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Live politics updates: Kamala Harris names 3 top staffers, Pence to talk COVID vaccine in Tennessee

  • December 03, 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 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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