'Special Report' anchor provides insight to Capitol Hill riot investigation on 'Bill Hemmer Reports'
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On the roster: GOP sours on Trump, but many cling to election hoax – Feds probe riot failures, prepare for more unrest – Many in Senate GOP look for way around impeachment – Biden taps team to solve vaccine struggle – Feathered follow up: Watch for pigeon fraud
GOP SOURS ON TRUMP, BUT MANY CLING TO ELECTION HOAX
President Trump’s post-election conduct, especially as it relates to the sacking of the Capitol, is driving down his support among Republicans.
A new survey from the Pew Research Center found that Republican disapproval of Trump’s conduct has reached 20 percent, double what it was in the immediate wake of the election.
More than half – 52 percent – of Republicans said that Trump bears at least some of the responsibility for the Capitol attack. One in five Republicans said Trump should be removed from office before the end of his term.
Just a quarter of Republicans still back Trump across the board, saying that he has behaved well since the election, bears no responsibility for the attack, actually won a second term and should continue to be "a major political figure for many years to come."
Those numbers, coupled with an overall job approval rating of 29 percent, seems like a snapshot of a party engaged in a messy but inevitable breakup with a partner in a turbulent relationship. Trump’s approval among Republicans is down to 60 percent from a high of 85 percent last year.
With President-elect Joe Biden enjoying the beginnings of a real honeymoon – 64 percent of voters have a positive view of how Biden is conducting himself – it’s possible to see how in just a matter of months Trump, who has consumed the national consciousness at such length like no political figure since perhaps Richard Nixon, could fade from view.
But even as Republicans begin the process of moving on, one number stands out among Republican attitudes about this presidency: 64 percent of Republicans said that Trump either definitely or probably was the actual winner of the 2020 election. Seventy percent of Trump voters said that fraud was a major reason for the election result.
As the Georgia Senate runoffs demonstrated, these opinions may be of serious long-term consequences of Republican ambitions. If you had convinced your core supporters that elections are rigged it tends to make turnout efforts far more complicated.
Georgia’s government, which has a well-run, secure elections system, was not able to convince a significant number of Trump’s core supporters that elections in the Peach State are free and fair. If the extraordinary efforts these officials took to prove the validity of their system was not enough, what would convince such skeptics?
The consequences of Trump’s sustained effort to convince people, even before the election took place, that he would be cheated may have other lasting consequences for Republicans and the nation.
While election fraud is certainly real, as examples from both parties in recent electoral history prove, it is no good when a majority of one of the major parties is inclined not to respect the results of elections that are overwhelmingly properly conducted in most of the country.
We are managing the peaceful transfer of power by the skin of our teeth this time, but if 64 percent of Republicans have been duped into believing that Trump actually won in what he calls a "landslide" it is sadly possible to imagine the day that this long, invaluable continuum may come to an end.
Certainly the more Republicans bleat about stolen elections to cater to a political base that holds such an outlandish belief the more likely it will be that Democrats who assail our elections system on the grounds of disenfranchisement through voter identification etc. will escalate their efforts to hit the kill switch on the American system.
The false belief in a stolen election has another consequence for Republicans: If you pretend Trump did not really lose, you will not be able to learn the correct lessons from his loss.
In the months and years to come, there will be a brutal fight within the GOP on how to proceed. While Trump certainly opened many political doors for Republicans with working-class voters and his populist appeals definitely increased intensity, a worthwhile assessment of his political acumen and approach cannot take place if nearly two thirds of Republicans are still snowed under Trump’s election deception.
It is certainly important for Congress as a whole and Republicans in both chambers to sort out how to respond to the events of Jan. 6, but it would seem the crucial work of the party for its long term health would relate to disenchanting its voters from the magical thinking that the loser really won.
Many of those voters may not like it, but a lie that damaging will do far more harm if left to fester.
THE RULEBOOK: WHAT IT IS
"What, then, are the distinctive characters of the republican form? Were an answer to this question to be sought, not by recurring to principles, but in the application of the term by political writers, to the constitution of different States, no satisfactory one would ever be found." – James Madison, Federalist No. 39
TIME OUT: A PEACH OF A GAME
CNET: "Nearly 130 years ago, James Naismith, a Canadian-American physical educator, professor, doctor and coach, invented an ‘athletic distraction’ to occupy students cooped up during winter: It was the game of basketball. … [Today is] the anniversary of Naismith's 1892 unveiling of the rules of the sport… After earning a bachelor's degree in physical education in 1888, Naismith took a job teaching physical education at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts. While at the Springfield YMCA, Naismith was tasked with creating an indoor game… He posted 13 rules of his new game on a bulletin board, and his unenthusiastic class took to the court to give it a shot (or two) on Dec. 21, 1891. Using a soccer ball, the nine players on each side would pass (not dribble) the ball down court before taking a shot not at a hoop but at a peach basket 10 feet off the floor. The game of ‘Basket ball’ was born."
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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.
FEDS PROBE RIOT FAILURES, PREPARE FOR MORE UNREST
AP: "Federal watchdogs launched a sweeping review of how the FBI, the Pentagon and other law enforcement agencies responded to the riot at the U.S. Capitol, including whether there were failures in information sharing and other preparations that left the historic symbol of democracy vulnerable to assault by a mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters. The inquiries, undertaken by the inspectors general for the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Interior and Defense, carry the potential of yielding searing criticism of the government’s handling of a deadly breach at the Capitol in which armed loyalists of Trump overran the police and came in close contact with elected officials. The reviews will encompass everything from whether the FBI adequately shared information with other law enforcement agencies about the potential for violence to how the Pentagon mobilized for the Jan. 6 crisis."
Threats force Biden to cancel inaugural train ride – Fox News: "Security concerns in Washington, D.C., ahead of the scheduled inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden have resulted in some scheduling changes, Biden’s staff said Thursday, according to a report. A planned rehearsal of the inauguration, initially scheduled for Sunday, has been moved to Monday as event planners continue to make adjustments in response to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, Politico reported. In addition, an Amtrak ride that Biden and members of his team planned to take from Wilmington, Del., to Washington on Monday has been canceled, the report said. The Biden team has also brought in Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser from the Obama administration, to provide security advice regarding the inauguration and related events, according to Politico."
Pence front and center in Capitol siege aftermath – Fox News: "Vice President Mike Pence flew to West Virginia on Friday to attend and speak at a public celebration for the late Air Force Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager. Pence, in an opinion piece on FoxNews.com, praised the legendary pilot and first person to break the sound barrier for his ‘heroism’ and ‘selflessness.’ A day earlier, the vice president made a surprise visit to the Capitol to greet National Guard troops and thank them for their service. … Hours before Pence’s impromptu meeting Thursday with the troops, the vice president took part in a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) briefing on security precautions being implemented amid threats of violence to disrupt next week’s inauguration. Pence said he’s committed to ‘an orderly transition and to a safe inauguration.’ Unlike President Trump, Pence has been very visible since last week’s storming of the Capitol…"
MANY IN SENATE GOP LOOK FOR WAY AROUND IMPEACHMENT
National Journal: "President Trump’s second impeachment hasn’t even arrived in the Senate, and Republicans are already laying out reasons they’ll vote to acquit. A number of Senate Republicans are keeping, at least publicly, an open mind about the article of impeachment approved by the House on Wednesday that charges Trump with incitement to insurrection. But other Republicans in both chambers are laying the theoretical groundwork to dismiss the charge—not on the facts of the events of that day, but on constitutional and political interpretations of the process itself. ‘Moving forward with impeachment at this juncture will only further divide our already-hurting nation,’ freshman Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis said in a statement to National Journal."
Sasse schtum on impeachment trial vote, denounces Trump’s ‘particular lie’ – Omaha World-Herald: "Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska’s outspoken congressional critic of President Donald Trump, declined to say Wednesday which way he’s leaning in a second Senate impeachment trial. Sasse, who received more votes than the president last year in Nebraska, hinted at frustration with Trump, blaming the president’s ‘particular lie’ for the Capitol riot, the lives lost and the resulting National Guard deployment. Sasse said Trump repeatedly lied about the results of the presidential race, saying he won the election ‘by a landslide’ when he did not. ‘Even though he failed to convince a single judge of his allegations of ‘widespread voter fraud’ (across more than 40 court attempts), he persisted in a social media and fund-raising campaign that ultimately included attempts to intimidate state and local election officials to ‘find votes’ to overturn the outcome of Georgia and other Electoral College state results,’ Sasse said in a statement to The World-Herald."
Trump’s legal team lacking – Bloomberg: "President Donald Trump, on the eve of facing a historic second impeachment trial for inciting the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week, is having trouble finding a legal team to defend him. Allies of the outgoing president have been canvassing Washington’s legal landscape looking for representation but so far are coming up short. Lawyers who defended him in the previous impeachment trial, including Jay Sekulow and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, have said no this time, according to people familiar with the matter. Other lawyers who have defended Trump at times, including former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, Eric Herschmann, Pat Philbin and Marc Kasowitz aren’t interested in joining a team this time, the people said. Some of the lawyers who don’t want a role have privately said what Trump did was indefensible."
McCarthy backs Cheney against Trump caucus – WashEx: "House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy opposes attempts by some Republicans to oust Rep. Liz Cheney from the conference's leadership as punishment for voting to impeach President Trump. Some Republicans are demanding that Cheney, the conference chairwoman, relinquish her leadership post or that a vote be scheduled to replace her, if necessary, to remove her. But a McCarthy spokesman told the Washington Examiner on Thursday that the minority leader does not support any effort to replace the Wyoming congresswoman as the No. 3 ranking House Republican. McCarthy, a California Republican, is the first elected House GOP leader to come to Cheney's defense."
BIDEN TAPS TEAM TO SOLVE VACCINE STRUGGLE
ABC News: "President-elect Joe Biden has picked a former Food and Drug commissioner to lead vaccine science in his drive to put 100 million shots into the arms of Americans in his administration's first 100 days and stem the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. David Kessler, who will have the title of chief science officer of COVID response, headed the Food and Drug Administration in the 1990s under presidents of both political parties. He has been acting as a top pandemic adviser to Biden and his appointment was announced Friday by the presidential transition office. Kessler will work out of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, assuming responsibility for the scientific side of Operation Warp Speed, an effort launched under the Trump administration to rapidly develop vaccines and treatments. The drive has already produced two highly effective vaccines, and more are on the way."
Dunn, who played hardball for Obama, to steer start of Biden comms team – Fox News: "Former Obama White House communications director and senior adviser for President-elect Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign Anita Dunn is joining the White House as a senior adviser to the president. Dunn is said to be joining the White House on a ‘temporary basis,’ sources told Fox News, and will be on leave from SKD Knickerbocker, where she is a partner and founding member. Dunn served as a senior adviser on Biden’s presidential campaign, and a person close to the Biden camp told Fox News that she is ‘an extremely well-respected and well-liked person in this community.’ … The Biden transition team also announced a number of other additional White House staff, including campaign national press secretary TJ Ducklo as deputy White House press secretary. Ducklo is currently a spokesman for the Biden-Harris transition. Ducklo will serve as deputy to White House press secretary Jen Psaki."
Biden choses old hands for FEMA boss, CIA number two – AP: "President-elect Joe Biden is nominating New York emergency department commissioner Deanne Criswell to serve as the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator and has tapped former CIA deputy director David Cohen to return to the agency in the same role he served during the Obama administration. The picks, along with a trio of other new nominations confirmed to The Associated Press by the Biden team, come as the president-elect is putting a premium on experience, and perhaps familiarity, as he looks to fill out top positions at federal agencies with less than a week to go before his inauguration."
Senate panel stalls top Biden intelligence appointee – Axios: "The Senate Intelligence Committee has postponed a confirmation hearing — originally scheduled for Friday — for President-elect Biden's nominee for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, until next week. Biden's team has pushed for swift confirmation hearings for his national security nominees, especially in the context of last week's attack on the Capitol, threats of violence surrounding next week's inauguration and global political tensions. The hearing was slated to take place in a virtual setting, which would have required the consent of all senators who sit on the panel. Haines, who served as CIA deputy director from 2013 to 2015, and deputy national security adviser from 2015 to 2017, would be the first woman to lead the intelligence community."
Widow of Louisiana Republican who died of COVID before taking seat in House running to replace him – Monroe [La.] News-Star
AUDIBLE: LOADED WITH IRON
"CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misstated that Rep. Ted Lieu grabbed a crowbar before leaving his office. He grabbed a ProBar energy bar." – A correction to a CNN story that report.
ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Tune in this weekend as Mr. Sunday sits down with Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and incoming Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese. Watch "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace." Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.
#mediabuzz – Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
FEATHERED FOLLOW UP: WATCH FOR PIGEON FRAUD
AP: "A pigeon that Australia declared a biosecurity risk has received a reprieve after a U.S. bird organization declared its identifying leg band was fake. The band suggested the bird found in a Melbourne backyard on Dec. 26 was a racing pigeon that had left the U.S. state of Oregon, 13,000 kilometers (8,000 miles) away, two months earlier. On that basis, Australian authorities on Thursday said they considered the bird a disease risk and planned to kill it. But Deone Roberts, sport development manager for the Oklahoma-based American Racing Pigeon Union, said on Friday the band was fake. The band number belongs to a blue bar pigeon in the United States which is not the bird pictured in Australia, she said. ‘The bird band in Australia is counterfeit and not traceable,’ Roberts said. ‘They do not need to kill him.’ Australia’s Agriculture Department, which is responsible for biosecurity, agreed that the pigeon dubbed Joe, after U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, was wearing a ‘fraudulent copy’ leg band."
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
"In speed (‘blitz’) chess, you’ve got five or 10 minutes to play your entire game. Some Mondays we get in a dozen games each. No time to recriminate, let alone ruminate." – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Dec. 27, 2002.
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 uphere.