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Trump news – live: President suffers final legal defeat as McEnany avoids questions on Electoral College vote

Donald Trump has tried to claim credit for the rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine in the US, saying it would not have been delivered so quickly under a different president. 

In an interview with Fox News, Mr Trump falsely suggested: “If I wasn’t president, according to almost everybody, even the enemy — if I wasn’t president, you wouldn’t have a vaccine for five years.”

On Monday, a nurse in New York became the first person in the country to receive a dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, three days after the FDA gave it emergency approval. 

Meanwhile, Texan Republicans continue to support Mr Trump in his misguided attempt to overturn the US election result, with some threatening to leave the country as a result of Joe Biden’s win. 

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‘Alternate electors’ keep Trump challenge alive, says Stephen Miller

The Republicans meeting to hold “alternate” votes today are keeping Donald Trumps challenge to the election results alive, says White House adviser Stephen Miller.

Appearing on Fox & Friends on Monday, Miller said the only date in the Constitution is 20 January – giving them more than enough time to certify Trump as the winner.

“As we speak, today, an alternate slate of electors in the contested states is going to vote and we’re going to send those results up to Congress,” Miller said. “This will ensure that all of our legal remedies remain open. That means that if we win these cases in the courts, that we can direct that the alternate state of electors be certified.”

White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, was also accosted by Jim Acosta on the Electoral College question and avoided a direct answer. More on that one shortly.

Justin Vallejo14 December 2020 19:07

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Republicans hold side vote for Trump as Electoral College meets

Republicans are casting ceremonial votes for Donald Trump as they refuse to acknowledge the results of the presidential election as legitimate. 

As Electoral College meets to formally confirm Joe Biden as the president-elect, Trump supports met in Georga and Pennsylvania to cast a “ceremonial” and “conditional votes for Trump. 

In Georgia, an alternate Republican slate met at the same time Georgia’s 16 Electoral College votes were cast for Biden.

While neither vote will influence the outcome of the Electoral College vote,  David Schafer, Chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, said on Twitter that the alternate vote keeps Trump’s hope of a legal challenge in the courts alive.

Justin Vallejo14 December 2020 18:51

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US agencies hacked in monthslong global cyberspying campaign

In a rare emergency directive issued late Sunday, the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity arm warned of an “unacceptable risk” to the executive branch from a feared large-scale penetration of U.S. government agencies that could date back to mid-year or earlier.

“This can turn into one of the most impactful espionage campaigns on record,” said cybersecurity expert Dmitri Alperovitch.

The campaign was first discovered when a prominent cybersecurity firm, FireEye, learned it had been breached. FireEye would not say who it suspected and noted that foreign governments and major corporations were also compromised.

FireEye, without naming any specific targets, said in a blog post that its investigation into the hack of its own network had identified “a global campaign” targeting governments and the private sector that, beginning in the spring, had slipped malware into a SolarWinds software update.

Donald Trump last month fired the director of CISA, Chris Krebs, after Krebs vouched for the integrity of the presidential election and disputed Trump’s claims of widespread electoral fraud.

In a tweet Sunday, Krebs said “hacks of this type take exceptional tradecraft and time,” adding that he believed that its impact was only beginning to be understood. – AP

Justin Vallejo14 December 2020 18:30

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Source of Julian Assange pardon rumour walks back claims

The apparent source of the rumour that lit up Twitter over a potential pardon for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has walked back the claim.

Pastor Mark Burns just tweted that it was an “inadvertent tweet, faulty source, please disregard!”

His original tweet spread like wildfire on Monday morning, with even Eduard Snowden hoping for the best as he awaits his own presidential pardon.

But the tweet from Burns seems to put that issue to rest – for now at least.

Justin Vallejo14 December 2020 18:10

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BREAKING: Hillary Clinton casts electoral college vote for Joe Biden

Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton – among New York members of the Electoral College – has cast her vote for Joe Biden.

The former US Senator was joined by former president Bill Clinton and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who are both among the state’s 29 electors to cast their ballots on 14 December, as the voting body across the US formally selects the winning presidential candidate.

The Independent’s Alex Woodward is following the story as it unfolds.

Justin Vallejo14 December 2020 18:00

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Michigan lawmaker stripped of duties after refusing to rule out violence at electoral college vote

Representative Gary Eisen, who represents St Clair Township, made the remarks in the morning during an interview with Port Huron-area radio station WPHM.

When asked about the Electoral College, set to meet n the state Senate chamber to cast the state’s 16 electoral votes for President-elect Joe Biden, Mr Eisen said that he and others were planning some sort of event and that he could not rule out the possibility of violence.

Mr Eisen also called a threat that was received against the state capitol in Lansing, “convenient” as it would make it more difficult for supporters of Donald Trump to contest the Electoral College results.

The Independent’s Oliver O’Connell has the swift response from House Speaker Lee Chatfield.

Justin Vallejo14 December 2020 17:45

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President suffers final legal defeat before Electoral College vote

Adding one final insult to the election injury, the Wisconsin Supreme Court delivered the Trump campaign another legal defeat shortly before the Electoral Collage convened to cast their votes for Joe Biden.

The court rejected the Trump teams efforts to overturn 221,000 ballots in Dane and Milwaukee counties in a last-ditch manoeuvre that would have overturned his loss in the state, according to reporting from the Associated Press’ Scott Bauer.

The ruling, from conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn, came one hour before Wisconsin’s electors were scheduled to meet in the electoral college.

Justin Vallejo14 December 2020 17:26

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Andrew Cuomo accuses sexual harassment accuser of lying

He said (via spox): “There is simply not truth to these claims”.

She said (via tweets): “Many saw it, and watched”.

The governor of New York on Monday, responding via a spokeswoman, claimed the woman who says she’s a survivor of harassment at the “most toxic” work environment and should not be believed.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, former Cuomo aide Lindsey Boylan – who is running for Manhattan Borough presidency – said the governor sexually harassed her “for years”.

“I could never anticipate what to expect: would I be grilled on my work (which was very good) or harassed about my looks. Or would it be both in the same conversation? This was the way for years.

While Boylan did not go into  details of the alleged harassment and later tweeted she had no interest in speaking to journalists about it futher, she claimed she was not the only woman on the receiving end

In a statement provided to the Associated Press, Cuomo’s press secretary Caitlin Girouard said: “There is simply no truth to these claims.”

Justin Vallejo14 December 2020 17:16

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Unconfirmed reports Trump pardoned Julian Assange

Twitter is on fire with reports that Donald Trump has pardoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, though it should be noted that the reports are referencing other reports in a circular attribution cycle that doesn’t, as far as can be discerned at this early stage, trace back to a verified source.

True or false, it was enough to catch the attention of another frequent candidate for Trump’s pardon pen, Eduard Snowden, who “very much hopes” it is true.

The Independent is reaching out to the White House for confirmation  one way or the other.

“The case against Assange is based on a legal theory that would criminalize the work of every journalist, both at home and abroad,” Snowden said in a tweet.

As reported earlier, the GOP is split on whether Snowden should receive a presidential pardon, as Andrew Naughtie writes.

Justin Vallejo14 December 2020 17:00

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Pfizer CEO waiting to get vaccine

With the celebration of the first vaccines being distributed in New York today, it’s notable that the Pfizer chief executive doesn’t plan on being among the first to receive the jab.

Albert Bourla told CNBC on Monday that as a 59-year-old in good health and not working on the front line, he doesn’t want to cut the line to get vaccinated.

“On the other hand, our company ran a lot of polls to see what would take people to believe it, and one of the highest ranking, even higher than if Joe Biden takes it, even higher than if the other President takes it, it is if the CEO of the company takes it,” Bourla said.    

“So, with that in mind, I’m trying to find a way that I would get vaccinated despite that it’s not my time, just to demonstrate the confidence of the company.”

The CEO in charge of the company that developed, made and distributed the experimental Covid vaccine is trying to figure out a way to find a spare dose.

Meanwhile, in unrelated news, Snopes fact check rates “mostly true” viral tweets going around that four out of more than 20,000 patients who took Pfizer’s trial vaccine developed Bell’s palsy.

While the “observed frequency” in the vaccine group is consistent with the expected background rate in the general population, that general background rate in the general population was not observed in the similar sized control group that did not take the vaccine.

“There is no clear basis upon which to conclude a causal relationship at this time, but FDA will recommend surveillance for cases of Bell’s palsy with deployment of the vaccine into larger populations,” the FDA wrote.

Justin Vallejo14 December 2020 16:44