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With under a month left in office, President Donald Trump is flexing his power, issuing a slew of pardons and a veto. His actions may stun, but not necessarily surprise.
In the past 24 hours, the president has issued two waves of pardons—including, in the latest wave, ones for Paul Manafort and Roger Stone. He also vetoed a major defense bill that passed with bipartisan support.
First, the pardons. “The prospect of a president using his power to protect aides accused of breaking the law is disturbing, but it’s hardly novel,” Tim Naftali, a history professor at NYU, writes in his piece on why the presidential-pardon system is so vulnerable.
Nor are some of the other pardons out of character for this president. Yoni Appelbaum, our Ideas editor, points out that various Atlantic writers have long noted “the president’s fondness for, and propensity to extend pardons to, war criminals.”
Their arguments are worth revisiting today. For example, our staff writer Adam Serwer has called Trump “a war-crimes enthusiast.”
Find more in Yoni’s Twitter thread.
Then, the veto. The president cited a few reasons for his decision to send back the National Defense Authorization Act. Among them is a clause in the bill that would rename several military bases currently honoring Confederate leaders.
Trump had promised to veto the bill in advance. Such an action, our staff writer David A. Graham argued last week, “would provide a fitting bookend to the Trump years by reprising two of its central themes: pointless defenses of white supremacy, and nearly complete legislative failure.”
One question, answered: Is my fear of vaccine allergies overblown?
A reader named Patricia writes in from South Carolina:
I had an anaphylactic reaction 25 years ago to a routine tetanus shot, and it was terrifying. … Now I am reading that the National Health Service in the U.K. advised that people who have had such reactions to anything should not take the Pfizer vaccine. I had already wondered about getting the vaccine when it becomes available, but now I am even more disinclined to do so. Should I be?
James Hamblin responds in his latest “Ask Dr. Hamblin” column:
The messaging about allergies and vaccination has the potential to be very misleading, so I feel your concern. But I’m extremely optimistic that you will be able to get vaccinated safely.
In the weeks since the rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to hundreds of thousands of people, eight serious reactions have so far been reported. The symptoms vary, and in some cases have required observation in the hospital. All of these people recovered, and none seem to have lasting issues.
What to read if … you’re looking to better understand the current state of the outbreak:
Tonight’s Atlantic-approved isolation activity:
Tour America from your couch. Our “Fifty” project, from photo editor Alan Taylor, highlights extraordinary photography of each U.S. state. This week’s selection, the 50th and final state, is by far the largest. Can you guess which state that is?
Today’s break from the news:
Multilevel-marketing recruiters are everywhere on social media—with the exception, now, of TikTok. Our technology staff writer Kaitlyn Tiffany explains why the internet is starting to turn on MLMs.
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