Biden prepares key cabinet picks as Trump team cuts ties with attorney – live

 

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “GSA says transition process can begin – as it happened” was written by Maanvi Singh (now), Joan E Greve and Martin Belam (earlier), for theguardian.com on Tuesday 24th November 2020 03.09 UTC

2.37am GMT

Summary

From me and Joan E Greve:

  • The General Services Administration has allowed for the presidential transition to begin. After an initial delay, the agency’s head, Emily Murphy, has sent Joe Biden a letter recognizing him as the election winner – opening up access to funds, office space and classified briefings.
  • Donald Trump tweeted that he had directed Murphy to go ahead, in contradiction to her public statements that she had not consulted with the president. “In the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same,” Trump said, though he has yet to formally concede.
  • Republican senators Lamar Alexander and Bill Cassidy acknowledged Biden as president-elect as Michigan certified election results and the GSA unblocked the transition. Still, many top Republicans have continued to side with Trump in refusing to concede.
  • Joe Biden announced several key appointments and nominations for his national security and foreign policy team. Former secretary of state John Kerry will serve as the president-elect’s special envoy to address climate change, and former deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken will be nominated to lead the state department.
  • Former Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen will be nominated to lead the treasury department, according to multiple reports. If confirmed, Yellen would become the first woman in US history to serve as treasury secretary.
  • California senator Dianne Feinstein said she won’t seek to retain her position as the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee. She faced backlash from progressives after she praised the Republican judiciary committee chair, Lindsey Graham, during the confirmation hearings for Trump’s supreme court pick Amy Coney Barrett – rather than resisting Republican efforts to ram through a conservative justice before the election. Democratic Whip Dick Durbin has said he’s interested in the position.
  • The coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca has an efficacy of up to 90%, according to results from the final trial. The news comes after Moderna and Pfizer both announced their vaccine candidates have an efficacy of 95%.
  • More Americans are hospitalized with coronavirus than ever before, as infections surge across the country. Public health experts are urging Americans not to travel for this week’s Thanksgiving holiday in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.
  • A growing chorus of Republican senators are calling on the Trump administration to begin the formal transition process, as states move toward certifying Biden’s victory. Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia both said today that they have seen no evidence of widespread fraud that could alter Biden’s win.

Updated at 3.09am GMT

1.57am GMT

Chris Krebs, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, on Monday reminded Americans that there’s still no evidence of significant voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Trump fired Krebs last week by tweet after the director had pushed back on the president’s baseless claims of voter fraud. Krebs’ agency was responsible for coordinating federal, state and local efforts to defend electoral systems from foreign or domestic interference. The agency had vouched for the reliability of the 2020 vote.

“All Americans should have confidence in the security of their vote,” Krebs said on Monday. “The disinfo likely won’t stop. Keep on the lookout and don’t fall for it,” he added.

1.30am GMT

Prior to the GSA’s move today, the Biden-Harris team had been raising money to fund the transition process, absent access to government-allocated funds.

In an email to supporters last week, they said: “We want to be clear: the Biden-Harris transition team will continue to steadily move forward. But, without ascertainment, we need to fund the transition ourselves, and that’s why we’re reaching out to you today.”

With the GSA’s go-ahead, the team will now have access to funds to hire and pay staff as they prepare to take office.

1.14am GMT

Reuters’ Jeff Mason reports that Donald Trump’s blessing of the GSA’s decision to unblock the transition is as close as the president might get to a concession …

Updated at 1.27am GMT

12.45am GMT

Dick Durbin, a senator of Illinois and the Democratic whip, said he’ll be seeking the top Democratic position on the Senate Judiciary Committee after California’s Dianne Feinstein said she would step back.

“I intend to seek the top Democratic position on the Judiciary Committee in the 117th Congress. I have served on the Committee for 22 years, and I am its most senior member who does not currently serve atop another Senate Committee,” he said. “We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work on undoing the damage of the last four years and protecting fundamental civil and human rights.”


Updated at 1.27am GMT

12.27am GMT

Last week, as the Biden-Harris team attempted to begin the transition process despite the GSA holdup, they reached out to Trump administration officials who had recently left their posts, in an attempt to glean key information while being locked out of official briefings.

A current administration official also told CNN last week that some officials within the government had informally reached out to Biden’s team. “Nothing that would get us in trouble,” the official told CNN. “Just an offer to be of help. They know what we mean, and what we can and can’t do or say.”

Still, what Biden’s team members couldn’t get was any classified information. That’s something they’ll have access to now.

Updated at 12.32am GMT

12.21am GMT

The transition can officially begin – what does that mean?

Now that the General Services Administration has allowed for the presidential transition to officially begin, Joe Biden and his team will finally be able to gain access to classified briefings, meet with government officials to coordinate a pandemic response and have access to office space, as well funds to pay the transition team.

“Because of the lack of ascertainment by the GSA, my transition team hasn’t been able to get access to the information we need to be able to deal with everything from testing and guidance to the all-important issue of vaccine distribution and vaccination plan,” Biden said on Thursday. “We haven’t been able to get into Operation Warp Speed” – the Trump administration scheme for accelerating coronavirus treatment and vaccine development.

Until now, the Biden team has also lacked cybersecurity support to shield email and other communication amid concerns that Russia, China, or other foreign adversaries could intercept classified information. With the GSA’s approval, Biden’s team can move over to government email, with help from the Department of Homeland Security to protect the privacy of incoming officials as they plan out, for example, national security strategies.

Updated at 12.31am GMT

12.10am GMT

With Donald Trump refusing to concede the elections, House Democrats had demanded last week that GSA administrator Emily Murphy provide a briefing to explain why she was delaying the transition process.

In a letter sent on 19 November, Carolyn B Maloney and Nita M Lowey – both Democrats of New York – sent Murphy a letter asking her, as well as her deputy chief of staff and general counsel, to participate in a public hearing to explain themselves.

“Your actions in blocking transition activities required under the law are having grave effects, including undermining the orderly transfer of power, impairing the incoming Administration’s ability to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, hampering its ability to address our nation’s dire economic crisis, and endangering our national security,” the congresswomen said.

“We ask that you personally brief us and our Ranking Members by no later than November 23, 2020,” they wrote.

This pressure likely played into Murphy’s decision to approve the transition process today.

Updated at 12.32am GMT

12.01am GMT

The Democratic representative who chairs the House oversight government operations subcommittee said “it should not have taken the ire of Congress and the American public” for the GSA’s Emily Murphy to greenlight the transition process.

Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who leads the congressional committee with oversight of the GSA, added he was “greatly looking forward to officially transitioning to an administration that follows the law the first time, without massive public pressure”.

Updated at 12.13am GMT

11.41pm GMT

Now that the GSA has allowed a formal transition to begin, more Republicans are starting to acknowledge the reality that Joe Biden is president-elect.

Here’s Bill Cassidy, a Republican senator of Louisiana:

11.37pm GMT

Yohannes Abraham, the Biden-Harris transition director, said Emily Murphy’s decision today “is a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track”.

“This final decision is a definitive administrative action to formally begin the transition process with federal agencies. In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies,” Abraham said in a statement.

Updated at 11.42pm GMT

11.36pm GMT

It’s unclear that Murphy’s letter will earn her much sympathy from those who criticized her decision to block the transition for weeks after it became clear that Joe Biden had won the election.

Biden said the delayed transition was an “embarrassment” and his team’s inability to begin coordinating coronavirus vaccine distribution could cost lives.

Updated at 12.10am GMT

11.28pm GMT

Emily Murphy, a Trump appointee, drew criticism for initially refusing to sign a letter allowing Biden’s team access to government officials, as well as office space, equipment, and millions of dollars of funding.

In her letter to Joe Biden today, she tried to defend her actions. “To be clear, I did not receive any direction to delay my determination [on whether to begin the transition],” she said. “Contrary to media reports and insinuations, my decision was not made out of fear or favoritism. Instead, I strongly believe that the statute requires that the GSA Administrator ascertain, not impose, the apparent president-elect.”

She also said that she received “threats online, by phone, and by mail directed at my safety, my family, my staff, and even my pets in an effort to coerce me into making this determination prematurely. Even in the face of thousands of threats, I always remained committed to upholding the law.”

Her point, however, was almost immediately contradicted by Donald Trump, who tweeted: “In the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”

Even as his campaign’s legal challenges fail to hold up, and Trump’s attempts to convince officials to block certification of election results falter, the president insisted, “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good … fight, and I believe we will prevail! “

Updated at 12.12am GMT

11.21pm GMT

GSA’s Emily Murphy says transition can begin

In a letter to Joe Biden, Murphy – who initially held up the transition process – told the president-elect that she will open up resources to allow the transition of power to formally begin, the Guardian can confirm.

“I take this role seriously and, because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results, am transmitting this letter today to make those resources and services available to you,” she said. “I have dedicated much of my adult life to public service, and I have always strived to do what is right. Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts. I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official – including those who work at the White House or GSA – with regard to the substance or timing of my decision.”

Updated at 12.11am GMT

11.11pm GMT

Report: The GSA has informed Biden that the transition process can begin

Emily Murphy, head of the General Services Administration, has sent Joe Biden a letter informing him that the Trump administration is ready to begin the transition process, reports CNN, after obtaining a copy of the letter.

10.56pm GMT

California senator Dianne Feinstein said she won’t seek to retain her position as the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee.

The 87-year-old senator faced backlash from progressives after she praised the Republican judiciary committee chair, Lindsey Graham, during the confirmation hearings for Trump’s supreme court pick Amy Coney Barrett – rather than resisting Republican efforts to ram through a conservative justice before the election.

“After serving as the lead Democrat on the Judiciary Committee for four years, I will not seek the chairmanship or ranking member position in the next Congress,” she said in a statement.

“California is a huge state confronting two existential threats – wildfire and drought – that are only getting worse with climate change. In the next Congress, I plan to increase my attention on those two crucial issues,” she said.

Updated at 11.10pm GMT

10.46pm GMT

Andrew Cuomo won’t be having Thanksgiving with his 89-year-old mother, following backlash.

The New York governor initially said during a WAMC interview that despite beseeching his constituents to refrain from gathering with family for Thanksgiving, he’d be attending an in-person Thanksgiving with his 89-year old mother and two daughters in Albany. But his office issued a statement clarifying that “plans have changed” following backlash.

“Given the current circumstances with Covid, [Cuomo] will have to work through Thanksgiving,” his senior advisor Rich Azzopardi told the Wall Street Journal’s Jimmy Vielkind.

Cuomo had been asking New Yorkers over the past few days to refrain from traveling or gathering with older relatives for Thanksgiving. “Next Thanksgiving, you’ll ask yourself: did I do everything I could to keep my community safe?” he said, just yesterday.

Although he had told reporters he’d already had a difficult discussion about Thanksgiving plans with his mother last week, Azzopardi said today that Cuomo’s mom hadn’t been told yet that their Thanksgiving was canceled.

Updated at 11.11pm GMT

10.21pm GMT

Republican senator Lamar Alexander acknowledges Biden as president elect

Alexander, a senator of Tennessee, is only the sixth Republican senator to acknowledge Biden’s victory. In a statement, he urged Donald Trump to “put the country first and have a prompt and orderly transition”.

“The presidential election is rapidly coming to a formal end. Recounts are being completed. Courts are resolving disputes. Most states will certify their votes by December 8,” he said. “Since it seems apparent that Joe Biden will be the president-elect, my hope is that President Trump will take pride in his considerable accomplishments, put the country first and have a prompt and orderly transition to help the new administration succeed. When you are in public life, people remember the last thing you do.”

Updated at 11.11pm GMT

10.03pm GMT

Elizabeth Warren, whom many progressives had picked as their top choice for treasury secretary, has lauded Biden for picking Janet Yellen.

“She is smart, tough, and principled. As one of the most successful Fed Chairs ever, she has stood up to Wall Street banks, including holding Wells Fargo accountable for cheating working families,” Warren said.

The Massachusetts senator had pushed Yellen when she served as chair of the Federal Reserve, in particular, repeatedly asking that Yellen properly censure Wells Fargo for its fake accounts scam – which Yellen eventually did, to an extent.

Though the Federal Reserve did not order the bank to remove board members, as Warren had asked, it prevented the firm from growing any larger until it improved its governance – leading to the ousting of four board members.

The bank had opened millions of fake accounts and charged hundreds of thousands of customers for auto insurance they didn’t need.

Updated at 11.12pm GMT

9.39pm GMT

Michigan certifies election results – Biden wins

The state’s board of canvassers voted 3-0 to certify that Joe Biden won the state’s election. One canvasser abstained.

Biden won by about 154,000 votes, securing the state’s 16 electoral votes.

Updated at 9.49pm GMT

9.30pm GMT

Today so far

That’s it from me today. My west coast colleague Maanvi Singh will take over the blog for the next few hours.

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Joe Biden announced several key appointments and nominations for his national security and foreign policy team. Former secretary of state John Kerry will serve as the president-elect’s special envoy to address climate change, and former deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken will be nominated to lead the state department.
  • Former Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen will be nominated to lead the treasury department, according to multiple reports. If confirmed, Yellen would become the first woman in US history to serve as treasury secretary.
  • The coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca has an efficacy of up to 90%, according to results from the final trial. The news comes after Moderna and Pfizer both announced their vaccine candidates have an efficacy of 95%.
  • More Americans are hospitalized with coronavirus than ever before, as infections surge across the country. Public health experts are urging Americans not to travel for this week’s Thanksgiving holiday in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.
  • A growing chorus of Republican senators are calling on the Trump administration to begin the formal transition process, as states move toward certifying Biden’s victory. Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia both said today that they have seen no evidence of widespread fraud that could alter Biden’s win.

Maanvi will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated at 11.13pm GMT

9.18pm GMT

Although Donald Trump has refused to acknowledge Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election, the Secret Service has reportedly already started preparing for the president’s post-White House life.

ABC News has the story:

Secret Service agents in the president’s detail are being asked whether they’re interested in transferring to Palm Beach, Florida, sources have told ABC News.

The Secret Service’s Miami field office also has begun looking at physical reinforcements to Mar-a-Largo, the president’s golf club to which he refers as ‘the winter White House,’ the sources added. These moves are considered unofficial as Trump has yet to concede to Biden. …

Renovations to living quarters expected to be occupied by Trump and first lady Melania Trump are underway, ahead of when they’ll be living there full time after the Jan. 20 inauguration, sources familiar with the planning told ABC News.

Sources have described the renovations as ‘updates’ to living quarters, in part because the residence has been used only on a temporary basis. The Mar-a-Lago club also had been opened only seasonally, and it remains unclear how a permanent residency by Donald and Melania Trump could change that.

9.01pm GMT

Shelley Moore Capito has joined the growing chorus of Republican senators who are calling for the formal presidential transition to begin.

The West Virginia senator noted she supported Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, but she said it was now clear the country overall voted to move in a different direction.

“While some irregularities and fraud have been found and should be punished, there is no indication that these are widespread enough to call into question the outcome of the election,” Capito said in a statement.

“I have been clear that President Trump — like any candidate for office— has the right to request recounts and to raise legal claims before our courts. However, at some point, the 2020 election must end.”

Capito concluded her statement, “I believe that Vice President Biden and Senator Harris should begin receiving all appropriate briefings related to national security and COVID-19 to facilitate a smooth transfer of power in the likely event that they are to take office on January 20.”

Capito’s statement comes hours after the Cincinnati Enquirer published an op-ed from Rob Portman, another Republican senator, saying there was no evidence of widespread fraud that would change the outcome of the election.

8.44pm GMT

Gary Cohn, the former chief economic adviser to Donald Trump, praised Janet Yellen as “an excellent choice for Treasury Secretary.”

Cohn said in a tweet, “Having had the opportunity to work with then-Chair Yellen, I have no doubt she will be the steady hand we need to promote an economy that works for everyone, especially during these difficult times. Congratulations.”

Cohn served as Trump’s first director of the National Economic Council until April 2018, but the former Goldman Sachs president has since expressed some skepticism about the president’s leadership abilities.

Cohn said in September that he still had not decided whether to support Trump’s reelection campaign.

8.29pm GMT

Some progressive groups have already indicated that they consider Janet Yellen to be an acceptable choice for treasury secretary.

“Among those not named Elizabeth Warren, Janet Yellen and Sarah Bloom Raskin are high up on the list of people that progressives would find acceptable,” Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, told CNN today.

Green added, “Janet Yellen would faithfully implement the ambitious agenda Biden campaigned on.”

8.22pm GMT

Joe Biden said last week that he had made a decision on who he would nominate to lead the treasury department.

“We’ve made that decision,” Biden said at a Thursday press conference. “And you’ll find it is someone who I think will be accepted by all elements of the Democratic party … progressive to the moderate coalitions.”

That comment intensified speculation that the president-elect had chosen Janet Yellen, given the former Federal Reserve chairwoman’s impressive credentials.

8.10pm GMT

Janet Yellen to be nominated as treasury secretary – report

Former Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen will be nominated to lead the treasury department, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Journal reports:

If confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Yellen would become the first woman to hold the job. [Joe] Biden’s selection positions the 74-year-old labor economist to lead his administration’s efforts to drive the recovery from the destruction caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms. Yellen, who was the first woman to lead the Fed, would become the first person to have headed the Treasury, the central bank and the White House Council of Economic Advisers. …

She is viewed by Biden transition officials as a credible authority on the dangers of prematurely withdrawing government stimulus and as someone who could collaborate closely with the Fed and executive-branch agencies to engineer more support if Congress remains hesitant to act.

Ms. Yellen was confirmed with bipartisan support as a Fed chairwoman in 2014 and as vice chairwoman in 2010. She received 11 Republican votes in her 2014 confirmation, including the backing of three sitting Republican senators: Richard Burr of North Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Biden said last week that he had selected his nominee for treasury secretary and would announce his choice shortly before or shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday.

Janet Yellen pictured in January last year.
Janet Yellen pictured in January last year.
Photograph: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Updated at 8.27pm GMT

8.06pm GMT

Biden and Harris hold virtual meeting with US mayors

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are currently holding a virtual meeting with the US conference of mayors in Wilmington, Delaware.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in virtual meeting with mayors.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in virtual meeting with mayors.
Photograph: Reuters

The president-elect spoke about the need for local leaders to work with the federal government to confront coronavirus and the economic fallout from the pandemic.

Biden said his administration “will have an open door for mayors,” promising to be a “true partner” for local leaders.

7.56pm GMT

Joe Biden dismissed a question about whether he was concerned that Senate Republicans may try to block his cabinet nominees from being confirmed.

Asked about the possibility of Senate roadblocks, the president-elect laughed and said, “Are you kidding me?”

It’s still unclear whether Republicans will still control of the Senate in January, after Georgia holds its two runoff races.

However, if Republicans do control the Senate, there is reason to believe Biden’s nominees could face a lot of resistance. Two of the cabinet nominees that Biden announced today, Antony Blinken and Alejandro Mayorkas, were previously confirmed by the Senate with little to no Republican support.

7.40pm GMT

Antony Blinken has reacted to the announcement that Joe Biden will nominate him to serve as the next secretary of state.

Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state, said in a tweet, “The messages from friends and colleagues that I’ve received over the past 15 hours have been humbling.

“Honored to announce, officially, that I have been nominated to serve as Secretary of State. If confirmed, this is a mission I will take on with my full heart.”

Blinken served in a number of senior roles under the Obama administration, including working as Biden’s national security adviser during Obama’s first term.

7.22pm GMT

Today so far

Here’s where the day stands so far:

  • Joe Biden announced several key appointments and nominations for his national security and foreign policy team. Former secretary of state John Kerry will serve as the president-elect’s special envoy to address climate change, and former deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken will be nominated to lead the state department.
  • The coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca has an efficacy of up to 90%, according to results from the final trial. The news comes after vaccine candidates from Moderna and Pfizer were shown to have an efficacy of 95%.
  • More Americans are hospitalized with coronavirus than ever before, as infections surge across the country. Public health experts are urging Americans not to travel for this week’s Thanksgiving holiday in order to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The blog will have more coming up, so stay tuned.

Updated at 7.42pm GMT

7.01pm GMT

Joe Biden’s transition team denied the Bloomberg News report that it has asked Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard to stay at the central bank rather than leading the treasury department.

6.58pm GMT

Federal reserve governor Lael Brainard, who was considered a top contender for treasury secretary, has reportedly been asked by Joe Biden’s team to stay at the central bank.

Bloomberg News reports:

Brainard is the only Democrat on a Fed board filled mostly by President Donald Trump’s appointments, and she may be a leading candidate for Fed chair when Jerome Powell’s term expires in 2022. …

Brainard emerged as a top contender to become the first female Treasury secretary before the election, but in recent weeks liberal figures in the Democratic party have pushed Biden to choose former Fed chair Janet Yellen for the post.

Biden said last week that he has selected his nominee for treasury secretary and would announce his decision either shortly before or shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday.

6.45pm GMT

Alejandro Mayorkas, who will be nominated to serve as the secretary of the department of homeland security under Joe Biden, reflected on the historic nature of his nomination.

Mayorkas, a former deputy DHS secretary under Barack Obama, will be the first Latino and the first immigrant to lead the department if he is confirmed.

Mayorkas said in a tweet, “When I was very young, the United States provided my family and me a place of refuge. Now, I have been nominated to be the DHS Secretary and oversee the protection of all Americans and those who flee persecution in search of a better life for themselves and their loved ones.”

6.30pm GMT

Michigan appears to be on track to certify its election results today, after a Republican canvasser indicated the state board had a “duty” to certify.

Aaron Van Langevelde requested additional time to hear public comments about the certification process, but he indicated he would ultimately support certification.

Van Langevelde’s comments came after Jonathan Brater, the director of the Michigan bureau of elections, said the state’s election this month was better run than its August primary election or its November 2016 general election.

Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in Michigan by 155,629 votes, representing 2.8% of the state’s total vote.

Updated at 6.32pm GMT

6.17pm GMT

Former Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro celebrated the news that Alejandro Mayorkas would be nominated to lead the department of homeland security.

“Alejandro Mayorkas is a historic and experienced choice to lead an agency in desperate need of reform,” said Castro, who served as the secretary of housing and urban development under Barack Obama.

Castro added, “As an immigrant and a creator of the DACA program, he’s well suited to undo Trump’s damage and build a more compassionate and common sense immigration agenda.”

If confirmed, Mayorkas would be the first Latino and the first immigrant to lead DHS.

5.58pm GMT

Joe Biden’s nominees will have to be approved by the Senate, control of which will be determined by the two January runoff races in Georgia.

However, if Republicans maintain control of the Senate, Biden’s nominees could face a steep uphill climb to confirmation.

As a Politico reporter noted, both Anthony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, and Alejandro Mayorkas, who could become the first Latino DHS secretary, were previously confirmed by the Senate with little to no Republican support.

5.53pm GMT

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who will be nominated by Joe Biden to serve as the US ambassador to the United Nations, pledged to serve with “kindness and compassion.”

Thomas-Greenfield said in a tweet, “My mother taught me to lead with the power of kindness and compassion to make the world a better place. I’ve carried that lesson with me throughout my career in Foreign Service – and, if confirmed, will do the same as Ambassador to the United Nations.”

Thomas-Greenfield previously served as the US ambassador to Liberia and as the assistant secretary of state for African affairs under Barack Obama.

5.40pm GMT

John Kerry expressed pride after being named as president-elect Joe Biden’s special envoy to confront climate change.

“America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is,” the former secretary of state said in a tweet.

“I’m proud to partner with the President-elect, our allies, and the young leaders of the climate movement to take on this crisis as the President’s Climate Envoy.”

As secretary of state, Kerry signed the Paris climate agreement, which Donald Trump backed out of shortly after taking office.

While campaigning for Biden’s presidential primary bid, Kerry warned Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement would cost American lives.

5.29pm GMT

Jake Sullivan offered a response to the announcement that he will serve as Joe Biden’s national security adviser.

Sullivan said in a tweet, “President-elect Biden taught me what it takes to safeguard our national security at the highest levels of our government. Now, he has asked me to serve as his National Security Advisor. In service, I will do everything in my power to keep our country safe.”

Sullivan is currently a policy advisor to the president-elect, and the senior aide served as Biden’s national security adviser when he was vice-president.

Sullivan also previously served as the director of the policy planning staff under then-secretary of state Hillary Clinton, becoming one of her closest advisers.

5.21pm GMT

Biden unveils national security and foreign policy team

Joe Biden’s transition team has announced several key nominations and appointments for his national security and foreign policy team.

The president-elect’s team made the following announcements in a new press release:

  • Antony Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state, will be nominated to serve as secretary of state, as previously reported.
  • Alejandro Mayorkas, a former deputy secretary of the the department of homeland security, will be nominated to serve as DHS secretary. If confirmed, Mayorkas will be the first Latino and immigrant to serve as DHS secretary.
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a former US ambassador, will be nominated as ambassador to the UN.
  • John Kerry, the former secretary of state, will serve as a special presidential envoy for climate and will sit on the national security council.
  • Avril Haines, a former deputy CIA director, will be nominated to serve as the director of national intelligence. If confirmed, she will be the first woman to lead the US intelligence community.
  • Jake Sullivan, a longtime Biden adviser, will serve as national security adviser.

4.57pm GMT

More Republican lawmakers are calling for Georgia’s recount to include signature verifications, even though that is not possible at this point.

Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Donald Trump’s closest congressional allies, said in a new tweet that he “completely” agrees with calls for another round of signature verifications.

Again, it is not possible to verify signatures on absentee ballots in Georgia at this point, as the president’s reelection campaign requests another recount in the state. (Georgia has already completed a full hand recount, which confirmed Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the state.)

Signatures are verified on Georgia’s absentee ballot envelopes before votes are processed. Once a signature has been verified, the ballot is separated from its envelope, and poll workers cannot reunite a ballot with its envelope. Therefore, calls to verify signatures again are meaningless.

4.38pm GMT

Republican senator: No evidence of any widespread fraud in the election

Senator Rob Portman, a Republican of Ohio, wrote an op-ed saying there has been no evidence of widespread fraud that would alter Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election.

Portman writes for the Cincinnati Enquirer:

This process has now been going on for about three weeks. The Trump campaign has taken steps to insist that only lawful votes were counted in key states, including filing numerous lawsuits. At this point, the vast majority of these lawsuits have been resolved and most of the remaining ones are expected to be resolved in the next couple of weeks. There were instances of fraud and irregularities in this election, as there have been in every election. It is good that those have been exposed and any fraud or other wrongdoing should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but there is no evidence as of now of any widespread fraud or irregularities that would change the result in any state. …

Based on all the information currently available, neither the final lawful vote counts nor the recounts have led to a different outcome in any state. In other words, the initial determination showing Joe Biden with enough electoral votes to win has not changed.

I voted for President Trump, was a co-chair of his campaign in Ohio, and I believe his policies would be better for Ohio and the country. But I also believe that there is no more sacred constitutional process in our great democracy than the orderly transfer of power after a presidential election. It is now time to expeditiously resolve any outstanding questions and move forward.

Portman’s op-ed is the latest indication that Republican lawmakers are slowly coming around to accepting the reality of Biden’s victory and imminent inauguration, even as the president continues to peddle baseless claims of election fraud.

4.13pm GMT

Joe Biden has announced two more senior staff appointments, as the president-elect continues to build out his White House team.

The Biden transition team announced that Reema Dodin and Shuwanza Goff would serve as deputy directors of the White House office of legislative affairs.

Both Dodin and Goff come from Capitol Hill. Dodin currently serves as deputy chief of staff and floor director to Senate Democratic whip Dick Durbin, and Goff was previously the floor director for House majority leader Steny Hoyer, making her the first Black woman to hold the role.

A Politico reporter said Biden has done an impressive job building out a strong legislative affairs team, as the president-elect faces the possibility of a Republican-controlled Senate:

Updated at 8.14pm GMT

3.58pm GMT

The lawyer leading Donald Trump’s legal efforts in Wisconsin could have his own ballot tossed out if judges accept his widely disputed definition of illegal voting.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has the story:

Jim Troupis, a former Dane County judge and Cross Plains attorney who is representing the Trump campaign, would not answer questions about why he and his wife voted that way.

Troupis and his wife voted early using the state’s in-person absentee option — one of a group of voters whose ballots the Trump campaign has asked election officials to deem illegal.

Their names appeared on exhibits Troupis submitted to the Dane County Board of Canvassers on Sunday, during the county’s third day of retallying ballots. The exhibits include lists of voters who voted in a manner the campaign alleges is illegal, an argument the Board of Canvassers has rejected. The information was provided by Dane County to both campaigns.

Wisconsin is conducting a recount of the Democratic-leaning Milwaukee and Dane counties, as requested by the Trump campaign, after election officials reported that Joe Biden won the state by about 20,600 votes.

3.35pm GMT

More than 100 Republican national security experts have signed on to a letter calling on Donald Trump to concede and begin the formal presidential transition.

The letter, which was obtained by the Washington Post, warns that a delayed transition could pose national security risks to the country.

“We believe that President Trump’s refusal to concede the election and allow for an orderly transition constitutes a serious threat to America’s democratic process and to our national security,” the letter says.

“We therefore call on Republican leaders – especially those in Congress – to publicly demand that President Trump cease his anti-democratic assault on the integrity of the presidential election.”

The letter’s signers include former homeland security secretary Tom Ridge, former CIA director Michael Hayden and former director of national intelligence John D. Negroponte.

“The election is over, the outcome certain,” the letter concludes. “It is now time for the rest of the Republican leadership to put politics aside and insist that President Trump cease his dilatory and anti-democratic efforts to undermine the result of the election and begin a smooth and orderly transition of power to President-elect Biden.

“By encouraging President Trump’s delaying tactics or remaining silent, Republican leaders put American democracy and national security at risk.”

3.13pm GMT

Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has up to 90% efficacy

The Guardian’s Sarah Boseley and Ian Sample report:

In case you missed it this morning: The Covid vaccine developed in the UK by Oxford University and AstraZeneca can protect 70.4% of people from becoming ill and – in a surprise result – up to 90% if a lower first dose is used, results from the final trial show.

The Oxford vaccine is the third to produce efficacy results, following Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna whose vaccines were made with a different technology. Both of those reported almost 95% efficacy and Pfizer has applied for a licence in the US and UK.

While the Oxford results may not immediately look so good, the scientists say they are not comparable, because they have included people who become mildly ill as well as seriously ill, unlike the other two. Their vaccine has some big advantages, because it is fridge-stable so easily transported and used anywhere in the world. It is also substantially cheaper, at about £3 a dose instead of more than £20 for the others.

The UK has pre-ordered 100m doses of the Oxford vaccine, which is central to its pandemic vaccination plans. Production has already begun and 4m doses have been supplied so far, which cannot be used until the vaccine is licensed.

Importantly, Oxford/AstraZeneca have already shown that the vaccine works as well in older people as in younger groups and is safe. There are early indications it might also help stop transmission of the disease.

2.57pm GMT

One Republican congressman from Georgia voiced support for Donald Trump’s request that the state conduct a recount, including signature verification, even though the state already completed a full hand recount.

Congressman Buddy Carter said in a tweet, “I fully support @realDonaldTrump request for a recount in Georgia that includes matching and verifying signatures. As I have been saying – all Georgians deserve a fair and transparent election. The state has to get this right.”

However, a Georgia recount would not include signature verifications, as that process has already been completed.

The Trump campaign has already requested a recount in Georgia, meaning the state’s nearly 5 million ballots will be tabulated for a third time by placing them through a scanner.

Georgia election officials completed their hand recount on Friday, and Joe Biden ended up with a 12,670-vote lead over Trump.

2.31pm GMT

This is Joan Greve in Washington, taking over for Martin Belam.

Here’s what the blog is keeping an eye on today: president-elect Joe Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris will hold a virtual meeting with the US conference of mayors in Wilmington, Delaware.

Donald Trump once again has no events on his public schedule, as the president has kept a very low profile since Biden was declared the winner of the election. Even Trump’s Twitter feed has been eerily quiet this morning.

But that might change as the events of the day unfold. The Michigan board of state canvassers is scheduled to meet today to certify the results of its election, but the board’s Republican members are facing pressure to delay the certification, as the president and his allies peddle baseless claims of election fraud.

That’s all still coming up, so stay tuned.

1.55pm GMT

Nic Robertson at CNN has this analysis of Trump’s tribulations over the weekend with the G20:

As stage exits go Donald Trump’s departure was something of a whimper, the US President leaving the top table of global G20 leaders to play golf. As his time in office draws to a close, despite his refusal to publicly accept the reality of the US election results, the combined unspoken message from the world’s leaders is: don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Evidence of the shifting attitude toward the outgoing US administration came from the lips of Saudi’s Minister of Investment, Khalid al-Falih. “When the world needed leadership [to combat Covid-19] there was none,” he said. The G20 had stepped up because some nations “turned inwards towards nationalism.” Al-Falih didn’t mention Trump by name. He didn’t need to; his audience understood.

As leaders spoke of the importance of sharing and working together to accelerate Covid-19 testing, treatments and vaccines for all, the White House struck a starkly different tone. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement: “President Trump highlighted how the United States marshalled every resource at its disposal to respond to the crisis, as well as the unprecedented economic recovery.”

At the virtual public panel, previous speakers praised the 2015 Paris Climate Change Accord. Trump, on the other hand, declared it a plan to kill America. “The Paris accord was not designed to save the environment, it was designed to kill the American economy,” he said in a pre-recorded speech from the Diplomatic Room at the White House. In a room full of reporters and officials in Riyadh, as Trump’s speech was played on a massive screen almost no one paid attention

Read more here: CNN – Donald Trump has left the world stage. Few will miss him

1.40pm GMT

It has been a long time coming but Hector Rivera is hopeful that one day soon he will be able to take a day off work. The 61-year-old works as a janitor in Miami, Florida, making just over an hour. Because the pay is so low, Rivera works two janitorial jobs and scrambles to find gig jobs on the weekends in order to cover his rent and bills every month.

On 3 November Rivera, and the millions of Americans fighting for a raise for low-wage workers, were given a boost when Florida passed a resolution to increase its minimum wage to an hour.

Raising the minimum wage was a central plank of Joe Biden’s election campaign and Florida’s vote came even as the state voted for Donald Trump. But while workers and activists are cheering the victory, the road ahead for Biden and a raise in the minimum wage looks tough.

It’s been eight years since fast-food workers walked off their jobs in New York City and began calling for a minimum wage. In that time the Fight for movement grew to be the largest protest movement for low-wage workers in US history and has won some important victories.

Florida is the first state in the south and the eighth state overall to adopt such a measure. And some big corporations including Amazon, Target and Walt Disney have raised, or promised to raise, their minimum wages to .

After Biden’s win, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a longtime supporter of the movement, urged the incoming Biden administration to use all the “tools in their toolbox” to push a raise through and Biden has promised to back unions who are also pushing hard for a statewide raise for low-wage workers.

But many Republicans still oppose the rise and, without control of the Senate, Biden may struggle to pass the first increase in the federal minimum wage in 11 years. In Florida the amendment was strongly opposed by Republicans, including Governor Ron DeSantis, who claimed raising the minimum wage would eliminate jobs and hurt businesses. The Republican Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, blocked a raise in 2019.

Read more of Michael Sainato’s report from Florida here: Fight for minimum wage boosted in Florida but Biden faces tough task

1.34pm GMT

Over at the New Yorker, Charles Bethea has written up his stint observing the Georgia recount as if it was a spectator sport. And a very dull one at that…

The counting, which began on a Friday, was a sprawling affair, a television-unfriendly November Madness occurring simultaneously across Georgia’s hundred and fifty-nine counties, from a probate court in Peach County to a former Sam’s Club in DeKalb. The main action was in Atlanta, in Fulton County, where about a tenth of the state’s votes were cast. By Saturday morning, a hundred and fifty tables at the Georgia World Congress Center—the Peach State’s Roland-Garros of recounting—were staffed with masked-up counters. Observers hung around on the sidelines, speaking in mid-match whispers. “She’s fast,” one said, pointing to a woman at Table 113, who was tallying, stacking, and re-tallying with unusual speed. “Fast isn’t the goal,” someone else said.

His report is full of wonderful littler character sketches:

Over in the nosebleed section sat Marilyn Marks, an election-integrity activist wearing a colorful scarf, who’d come down from North Carolina. She was tweeting on her laptop. “This is a Frankenstein illicit audit,” she told an observer. “A big, muddled mess.” She offered her monocular, which she used to get a closer look at the action.

A man sat down next to Marks, looking overheated. Marks was paying him to help her observe, and to capture “problems with the process” with his long-lens camera, to be used in an ongoing lawsuit about the accuracy of state voting machines. “I saw unattended ballots,” Hursti said. “They were blank. Non-malicious—but just wrong.” He compared the US to Estonia and Indonesia, where he has also observed elections. “One of the worst on earth,” he said. Marks pointed to a man hunched over a computer. She was concerned about digital security; he was inputting official table tallies. “He’s using the Wi-Fi,” Hursti noted. “Not smart.”

Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican and Trump supporter, on Friday certified the results which showed Joe Biden won the state by just over 12,600 votes after the manual recount and audit were conducted.

Read more here: The New Yorker – In Georgia, the dullest spectator sport in the world

1.11pm GMT

Kate Kelly and Danny Hakim have this for the New York Times this morning on plans afoot to try and force Donald Trump’s hand into recognising the scale of his election defeat, and to get Joe Biden’s victory recognised so that an orderly transition of power can take place. They write:

Concerned that president Trump’s refusal to accept the election results is hurting the country, more than 100 chief executives plan to ask the administration on Monday to immediately acknowledge Joe Biden as the winner and begin the transition to a new administration.

As a way of gaining leverage over the GOP, some of the executives have also discussed withholding campaign donations from the two Republican Senate candidates in Georgia unless party leaders agree to push for a presidential transition, according to four people who participated in a conference call Friday in which the notion was discussed. The two runoff elections in Georgia, which will take place in early January, will determine the balance of power in the United States Senate.

In a letter they plan to send Monday, business leaders will demand that Emily Murphy, head of the General Services Administration, issue a letter of ascertainment affirming that Biden and vice President-elect Kamala Harris have won the election. Murphy has so far resisted calls to begin the normal transition planning, which includes providing resources and money to an incoming administration as it prepares to take control.

“Every day that an orderly presidential transition process is delayed, our democracy grows weaker in the eyes of our own citizens and the nation’s stature on the global stage is diminished,” the executives write in the letter, a draft of which was reviewed by The New York Times. “Withholding resources and vital information from an incoming administration puts the public and economic health and security of America at risk.”

Read more here: New York Times – Business leaders, citing damage to country, urge Trump to begin transition

12.59pm GMT

More Americans hospitalised with Covid than ever before ahead of Thanksgiving

More people are hospitalised with Covid-19 in the US than ever before, as cases continue to rise steeply amid the countdown to a Thanksgiving holiday many fear will have disastrous effect, given mass travel and indoor family gatherings.

According to Johns Hopkins University, the US recorded 142,732 new cases on Sunday, down from the record high of Friday, when more than 196,000 cases were recorded. But 83,870 people were hospitalised, a record, while 921 people died. The total death toll is now 256,589.

On Friday, 1,448 people died – the equivalent of one death every minute.

In Washington, Donald Trump has faced criticism for a lack of action. The lame duck president played golf on Sunday. On Monday he had no events on his public schedule.

In Wilmington, Delaware, where Joe Biden continues to plan for the transition of power, the president-elect was due to hold a virtual meeting with the US Conference of Mayors. Biden spoke to governors last week.

Despite news of impending vaccines, states across the US are feeling the strain. In just one example, Minnesota, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s front page headline on Monday was: “No beds anywhere: hospitals strained to limit by virus.” The paper reported 7,219 new cases and 41 deaths and said demand for testing was surging.

Resources are also strained in states which saw early peaks and are now experiencing a resurgence. In New York, where schools are closed again, the Wall Street Journal reported that hundreds of bodies from the spring surge were still in refrigerated morgues on the Brooklyn waterfront.

Citing the city’s medical examiner, the Journal said many of the bodies “are of people whose families can’t be located or can’t afford a proper burial”. Mayor Bill de Blasio ruled out mass burials after controversy early in the pandemic.

In Nevada, Democratic governor Steve Sisolak, having tested positive himself earlier this month, announced new restrictions on casinos, restaurants and bars and other public venues, while imposing a broader mask mandate.

“Whether you believe in the science of Covid or not,” he said, “the reality is this – Covid is filling up our hospital beds, and that threatens all Nevadans.”

Read more of Martin Pengelly’s report here: More Americans hospitalised with Covid than ever before ahead of Thanksgiving

12.55pm GMT

Julia Preston of the Marshall Project has this for us today, on the huge task facing Joe Biden to undo four years of cruel immigration policy descisions by the Donald Trump administration. She writes:

In one beating, the woman from El Salvador told the immigration judge, her boyfriend’s punches disfigured her jaw and knocked out two front teeth. After raping her, he forced her to have his name tattooed in jagged letters on her back, boasting that he was marking her with his brand.

The judge seemed moved by her testimony. In the hearing in September in the Baltimore immigration court, he found that the woman’s terror of going back to her country, where she said the boyfriend was lying in wait, was credible. But he swiftly denied her asylum claim, saying the danger she faced did not fit any definition of persecution under current interpretations of American law.

The outcome for the woman, identified in her confidential asylum case as L M, was the result of a decision in 2018 by President Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Setting aside two decades of precedent, Sessions ruled that domestic violence and most gang violence could not be the basis for asylum.

As president-elect Joe Biden moves deliberately to transition towards the White House, even while Trump refuses to accept defeat, he has laid out a fast-paced agenda to unwind Trump’s harsh immigration policies. But even if Biden quickly orders a final end to family separations and re-opens the border for asylum-seekers, his plans could stall without action at the justice department, which holds extensive power over the immigration system.

To carry out Biden’s proposals, his attorney general will have to reverse decisions by Sessions and Attorney General William Barr that sharply limited asylum, particularly for people like L M who are fleeing from Central America. Biden’s justice officials will have to contend with an immigration appeals court loaded by Barr with conservative judges known for denying asylum.

Read more here: ‘Wreckage everywhere’: can Biden undo Trump’s harsh immigration policies?

12.49pm GMT

Just a quick snap from Associated Press here that Rep. Bryan Steil has become the latest Republican lawmaker to test positive for Covid-19. He represents Wisconsin’s 1st congressional district.

The congressman said he began experiencing mild symptoms over the weekend and contacted his health care provider while at home in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Rep. Bryan Steil speaking at a campaign rally prior to the election.
Rep. Bryan Steil speaking at a campaign rally prior to the election.
Photograph: Morry Gash/AP

Steil said he spent all of last week working in Washington, DC.

“Following CDC guidelines, I am immediately quarantining and will continue serving the people of Southeast Wisconsin from my home in Janesville,” he said.

12.41pm GMT

Axios this morning are reporting that one of Trump’s close allies – Blackstone chairman, CEO and co-founder Steve Schwarzman – has said that the president has lost the election. They write:

It’s all theatrics now. Even if Trump doesn’t move on fast, you can. Schwarzman said in a statement to Axios that Biden won and it’s time to move on. “I’m a fan of good process. In my comments three days after the election, I was trying to be a voice of reason and express why it’s in the national interest to have all Americans believe the election is being resolved correctly. But the outcome is very certain today, and the country should move on.

“I supported President Trump and the strong economic path he built. Like many in the business community, I am ready to help President-elect Biden and his team as they confront the significant challenges of rebuilding our post-COVID economy.”

Read more here: Axios – Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman says Trump lost

12.34pm GMT

Grace Segers and Lacrai Mitchell have this for CBS News on the crucial Georgia Senate races coming up in the new year.

This will be the first time there’s been a Senate runoff in Georgia since 2008. According to Kantar/CMAG data, nearly 5 million will be spent on the runoffs on TV and radio ads since election day by candidates and outside groups. The candidate spending the most is Democratic nominee Jon Ossoff with more than million, followed by Republican Kelly Loeffler with million. Her opponent Rev. Raphael Warnock has spent .9m with David Perdue spending .8 million.

Joe Biden’s projected win in Georgia was the first time the state flipped blue in a presidential contest since the state voted for Bill Clinton in 1992, and gave Democrats in the state a jolt of enthusiasm ahead of the January runoffs. But it also served as a siren for state Republicans, who will now have to keep their base motivated without Trump at the top of the ticket. Although Trump has not yet conceded the election, most Republicans recognize that they will need to win at least one of the Georgia Senate races to act as a check upon the Biden administration.

In a statement to CBS News, Georgia Republican Party spokesperson Abigail Sigler said the state party, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican National Committee were working with the Perdue and Loeffler campaigns to build a “massive field operation.”

“We are working around the clock to ensure voters understand they have a clear choice: they can elect radical liberals who will be rubber stamps for Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer’s agenda or they can send two conservative outsiders to fight for their Georgia values,” Sigler said.

Read more here: CBS News – Both parties rev up campaigns for crucial Georgia Senate runoffs

12.19pm GMT

If you fancy something to get your ears around, then I can highly recommend today’s Today in Focus podcast.

Black and Latino voters overwhelmingly favoured the Democrats in the 2020 US election. Without their huge margins in key states, Joe Biden could not have won, Gary Younge tells host Anushka Asthana. By 2045, white voters will be in the minority. These changing demographics are a concern for the Republican party. In 2013, just a year after turnout rates for black voters surpassed those for white voters for the first time, the supreme court gutted the Voting Rights Act, which affected poor, young and minority voters.

It’s important to remember, Gary tells Anushka, that the US was a slave state for more than 200 years; and an apartheid state, after the abolition of slavery, for another century. It has only been a non-racial democracy for 55 years. And that now hangs in the balance. If Biden does not produce something transformative, the disillusionment among voters may grow and people may once again look for someone who can disrupt the status quo, which is how Donald Trump won in 2016.

12.17pm GMT

By the way, whoever Joe Biden ends up announcing in his cabinet this week, I think we can be fairly certain it isn’t going to be this fantasy line-up from Fox News.

12.14pm GMT

Trump planning to veto defense bill over proposals to remove Confederate names from bases – reports

While Donald Trump may be heading slowly and reluctantly to the White House door marked ‘one-term president exit’, he’s still in charge until 20 January, and NBC News are reporting on one of the things he is threatening to do before then – veto the defense bill over proposals to rename military bases that currently honor those who fought against the United States army as Confederates.

President Donald Trump is threatening to veto legislation to fund the military as one of his final acts in office unless a widely supported, bipartisan provision to rename military bases honoring Confederate military leaders is removed, according to White House, defense and congressional sources.

Trump’s stance has put in doubt legislation that had been agreed to by Republicans and Democrats in the House and the Senate. While some Republicans are now shifting their positions to align with Trump, Democrats are refusing to budge on the agreed-to amendment, threatening passage of the legislation.

The effort to change the names of military bases honoring Confederate military leaders has been a target for Trump for months. It was among the disagreements he had with his former defense secretary Mark Esper, who was quietly working with Congress to codify the renaming of bases in the bill before Trump fired him this month.

Both chambers overwhelmingly passed a provision that would change the names of Confederate-named bases as part of their defense bills. But the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, James Inhofe, indicated that he’s gotten the message from Trump, and he called it a “big issue” of contention in negotiations with Democrats.

Read more here: NBC News – Trump set on veto of defense bill over renaming bases honoring Confederates

12.07pm GMT

“My experience dealing with Covid-19 in South Dakota is one of failed leadership. Our governor has made it clear it’s up to the people, so we have to come up with creative ideas to help stop the spread.”

Those are the words of physician Nancy Babbitt, lamenting the heightened risks vulnerable residents are facing amid state governor Kristi Noem’s determinedly hands-off pandemic policy – including being the only state without a mask mandate to curb infection. Talli Nauman has been in Rapid City, South Dakota, for us.

South Dakota has an alarming positivity rate of almost 60% – nearly six out of 10 people who take a Covid test are infected – second only in the US to neighboring Wyoming.

More than 66,000 South Dakotans have contracted the disease and at least 644 have died, a number likely to rise as hospitals reach breaking point.

The South Dakota Medical Association has issued a statement in support of a mask mandate. The state’s largest city of Sioux Falls put one into effect, and the second largest, Rapid City, is awaiting a final council vote.

With USA Today newspaper headlines reporting earlier this month that South and North Dakota are in a situation “as bad as it gets anywhere in the world for Covid-19”, Noem held her first pandemic media availability in three months, firing back: “That is absolutely false” and citing different data sources.

Read more of Talli Nauman’s report here: South Dakota gripped by pandemic amid Kristi Noem’s no-mask approach

11.49am GMT

Several news outlets this morning are reporting case studies of families that have recently held large gatherings that have turned into Covid-spreading events. It’s a real concern in the run-up to Thanksgiving. For the Washington Post today, the case study is Enriqueta Aragonez:

Reclined on a hospital bed in Arlington, Texas, with plastic tubes snaking from her nose and pneumonia in both of her lungs, the 57-year-old had a message for everyone doubting the need for covid-19 restrictions.

“I went to my nephew’s house and loved seeing my family but now, I’m fighting against covid-19,” Aragonez said in a video message. “Please protect yourself. It’s real.”

Aragonez is one of 15 family members who contracted the coronavirus after a small indoor birthday celebration earlier this month where no one wore masks. Weeks later, in an emotional video shared by the City of Arlington, the family is begging others to avoid gathering with anyone outside their immediate household.

“Of course we regret getting together but we all have in mind that this could be a lesson for all of us,” Alexa Aragonez, Enriqueta’s daughter, told the Washington Post on Sunday. “One moment of carelessness has cost us a month of peace, has cost us sleep, has cost us laughs, has cost us a lot of money.”

Read it here: Washington Post – A birthday lunch left 15 Texas relatives battling covid-19: ‘Please don’t be like my family’

11.32am GMT

Doctors, nurses, infectious disease experts and hospital leaders have united in warning Americans against traveling or gathering in large groups for Thanksgiving, a US holiday traditionally marked by bringing extended family and friends around a dinner table.

Experts and frontline workers are fearful such events will cause an explosion of new Covid-19 cases, which could overburden hospitals struggling to recruit nurses amid an “exponential” rise in cases.

“Looking at the landscape right now and the number of people who are still set on having larger, multi-household, in-person Thanksgiving dinners, one can only assume that the current trend of new Covid cases will continue to increase,” said Dr Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.

If people move forward with such Thanksgiving plans, Gonsenhauser anticipates it would extend the public health crisis “to the point of requiring strict lockdowns just in time for the Christmas holiday”. Several experts said they had canceled plans and limited their own celebrations strictly to members of their own household.

“In the strongest possible terms, we urge you to celebrate responsibly,” the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association said in an open letter to the American public. The letter urged Americans to have “scaled-back” celebrations, and to wear masks, wash hands and social distance.

“We must protect the doctors, nurses and other caregivers who have tirelessly battled this virus for months,” the letter said. “You can do your part to ensure they can continue to care for you and your loved ones.”

Read more of Jessica Glenza’s report here: Healthcare workers urge Americans to ‘scale back’ Thanksgiving gatherings

11.22am GMT

Yesterday CNN reported that the head of the US coronavirus vaccine program, Moncef Slaoui, said the first Americans to receive a vaccine could get it as soon as 11 December.

“Our plan is to be able to ship vaccines to the immunisation sites within 24 hours from the approval, so I expect maybe on day two after approval on the 11th or the 12th of December.”

There were 142,732 new coronavirus cases and 921 more deaths recorded in the US yesterday.

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Nurses are planning today to hold a virtual press conference to brief the nation on the challenges they are facing during the current Covid surge. The online event, at 1pm ET, is being organised by National Nurses United.

They say that nurses from a number of overwhelmed, hotspot areas across the country – including Minnesota, Illinois, Florida, Michigan, and Texas – will share their current experiences and challenges caring for Covid patients. These include accessing optimal personal protective equipment (PPE), getting tested, having the resources and staffing levels they need to provide safe care, getting notified when they have been exposed, being allowed to quarantine at home without loss of income when sick or exposed, and pressuring their hospital employers to practice proper infection control.

“With the infection numbers we are seeing now, we are on trajectory to see an unprecedented – and even cataclysmic – level of death and suffering if we don’t immediately correct course,” said Bonnie Castillo, executive director of NNU. “Nurses are calling on our elected officials, government agencies, our hospital employers, and the public to implement the science-based infection control measures that we have been demanding since the beginning of this pandemic.”

11.01am GMT

It was a deceptively low-key occasion on Capitol Hill: an older man in a dark suit, talking into a TV camera about an energy report.

According to his firm’s 362-page analysis, the fastest path to California’s climate goals included continuing to rely on fossil fuels. The analysis was funded by gas companies and groups related to them, but he wasn’t a lobbyist or industry consultant. Quite the opposite, he was the Obama administration’s well-respected energy secretary, Ernest Moniz.

Ernest Moniz during a meeting.
Ernest Moniz during a meeting.
Photograph: Mikhail Japaridze/TASS

“We certainly have to get beyond … the climate deniers,” he said in the April 2019 interview with C-SPAN. “But we also have to get beyond what we think are often completely unrealistic proposals for the pace at which we can decarbonize.” Fighting climate change at the pace needed would require a “broad coalition,” he said – one that included the oil and gas industry.

Moniz was wading into a dispute that will define how the new Biden administration tackles the crisis: can oil and gas companies be part of the solution? Or have they proven, with years of disinformation campaigns and efforts to slow climate action, that they will always stand in the way?

As the Biden transition team wrestles with this question, it is already facing pressure from activists not to hire more people with fossil fuel ties, like Louisiana congressman Cedric Richmond, who will join Biden’s White House as a top adviser.

Collin Rees, a senior campaigner for Oil Change International said Moniz’s links to fossil fuels aren’t “a blip on his resume”.

“It is his entire professional career for the last couple decades, which is deeply concerning,” Rees said.

Read more of Emily Holden’s report from Washington here: Why is Joe Biden considering this man to help fight the climate crisis?

10.55am GMT

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler has this fact-checker of some of Rudy Giuliani’s most egregious claims of voter fraud.

Yesterday Giuliani tweeted “Want evidence of fraud. In 70% of Wayne County, Detroit, there were PHANTOM VOTERS. There were more votes than registered voters. 120%, 150%, 200%, even 300%.”

As Kessler points out, this claim has been throughly debunked already, and the origins of it appear to be mistakes by Trump’s own legal team. He writes:

Power Line, a conservative website, pointed out something very odd about the affidavit that made this claim. [It] pointed out that the precincts that were listed in the affidavit were from Minnesota, not Michigan. Someone had apparently mixed up two states that started with “Mi.” The precincts were not in Wayne County but in some of the reddest parts of Minnesota.

Our colleague Aaron Blake further dug into the data and found that even in those Minnesota precincts, the data in the affidavit was off. Minnesota has same-day registration and very high turnout rates. Blake determined that the number of voters matched the number of votes cast. He speculated that the affidavit might have been relying upon incomplete “estimated voters” data from the Minnesota secretary of state in the days after the election.

Finally, the affidavit has a quote from a Princeton University professor raising concerns about a particular type of Dominion voting machine, suggesting this was what was used in Wayne County. But Blake confirmed that the counties in Minnesota in question did not use Dominion machines.

Read more here: Washington Post – Giuliani keeps peddling debunked falsehoods on behalf of Trump

10.48am GMT

Nothing appears able to deter president Donald Trump from spreading disinformation about the election on social media. He was at it again overnight, promising his supporters victory after making a series of spurious claims. Twitter, as is usual for the social media platform, labelled the tweet as misleading, and then still allowed it to be retweeted over 34,000 times.

Trump was photographed at the weekend as he skipped the G20 summit’s “Pandemic Preparedness” event to visit one of his golf clubs. The event was on the same day that a record 195,500 new Covid-19 infections were reported in a 24-hour period in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins university.

Trump golfs at the Trump National Golf Club on November 22.
Trump golfs at the Trump National Golf Club on November 22.
Photograph: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

10.41am GMT

CNN have this morning published this analysis of the slight movement away from supporting Trump’s attempts to subvert democracy by a handful of Republicans. Stephen Collinson writes:

Trump’s effort to overturn the election he lost is being increasingly undermined by the inanity of his legal claims and is causing some high-profile Republicans to peel off even with most of his party mute amid his constitutional arson.

The president’s legal team, ruining time-honored traditions of a peaceful transfer of power, is firing off long-shot court challenges and heaping pressure on state election officials. The spectacle has some senior Republicans ready to call time. “It’s over,” GOP Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan said on CNN’s Inside Politics Sunday. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a frequent Trump critic, said on CNN’s State of the Union that Trump’s behavior was akin to that seen in a “banana republic.” And even Trump’s friend, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, speaking on ABC News’ This Week, branded Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his cohorts a “national embarrassment.”

A critical point, however, may be nearing in the confrontation between the administration and the president-elect’s team over Trump’s refusal to initiate a transition, with vote certifications due Monday in Michigan and in most counties in Pennsylvania.

If local officials move ahead – despite the interference of a White House flinging baseless claims of mass fraud – they will effectively confirm yet again Biden’s capture of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Trump’s position will therefore become less tenable even if he refuses to back away from false claims that he won on 3 November.

Read more here: CNN – More Republicans are losing patience with Trump’s legal absurdities

10.37am GMT

Trump legal team member Sidney Powell made headlines with her statements at last Thursday’s news conference where, joined by fellow Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, she incorrectly suggested that a server hosting evidence of voting irregularities was located in Germany, that voting software used by Georgia and other states was created at the direction of late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, and that votes for Trump had probably been switched in favour of Biden. All nonsense.

Much of this was over-shadowed because everybody was fixated on what was happening with with Giuliani’s hair.

Giuliani and Ellis have now distanced themselves from Powell, issuing a statement saying “Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump legal team. She is also not a lawyer for the president in his personal capacity.”

Read more here: Trump campaign cuts ties with attorney Sidney Powell after bizarre election fraud claims

10.28am GMT

Israeli PM Netanyahu secretly flew to Saudi Arabia to meet Mohammed bin Salman and Pompeo – reports

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly flew to Saudi Arabia on Sunday to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and visiting US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, Israel’s Kan public radio and Army Radio said on Monday.

Reuters report that if confirmed, it would be the first publicly acknowledged trip by an Israeli leader to ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia,which has traditionally championed the Palestinian cause and shunned all official contacts with Israel.

Netanyahu was joined on his Saudi trip by Mossad director Joseph Cohen, who has spearheaded discreet diplomatic outreach to Gulf Arab states, said the Israeli media reports, quoting unidentified Israeli officials.

Riyadh has so far declined to normalise ties with Israel. But since August it has allowed Israeli airliners to overfly Saudi territory to newly available Gulf destinations and Asia.

As Donald Trump’s term winds down, Pompeo has been trying to coax the Gulf powerhouse to follow its neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, in establishing formal relations with Israel.

US secretary of state Mike Pompeo boards a plane at Neom Bay Airport in Neom, Saudi Arabia, on November 22.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo boards a plane at Neom Bay Airport in Neom, Saudi Arabia, on November 22.
Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AFP/Getty Images

Netanyahu’s office and the US Embassy in Jerusalem have made no immediate comment on the reports. Saudi state media made no mention of any visit by Netanyahu, and the Saudi government’s media office did not immediately respond to Reuters queries.

The rapprochement between Israel and the Gulf states is built largely on shared concerns about Iran – and, potentially, about whether president-elect Joe Biden will review Washington’s regional policies.

10.11am GMT

After reports first emerged on Sunday night that Antony Blinken would be US secretary of state in the Biden administration, one particular interview from his past began circulating on social media.

It was a September 2016 conversation with Grover, a character from Sesame Street, on the subject of refugees, directed at American children who might have new classmates from faraway countries.

“We all have something to learn and gain from one another even when it doesn’t seem at first like we have much in common,” Blinken told the fuzzy blue puppet.

After four years of an administration that has separated migrant children from their parents and kept them in cages, Blinken’s arrival at the state department will mark a dramatic change, to say the least.

While Mike Pompeo has remained a domestic politician throughout his tenure as secretary of state, giving the lion’s share of his interviews to conservative radio stations in the midwest, for example, Blinken is very much a born internationalist.

He went to school in Paris, where he learned to play the guitar and play football (soccer), and harboured dreams of becoming a film-maker. Before entering the White House under Barack Obama, he used to play in a weekly soccer game with US officials, foreign diplomats and journalists, and he has two singles, love songs titled Lip Service and Patience, uploaded on Spotify.

All those contacts and the urbane bilingual charm will be targeted at soothing the frayed nerves of western allies, reassuring them that the US is back as a conventional team player. The foreign policy priorities in the first days of a Biden administration will be rejoining treaties and agreements that Donald Trump left.

Read more of Julian Borger’s profile of Antony Blinken here: Antony Blinken – Biden’s secretary of state nominee is sharp break with Trump era

10.07am GMT

Biden to nominate Antony Blinken as secretary of state, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as ambassador to UN

The US president-elect, Joe Biden, will nominate the veteran diplomat Antony Blinken as his secretary of state and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as ambassador to the UN, moving forward on his campaign pledge to restore the US as a leader on the global stage and rely on experts.

Blinken and Thomas-Greenfield bring deep foreign policy backgrounds to the nascent administration while providing a sharp contrast with Donald Trump, who distrusted such experience and embraced an “America First” policy that strained longstanding US relationships.

Antony Blinken, pictured in 2016.
Antony Blinken, pictured in 2016.
Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Blinken could be named as early as Tuesday, according to sources close to Biden, while Axios first reported Thomas-Greenfield’s impending nomination.

Blinken’s appointment made another longtime Biden aide and foreign policy veteran, Jake Sullivan, the top candidate to be US national security adviser, a source told Reuters.

Linda Thomas-Greenfields speaking in March 2020.
Linda Thomas-Greenfields speaking in March 2020.
Photograph: Ahmed Jallanzo/EPA

Thomas-Greenfield, served as the assistant secretary of state for Africa under Obama, and Axios reported that her appointment was intended to restore morale and help fulfill Biden’s pledge to choose a more diverse cabinet than Donald Trump’s.

Updated at 10.12am GMT

10.01am GMT

Welcome to our live coverage of US politics. Joe Biden is setting up his cabinet in preparation for becoming president on 20 January, even while Donald Trump continues to deny the result and pledges victory to his supporters. Here’s a quick catch up on where we are, and what we can expect to see today.

  • Joe Biden to expected to nominate Antony Blinken as his secretary of state. The veteran diplomat may be named as early as Tuesday. It will mark a sharp break with the Trump era. Blinken is a longtime Biden confidant who served as No 2 at the state department and as deputy national security adviser in Barack Obama’s administration.
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield is expected to be named as ambassador to the UN, moving forward on Biden’s campaign pledge to restore the US as a leader on the global stage and rely on experts. Thomas-Greenfield served as the assistant secretary of state for Africa under Obama.
  • Israel’s Haaretz newspaper has reported that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu secretly visited Saudi Arabia on Sunday, and met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and visiting US secretary of state Mike Pompeo there.
  • The Trump legal campaign – or at least Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis – have distanced themselves from attorney Sidney Powell after her bizarre election fraud claims. Powell’s raft of incorrect claims include that Georgia’s voting software was created at the behest of late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
  • Nevertheless, overnight president Donald Trump has again been tweeting election disinformation and claiming “We will win!”. Joe Biden’s total vote lead over Trump in the popular vote is now more than six million.
  • Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have joined the ranks of Republicans breaking ranks with Trump’s attempts to undermine the election result.
  • There were 142,732 new coronavirus cases and 921 more deaths recorded in the US yesterday. Healthcare workers are urging Americans to ‘scale back’ Thanksgiving gatherings.
  • In El Paso, inmates have been used to help move bodies into morgues as Covid deaths soar.
  • A Trump supporter who exhaled over women during protests has been charged with assault. Video showed Deskins blowing air on two unidentified women after one of them asked him to get away and pointed out that he’s not wearing a mask amid the Covid pandemic.
  • President Donald Trump has no public engagements in his diary again. President-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris will meet virtually with the US conference of mayors.

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