Mitch McConnell and the Republicans would rather not tell Trump he lost

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on US politics this week:

Why are members of the Republican party, like Senator Mitch McConnell, hesitant to congratulate President Elect Biden?

Well, the reason is, is that President Trump hasn't conceded yet, and they're not going to admit this election is over until either the President concedes, or it becomes really a mathematical certainty that Biden will be inaugurated on January 20th of next year. There's currently a recount going on in Georgia right now. Pennsylvania is still looking at the issue of late arriving mail-in ballots, and in Michigan and other places, the Republican party, and particularly the Trump campaign is alleging campaign fraud. All these things have to work their way through the court. None of the elected Republican leaders want to be the ones who tell the President that he's lost, to end this journey. They want the courts to have that role. Once that process is done, I expect you're going to see a transition of power starting in January, but it could take until the electoral college meets on December 14th, for that to become official, and Republicans to start saying, "You know what Mr. Trump? You don't have much of a shot here. Let's back down."


With 10 weeks left as president, what do you expect from the Trump Administration?

Honestly, not a whole lot. I think that the President is more focused on litigating his reelection campaign right now than he is on any major policy changes. You may see some moves from people like Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State who will take advantage of the situation on the way out the door, perhaps to ratchet up tensions with China. You have seen the President remove his defense secretary, which reportedly had to do with a disagreement over the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, another issue that could come up in the next couple of months. Legislatively, there's the possibility of a fiscal stimulus passing, but I'm feeling pretty bearish on that right now, because the parties in Congress remain really far apart.

And, if the president is focused on re-litigating the campaign, then he's not going to have the energy, and attention to bring the sides together to get a fiscal stimulus done. I'd say that's probably unlikely right now, but it could change, because the President's mood in the lame duck session is going to determine all of the legislative outcomes, including the possibility of our government shutdown on December 11th when the funding bill runs out. We'll see what happens. Lame duck sessions are hard to predict. Members are in weird moods, and presidents who have just lost their bids for re-election are in very weird moods, and they're bringing a bit of unpredictability to the December, and early January timeframe.

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University of British Colombia professor Edward Slingerland says drinking makes us feel good and has historically encouraged socializing. But there are negative implications, as well. We now have the problem of "distillation and isolation": getting as much booze as you want and drinking alone, especially during the pandemic. There's a gender issue too: the "bro culture" associated with alcohol can exclude and even be dangerous for women. Not all regions have the same problems, though, as drinking habits vary widely. Watch Slingerland's interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

Ian Bremmer shares his insights on global politics this week with a look at the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus, Delta variant woes, and Lebanon one year after the Beirut blast.

An Olympian refuses to return home to Belarus and an anti-Lukashenko activist has been found dead in Ukraine. What's going on?

Yeah. That anti-Lukashenko activist was found hanged in a park in Kiev. Once again, not exactly likely a suicide. These anti-Lukashenko activists have a way of turning up injured or dead. It's a horrible regime. Their friends are limited largely to the Russians. That's about it. The economic pressure is growing from Europe, from the United States, very coordinated. But the problem is a very hard to do much to Lukashenko when he has not only support of his military, but also the support of most of the workers in the country who aren't prepared to strike because they want to ensure they still have jobs. I expect this is going to continue, but human rights abuses are stacking up. It is nice to see that the Americans and the Europeans are coordinating policy as well as they have been.

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Raisi won't have it easy: The newly "elected" president of Iran, Ibrahim Raisi, was officially endorsed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Tuesday. In his inaugural address, the 60-year-old hardliner pledged to get US sanctions removed and to respond to rising socioeconomic grievances within Iran, but he warned that he wouldn't lash Iran's prosperity or survival to "the will of foreigners." In Iran, the president's role focuses mainly on domestic policy, but with the economy reeling one of Raisi's big early challenges will be to continue complicated talks with the Biden administration to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal, which would lead to the US lifting some of the harshest sanctions. Both sides say they want a new deal, and have gone through half a dozen rounds of negotiations already, but they remain at odds over who should make what concessions first. Raisi also pledged to restore Iranians' flagging trust in their government and to improve the economic situation, but in ways that are in line with "revolutionary principles." He'll have his hands full with that. And don't forget that the likely imminent (re)takeover of neighboring Afghanistan by the Taliban — whom Tehran don't like at all — will also occur on Raisi's watch. Good luck, Mr. President, you'll need it.

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It's been 365 days since twin blasts at a Beirut port decimated Lebanon's capital. More than 200 people were killed and some 7,000 were injured, yet accountability has been scarce. There is ample evidence that multiple Lebanese officials knew that ammonium nitrate was being improperly stored at the port. Four high-ranking politicians, including former PM Hassan Diab, have been charged by a Lebanese judge, but they all refuse to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Since then, Lebanon's already-dire economic and financial crises have only intensified. The Lebanese pound, the national currency, has plummeted, losing 90 percent of its value since 2019, when the country's economic crisis erupted. And more than 50 percent of the population is now living below the poverty line.

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The Biden administration is finally devoting more attention to Southeast Asia. Last week US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines, marking the first regional visit by a Biden cabinet official. A trip by Vice President Kamala Harris is already in the works as well, and this week Secretary of State Tony Blinken will meet (virtually) with ASEAN counterparts.

The flurry of activity comes after earlier concerns that President Joe Biden was neglecting Southeast Asia, the region where US-China rivalry is the most intense. To understand better what Austin's visit meant, and what comes next, Eurasia Group's lead Southeast Asia analyst Peter Mumford spoke to us from Singapore.

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158: To boost vaccination rates, New York City will soon require proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test to enter gyms and restaurants, as daily new infections in the Big Apple have jumped 158 percent over the past two weeks due to the more contagious delta variant. New York is the first major US city to take this step, following similar schemes already in place in France and Italy.

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