Even some top Republicans are now say that despite all of Donald Trump’s pouting, it’s time for the presidential transition to begin. One GOP Senator says he may intervene as soon as today to get Joe Biden access to presidential intelligence briefings.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department has produced a whitewash report about how the late sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein got a sweetheart deal from federal prosecutors. But Epstein’s victims – and their lawyers – are having none of it.
And lastly, college students are up in arms over intrusive test-taking software that tracks their every move. Even as the student outcry grows, the companies that make the proctoring software are making a mint during the pandemic.
THESE ARE THE STORIES YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Only four of fifty-three Senate Republicans have congratulated Joe Biden on his election victory, according to the Washington Post. But several Republicans said yesterday that Biden should be afforded some of the privileges of an incoming president, while still declining to risk Donald Trump’s wrath by admitting that Biden won. One of the more pressing issues: Whether and when Biden will have access to intelligence reports – specifically, the presidential daily brief that Trump receives, but doesn’t read, every day.
Senator John Thune of South Dakota told CNN that it makes sense for Biden to get intelligence briefings. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, also said Biden should get the information, calling it just part of the transition. Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the most senior member of the GOP, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also said Biden should receive classified briefings. And Senator Susan Collins of Maine said QUOTE President-elect Biden should be receiving intelligence briefings right now. That is really important. It’s probably the most important part of the transition ENDQUOTE. She added that he should have access to office space, federal employees and the standard assistance, per the Post.
James Lankford of Oklahoma, who sits on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said he is prepared to intervene if the process to grant Biden access has not begun by some time today.
Biden said this week that access to classified information would be nice to have, but it’s not critical. Spoken like a man who’s sat through one too many Zoom meetings!
DOJ WHITEWASHES EPSTEIN DEAL
A Justice Department investigation found that federal prosecutors who oversaw a controversial non-prosecution deal with Jeffrey Epstein in 2008 exercised QUOTE poor judgment ENDQUOTE but did not break the law, NBC News reports. The investigation by the department’s Office of Professional Responsibility focused on the conduct of former government lawyers, including ex-Labor Secretary Alex Acosta.
Prosecutors looked into allegations that Epstein abused dozens of teenage girls in the early 2000s. He eventually pleaded guilty to state charges involving a single victim in a deal that ended the federal investigation and spared Epstein the prospect of prison time. Acosta was the US attorney for the Southern District of Florida at the time. He resigned as Trump’s labor secretary last year amid renewed scrutiny of the case. In a thirteen-page executive summary of the investigation’s findings, OPR said Acosta was primarily responsible for the non- prosecution agreement. The report calls that agreement QUOTE a flawed mechanism ENDQUOTE. But OPR did not find that Acosta engaged in professional misconduct.
Early yesterday, Justice Department officials briefed several Epstein victims on the investigation’s findings in a meeting in Miami, according to NBC. Lawyer Adam Horowitz, who represents four Epstein victims, said that most of the abuse survivors were suspicious and frustrated with the report’s conclusions. Sigrid McCawley, who also represents Epstein victims, called the report an anemic accounting and said the victims deserve action, change and accountability. In response to the OPR report, Congressman Ben Sasse of Nebraska said QUOTE Letting a well-connected billionaire get away with child rape and international sex trafficking isn’t poor judgment – it is a disgusting failure. Americans ought to be enraged ENDQUOTE. Oh, don’t worry about that! If there’s one thing Americans have, it’s rage.
STUDENTS REVOLT OVER SURVEILLANCE
Students around the country are fighting back against an intrusive new form of digital spying – online test proctoring software, which has taken off during the coronavirus pandemic. The Washington Post reports that online proctoring companies have taken in millions of dollars, some of it public money, from thousands of colleges in recent months. But they’ve also sparked a nationwide school-surveillance revolt.
One system, Proctorio, uses gaze-detection, face-detection and computer-monitoring software to flag students for any head, eye, or mouse movement deemed abnormal. A student can be flagged for finishing the test too quickly, or too slowly, clicking too much, or not enough. Students argue that the testing systems have made them afraid to click too much or rest their eyes for fear they’ll be branded as cheats. Some students also said they’ve wept with stress or urinated at their desks because they were forbidden from leaving their screens.
The Post reports that a student rebellion over the software has erupted into online war, with lawsuits, takedowns and viral brawls. Some students have even tried to take the software down from the inside, digging through the code for details on how it monitors millions of high- stakes exams. Thousands of college students have signed petitions to cancel online-proctor deals in at least nine states. Others have organized letter-writing campaigns to administrators, arguing the technology is too invasive to support. Students also have pointed to the companies’ troves of personal video data as a major vulnerability for cyberattack. In July, hackers published more than four hundred thousand records taken from one of the companies, ProctorU, including names, passwords and home addresses.
A few schools, including the University of California at Berkeley, have already banned online proctoring due to privacy and accessibility concerns, the Post reports. Here’s hoping more follow suit – preferably before it’s time for final exams.
AND NOW FOR SOME QUICKER QUICKIES:
Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, entered quarantine yesterday after his wife tested positive for the coronavirus. It’s bad timing, as he just announced a hand audit of the state’s presidential election results. State election officials say
the audit won’t be affected by the quarantine news because the real work is being done at the county level. Okay then – just don’t make it so the audit needs an audit.
SAM: Joe Biden has picked a White House chief of staff, and his name is Ron Klain. NBC News calls Klain, 59, a longtime Democratic operative with strong ties to Biden, having served as chief of staff during the first years of Biden’s vice-presidency. Klain also coordinated the Obama administration's response to the Ebola outbreak, which seems like experience that could come in handy these days, on account of the pandemic and all.
SAM: Federal coronavirus czar Anthony Fauci told ABC News yesterday that QUOTE the cavalry is coming ENDQUOTE and that he hopes a vaccine will be available to all Americans in April, May and June. But the Associated Press reports that state and local officials are planning for the likelihood that the first shipments will not be enough to cover everyone in high-priority groups. And public health groups estimate that an additional $8.4 billion is needed to fund vaccine distribution in the states. Sounds like a job for Ron Klain!
SAM: Reuters reports that top US cybersecurity official Christopher Krebs, who worked on protecting the election from hackers, expects to be fired by Donald Trump. Krebs oversaw a website called Rumor Control that debunked misinformation about the election. The White House apparently got mad that one of the ideas the website debunked was Trump’s bogus allegation that Democrats waged mass election fraud this year. That seems like it’s worth getting fired over. Props to you, Mister Krebs.
That’s all for the AM Quickie. Join us this afternoon on the Majority Report.
NOV 13, 2020 - AM QUICKIE
HOSTS - Sam Seder & Lucie Steiner
WRITER - Corey Pein
PRODUCER - Dorsey Shaw
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - Brendan Finn