President Trump on Tuesday dismissed reports that the Justice Department was investigating claims of a bribery scheme involving a possible presidential pardon.
**Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.**
On the roster: Trump faces economic redline - Warnock's faith top target for GOP - Biden will struggle to pry out Trump regs - Trump abandons Michigan suit - No enclosure for dad jokes
TRUMP FACES ECONOMIC REDLINE
Since long before Teddy Roosevelt ever asked J.P. Morgan to get the Treasury out of hock, Americans have known that while the government is powerful, it is our finances that have most steered the nation.
Washington gets all of the attention because even the richest man in America controls only a fraction of our $21 trillion economy. Certainly, the federal government can wreck the economy or create circumstances that encourage growth. But when it comes to who's-telling-whom, economic interests usually dictate political actions -- and not the other way around.
While there are certainly some good auguries about our near-term economic future, there are enough reasons to fear that America's current discombobulation is interfering with the country's chances for the kind of economic recovery that can only follow a long period of privation.
We all note with alarm the spike in unemployment claims as the nation braces for another bad bout with coronavirus. Given the severe limitations placed on the celebration of Thanksgiving and probably Christmas, the economy is poised to take another shot in the jaw.
The broad assumption, though, is that as the country moves closer to mass vaccinations in the late winter and spring a torrent of economic activity will be unleashed. It would be a miniature version of the 1950s boom that came after a much longer period of forced economic inaction.
But if things get too rocky in this current shoal, that might not come to pass at all. If too many people have been unemployed for too long the labor force becomes inelastic as people lose skills or become dislocated once they cannot pay their bills. Also, capital reserves will continue to dwindle for all but the biggest businesses.
That's why we see the U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue telling Axios: "[W]hile the Trump administration can continue litigating to confirm election outcomes, for the sake of Americans' safety and well-being, it should not delay the transition a moment longer.'"
America's biggest business group doesn't undertake criticism of Republican presidential administrations lightly. But as Rudy Giuliani's medicine show rolls on and we approach the third week since the end of the election and President Trump still refuses to accept the results, the world of commerce and industry is not feeling their vibe.
What they and a big bipartisan bunch of senators and representatives do feel is a big, fat lame-duck spending package.
One of the many things that Trump is delaying is the quadrennial pork festival, one of the favorite events in official Washington. That's when lame-duck members of Congress do a bunch of the stuff that they would like to do but can't, because of politics. Compromises that could have been deemed pure treachery six months ago have a certain mellowed quality in Decembers of even-numbered years.
And when there's a change at the White House? Hooooooo boy; ham biscuits for everybody.
Republican senators and Democratic representatives alike are getting excited about the chance for a spending bill to authorize ordinary increases to regular outlays for a year to come. It would give President-elect Joe Biden a little breather when he takes office. He would not have to face an immediate fiscal contest with what will probably be a Republican-held Senate -- or at best an evenly divided one.
It would also be a shot in the arm for the economy since it would both trigger more spending and assure markets that there will be support in place until Biden and the new Congress cook up their corona stimulus package.
Roll Call reports that Republicans in the Senate have received some assurances from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that the president will sign an omnibus spending package that can pass both chambers.
Now, we learned through several months of pointless coronavirus negotiations that Meadow's ability to deliver on such matters is slight at best. Convincing Trump to do something that will benefit Republicans but also benefit Biden sounds like a pretty tough sell. The sales job is made harder by the fact that Trump got pilloried for letting Congress decorate a pork barrel Christmas tree in 2018.
To keep the spending out of public notice, the White House insisted that spending deals come in smaller chunks. Especially as deficits rose through the stratosphere, it was important to the White House to break up the transactions.
But there won't be time for that now. Republicans, facing a challenging 2022 Senate map don't want to pay the price for authorizing spending in cooperation with Democrats just as primary election gadflies are starting to swarm. This legislation would represent a temporary truce that has explicit advantages for both parties.
If Meadows is talking like a sausage and Trump has either already refused to cooperate or may, as the reality settles in, reverse himself this could get icky quickly.
Keep an eye on December 11. That's the date on which the last state, California, will certify its election returns. But more importantly, it's the date on which the current stopgap funding bill will expire.
If, as the day approaches, Trump is still acting squirrelly about the election, he will be jeopardizing federal funding (with a little lard to lubricate some political sticky spots), the political hopes of his fellow Republicans, but most of all, the economy.
That's one of the big red lines to watch as this drama winds on.
THE RULEBOOK: RULES OF THE ROAD
"The members of the confederacy are expressly restricted from entering into compacts prejudicial to the empire; from imposing tolls and duties on their mutual intercourse, without the consent of the emperor and diet; from altering the value of money; from doing injustice to one another; or from affording assistance or retreat to disturbers of the public peace." - Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Federalist No. 19
TIME OUT: REBECCA'S NEW ADMINISTRATION
Smithsonian: "In November 1926, Vinnie Joyce of Nitta Yuma, Mississippi, sent President Calvin Coolidge an unsolicited plump raccoon for his Thanksgiving dinner. The gift wasn't particularly notable or funny: In fact, Christopher Klein writes for History.com, the Washington Evening Star reported that the oddest aspect of the story was the first family's decision to let the critter--which the paper described as tasting like a combination of chicken and suckling pig--live. ... The family named the animal Rebecca and even gave her a nice collar at Christmas. ... Rebecca was an essential member of the Coolidge administration for the remainder of the president's term. She enjoyed walks on the lawn, attended the White House's annual Easter egg roll and even accompanied the first family on a vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Known to make daring breaks from her Washington, D.C. home, Rebecca was caught rummaging around local garbage cans multiple times."
Flag on the play? - Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
We've brought "From the Bleachers" to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history - plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.
WARNOCK'S FAITH TOP TARGET FOR GOP
Politico: "Georgia Senate candidate Raphael Warnock has made his faith a defining element of his candidacy. The GOP aims to make it his fatal flaw. Republicans are taking to the airwaves and social media to frame the pastor as a radical and tool of the 'extremist' left. Using sound bites from his past sermons, they're making the case to Georgia voters that the Democrat is anti-police and anti-military. TV ads play up his criticisms of police officers and try to connect him to polarizing figures like Fidel Castro, who visited Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church in 1995 while Warnock was a youth pastor there. Taking several pages out of the 2008 playbook, they've also tried to tie him to Jeremiah Wright, the former senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Chicago, whom Republicans used to try to sink Barack Obama's presidential campaign."
2022 Senate lookahead - Sabato's Crystal Ball: "Here's a hot take as we look ahead to the 2022 midterm: Democrats may have a better chance of winning a Senate majority than a House majority in the next national election. That is not to say Democrats have a great chance of winning a Senate majority -- they don't, particularly if Republicans hold the two Georgia Senate seats in a Jan. 5, 2021 runoff. Rather, it suggests that the Democratic Senate path might be more plausible than the Democratic path in the House, given looming redistricting and reapportionment and the history of presidential party House losses in midterm elections. Since the Civil War, the president's party has lost ground in the House in 37 of 40 midterm elections, with an average loss of 33 seats per election. Additionally ... Democrats seem likely to lose seats through the decennial reapportionment and redistricting process once new House seat allocations and district lines are in place for the 2022 election."
Pergram: California Dems face tough call on Harris seat - Fox News: "California Democrats face a decision. Do those interested in succeeding Vice President-elect and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., in the Senate go for it? How do they balance touting themselves for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity without appearing too pushy? Too ambitious? Too self-centered? This is always the conundrum when a plum opportunity presents itself in politics. And no matter who succeeds Harris, there are going to be a lot of disappointed politicians. That's to say nothing of various interest groups and political factions who are pushing for one person or another. Or, one type of person or another. Only one can follow Harris. For now (more on that in a moment). Everyone else is going to be disappointed."
BIDEN WILL STRUGGLE TO PRY OUT TRUMP REGS
National Journal: "When Donald Trump swept into the presidency in 2017, he and the Republican-controlled Congress set about dismantling President Obama's regulatory legacy bit by bit. When President-elect Joe Biden takes office Jan. 20, it may be harder to return the favor. And without Democratic victories in the two runoff elections in Georgia, which would give them control of the Senate, dislodging Trump-era regulations could take months. A day after the Nov. 3 election, the Environmental Protection Agency submitted a rule to the White House that would keep standards for fine particulate matter in the air that some scientists--a panel that was ultimately disbanded by the EPA--said should be tightened. It's just one of 150 pending actions on the website of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the executive-branch agency that reviews draft regulations. Of those, 33 have been received since Election Day. The rulemaking process can take months, but in the waning days of an administration, it kicks into high gear to get out so-called 'midnight regulations' in its lame-duck period."
Last raft of nominees will help hem Biden in - Politico: "Two months before Joe Biden assumes the presidency, Senate Republicans are racing to install a series of conservative nominees that will outlast Donald Trump. While Trump still refuses to concede the election, the Senate GOP is moving quickly to ensure that the president's stamp sticks to the Federal Elections Commission, Federal Reserve Board, the federal judiciary and beyond. The effort played out in dramatic fashion this week, as Senate Republicans tried to muscle Judy Shelton onto the Fed by the narrowest of margins but fell short amid senators' absences from the coronavirus. They're also plotting a confirmation vote for Christopher Waller, Trump's less controversial Fed pick. The last-minute push to confirm Shelton, Waller and others is a key part of the Senate GOP's bid to wield power in the dwindling days of a Republican presidency -- even if most in the party still won't acknowledge Biden's victory."
TRUMP ABANDONS MICHIGAN SUIT
Fox News: "President Trump's reelection campaign said Thursday that it is dropping a lawsuit challenging voting results in Michigan, which show Democrat Joe Biden [by about 155,000 votes - 45 percent more than Trump's 2016 margin of victory.] [Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney] said the decision to rescind the lawsuit is the 'direct result of achieving the relief we sought: to stop the election in Wayne County from being prematurely certified...' On Tuesday, the Wayne County Board of Canvassers -- in an abrupt about-face -- unanimously certified election results that showed Biden beating Trump, hours after two Republicans blocked formal approval of the votes cast. [The two Republicans] later claimed in signed affidavits they only voted to certify the results after 'hours of sustained pressure' and after getting promises that their concerns about the election would be investigated. [A source] told The Associated Press that Trump reached out to [the Republican officials] after the revised vote to express gratitude... State officials said the certification of the Detroit-area vote will stand."
Shifts pressure to Mich. elected officials as Monday deadline looms - Detroit News: "The top two leaders in the Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature are expected to visit the White House Friday, according to a source with knowledge of the plans. The visits by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, will come as a legal fight plays out in the battleground state with President Donald Trump attempting to challenge the results of the Nov. 3 election. All 83 counties have approved their tallies, according to the Department of State. And the Board of State Canvassers is scheduled to meet Monday to consider statewide certification. But Trump's campaign suggested in a Thursday statement the Wayne County Board of Canvassers didn't certify the results in Michigan's largest county. Two Republican members of the Wayne County canvassers agreed to certify the results on Tuesday night but have since signed affidavits saying they regretted their votes and would like to rescind them."
Dyed-in-the-wool Republican - TMZ: "Rudy Giuliani's sweat-fest is stealing the spotlight from President Trump's election battle ... because he appears to have hair dye streaming down his face. The man in charge of President Trump's legal fight to overturn the election results was sweating profusely throughout a news conference ... often taking breaks to wipe his face and visible beads of sweat on his forehead. At one point, it got so bad ... streams of what looks like dark hair dye ran down both sides of his face. As for what's actually being said at the news conference ... Giuliani's continuing to make baseless claims of rampant voter fraud and discrepancies in multiple states, with added ire for Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania. It's truly been a sight to behold -- for reasons far beyond Rudy's bad dye job..."
Pennsylvania suit a jumble - Politico: "President Donald Trump's campaign has filed yet another version of its lawsuit over the election results in Pennsylvania, now contending that he should be named the victor in the presidential contest there or that the state legislature be given the authority to assign the state's 20 electoral votes. The third iteration of the suit also restores legal claims dropped in the second version that the campaign's constitutional rights were violated because of allegedly inadequate access for observers during the processing of mail-in ballots. The campaign eliminated those claims in a version of the suit filed on Sunday, but Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has said that was due to a miscommunication prompted by harassment and threats directed at lawyers who represented the campaign. The new complaint claims 1.5 million mail-in or absentee votes in seven Pennsylvania counties 'should not have been counted' and that the disputed votes resulted 'in returns indicating Biden won Pennsylvania.'"
Delay, delay, delay - AP: "In Arizona, officials are balking at signing off on vote tallies in a rural county. The moves don't reflect a coordinated effort across the battleground states that broke for Biden, local election officials said. Instead, they seem to be inspired by Trump's incendiary rhetoric about baseless fraud and driven by Republican acquiescence to broadsides against the nation's electoral system as state and federal courts push aside legal challenges filed by Trump and his allies. Still, what happened in Wayne County, Michigan, on Tuesday and Wednesday was a jarring reminder of the disruptions that can still be caused as the nation works through the process of affirming the outcome of the Nov. 3 election."
GOP WON WHERE IT MATTERED FOR REDISTRICTING
FiveThirtyEight: "Joe Biden may have won the White House, but down-ballot races were much better for Republicans. In fact, the GOP's victories in state-level elections could pay dividends long after Biden leaves office, thanks to their influence over next year's redistricting process. Every 10 years, after the census, congressional and state legislature districts are redrawn to account for population changes. This gives whoever is drawing the maps the power to maximize the number of districts that favor their party -- a tactic known as gerrymandering. And as we wrote last month, the 2020 election represented the last chance for voters to weigh in on who would draw those maps. Both parties went into the election with a chance to draw more congressional districts than the other, but the end result was just about the best-case scenario for Republicans. ...Republicans are set to control the redistricting of 188 congressional seats -- or 43 percent of the entire House of Representatives. By contrast, Democrats will control the redistricting of, at most, 73 seats, or 17 percent."
Obama-Trump counties didn't swing back - The Hill: "The crucial counties that swung toward President Trump four years ago mostly stuck with the same candidate in the 2020 elections, in an indication of the rural-urban divide that is increasingly coming to define American politics. In 2016, 206 counties that had voted twice for President Obama backed Trump over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. This year, Trump won 176 of those same counties, while President-elect Joe Biden won 20 of them; eight counties in Maine and two in Illinois are still counting votes, though Trump is almost certain to prevail in each. The results show a microcosm of national trends that increasingly describe an electorate divided along urban and rural lines, and between voters of differing education levels. The counties that stayed with Trump are largely rural, in many cases ancestrally Democratic areas that had not voted for a Republican presidential contender in decades. Those that swung back to Biden were more diverse and located closer to large metropolitan areas."
Goldberg: 'For Your Own Good, Read Widely' - The Dispatch
AUDIBLE: KEEP ON KEEPIN' ON
"Republicans can't afford to get stuck in the denial stage of grief." - Sen. Ben Sasse per Politico. Sasse is one of the few Republican lawmakers who have congratulated Biden.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
"Wowza, now you've done it! By taking on QAnon and similar conspiracy theorists you have poked the bear. No doubt your inbox has been blown up by letters accusing you of sedition, perpetuation of socialism, or worse, deriding RCs and Moon Pies. Make no mistake about it, these folks are not conservatives. Trump is not a conservative. And I am chapped that these folks are labeled as conservatives. Trump and his supporters who make severe accusations of systemic voter fraud without substantive evidence do great harm to our democracy. Asking for recounts and investigating improprieties is patriotic, making accusations of widespread fraud without strong proof is corrosive to democracy. There are many good, open minded supporters of Trump (I voted for him, twice) and it is my hope that they will reject these conspiracy theories. Thank you Chris for having the courage to take these extremists on." - Steve Bartlett, Greenville, S.C.
[Ed. note: Sweet fancy Moses, Mr. Bartlett! Don't put that on me! Let's be clear: I'm not taking anybody on, including skunk ape enthusiasts, designated weirdos or any of the conspiracy theories, including QAnon. We work under the assumption here that our readers come to us for context, information, a little forecasting and analysis. This is the weather report, not the police blotter. As for the determinedly unpleasant of our fellow Americans, I just had a parent at school come up to tell me about how everybody on the internet thinks I'm a big dummy. That's how terrible Twitter is: People will go on foot to make sure that everybody's getting a little bit of the poison. I am not worried about which fringe folks feel one way or another. I don't check on which pots they're stewing over. And I wish them all the best of luck in figuring out how to live in this complicated, always beautiful, sometimes cruel and singular life. Our intention is always to help our readers figure out what's going on and where it might be going next. We further assume that nobody is coming here or anything much more than that, other than occasional dad jokes. You know things are getting wild when stating obvious facts is treated like heresy to heroism, and I for one will be very happy when America gets a grip on itself and goes back to whatever the next normal may be...]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
NO ENCLOSURE FOR DAD JOKES
USA Today: "The Memphis Zoo welcomed a new addition to its family on Nov. 10 when giraffe parents Niklas and Angela Kate brought a calf into the world - named Ja Raffe. The baby giraffe was named in honor of Memphis Grizzlies star and NBA Rookie of the Year Ja Morant, who averaged 17.8 points and 7.3 assists in his first year in the pros. With Ja Raffe's arrival, the Memphis Zoo now has seven giraffes, including his 18-month-old sister, Ally, according to the zoo's blog. Ja Raffe's birth is the result of a species survival plan with a purpose to 'manage the breeding of a species to maintain a healthy and self-sustaining population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable.'"
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES...
"Trump is a systemic stress test." - Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Aug. 3, 2017.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
President Trump on Tuesday dismissed reports that the Justice Department was investigating claims of a bribery scheme involving a possible presidential pardon.
A newly discovered batch of 55 uncounted ballots in a rural upstate New York county has the potential to alter the outcome of a yet-to-be-called congressional race.
Mysterious, eyebrow-raising news arises from the Justice Department: This is your morning tip sheet.
President Trump hinted during a holiday reception Tuesday evening at the White House of running for office again in 2024 – as he continues to allege widespread voter fraud in this year’s election. “It’s been an amazing four years,” the president told the crowd, which included many Republican National Committee members. “We’re trying to do...