The Itchy Twitter Finger of Donald Trump and the Future of the GOP

By Carl Golden | December 22, 2020

Insider NJ

Despite having failed to prevail in any consequential legal challenge to overturn the presidential election, President Trump and his team of conspiracy theorist attorneys — egged on by hardcore supporters and advisers, members of Congress and an element of the media —have continued to insist he was re-elected overwhelmingly and his victory stolen by massive fraud and foreign interference.

Even the most devoted Trump disciples have come to the realization — albeit it reluctantly and bitterly —  that the Biden Administration will assume office Jan. 20 and the ex-president will retire to plot a takeover of the Republican Party and his comeback in 2024.

He’s made it abundantly clear he will not “go gently into that good night,” but from his redoubt in Florida will give in frequently to his itchy Twitter finger, raise millions of dollars, command as much media attention as possible and attempt to chart the future course of the party.

Given the apparently pointless strategy of litigation perseverance, it is reasonable to ask: “What is the end game here?”

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N.J. Approves $14 Billion in Corporate Tax Breaks in Less Than a Week

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Dec. 21, 2020

Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey and legislative leaders brokered a deal authorizing $14 billion in corporate tax cuts.

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No issue has defined Gov. Philip D. Murphy’s first term in office more than corporate tax incentives. He railed against them as a Democratic candidate for governor and, once elected, initiated an investigation that exposed the program he inherited from his Republican predecessor as a poorly managed boon for politically connected firms.

Yet on Monday, the State Legislature, with Mr. Murphy’s blessing, approved a new tax incentives bill, and the sheer size of it — as well as the breakneck speed at which it was introduced and passed — was shocking, even in New Jersey.

Legislative leaders and the governor’s aides have said that the $14 billion incentive package to encourage businesses to stay in, or move to, New Jersey provides extra protections against fraud and will be a vital component of the state’s ability to recover from the pandemic.

But the move has outraged good-government and progressive organizations that for years have stood in lock step with Mr. Murphy, helping the first-term Democrat to notch signature wins on issues that ranged from raising taxes on income over $1 million to legalizing marijuana.

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What we know about NJ’s COVID-19 vaccination program

LILO H. STAINTON, HEALTH CARE WRITER | DECEMBER 22, 2020 

NJ Spotlight News

Dec. 8, 2020: A nurse holds a phial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy’s Hospital in London as the U.K. health authorities rolled out a national mass vaccination program.

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As New Jersey enters the second week of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, state officials are facing criticism for not moving faster to ensure nursing home residents had the earliest possible access to immunizations.

But New Jersey health commissioner Judy Persichilli said the timeline — which shows vaccinations in nursing homes starting Dec. 28 — reflects the state’s desire to include as many vulnerable individuals as possible in the federal pharmacy partnership to immunize those in long-term care and other congregate living facilities. The rollout has also been complicated by unexplained shipping delays and federal program requirements, she suggested.

Persichilli and Gov. Phil Murphy took much of Monday’s media briefing to provide updates on the pharmacy program, which initially appeared to be targeted to serve just long-term care, and federal plans to ship the vaccine. As of Sunday afternoon, 26 hospitals in New Jersey were immunizing at-risk health care workers and 8,740 people had received the first of the two shots of Pfizer’s vaccine, Murphy said.

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Latino museum will be built in D.C. after 25-year effort by Menendez

Posted Dec 21, 2020

A new National Museum of the American Latino will be built in Washington under a provision included in legislation funding the federal government through Sept. 30.

The effort had been spearheaded by New Jersey U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez for a quarter-century, dating back to his tenure in the U.S. House. Menendez was the first Latino elected to Congress from New Jersey.

“We have overcome tremendous obstacles and unbelievable hurdles to get to this historic moment, but, as I’ve said before, Latinos are used to overcoming obstacles,” Menendez said. “With this vote, Latinos and Latinas across our nation will finally have their stories, struggles, and impact on our country validated by the United States Congress.”

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Regional transit operators poised to get federal aid, but fiscal worries remain

12/21/2020

Politico

Commuters wearing masks wait for an arriving train on a New York subway platform in November.

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After months of uncertainty, transit operators in New York and New Jersey are poised to collectively get billions in aid to plug deficits brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic — but the influx is likely only a Band-Aid for what could be years of fallout.

Congress is set to approve a $900 billion coronavirus rescue package Monday, which would provide New York with $4.2 billion in transit aid — most of which will go to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. New York-area airports would also get roughly $100 million under money set aside for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The final text also includes $655 million for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

Transit advocates who rallied outside government buildings and on subway platforms since summer to push for federal aid cheered the final package, stating it provided much-needed relief to an ailing industry that’s responsible for carrying thousands of essential workers daily. It will stave off drastic service cuts and layoffs at the MTA, the largest public transit system of its kind in the United States.

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Second stimulus check update: $600 payments and more in final deal. Here are the details.

Posted Dec 20, 2020

There’s a $600 government payment, 11 additional weeks of unemployment benefits and more help for small businesses in the new coronavirus stimulus bill that is expected to pass later Sunday or Monday.

The negotiations are done and congressional leaders of both parties in both houses have signed off on the contents, paving the way for the House and Senate to debate and approve the measure.

“More help is on the way,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced on the Senate floor. “It will be another major rescue package for the American people. If our citizens continue to battle the coronavirus this holiday season, they will not fight alone.”

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Trump wants Supreme Court to overturn Pennsylvania election results

WASHINGTON — Undeterred by dismissals and admonitions from judges, President Donald Trump’s campaign continued with its unprecedented efforts to overturn the results of the Nov 3. election Sunday, saying it had filed a new petition with the Supreme Court.

The petition seeks to reverse a trio of Pennsylvania Supreme Court cases having to do with mail-in ballots and asks the court to reject voters’ will and allow the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pick its own slate of electors.

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Pharmacies’ starring role in vaccine push could create unequal access

12/18/2020

Politico

A pharmacist.

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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has made pharmacies a centerpiece of the country’s historic coronavirus vaccination campaign — a decision that could bypass low-income and minority populations hardest hit by the pandemic.

The government has recruited about 60 percent of pharmacies in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to vaccinate the public, including standalone pharmacies and those in grocery stores.

But just as many poor urban areas are considered “food deserts,” without easy access to affordable and high-quality fresh food, research suggests that poorer areas with high minority populations are more likely to be “pharmacy deserts.” A distance of a few miles can be insurmountable for people without reliable transportation or hourly employees who can’t afford to take time to be vaccinated.

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New Jersey needs better racial data if we’re to have an equitable COVID-19 recovery | Opinion

Posted Dec 18, 2020

By Tiara Moultrie

This April, Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation requiring hospitals to report racial and other demographic data on COVID-19 outcomes to the Department of Health. However, this mandate is not being fulfilled, says Tiara Moultrie, a policy associate at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.

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New Jersey – along with the entire country and much of the world – is nearly a year into a global pandemic that has caused immeasurable suffering and massive death. There is no one whose life has not been fundamentally altered in some way.

And while there is still a lot we are learning about this virus, one thing we continue to see consistently is that COVID-19 is not an equal opportunity destroyer.

In New Jersey (and elsewhere), Black people and other communities of color have been disproportionately ravaged by this pandemic, and on a large scale. The uneven effects of the virus on communities of color results in part from pre-existing health conditions and the lack of healthcare, as well as overrepresentation in essential jobs and close living quarters that don’t permit for social distancing. Once people in these communities become ill, the same lack of adequate healthcare makes it more difficult to recover.

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It Was a Landmark Crime Bill. Then a State Senator Added a Special Favor.

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Dec. 17, 2020

“I’m not trying to get anyone out of trouble,” State Senator Nicholas Sacco said. “I’m trying to let a judge decide how much trouble they deserve.”Credit...

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Legislation that would usher in landmark changes to the criminal justice system in New Jersey has been awaiting final action for a year.

The bill stems from an 18-month effort by a bipartisan commission, which scrutinized penalties for various criminal charges and recommended the elimination of lengthy, mandatory sentences for nonviolent drug and property crimes — rigid terms that have left New Jersey with one of the most racially imbalanced prison systems in the country.

But after the Assembly passed the bill in July, a powerful Democratic state senator, Nicholas Sacco, inserted an amendment that would also eliminate certain mandatory sentences for another criminal category: corrupt public officials.

The tweak is already the stuff of Jersey lore: It was added at least in part to help Mr. Sacco’s girlfriend’s son, who was accused of falsifying a timecard at a no-show job and charged with official misconduct. If convicted, he faces a mandatory five-year prison term.

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