President Pence chairs FEMA meeting, greets National Guard standing watch at Capitol

I know I’ve said this before, but people who didn’t live through this era will never truly understand how bizarre it was.

Stuff like Mike Pence assuming Trump’s duties in the final days, with no notice or explanation to the public until he’s suddenly on TV acting like he’s president, can’t really be captured in a history book.

All I want to know is: Was Trump even offered the opportunity to do the things Pence ended up doing this afternoon? I’m guessing that he was and turned it down, as it would surely enrage him and destabilize him further to turn on the TV and see his now despised VP doing his job.

But I don’t know. No one’s sure who’s in charge of the executive branch. Maybe agencies like DHS are just bypassing Trump at this point and inviting Pence over to preside at meetings.

No future generation will truly understand. Anyway, in deed if not in word, the Pence presidency has begun!

“We’re going to ensure that we have a safe inauguration. That President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are sworn in as the new president and vice president of the United States. In a manner consistent with our history, with our traditions, in a way that gives honor to the American people and the United States,” he went on to say.

Sweet fancy Moses on a tricycle. It’s so … so normal.

After the meeting, he swung by the Capitol to thank the National Guard for their service at a dangerous moment. A morale-booster from the commander-in-chief!

What was the president doing today while Pence was doing his job? Could be he was planning his impeachment defense with his lawyers. Could be he was packing, as some of his staff are:

Could be he was … just doing the stuff he usually does:

“Today was a quiet day [in part] because that is what everyone wants,” the senior White House official said [yesterday]. “If we can keep things quiet and event-free between now and the Biden [inauguration] that’s a victory.”

According to three people familiar with the situation and a senior White House official, virtually no one has any fight left in them; there’s less than a week left before Democratic President-elect Biden takes over, and most top administration officials are simply running out the clock. Though Trump is demanding that Republicans in the Senate do not break from him on this, and privately ranting that the ones who do will live to regret it, there is nothing in place compared to the infrastructure or establishment network that he enjoyed the last time he got impeached.

Two sources familiar with the matter said that in recent days, Trump is still going on and on behind closed doors about Dominion voting machine conspiracy theories and how he won in a landslide and therefore Biden is an illegitimate president. (None of the president’s claims there are true.) The president has also said that he’ll now make the polite-sounding public statements that his staff has drafted for him about a “smooth” transfer of power, but has repeatedly—sometimes unprompted—ruled out making any statements that Biden won, emphasizing that he will “never” admit such a thing. Biden’s decisive 2020 victory is “bullshit,” Trump has added, that “everyone” knows is a fiction.

Politico noticed this morning that the most ubiquitous political figure in American history, a man who dominated mass media in all its permutations, has suddenly gone dark. “They seem to be in a lockdown mode, which I believe is a wise place to be right now from a media standpoint,” Eric Bolling said of the White House, with some aides saying that they’re glad he’s not doing interviews because he’d probably make a bad situation worse. Politico asked news anchors if they’d even accept an invitation from the president — the president of the United States — for an interview at this point. Mixed feelings:

“I would do it in a heartbeat, but I think the larger question is, is it responsible? I am struggling,” [one news] anchor said.

“I would relish the opportunity, I would want it, but on the other hand, are you giving him a platform to incite violence? I think it’s a serious conversation,” the anchor added, suggesting the decision around doing a Trump interview was comparable to the editorial debates major news divisions used to have around sitting down with dictators like Fidel Castro and Vladimir Putin. “I’d only do the interview on tape and have full control of the edits. I would not permit him access to live television,”

Another TV host for a top cable network said he wasn’t even requesting an interview with Trump. “Not everything is about Trump,” the anchor explained. “After four years of this, I’m thoroughly sick of it. That’s my reason.”

The fear that Trump might say something incendiary unprompted may explain Pence’s visibility today. No doubt White House staff are glad to have the VP on camera saying the right things instead of the unpredictable big guy, but how exactly did they convince Trump to allow that? If they sandbagged him by arranging for Pence to chair the FEMA meeting and meet the Guard without letting him know, the president will be furious when he finds out. It’ll backfire by tempting him to reassert his authority by making his own public appearances over the next five days. What’s going on behind the scenes?

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