Headlines: November 12, 2020
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President elect Joe Biden has picked Ron Klain to be his Chief of Staff as he moves to prepare for transition to the White House. The Washington Post described Mr. Klain as, “a longtime Washington operative,” who, “has been a senior adviser to Democratic presidents, vice presidents, candidates and senators.” In a statement Biden indicated that Klain’s, “deep, varied experience and capacity to work with people all across the political spectrum is precisely what I need in a White House chief of staff as we confront this moment of crisis and bring our country together again.” Biden is still not receiving any cooperation from out-going President Donald Trump in his transition but there are reports that the former Vice President’s many decades of contacts in Washington with extensive experience are being tapped to help him work around Trump’s obstructiveness.
Although the majority of Republican lawmakers remain staunchly behind Trump’s attempt to overturn the election result and the nation’s democratic process, on Thursday GOP-affiliated individuals began speaking up. Among them former Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, who was chairman of the House intelligence committee said, “Joe Biden should receive the President’s Daily Brief starting today. He needs to know what the latest threats are and begin to plan accordingly. This isn’t about politics; this is about national security.” Notably Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma said that if Trump’s White House does not allow Biden’s team access to daily briefings by Friday, he intends to intervene. Lankford sits on the Senate Oversight Committee. Some Republicans are also admitting publicly that Trump will be unable to challenge the election results including Arizona’s Attorney General Mark Brnovich who said on Fox Business news, “If indeed there was some great conspiracy, it apparently didn’t work…The county election official, who’s a Democrat, lost, and other Republicans won.” Just the fact that Biden won the White House but Democrats lost seats in the House and didn’t gain enough in the Senate ought to signal that there is no widespread voter fraud on behalf of Democrats that Trump and his allies continue to claim. Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine said, “Joe Biden is the president-elect,” and top Republican operative Karl Rove wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal throwing cold water on the Trump campaign’s demand to recount votes in order to change the election result.
Trump’s claims about voter fraud continue to fall flat. In Michigan he has asserted that ballots were cast on behalf of dead voters but State officials have been able to prove this is just a case of people having common names, not a vast conspiracy to steal the election for Biden. In Nevada Republicans dropped an appeal of a state supreme court ruling on the counting of remaining ballots. Meanwhile Trump himself continues to share conspiracy videos of false claims of voter fraud on his Twitter feed. Most egregiously the case of a postal worker in Pennsylvania who admitted to voter tampering has recanted his story and now explained that the pro-Trump group headed by conservative operative James O’Keefe wrote the worker’s affidavit for him. The man has recanted the claim. O’Keefe has gotten into legal trouble in the past over his attempt to undermine and entrap Planned Parenthood officials and is a convicted criminal. There are reports that Trump has no real plan to overturn the 2020 election and has already begun talk of a Presidential run in 2024.
The last two Senate races taking place in Georgia on January 5th could determine control of the U.S. Senate. The GOP which already has 50 seats need win only 1 in order to have majority control and to that end Senator Lindsey Graham has now donated $1 million to help Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue win. Meanwhile Georgia’s former Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has helped raise millions for the two Democrats, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
In other news the coronavirus continues to make its march across the United States breaking records on infections as a record-shattering 142,000 new cases were documented in 24 hours on Wednesday. The number of Covid-19 related hospitalizations also broke records. Dr. Anthony Fauci urged Americans to focus on basic protection measures to combat this new and terrifying surge in the pandemic with diligent mask use, social distancing, and avoiding large gatherings. He said in an interview on Good Morning America on Thursday that in order to avoid new shelter-in-place orders Americans need to double down on basic protective measures. Fauci also struck a positive note saying, “Help is really on the way. If you think of it metaphorically, the cavalry is coming here…Vaccines are going to have a major positive impact.”
Still, the situation remains precarious as New York City considers shutting down schools once more. The nation’s largest school system has managed to avoid major outbreaks but considering that infection rates are going up everywhere else the New York public school district may rethink allowing in-person instruction. On Thursday the Labor Department’s latest figures show that 709,000 Americans filed for jobless benefits last week. The number is still far too high but is the lowest since the pandemic first threw a wrench into the economy.
Among the announced changes that President elect Joe Biden plans to make in his first term is a reopening of the nation to refugees. Trump had relentlessly slashed opportunities for refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. over the past four years to the point that there was only a small trickle of individuals being allowed into the nation. Becca Heller, executive director of the International Refugee Assistance Project told NPR that Biden plans to raise the number of admissions from 15,000 to 125,000. She said, “The point is not to hit 125,000 — the point is to signal both to the rest of the world and also to the domestic population in our own government that this is a priority again.” Refugees go through a years-long and extremely rigorous vetting process.
Hurricane Eta is making another landfall in Florida, and, according to the Washington Post, “producing dangerous storm surge, heavy rain and gusty winds in the region and leaving tens of thousands without power.” The slow-moving storm is typical of those seen during a warming climate and had hit the central section of the Florida Keys on Sunday before heading to Central America where it wrought serious damage. It is the 28th named storm and 12th hurricane this season alone.
And finally, Manuel Merino, the head of Peru’s National Congress was sworn in as the new president of that nation after President Martín Vizcarra was ousted in what is looking like a coup. Mass protests have erupted in the capital of Lima. Vizcarra was in the midst of an anti-corruption probe against the very lawmakers that ousted him and are now accusing him of corrupt practices.