IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Trump touts a false narrative — and forces allies to come along for the lie

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks at the Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit on Dec. 8, 2020 in Washington.Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

WASHINGTON —Donald Trump’s presidency began with a lie about the size of his inauguration crowd.

And it’s ending with an even bigger lie — that the 2020 election was stolen from him (when in fact it wasn’t really that close), that there was widespread fraud (courts haven’t found a single instance of it), and that there’s still a chance he might win (he won’t).

Just look at the Texas lawsuit — which 17 other states, including Trump himself, have joined — seeking to invalidate Joe Biden’s victory at the U.S. Supreme Court, and asking the court to delay the electoral vote in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

For one thing, that ask is unconstitutional, Ohio State law professor Ed Foley tells NBC’s Pete Williams. “He points out that Article II, Section 4, says that Congress can choose the day the electors meet to vote but that it also says the day ‘shall be the same throughout the United States.’ This year, it's Dec. 14, five days from now.”

In addition, a state like Texas doesn’t have a legal right to challenge how OTHER states conduct their elections. "This case is hopeless. Texas has no right to bring a lawsuit over election procedures in other states," SCOTUS blog publisher Tom Goldstein adds to NBC’s Williams.

And then there’s Trump’s own legal filing in the case.

It begins by citing a Rasmussen poll (“Indeed, a recent poll by the reputable Rasmussen polling firm…”).

It claims that no presidential candidate in history has won both Florida and Ohio but lost the overall election (well, Richard Nixon did in 1960).

And the filing touts the 74 million votes that Trump won (but doesn’t mention Biden’s 81 million).

It’s one thing for Trump to make this Big Lie about the 2020 election.

It’s another to have 18 states — Texas and 17 others — join him.

Hey, Norms

In our newsletter yesterday, presidential historian Michael Beschloss argued that it was important to hold Joe Biden’s incoming presidency to a high bar, especially when it comes to ethics and transparency.

So it’s important to note that Biden is breaking a norm — civilian control over the Pentagon — by tapping Gen. (ret.) Lloyd Austin to be his Defense secretary.

Sure, Trump did the same with James Mattis.

But it’s still breaking a norm.

Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., summed it up well.

“I have deep respect for Gen. Lloyd Austin. We worked together when he commanded U.S. forces in Iraq, when he was vice chief of the Army, and when he was the CENTCOM commander. But choosing another recently retired general to serve in a role designed for a civilian just feels off,” she tweeted.

“And after the last 4 years, civil-military relations at the Pentagon definitely need to be rebalanced. Gen. Austin has had an incredible career — but I’ll need to understand what he and the Biden Administration plan to do to address these concerns before I can vote for his waiver.”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

15,481,864: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 225,176 more than yesterday morning.)

290,616: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 3,110 more than yesterday morning.)

209.37 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

106,688: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus

Almost 30: The number of members and staffers of the Michigan House who have tested positive this year

26: The number of days until the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs.

41: The number of days until Inauguration Day.

7,060,412: Joe Biden’s lead in the popular vote at the time of publication

72: How many electoral votes the Texas election lawsuit says the four states it wants to sue have, combined. That’s incorrect – the actual number is 62.

Biden will head to Georgia

“President-elect Joe Biden will travel to Georgia next week” — Atlanta on Tuesday — “to campaign with Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, hoping to boost the Democratic candidates in runoff elections that could decide the balance of power in the Senate — and with it the fate of his Cabinet and his governing agenda,” NBC’s Mike Memoli writes.

Biden Cabinet/Transition Watch

State: Tony Blinken (announced)

Treasury: Janet Yellen (announced)

Defense: Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin (announced)

Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas (announced)

HHS: Xavier Becerra (announced)

UN Ambassador: Linda Thomas-Greenfield (announced)

Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines (announced)

Attorney General: Doug Jones, Sally Yates, Merrick Garland

Interior: Deb Haaland

Agriculture: Tom Vilsack (confirmed)

HUD: Marcia Fudge (confirmed)

Labor: Andy Levin, Bernie Sanders, Marty Walsh

Education: Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Randi Weingarten. Sonja Santelises, Linda Darling Hammond

OMB Director: Neera Tanden (announced)

CIA: Michael Morell

Small Business Administration: Keisha Lance Bottoms

US Trade Representative: Katherine Tai (confirmed)

Chief of Staff: Ron Klain (announced)

National Security Adviser: Jake Sullivan (announced)

Climate Envoy: John Kerry (announced)

National Economic Council Director: Brian Deese (announced)

Surgeon General: Dr. Vivek Murthy (announced)

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Dr. Rochelle Walensky (announced)

Covid-19 Czar: Jeff Zients (announced)

White House Communications Director: Kate Bedingfield (announced)

White House Press Secretary: Jen Psaki (announced)

VP Communications Director: Ashley Etienne (announced)

VP Chief Spokesperson: Symone Sanders (announced)

Georgia Runoff Watch by Ben Kamisar

Today’s Runoff Watch takes a look at a brand-new ad featuring Donald Trump Jr. in Georgia.

Evocative of much of the other GOP attack ads in the race, Trump Jr. tries to tie the Democrats to defunding police departments, eliminating private health insurance and adding justices to the Supreme Court.

“On Jan. 5, the U.S. Senate is on the line and my father’s accomplishments are on your ballot,” Trump Jr. declares.

First reported by Fox News and Axios, the spot is being run by Save the U.S. Senate PAC, a group with ties to Trump Jr. And the group says its spending $500,000 on the spot to run on statewide digital and Fox News, as well as nationally on Newsmax.

It’s the latest group to hop into the Georgia runoff free-for-all. And as the president and his allies continue call to “overturn” the certified results in states like Georgia, the ad represents another big name Republican in Trump World lending a hand to the effort aimed at shoring up GOP control of the Senate.

Talking Policy with Benjy: Restaurants on the brink

The bipartisan group of senators working on a Covid relief deal released an outline of their plan yesterday, and while it contained $300 billion in proposed aid for businesses, one major industry is worried they are being left out: restaurants.

The Independent Restaurant Coalition, a coalition of prominent restaurateurs advocating for owners and chefs in the pandemic, is criticizing the emerging deal for not including targeted relief for the industry.

“They have an airline cutout and a live music venue cutout, but for some reason they don't understand restaurant-specific issues,” Tom Colicchio, the “Top Chef” judge, restaurant owner, and IRC co-founder, told First Read.

While the bipartisan bill would fund new PPP loans, restaurant owners have complained that the program is badly tuned to their needs, despite some tweaks, requiring them to spend too much on payroll and not offering enough help to deal with fixed costs like rent and utilities.

Instead they’ve been pushing for the RESTAURANTS Act, a bipartisan bill that would provide $120 billion in grants to make up lost revenue. It has 50 co-sponsors in the Senate and over 200 in the House, yet has not figured so far in relief talks, which are already straining to stay at a self-imposed $900 billion limit.

“In New York City we’re expecting indoor dining to close on Monday,” Colicchio said. “I think right now owners are in deep trouble. They're coming to the realization they may lose their life's work.”

The Lid: No room for error

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at what Democrats’ slim House majority means for Joe Biden’s Cabinet picks.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Hunter Biden confirmed that he is under federal investigation for tax issues.

NBC’s Sahil Kapur writes about how Biden is testing Congress with his Defense pick.

Biden’s Cabinet doesn’t exactly look like a team of rivals, the New York Times notes.

The members of the Democratic “Squad” have some ideas for Biden.

Biden will head to Georgia for a campaign event boosting the Democratic Senate runoff candidates.

Here’s how John Kerry wants to strengthen the Paris Climate Accord.

Who will replace Kamala Harris in the Senate? Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing a new round of pressure about who should get the job.

Congress kicked the can down the road for a week as shutdown and stimulus talks continue.

Doug Ducey — who has come under fire from Trump recently — will be the new RGA chair.

Republicans’ next target: Unringing the expanded vote by mail bell.