he’ll spend his post-presidency. In recent days, he has suggested Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who he had endorsed and had been a loyal Trump ally until the November vote, resign because he would not help overturn Biden’s win in that state. He has also repeatedly attacked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, another Republican who he had endorsed during the 2018 midterms.

The President has raised hundreds of millions of dollars since the November 3 election, a majority of which goes directly to a new fundraising leadership PAC, Save America, that is expected to aide him in donating to other candidates and political pursuits as he considers a potential presidential bid in 2024.

With this tweet, Trump is already planting the idea that he would support candidates offering primary challenges to current House and Senate Republicans he sees as disloyal.

For her part, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a top Trump ally, said last week that she would not pursue the Senate seat.

“@johnthune is a friend of mine, and I will not be challenging him. I’m honored to be Governor of South Dakota and will ask the people to give me an opportunity to continue serving them as Governor in 2022,” she wrote.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska blasted Trump for encouraging a 2022 primary challenge against Thune. She told CNN on Friday, “I think it’s quite interesting that he has demanded a loyalty test from so many Republicans and then when they are loyal to him — and there is one incident, one statement — and he is the first one to throw those loyal individuals under the bus. That’s not loyalty as I know loyalty.”

As a key member of the GOP leadership team, Thune has done much to advance Trump’s causes on Capitol Hill — from passage of tax cuts and other legislation, confirmations of Supreme Court nominees and numerous other judges, as well as critical acquittal votes during Trump’s Senate impeachment trial — even if he has spoken out occasionally about some of the President’s most controversial acts.

For his part, Thune shrugged off the presidential tweet with laughter.

“Yeah, well, finally an attack tweet. What took him so long?” a calm and soft-spoken Thune told reporters as he was leaving the Capitol after the vote to override Trump’s veto of the defense bill. “It’s fine, that’s the way he communicates.”

Thune said there has been no effort to patch things up with the President: “No, I’m not sure what I did to be deserving of all that but that’s, that’s fine. Like I said, I’m not sure that if anything changes his mind once he makes it up.”

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

CNN’s Caroline Kelly contributed to this report.