Democrats close legislative year with final swipes at Trump: The Note
Consider the ways in which the former president was rebuked and rebuffed.
The TAKE with Rick Klein
The final days of full Democratic control of Washington have been uncommonly productive and, by recent standards, orderly -- with shutdown threats subsumed by holiday-travel worries.
They were also, even by not-so-recent standards, quite a bit about former President Donald Trump. That was the case both for Democrats who have found unity in the wake of an election that wasn't disastrous, and for Republicans whose fissures were again evident right before they take over the House.
Consider the ways in which Trump was rebuked and rebuffed in the last days of the latest congressional term. His taxes were exposed to reveal misleading statements and possibly worse; his actions around Jan. 6 were called out in damning testimony from those around him, plus criminal referrals and a key change in electoral law; Ukraine's president was greeted as a hero in Congress, even as Trump's son labeled him an "ungrateful international welfare queen."
Trump was left raging against the massive spending bill that passed the Senate on Thursday with bipartisan support and is expected to get final approval in the House on Friday. Trump squeezed in a final series of insults against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling him an "absolute disaster" who is "more of a Democrat than a Republican."
For all that, more Trump-centric dramas are ready to play out in the new year. Both House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel need to fend off challengers for their jobs next month while both get simultaneously attacked for either excessive or insufficient loyalties to Trump.
As 2023 is set to begin, the MAGA movement remains formidable if splintered in terms of its goals and its litmus tests. And while Trump remains the only major Republican candidate for president in 2024, that almost certainly won't last either -- with all that means for campaigning and governing in the months ahead.
The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper
Embattled New York Rep.-elect George Santos on Thursday broke his silence after news reports suggested he fabricated many parts of his background.
"I have my story to tell and it will be told next week," Santos posted on Twitter. "I want to assure everyone that I will address your questions and that I remain committed to deliver the results I campaigned on; Public safety, Inflation, Education & more."
In addition to his unverified claims of employment at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs and attendance at Baruch College and New York University, new revelations have raised further questions about his heritage and personal life.
On the campaign trail, Santos claimed his grandparents survived the Holocaust. But Jewish news outlet The Forward reviewed genealogical information and found that Santos' grandparents were born in Brazil.
Santos also made history as the first openly gay Republican to win a House seat as a non-incumbent, but court documents show he was divorced from a woman in 2019. Santos has not publicly spoken about the marriage or divorce but told USA Today in October: "I am openly gay, have never had an issue with my sexual identity in the past decade."
New York Attorney General Letitia James is now also looking into Santos, her office said.
Congressional Republican leadership has remained silent, but local Republican leadership has been more vocal.
"While I have indicated that the Congressman-Elect deserves a reasonable amount of time to respond to the media, voters deserve a sincere accounting from Mr. Santos," said Joseph Cairo, chairman of the Nassau County GOP, which is part of Santos' district. "I will be listening attentively, and I want to hear meaningful remarks from George Santos."
The TIP with Alisa Wiersema
Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake's election-challenging lawsuit concluded on Thursday after a testy two days of reexamination of the 2022 election, which Lake lost.
Along the way, testimony provided by Richard Baris, the director of Big Data Poll, a group that conducts exit polling, and Dr. Kenneth Mayer, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin, highlighted the use of polls and methodology, a key feature of elections that are sure to continue to be put under scrutiny in future cycles.
Baris testified that according to his analysis, overall turnout in Maricopa County was depressed by what he said were larger than normal margins on Election Day, and he expressed his belief that the election was impacted as a result.
In the cross-examination, an attorney representing Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs -- who is also the Democratic governor-elect -— established that Baris never studied polling in an academic setting nor had he published any peer-reviewed studies related to his field of study. Mayer refuted Baris' claims in his testimony and called attention to the lack of details to back that claim.
"Mr. Baris has presented no data […] no margins, no demographics of people who responded or may not have responded," Mayer testified.
Big Data Poll is one of 11 polling groups banned from FiveThirtyEight's polling aggregates and analysis due to concerns over accuracy. As reported by FiveThirtyEight ahead of the November election, a lack of credible polling is a concerning trend in politics.
FiveThirtyEight's Geoffrey Skelley wrote: "A larger share of that smaller pie has been conducted by partisan pollsters and/or sponsored by partisan organizations, based on an analysis of polls conducted from early May to late October in the 2010, 2014, 2018 and 2022 midterm election cycles."
ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. "Start Here" begins Friday morning with ABC's Trish Turner reporting on the Senate's passage of a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package to avert a government shutdown. Then ABC's Aaron Katersky breaks down accused ex-FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried's extradition to the U.S. and release on bail. And, Tricia Bushnell, director of the Midwest Innocence Project, analyzes the U.S's record-high number of exonerations this year. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
- President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will make a joint trip to visit patients and families at Children's National Hospital in Washington at 4:15 p.m. ET.
- The House votes on a $1.7 trillion spending bill.
The Note will be on hiatus after Friday. Stay tuned for what's next in this space in 2023. Happy holidays to all.