👋 Away Message: Hi there! Matt is currently out on parental leave. He'll return August 30th-ish. More details can be found here. In the meantime, Joe (the voice of the newscast/podcast) will be publishing an abridged version of WTF Just Happened Today? every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You can expect 5-7 news items covering a slightly wider range of political news in about two sentences each. We'll return to our regularly scheduled WTFJHT programming when Matt returns in late August.
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1/ The General Services Administration formally recognized Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election – more than two weeks after securing the electoral votes necessary to win the White House. Emily Murphy, the Trump appointee who runs the GSA, faced weeks of criticism from Democrats, national security, and health experts, who argued that delaying the formal transition was hampering the incoming Biden administration from receiving classified briefings and preparing for the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine. In a letter to Biden, Murphy said she was “never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official — including those who work at the White House or the G.S.A.” Biden is now able to access millions of dollars in federal funds and resources to begin his transition to power. Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that he had recommended that the GSA begin “initial protocols” for the transition. Trump also said he was not conceding. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / NPR / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)
2/ A group of Republican national security experts demanded that Trump concede the election. The statement’s signers – including former homeland security secretary Tom Ridge – urged Republican leaders to “strongly oppose” Trump’s “dangerous and extra-legal efforts to threaten and intimidate state officials in order to prevent a vote by the Electoral College,” adding that “Trump’s refusal to permit the presidential transition poses significant risks to our national security.” Meanwhile, more than 160 top American executives asked the Trump administration to acknowledge Biden as the president-elect and begin the transition, writing that “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.” Some of the executives who signed on to the letter have also discussed withholding campaign donations from the two Republican Senate candidates in Georgia until party leaders push for a presidential transition. (Washington Post / New York Times / NPR)
3/ A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by Trump’s campaign seeking to block the certification of Pennsylvania’s election results. Judge Matthew Brann wrote that Trump’s campaign, which had asked him to disenfranchise nearly seven million voters, should have come to court “armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption” in its efforts to essentially nullify the results. The Trump campaign had claimed there were widespread improprieties with mail-in ballots in the state. In his 37-page ruling, Brann said he expected a compelling legal argument “and factual proof of rampant corruption” from the Trump campaign, but instead “this court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations” that were “unsupported by evidence.” Brann added: “This claim, like Frankenstein’s Monster, has been haphazardly stitched together.” (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News / Bloomberg / CNN / Politico)
- The Michigan State Board of Canvassers voted to certify the state’s presidential election results, effectively awarding the state’s 16 electoral votes to President-elect Biden. (Washington Post / NBC News)
4/ Biden named a number of high-level administration and Cabinet positions for his foreign policy and national security team, tapping Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the ambassador to the United Nations, Alejandro Mayorkas as homeland security secretary, and Avril Haines as director of national intelligence. Mayorkas would be the first Latino to run the department responsible for managing the nation’s immigration policies. Haines would be the highest-ranking woman to serve in the intelligence community. Biden also named his longtime adviser Antony Blinken as secretary of state, John Kerry as his climate czar, and Jake Sullivan as his national security adviser. Biden also plans to nominate Janet Yellen as treasury secretary. (Bloomberg / NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Politico / Bloomberg / CNN / The Guardian / New York Times / NPR)
- Trump-Biden Transition Daily Live Blogs: New York Times / Washington Post / The Guardian / ABC News / CNN
5/ A third COVID-19 vaccine is reportedly highly effective. AstraZeneca said the results of an interim analysis show that its vaccine could be up to 90% effective in preventing the disease. Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the AstraZeneca vaccine doesn’t have to be stored at freezer temperatures, making it potentially easier to distribute. (NBC News / Associated Press / Washington Post)
😷 Dept. of “We Have It Totally Under Control.”
Global: Total confirmed cases: ~59,026,000; deaths: ~1,394,000
U.S.: Total confirmed cases: ~12,370,000; deaths: ~258,000
Source: Johns Hopkins University
6/ Trump Jr. tested positive for the coronavirus. A spokesman said Trump Jr. tested positive at the start of last week has been “quarantining out at his cabin since the result.” Trump Jr. is the first of Trump’s adult children to test positive, although his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle tested positive in July, and Trump’s youngest child, Barron Trump, tested positive in October. Trump himself tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 1, and was hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center one day later. Trump Jr.’s announcement came hours after Rudy Giuliani’s son, Andrew Giuliani, a special assistant to the president, announced that he had tested positive. Two Republican senators, Rick Scott and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, also said they tested positive. (Bloomberg / CBS News / ABC News / New York Times / CNN)
Sen. Kelly Loeffler is self-isolating after she tested positive for the coronavirus. The Georgia senator, a Republican, is currently campaigning in a runoff election that could determine control of the Senate. Loeffler tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday evening and then receiving an inconclusive result on Saturday. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution / New York Times)
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said he became “extremely sick” from COVID-19, but now believes he is “out of the woods” after receiving an antibody treatment. Carson said his initial symptoms were light, but then he became “desperately ill,” and noted that he has “several co-morbidities” that played a role. (NPR / CNN)
7/ The White House still plans to host partially indoor holiday parties despite warnings from health experts and a surge in COVID-19 cases. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, meanwhile, warned that Americans, including the White House, should follow the CDC guidelines and avoid large gatherings during what he called a “dire point” in the pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci called the September Rose Garden event “a super-spreader.” (ABC News / CNN)
8/ Trump skipped the G-20 summit’s “Pandemic Preparedness and Response” event to play golf. Trump briefly participated in the virtual summit from the Situation Room, tweeting throughout the opening session about his efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election. He then departed the White House for the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia. The U.S., meanwhile, recorded 195,500 new COVID-19 infections – another record. (New York Times / The Guardian / CNBC / CNN / Slate)
Trump will veto legislation to fund the military unless a bipartisan provision to rename military bases honoring Confederate military leaders is removed. Both the Senate and House overwhelmingly passed a provision that would change the names of Confederate-named bases as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act. (NBC News)
General Motors dropped its support of Trump’s lawsuit seeking to end California’s right to set its own fuel economy standards. Four years ago, GM was one of the first automakers to push Trump to loosen Obama-era standards on fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions and in 2019, GM supported the Trump administration’s legal effort to revoke California’s congressionally granted authority to set tougher standards than the federal government. (Associated Press / Bloomberg / New York Times)
The Trump administration acquired at least 135 tracts of privately owned land to build Trump’s border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border – and plans to acquire another 991 tracts. According to a study by the Government Accountability Office, the Justice Department filed 109 lawsuits against landowners between January 2017 and August 2020 to seize their property permanently. Trump administration lawyers have prepared another 100 lawsuits against landowners to permanently acquire their property. (CBS News)
Twenty-eight migrant children and their parents are facing deportation after refusing to be separated in detention and then losing an appeal for the right to claim asylum in the U.S. Because they crossed the border during Trump’s policy prohibiting immigrants from claiming asylum in the U.S. if they first passed through another country, they were not able to make their claim before an immigration judge. The policy has since been overturned, but immigrants who entered the U.S. when it was in place were not helped by the decision. (NBC News)
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