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With the pandemic at a deadly peak, Americans learned that the president, still set on overturning the 2020 election results, went so far as to discuss martial law. His refusal to accept the outcome will leave a dangerous legacy.
Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that President Donald Trump discussed further attempts to cling to power, including the possibility of imposing martial law, during a meeting with advisers.
Trump’s attempted coup will fail, one Atlantic writer argues, but it won’t be without consequence: His antidemocratic maneuvers set a dangerous precedent.
The president is losing his mind, Peter Wehner argues. “This is where Trump’s crippling psychological condition—his complete inability to face unpleasant facts, his toxic narcissism, and his utter lack of empathy—became lethal,” writes Wehner, who served in three Republican administrations.
And he’s moving once unthinkable acts into the realm of possible. “No, there won’t be a coup,” David Frum, a staff writer and a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, writes. “But we have on record the first ever formal U.S. Army repudiation of a coup. That’s bad enough.”
In the future, aspiring autocrats could capitalize on that. “Imagine the same playbook executed with better decorum, a president exerting pressure that is less crass and issuing tweets that are more polite,” Zeynep Tufekci argued earlier this month.
Was it worth it? Our White House correspondent Peter Nicholas asked John Kelly, John Bolton, and other ex–Trump staffers to reflect on their time spent working for Trump. They all insisted that it was.
One question, answered: What do we know so far about the coronavirus mutations discovered in the United Kingdom?
Our staff writer Sarah Zhang explains:
Viruses mutate all the time, and most mutations aren’t significant. In the U.K., scientists noticed one strain—with a set of about 20 mutations—that shot up in prevalence in recent weeks. That could be a sign that this variant is more transmissible, or it just happened to spread more by chance. Scientists are trying to suss that out. At the same time, this variant doesn’t seem to be more deadly.
More important, there’s no reason to worry about broad swaths of people getting reinfected or our new vaccines becoming ineffective. When a person gets sick or vaccinated, the immune system learns to recognize many parts of the virus. A mutation is like an acquaintance changing her outfit or her hair. If the virus accumulates a lot of mutations—over years, for example—we might need to update the vaccines, which is what we do with the flu all the time. But it’s not a concern right now.
Sarah’s been covering the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines. Here’s her report on what the side effects feel like.
What to read if … you’re looking to better understand the current state of the outbreak:
What to read if … you’re following the push for police reform:
Cynics say that this summer’s racial-justice protests changed little. New Jersey wants to prove them wrong, Russell Berman reports.
Tonight’s Atlantic-approved isolation activity:
Stargaze. A rare cosmic alignment is happening tonight. Here’s how to watch, courtesy of our space reporter Marina Koren:
If it’s not cloudy, look for two points of light huddled together in the night sky—one as bright as a star, the other slightly dimmer. Step outside an hour after sunset, stick a hand out, and cover them with your thumb. There, in the space of a fingertip, you’ll hold Jupiter, Saturn, and the many moons around them both.
Today’s break from the news:
Take the plunge into whichever seven-season drama you’ve been meaning to check out for years—this is a good time for ambitious TV watching, our critic Hannah Giorgis argues.
In her latest column, Lori Gottlieb advises a reader who is struggling to get through the holiday season with her divorced parents:
My mother still has a hard time being around my father, and every holiday season, we all do our best to divide our time between them. But with all of our kids and families, doing so gets harder every year.
Thanks for reading. This email was written by Caroline Mimbs Nyce, with help from Isabel Fattal.
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