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Live politics updates: Biden says he will ask Americans to wear masks for first 100 days

  • December 04, 2020

USA TODAY’s coverage of the 2020 election and President-elect Joe Biden’s transition continues this week as he rolls out his picks for top jobs in his administration and states continue to certify their vote counts. 

President Donald Trump has cleared the way for Biden’s team to use federal resources and get briefings during the transition, although Trump has yet to formally concede the race.

Be sure to refresh this page often to get the latest information on the election and the transition.

Biden says GOP senators are calling privately to congratulate him

During an interview on CNN, President-elect Joe Biden said it was not important in a “personal sense” whether President Donald Trump, who has yet to concede the election, attends his inauguration, but he should for the country.

“I think it is important only in one sense, not in a personal sense, but important in the sense that we are able to demonstrate, at the end of this chaos that he’s created, that there is peaceful transfer of power, with the competing parties standing there, shaking hands, and moving on,” Biden stated.

He continued that he worries about the image that is being projected onto the rest of the world saying, “they’re wondering, ‘my Lord, these things happen in tinhorn dictatorships. This is not the United States.’”

“It’s totally his decision, and it’s of no personal consequence to me,” Biden reiterated. “But, it is to the country.”

Biden also stated that despite Trump not publicly conceding, and continuing to wage largely meritless lawsuits to try and overthrow the results of the election, Republican Senators have been calling to congratulate him privately.

“There have been more than several sitting Republican senators who have privately called me to congratulate me. And I understand the situation they find themselves in. Until the election is clearly decided… with the electoral college votes, they’re in a very tough position,” Biden said.

Savannah Behrmann

Biden says he will ask Americans to wear masks for first 100 days

President-elect Joe Biden elaborated Thursday on his plan to ask all Americans to wear masks during the first 100 days of his administration.

During an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Biden said, “Just 100 days to mask, not forever. And I think we’ll see a significant reduction.”

Biden said that where he has authority, he will issue an order mandating that masks be worn in places like federal buildings, airplanes, and interstate transportation like buses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that wearing a mask protects not only the person covering their face but also protects those around them from transmitting COVID-19.

Biden and President Donald Trump have taken drastically different approaches to the coronavirus, including wearing masks, and the rhetoric around face coverings.

Trump has fought many of the coronavirus recommendations laid out by health experts his own administration, which includes mask-wearing. Biden has strictly followed COVID-19 guidelines throughout the duration of his campaign and often called on citizens to wear face coverings.

Savannah Behrmann

Trump entities raised more than $200M on baseless election ‘fraud’ claims

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has raised $207.5 million since the Nov. 3 election as he leveled a series of evidence-free claims of voting irregularities while simultaneously embarking on a fundraising blitz to drum up cash from supporters.

The money, partially steered toward a new political action committee that will allow him to spend on other Republican candidates, not only demonstrates a continued deep well of support among the GOP, but also underscores t the president will have the ability to remain an influential force outside of the White House.

Speculation has swirled for months about Trump’s potential next steps – and that has included reports that he may launch a television network or continue to headline rallies. Several aides have openly speculated that Trump may run again in 2024, and the president himself recently hinted at the idea. 

“We are trying to do another four years. Otherwise, I’ll see you in four years,” Trump told supporters gathered at the White House this week for a Christmas party – remarks caught on video and shared on social media.  

The numbers, provided by the campaign and not verified by USA TODAY, come with caveats. The fine print in some of Trump’s fundraising solicitations after the election noted a portion of donations would be used to pay down debt. The extent of that debt – which could affect how much political cash Trump will have at his disposal – won’t be clear until reports are officially filed with the Federal Election Commission later Thursday. 

What is clear: The Trump campaign sent a barrage of fundraising requests after President-elect Joe Biden won the election, and those requests echoed many of the false or unverified claims of voter fraud that Trump and his allies have leveled from the White House. The requests asked for contributions to defray legal costs.

While the legal fight has so far faltered and six battleground states that decided the election have already certified their results – and Biden’s win – the fundraising has continued at full tilt. That has happened even as several institutional GOP donors told USA TODAY last month they are taking their money elsewhere: Namely, two runoff elections in Georgia that will decide which party controls the Senate next year. 

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany dismissed reports this week about whether the president is considering another run for president in four years. 

“I’ve not heard any discussions of that. I’m aware of the reporting, but the president’s campaign is currently pursuing active litigation, and that is the focus, at least at the moment,” she told reporters on Wednesday.

The fundraising total provided by the campaign included amounts raised by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., the Republican National Committee, Trump Victory and the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, as well as the president’s new PAC, Save America.

Bill Stepien, Trump 2020 campaign manager, said the fundraising “positions” the president to “continue leading the fight” to “clean up” what he described as a corrupt elections process. Neither Trump nor the campaign have provided evidence of corruption, and several courts – including one scathing opinion crafted by a Trump-appointed judge – have dismissed the claims.

– John Fritze and David Jackson

House Democrats choose new head of campaign arm

House Democrats on Thursday elected a new head of their campaign arm after disappointing losses this cycle that led to about a dozen Democrats incumbents losing and a slimmed down majority.  

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., was elected in a close 119-107 vote against Rep. Tony Cárdenas to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, promising to move the party forward and being open to working with the best talent, even consulting groups that previously challenged incumbents. 

The caucus also elected an array of new leaders to head House committees, including Rep. Gregory Meeks to head the House Foreign Affairs Committee after Chairman Eliot Engel was defeated earlier this year in the primaries, Rep. Rosa DeLauro to chair the House Appropriations Committee as the current Chairwoman Nita Lowey is retiring, and Rep. David Scott to lead the House Agriculture Committee after Chairman Collin Peterson was defeated on Election Day. 

– Christal Hayes

White House communications director quits to launch consulting group

White House communications director Alyssa Farah announced Thursday she is resigning after a three-and-a-half year stint serving the Trump administration in roles spanning the West Wing and Pentagon.

Farah, 31, described it as an “honor of a lifetime” to serve the Trump administration, first as Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary and later as the Department of Defense spokeswoman before she returned to the White House as communications director in April.

“I am deeply proud of the incredible things we were able to accomplish to make our country stronger, safer, and more secure,” she said in a statement. “Under this Administration, the ISIS caliphate was destroyed, American hostages were returned home, NATO is stronger than ever, we’ve brokered historic Middle East peace deals, and I was on the ground in Kabul for the announcement of a historic peace deal between the Afghan Government and the Taliban aimed at ending America’s longest war.”

The announcement signals White House aides are looking ahead to life after Jan. 20, when President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn into office, even as President Donald Trump continues to level unfounded claims of voter fraud in an effort to overturn the election results. Her resignation comes a month after the Nov. 3 election. 

Farah’s return to the West Wing aligned with the arrival of Mark Meadows as Trump’s chief of staff. Farah served as Meadows’ communications director while he was a congressman and later as a spokeswoman for the House Freedom Caucus, which Meadows helped found.

“I’m forever grateful to have had the opportunity to serve my country,” she said in her statement.

– David Jackson and Courtney Subramanian

Biden appoints Brian Deese to head National Economic Council

President-elect Joe Biden announced Thursday that Brian Deese, an economist and climate expert, will serve as his director of the National Economic Council.

Deese is a former deputy director of the council, a deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget and a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama. Deese played a leading role in the U.S. auto bailout a decade ago and in negotiating the Paris climate accord when Biden was vice president, according to the transition.

Biden said in a statement that Deese is “among the most tested and accomplished public servants in the country.”

Before joining the Obama administration, Deese was global head of sustainable investing at BlackRock, an investment management firm, where the transition said he worked on strategies to focus on climate and to accelerate to transition to low-carbon emissions. Deese got a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College and a law degree from Yale Law School.

– Bart Jansen

Trump on William Barr’s future: ‘Ask me that in a number of weeks’

President Donald Trump offered a vague answer Thursday about whether he still has  confidence in Attorney General William Barr, who on Tuesday said the Justice Department has not found evidence of voter fraud to overturn Trump’s election loss.

Asked if he still has confidence in Barr, Trump told reporters at the White House: “Ask me that in a number of weeks from now.”

Trump is scheduled to leave office on Jan. 20, just 48 days from now.

Trump also said Barr “hasn’t done anything yet,” and that his department “should be looking at all of this fraud” – even though judges and election officials across the country, from both parties, have ruled that the election was conducted fairly and openly.

The Justice Department declined to comment on Trump’s remarks.

Trump’s comments on Barr come after the attorney general declared there was no widespread evidence of voter fraud so far in the 2020 presidential election, contrary to assertions by Trump and his legal team. Barr has also resisted Trump’s public pressure to prosecute President-elect Joe Biden and other former Obama administration officials on baseless claims of corruption and the surveillance of the 2016 race.

Trump again complained about the election during a brief Q-and-A session with reporters after he awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to retired football coach – and political supporter – Lou Holtz.

“One of the greatest coaches in American history,” Trump said of Holtz, a consistent winner at Notre Dame and other schools, including William Mary, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Minnesota, and South Carolina.

Holtz, who endorsed Trump during the campaign and gave an anti-Biden speech at the virtual Republican convention, reciprocated by calling Trump the “greatest president in my lifetime.”

At least 30 people attended the ceremony in the Oval Office. Most did not wear masks, despite recent outbreaks of COVID-19 within the West Wing.

– David Jackson and Kevin Johnson 

Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks will challenge electoral college votes

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., will challenge the official Electoral College votes when Congress certifies President-elect Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6. The representative told reporters Wednesday he would challenge the results if a senator joined him in the effort.

Politico originally reported that Brooks had discussed challenging the results with close allies. Brooks then confirmed the reporting on Twitter.

“In my judgment, if only lawful votes by eligible American citizens were cast, Donald Trump won the Electoral College by a significant margin, and Congress’s certification should reflect that,” Brooks told Politico. “This election was stolen by the socialists engaging in extraordinary voter fraud and election theft measures.”

Brooks said he’s had “indirect” communications with senators about a potential Electoral College challenge but none have yet expressed interest in the effort.

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud akin to what Brooks claims. President Donald Trump has made repeated baseless accusations of voter fraud about the election. Attorneys affiliated with the Trump campaign continue to file lawsuits challenging the legitimacy of the election, though courts have rejected most efforts.

– Matthew Brown

VP-elect Kamala Harris names 3 top staffers

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris named three of her top staffers Thursday, as she prepares to take office Jan. 20.

Her announcement followed President-elect Joe Biden naming his top White House staffers, along with members of his foreign-policy and economics teams. The Harris officials are:

  • Tina Flournoy, who currently serves as chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton, will become chief of staff for Harris. She previously served as assistant to the president for public policy at the American Federation of Teachers. She earlier worked for Democratic campaigns, after graduating from Georgetown University Law Center.
  • Rohini Kosoglu, who currently serves as senior advisor to Harris on the transition, will become Harris’ domestic policy adviser. She previously served as a resident fellow at the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She was earlier chief of staff in Harris’ Senate office and worked for Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. She graduated from the University of Michigan and George Washington University.
  • Nancy McEldowney, who served for more than 30 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, will become Harris’ national security adviser. She has served as U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria and as chargé d’affaires and deputy chief of mission in Turkey and Azerbaijan. While working at the State Department, she served as director of the Foreign Service Institute and as interim president of the National Defense University.

Harris said Flournoy would bring deep experience and public policy experience to the job. Harris called Kosoglu one of closest and most trusted aides from the Senate and campaign. And Harris said McEldowney will be invaluable in keeping Americans safe and advancing the country’s interests abroad.

– Bart Jansen

Pence heading to Tennessee to talk COVID vaccine

Vice President Mike Pence heads to Memphis, Tennessee, on Thursday to hold a roundtable discussion on distributing a COVID-19 vaccine, as case numbers in the U.S. reach new highs.

The U.S. reached two grim daily milestones Wednesday, surpassing 3,000 coronavirus deaths and 100,000 hospitalizationsfor the first time. Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Robert Redfield said the U.S. could see 450,000 deaths by February. More than 273,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University data

Though a vaccine has not yet been authorized in the U.S., officials are preparing for mass distribution of doses. Operation Warp Speed, the White House-led initiative to develop and distribute vaccines, plans to begin the first vaccine deliveries within 24 hours of FDA authorization.

– Sean Rossman, John Bacon, Adrianna Rodriguez and Grace Hauck

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