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Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

It's a fitting end to a crappy year: White House officials are calling us in a panic about President Trump’s erratic behavior. England is panicking about a possible super-spreading virus strain. And vaccine distribution is hitting bumps.

Why it matters: Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain was right when he warned of a "very, very, very dark winter."

Winter technically starts tomorrow. But it's already clear that in the 31 days until the inauguration, American institutions will be tested like never before.

  • Axios yesterday sent two alerts with Jonathan Swan's jaw-dropping reporting from Trump's inner circle, with diehard loyalists now telling us they're alarmed about what Trump might try over the next month.

A senior administration official told Swan: "Most of us have rolled our eyes at the media histrionics the last few years about Trump’s supposed tyrannical ambitions."

  • "But when he's retweeting threats of putting politicians in jail, and spends his time talking to conspiracy nuts who openly say declaring martial law is no big deal, it’s impossible not to start getting anxious about how this ends."

On top of loose Oval Office talk about martial law first reported by the N.Y. Times' Maggie Haberman and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Trump tweeted yesterday that the cyber hack "is well under control."

  • Top administration officials tell me it's anything but — that the damage may take months and billions to detect and repair.

After Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned yesterday of a coronavirus strain that is 70% more transmissible, England finds itself increasingly cut off:

  • Italy, the Netherlands and Austria banned flights from the U.K., and Eurostar trains between London, Brussels and Amsterdam are being canceled.
  • The virus is out of control, regardless of any new variant.

With governors around the country complaining that they're being shorted on vaccines they've been promised, a government official yesterday did something rare — admitted there was a problem, and took total blame.

  • Army four-star Gen. Gus Perna, COO of Operation Warp Speed, apologized for "miscommunication" with states and told reporters: "I failed. I'm adjusting."

The bottom line: In these times, even an optimist has no choice but to become a realist.

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Go deeper

Jan 26, 2021 - Health

U.K. surpasses 100,000 COVID-19 deaths

Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

The U.K. on Tuesday surpassed 100,000 coronavirus deaths almost a year after the first two cases were reported in the country, according to government figures.

Why it matters: It is the first European country and fifth country in the world to reach the threshold. The country reported 100,162 deaths on Tuesday.

Scammers have stolen over $130 million in coronavirus-related schemes

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Over 100,000 Americans have collectively reported roughly $132 million in fraud losses from scams related to the coronavirus and government stimulus checks since the March start of the pandemic, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Why it matters: Coronavirus-related fraud complaints peaked in May when the IRS began sending its first round of stimulus checks. Congress recently proposed a second round of stimulus.