Here is a summary of the top political issues making headlines today.
1. Trump administration continues to stall transition to Biden
The U.S. secretary of Health and Human Services said Wednesday his department would not work with President-elect Joe Biden’s team until the General Services Administration makes a ruling on who won the November 3rd election.
Biden has chastised the behaviour of Trump and his administration’s officials who have gone about business as if Trump had won reelection
One official told CNN that department employees have been told that if anyone from Biden’s team contacts them, they were not to communicate with them and should instead alert the deputy surgeon general of the communication, the network reported on its website.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the leading U.S. infectious disease expert, and other public health officials have emphasized the need for greater cooperation between the Trump administration and Biden’s team.
More than two weeks after the election, Trump still has not conceded and his legal team continues to challenge the votes in various courts. They are seeking a recount in parts of Wisconsin now.
Biden on Wednesday continued to work on the transition and on putting together a White House staff while considering who will serve in his Cabinet.
The president-elect met with front-line health-care workers Wednesday in his effort to focus on the pandemic.
During the event, Biden warned that his team is going to be “behind by weeks or months” on pandemic planning unless the Trump administration stops impeding the transition, The Washington Post reported.
b. House math complicates Cabinet calculus – Politico
2. Two turkeys will be delighted that at least one tradition will continue
Despite the traditional presidential transition not going in such a traditional manner this year, one tradition will indeed be kept alive.
Two turkeys will be spared from being a Thanksgiving dinner, with one receiving a pardon from U.S. President Donald Trump, who has had limited public appearances since losing the race he continues to contest to Joe Biden on November 3.
The two lucky birds have already been chosen. They were raised by the National Turkey Federation’s chairman and Iowa turkey farmer Ron Kardel, according to the federation.
Official Thanksgiving turkeys have been given to the White House by the poultry industry since 1947, though some date the “pardoning” of the turkey as far back as President Abraham Lincoln, CNN reports.
No one is yet sure if the birds will have to wear masks at the official pardoning ceremony due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This year will mark the 73rd year of the pardoning.
Both turkeys, even the one that does not get the pardon, will go off to retirement at “Gobbler’s Rest” in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Trump meanwhile is expected to have Thanksgiving dinner at the White House.
a. Keep calm and pass the turkey: the politics of Thanksgiving – Financial Times
b. The real story behind the presidential turkey pardon – Constitution Center
3. Secretary of state pick looms large for Biden’s worldview
While Washington conducts its own guessing game about who President-elect Joe Biden will pick for his entire cabinet, the outside world is paying the most attention to who he will name as secretary of state.
Outgoing President Donald Trump has had two, showing perhaps how difficult the job can be but perhaps also revealing the ego clashes bound to exist among those who control the levels of power around the globe
Biden has no shortage of top, very experienced candidates to choose from.
Former United Nations ambassador and national security adviser Susan Rice is on the top of every shortlist.
She has the experience and a long working relationship with Biden and was considered by him for vice president.
But the ghosts of Benghazi and the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate there in 2012 are sure to appear at any Senate confirmation hearing.
Rice was accused, rightly or wrongly, of providing misinformation with the blowback so strong that she withdrew her name from consideration to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.
Former deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken is also in the running. He served as Biden’s chief foreign policy adviser in the Senate.
William Burns, a former Obama administration deputy secretary of state and current president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is also frequently mentioned for the job.
a. Tracking turnover in the Trump administration – Brookings
b. The Ten Best Secretaries Of State… – American Heritage
4. Biden surrounds himself with those he knows, trusts
When announcing Ronald Klain as his chief of staff, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden said in a statement: “His 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.”
Klain served in a similar position during part of the time Biden was vice president under U.S. President Barack Obama, and the two’s relationship goes back decades.
It is that loyalty and long working relationship that seem to stand out among the people Biden has named to his White House staff.
Inclusion and diversity were also key.
“The decisions underlined his reliance on a core group of strategists he has grown comfortable with over the years and during his campaign, as well as the pressure he is under to assemble a team with gender and racial diversity,” The Washington Post reported.
Five women and four people of color were among Biden’s first staff appointments.
Richmond, who will be the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, was an early supporter of Biden’s frequently campaigning for him and is one of his most visible and prominent African-American backers.
O’Malley Dillon gets a lot of credit for taking over Biden’s floundering presidential campaign and leading it to victory, She also worked on President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.
“The president’s statement tonight about trying to shut down the counting of duly cast ballots was outrageous, unprecedented, and incorrect,” she said about U.S. President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of voter fraud.
5. Incoming first daughter has her own sense of fashion
Move over Ivanka, a new first daughter is about to take the spotlight and she is just as accomplished — and with her own fashion line, too.
Ashley Biden, the 39-year-old daughter of President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill, is an activist, social worker, philanthropist and, yes, fashion designer.
Ashley studied cultural anthropology at Tulane University and worked as a waitress in a pizzeria. She earned her master’s degree in social work at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice.
“My father taught me that silence is complicity and that I must stand up for anyone who is being treated unfairly. That attitude has remained with me throughout my maturity and guides me professionally,” Biden said in an interview in 2018.
She was named executive director of the Delaware Center for Justice, which focuses on criminal justice reform, in 2014.
Ashley Biden has been married to Philadelphia surgeon Howard Krein since 2012.
As for the fashion, Biden launched the American-made clothing brand Livelihood. Ten percent of its sales are donated to community organizations.
a. First Daughters: Then and Now – Oprah
b. Who Are Joe Biden’s Kids & Grandkids? Meet the Biden Family! – Just Jared
6. Trump’s firing of cyber-security official certainly political
Since the November 3rd election did not go his way, U.S. President Donald Trump has fired a defense secretary, placed loyalists in top positions in the Defense Department and put his personal lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani in charge of all his election-related lawsuits.
But the move that might have seemed one of the most expected and also most politically motivated was Trump’s firing of Chris Krebs, the head of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
Part of Krebs’ job had been putting truth to all the unfounded, often absurd election cheating and fraud claims Trump and his supporters have made regarding the president’s loss to Joe Biden in the election.
“59 election security experts all agree, ‘in every case of which we are aware, these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent,’ ” Krebs had said.
His CISA said in a statement: “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”
That and Krebs’ other statements led to the predictable tweeting by Trump.
“The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud — including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, ‘glitches’ in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more. Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”
b. Trump digs in on baseless election claims even as legal options dwindle– Washington Post
7. Millions flooding into Senate run-offs in Georgia
With the control of the U.S. Senate depending on the outcome of two January 5 run-off races in Georgia, big money is pouring into the state.
Jeffrey Lazarus, a political science professor at Georgia State University, said between $200 million and $3oo million could be spent in races pitting Democrat Jon Ossoff against Republican incumbent Senator David Perdue in one and the Reverend Raphael Warnock against appointed Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler in the other.
“This is going to be wildly expensive — the most costly Senate election in Georgia history,” Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, told The Los Angeles Times.
The success of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda and cabinet choices could ride on the outcome of the races. If the Democrats win both, there would temporarily be a 50-50 split in the Senate between the two parties.
Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, will have to resign her Senate seat before being sworn in as vice president on January 20. The governor of California, Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, will appoint her replacement So a 50-50 split would give the edge to the Democrats as Harris as vice president would cast the deciding vote in the Senate on any ties.
Thus the headline in The Nation “Joe Biden’s Presidency Depends on Georgia” might not be as much of an overstatement as one might first think.
8. Trump team spending $3 million for recount in Wisconsin
The Trump campaign said it transferred $3 million to the state of Wisconsin on Wednesday to cover the estimated cost of recounting votes in part of the state.
Biden received 49.6% of the votes in Wisconsin, or 1.63 million votes, to Trump’s 48.9%, or 1.61 million votes.
Even if the state’s 10 electoral votes were to go to Trump, he would still need to change the results in other states to win.
Nevertheless, the Trump campaign is seeking a recount in Milwaukee and Dane counties, claiming that the Wisconsin Elections Commission directed municipal clerks to “illegally alter incomplete absentee ballots contrary to Wisconsin law.”
The Trump campaign also said in another statement that clerks were instructed that they could “rely on their own ‘personal knowledge,’ or unspecified ‘lists or databases at his or her disposal’ to add missing information on returned absentee ballots.”
Some Democrats call the recounts “a waste of time.” Certainly, they are expensive.