The United States presidential election was last Tuesday.
Here is a summary of the top 5 political issues making headlines today.
1. Biden turns to scientists, experts for coronavirus task force
“Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts,” U.S. President-elect Joe Biden said on the day his transition team announced the members of the task force who will lead the battle.
They are a who’s who of experts.
They will begin their task with a glimmer of hope on the vaccine front as Pfizer announced on Monday a 90 percent effectiveness rate in clinical trials of the vaccine it is developing.
Biden’s covid-19 task force has three co-chairs: Marcella Nunez-Smith, a Yale physician and researcher; Vivek Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general; and David Kessler, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner.
Rick Bright, the former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), is also on the task force.
In May 2020, he filed a whistleblower complaint, alleging that the Trump administration ignored his early warnings about the covid-19 pandemic and illegally retaliated against him by ousting him from his role and demoting him to a position at the National Institutes of Health. He resigned in April.
“The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations,” Biden said in a statement.
a. What Biden’s COVID task force can do before inauguration – Marketplace
2. Trump claims vaccine announcement delayed on purpose
Without offering anything to substantiate his claims, U.S. President Donald Trump has accused the Food and Drug Administration and pharmaceutical company Pfizer of withholding the announcement of the effectiveness of a covid-19 vaccine before elections to prevent him from getting a “vaccine win.”
Trump said in a tweet:
Pfizer announced on Monday that a vaccine it has been developing has been found to be 90 per cent effective in preventing covid-19 in clinical trials.
Trump alleged that if “Joe Biden were President, you wouldn’t have the Vaccine for another four years, nor would the @US_FDA have ever approved it so quickly. The bureaucracy would have destroyed millions of lives!”
President-elect Biden said on the day his own task force to deal with the pandemic that has claimed more than 230,000 American lives was announced:
“I congratulate the brilliant women and men who helped produce this breakthrough and to give us such cause for hope. At the same time, it is also important to understand that the end of the battle against covid-19 is still months away.”
a. All the President’s Lies About the Coronavirus – The Atlantic
b. How do pandemics end? History suggests diseases fade but are almost never truly gone – The Conversation
3. Trump firing of Esper generates backlash
Esper and Trump had clashed over the proper use of troops in dealing with Black Lives Matter protests, the renaming of US army bases named after Confederate generals and other issues.
In an interview with Military Times given the day after the November 3 election and published on Monday, Esper said: “At the end of the day, it’s as I said – you’ve got to pick your fights. I could have a fight over anything, and I could make it a big fight, and I could live with that – why? Who’s going to come in behind me? It’s going to be a real ‘yes man.’ And then God help us.”
Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defense and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, called Esper’s firing “purely an act of retaliation by a president thinking more about his petty grievances than about the good of the country.”
The Democratic speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, warned: “The abrupt firing of Secretary Esper is disturbing evidence that President Trump is intent on using his final days in office to sow chaos in our American democracy and around the world.”
Trump said on Twitter:
a. ‘Always do the right thing’: Mark Esper issues his last memo to the force – Military Times
4. Both Twitter and Facebook suspend Bannon accounts
The post-election days have not been the best of times on social media for former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and his often incendiary commentary.
First, Twitter permanently suspended an account associated with Bannon after he suggested in a video posted online that Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be beheaded.
Bannon made the comments on livestream of his talk show and podcast War Room: Pandemic.
“I’d put the heads on pikes. Right. I’d put them at the two corners of the White House. As a warning to federal bureaucrats: Either get with the program or you’re gone,” Bannon said in the now-deleted video that had been posted on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
Facebook also suspended seven pages tied to Bannon for spreading false claims and conspiracy theories about voter fraud.
The pages include a group “originally named ‘Stop the Steal,’ which later became ‘Gay Communists for Socialism’ and misled people about its purpose using deceptive tactics,” according to Facebook spokesman Andy Stone. Those tactics “artificially boost[ed] how many people saw their content,” Stone said.
b. Articles on social media banning – The Conversation
5. Election crimes prosecutor steps down over ordered probe
Richard Pilger is likely not a name known to many outside of Washington’s legal and political circles.
But as the election crimes director at the U.S. Justice Department, his email telling colleagues he was transferring to another position is a sign of the politicization and legal battles to come in the days ahead regarding Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential race.
U.S. President Donald Trump campaign team’s legal challenges to the results and procedures are likely to continue for some time, despite experts saying they have little chance of succeeding.
But Pilger won’t be involved in doing what his boss, U.S. Attorney General William Barr, asked in requesting election-fraud investigations “if there are clear and apparently credible allegations of irregularities that, if true, could potentially impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual State.”
Pilger said in his email that Barr’s order was “an important new policy abrogating the 40-year-old Non-Interference policy of ballot fraud investigations in the period prior to elections becoming certified and uncontested.”
Vanita Gupta, head of Justice Department Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama, posted a copy of Pilger’s resignation email online and called it “a testament to how grossly politicized and partisan the Barr DOJ is, in service of Trump.”
“Let’s be clear — this is about disruption, disinformation, and sowing chaos,” Gupta wrote. “Trump is furious, demanding all ‘his’ lawyers take action. They have no evidence, so they’ll push the PR.”
a. Barr can make the Justice Department help Trump in election disputes. Here’s how. – Washington Post
b. Trump’s Lawsuits Are Politics Disguised as a Legal Strategy – The Atlantic