Headlines: November 9, 2020
Listen to story:
Download: mp3 (Duration: 8:10 — 7.5MB)
President Donald Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper in an announcement on his Twitter feed on Monday, replacing him with the head of the National Counterterrorism Center Christopher Miller. The President, who has continued to dig in his heels about what he calls a “rigged election,” has so far refused to concede. On Saturday Associated Press and other media outlets called Pennsylvania’s vote for Democratic Nominee Joe Biden, and later that night Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris gave their victory speeches in Delaware.
Although vote counting still continues in several states and the final official turnout is yet-to-be determined, voters broke records in showing up the polls. The youth turnout was particularly high and may have helped Biden win. White Evangelicals also voted in high numbers, mostly turning to Trump who has courted them for years. Trump remains determined to challenge the results of the election although he has lost multiple times in court over the last week. On Saturday he announced a “big press conference” at an unlikely location: the Four Seasons Total Landscaping – a small business in Philadelphia near an adult bookstore and crematorium. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani spoke at the press briefing as media outlets speculated about the bizarre choice of location that was ultimately a fitting symbol of the Trump presidency. Trump plans to continue holding rallies and promoting his efforts to reclaim the election.
Meanwhile President elect Biden is moving swiftly ahead with a transition to the White House even as some Republicans refuse to accept his win –including top Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Emily Harris, the little-known Trump appointee who heads the General Services Administration in charge of signing over transition authority to Biden, is reportedly refusing to do her job. Still, Biden moved forward to name a 13-member coronavirus task force that will include Dr. Rick Bright, the whistleblower scientist that Trump fired. The New York Times reports that the 3 co-chairs of the task force are: “Dr. Vivek Murthy, a surgeon general under former President Barack Obama, who has been a key Biden adviser for months and is expected to take a major public role; David Kessler, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration for former Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a professor of public health at Yale University.” Biden is also expected to begin calling mayors and governors around the nation to urge them to impose mask mandates in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The pharmaceutical company Pfizer, made headlines for announcing a potential vaccine that shows more than 90% efficacy at preventing virus infections. The vaccine is a collaboration with another company named BioNTech. According to the BBC, “Pfizer and BioNTech say they will have enough safety data by the third week of November to take their vaccine to regulators.” Although Trump had been promising a vaccine as the center-piece of his nearly non-existent pandemic plan, and he even tweeted a report about the vaccine on Monday, it turns out the Pfizer vaccine is not part of the President’s vaccine efforts. Even Vice President Mike Pence tried to give Trump credit for this vaccine but it turns out that Pfizer did not accept government funding for vaccine development as part of Trump’s Operation Warp Speed. The company did so saying it wanted to stay out of politics. It has signed an agreement for distribution of a potentially successful vaccine. Mr. Biden lauded the Pfizer-BioNTech results as “cause for hope,” but urged people to remain cautious. Meanwhile stocks surged on Wall Street Monday buoyed by the news of Biden as President and a potential vaccine.
The Trump administration remains roiled in its failures over handling the virus as White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was revealed over the weekend to have tested positive for COVID-19 and then on Monday Housing Secretary Ben Carson also tested positive. There is now new scrutiny of Trump’s election-night indoor White House party where there were few masks and no social distancing. Carson and Meadows both attended the party. Under Trump the U.S. has hit 10 million cases of infections and a shocking 100,000 infections per day for five days in a row. As the weather cools more infections and more deaths are expected.
In other news, the congratulations for President elect Biden are streaming in from many quarters including former President George W. Bush. Mr. Bush, who was once a deeply reviled Republican President, has now struck a contrast with Trump and released a statement saying, “Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country.” Most international leaders also congratulated Biden including the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the leaders of Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand among others. Notable among those who have yet to acknowledge Biden as President elect of the U.S. are Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. Surprisingly Mexico’s left-leaning President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has also held back from congratulating Biden, which many say is a diplomatic mistake.
The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing an important case on the Affordable Care Act this week that could upend the signature health care law. With his appointment of 3 conservative justices on the nation’s highest court, President Trump may yet realize his wish to undo a healthcare law that millions of Americans rely on. The President spent four years promising an alternative plan that never transpired. Meanwhile Mr. Biden is promising to undo many of Trump’s healthcare policies. According to the Washington Post, “Biden appointees in the White House and federal health agencies are expected to unwind dozens of Trump administration regulations on Obamacare, Medicaid and abortion rights, turning back the page four years ago to the Obama administration’s vision of how government health programs should be run.”
And finally, in the shadow of the election news this past week are reports that the Trump administration is deporting Cameroonian asylum seekers on Tuesday many of whom are activists that their government has singled out with death threats. Deportees are referring to their flight on Tuesday as a “death plane.” According to the Guardian, “at least some of the detainees have cases pending or motions to reopen cases before the [U.S.] Board of Immigration Appeals.” Democratic senator Chris Van Hollen has urged the Department of Homeland Security to stop the deportations of people who are likely to be killed upon arrival in Cameroon.