Pentagon purge continues; Still no evidence of election irregularities; Worst COVID day since March; Virtual flight-test for a nuke; and a bit more...
More top Pentagon leaders replaced. One day after firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper, President Donald Trump and his administration continued to replace senior civilians at the Pentagon. On Tuesday:
- Anthony Tata replaced Acting Defense Undersecretary for Policy James Anderson. Tata, who has been named don’t-call-him-acting “performing the duties of the defense undersecretary for policy,” is a retired general and Fox commentator whose nomination to replace Anderson was shot down by the Senate following various Islamophobic and conspiracy-mongering statements. Read more, here.
- Kash Patel replaced Jen Stewart, chief of staff to the fired Esper. Patel is “a former top National Security Council official who also played a key role as a Hill staffer in helping Republicans discredit the Russia probe,” and later became a senior adviser to then-acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell.
- Ezra Cohen-Watnick replaced Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence Joseph Kernan, who had signaled his intention to leave some time ago. Cohen-Watnick has held several posts in the Trump administration; since August, he had been “performing the duties of the assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict.” (He got that job after Chris Miller — yes, the newest acting SecDef — was shifted to the National Counterintelligence Center.) A former aide to Trump’s first national security adviser and felon Michael Flynn, Cohen-Watnick ran intelligence projects at the National Security Council, where he proved such a Trump loyalist that incoming National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster couldn’t fire him.
One possible motivator behind these high-profile moves: “Trump remains determined to withdraw troops around the world before leaving office,” a nameless White House official told the Washington Post Tuesday evening.
ICYMI: Other moves atop the U.S. national security ranks in the past five days: an unusually partisan appointee will become NSA general counsel; the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration chief quit, and the Justice Department’s Elections Crimes Branch chief resigned in protest.
Is Langley next? Senate Republicans are trying to prevent Trump from tossing CIA Director Gina Haspel, Politico reported Tuesday. (ICYMI: Haspel and FBI Director Christopher Wray are already marked for dismissal, according to Axios reporting from late October.)
You may be wondering: Who’s running Biden’s transition? The Biden-Harris administration released agency-by-agency lists of the folks managing the transition. The 23-member Defense Department team is led by Kathleen Hicks, who served in the Obama administration as principal deputy defense undersecretary for policy and deputy defense undersecretary for strategy, plans, and forces.
For a peek into Hicks’ priorities, and those of Michèle Flournoy, seen as a front-runner to be Biden’s defense secretary, read the oped the two wrote for Defense One in June.
From Defense One
Trump Installs Senate-Rejected Retired General As Pentagon Policy Chief // Marcus Weisgerber and Katie Bo Williams: Anthony Tata moves up one grade level — with some limits attached.
The Worst Day of the Pandemic Since May // Alexis C. Madrigal and Erin Kissane, The Atlantic: COVID-19 hospitalizations are now at an all-time high — 40% higher than two weeks ago.
The Clock is Ticking On F-35, Drone Sale to UAE // Marcus Weisgerber: Lame-duck approval of sale could allow UAE to sign contract for weapons before Biden takes office.
A Simple Veterans Day Proposal for the Incoming Administration // Brent Colburn: Send every political appointee to visit Arlington National Cemetery — with someone who served.
Welcome to this Veterans Day edition of The D Brief from Bradley Peniston and Ben Watson. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. One hundred and one years ago today, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Armistice Day a time for “solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory.” In 1954, the holiday was changed to honor all who served in military uniform.
President Trump is scheduled to visit Arlington National Cemetery for about 25 minutes today with the First Lady. Fox’s Lucas Tomlinson tweeted this morning that POTUS45 was going to visit Arlington with his now-former SecDef Mark Esper, but that’s not going to happen anymore.
Update: There is no evidence of significant voter fraud or other irregularities from last week’s election. That lack of evidence is why Trump and other GOP officials have gone “0 for 6” in lawsuits in closely run states, the Washington Post reported Tuesday evening.
For the record: CISA sees no evidence. Read over related election rumors knocked down by CISA’s “Rumor Control” site, here.
International observers say no evidence. Read the reports by the Organization of American States and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Officials in every state say no evidence. The New York Times called up lead election officials from every state on Tuesday. They found “no evidence that fraud or other irregularities played a role in the outcome of the presidential race, amounting to a forceful rebuke of President Trump’s portrait of a fraudulent election.”
What the Times did discover: “Republicans in many states were engaged in a widespread effort to delegitimize the nation’s voting system.”
That includes Georgia, where voters will return to the polls in January to vote in two Senate runoffs, all eight of the candidates elected to serve in Congress next year called for an investigation into the election that elected them.
It also includes Texas, where the Republican lieutenant governor is offering a reward of up to a million dollars for evidence of fraud. (His counterpart in Pennsylvania tweeted Tuesday evening that he found unmistakable evidence, though it’s not the party affiliation that Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is seeking.)
South Dakota’s governor joined the GOP’s alleged fraud squad, too, and is fundraising off the election noise. But “it appears the donations are set to flow into her own reelection account,” the Associated Press reported.
And in Pennsylvania, an alleged whistleblower completely recanted his claims of voter fraud when questioned by investigators from the Postal Service’s inspector general on Monday. This would be the allegation of voter fraud that was publicized and advanced — even to the level of Attorney General Bill Barr — by South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham over the weekend.
Elsewhere in Pennsylvania, Trump’s lawyers admitted to a judge they have no evidence of election fraud or “undue or improper influence” on voters. Read that court dialogue, here.
The fraud allegations are largely about trying to keep voters energized for January’s Senate runoff elections in Georgia, GOP senators tell Politico. “He’s got a vested interest in making sure we keep the majority,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn said of Trump’s refusal to concede the general election. “[H]owever it comes out, we want him helping in Georgia,” said Senate Majority Whip John Thune from South Dakota.
“We have two races in Georgia,” another, nameless, GOP senator told Politico, “and we don’t want people thinking: ‘Well shit, my vote doesn’t matter, so why should I turn out?’ So we’re going to just hang on and be supportive where we can.” Read on, here.
About the wider election, the reality for Trump loyalists is that “Biden’s margins in the blue wall states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are all in the tens of thousands,” the Times reports. And that means “Even in Georgia, where Mr. Biden leads by more than 11,000 votes, it would be hard to uncover enough voting irregularities to change who won.”
BTW: Six in 10 Republicans affirm Biden won the election, according to a new poll from Reuters/Ipsos, published Tuesday. And all told, 80% of surveyed Americans are onboard with the election results. Read more, here.
One quiet worry from all these fraud allegations: It could radicalize violent Americans into action, as current and former law enforcement officials told HuffPost on Tuesday.
Indeed, a man from Staten Island was arrested by the FBI early Tuesday after threatening to kill people who celebrate the election’s result and claiming Trump’s presidency was “fraudulently stolen from us.”
News to us: There is an online platform called “mymilitia.com,” and the accused from Staten Island had an account there as recently as June. More from the New York Times, here.
America is “likely entering the worst period of the pandemic since the early outbreak in the Northeast,” according to the COVID Tracking Project from The Atlantic. On Tuesday, states across the country reported 131,000 new infections, which is “the highest single-day total since the pandemic started.”
More Americans are hospitalized with COVID-19 now than ever before. That includes nearly 62,000 different people, which is a 40% increase from just two weeks ago. “Hospitals are already on the brink of being overwhelmed in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin,” according to the COVID Tracking Project, “and officials in many other states warn that their healthcare systems will be dangerously stressed if cases continue to rise.”
1,347 people died from the disease on Tuesday, which raises the total U.S. deaths to more than 231,000.
One in every 54 Americans in North Dakota has a COVID infection right now. And 1 out of every 1,500 from the state is currently hospitalized with the disease.
Restaurants, gyms, coffee shops and hotels. Those are “by far the riskiest places” to contract the coronavirus, according to a new analysis of cell phone data from 10 major U.S. cities and reported out Tuesday by the NYTs.
One big reason that matters: Mitigating or calibrating the economic pain. Or, as one researcher put it, the country does not have to choose between shutting down or staying open. An informed middle ground is possible: “Limiting restaurant occupancy to one-fifth of capacity, for example, would reduce new infections there by 80 percent, while preserving some 60 percent of customers.” Continue reading, here.
Lastly: The U.S. military continues to find ways to work around the pandemic, and that includes workers at Sandia National Labs who helped flight-test a nuclear bomb virtually.
But the city of El Paso, Texas, with a population of 680,000, “now has more people hospitalized with Covid-19 than most states — 1,076 as of Tuesday — and [city officials are] more than doubling its supply of mobile morgues, to 10 from four,” the NYTs reported Tuesday.
Why we bring that up: The U.S. Army’s Fort Bliss, which supports an estimated 165,000 people from the region, is sandwiched between El Paso’s airport and its downtown.
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