Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. Thankfully, it is Friday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators, and readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 246,217; Tuesday, 247,220; Wednesday, 248,687; Thursday, 250,537; Friday, 252,555.
Happy 78th birthday to President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenRomney on Trump election tactics: ‘Difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action’ by president Biden promises federal government will pay for National Guard coronavirus work: ‘That should be paid for’ House committee chairs demand briefing from GSA head on presidential transition MORE! (The Associated Press)
Vice President Pence and Biden led dueling COVID-19 news conferences on Thursday, revealing an administration determined to be in command and an incoming team agonized that President TrumpDonald John TrumpRomney on Trump election tactics: ‘Difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action’ by president New York expands Trump tax fraud investigations to include writeoffs: report Biden promises federal government will pay for National Guard coronavirus work: ‘That should be paid for’ MORE refuses to share information that would assist the 46th president, who takes the reins beginning at noon on Jan. 20.
Trump, who has been largely out of view since Nov. 3, did not appear in the White House briefing room as Pence led a parade of officials to review the government’s pandemic responses as the coronavirus surges in most of the country, states and cities order new restrictions and the nation’s death toll from COVID-19 marked a quarter-million fatalities.
“America has never been more prepared to fight this virus than we are today,” Pence said, declining to take questions from reporters. “Help is on the way.” He described the government’s optimism that early doses of effective vaccines to prevent infection will be available to some at-risk groups by December.
Biden, speaking in Wilmington, Del., alongside Vice President-elect Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisObama: Americans should be ‘troubled’ by attempts to overturn states’ votes Atlanta mayor: Trump would ‘eat his own children’ if it helped him Czech president says Trump should quit after election loss and ‘not be embarrassing’ MORE, criticized Trump as “irresponsible” for not green lighting a transition that unlocks briefings and information-sharing with his successor amid a national public health crisis. “It’s just outrageous what he’s doing,” he added.
At the White House, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci, Birx urge Americans to take precautions against virus in rare White House appearance COVID-19: Justice Alito overstepped judicial boundaries Former CDC chief ‘very worried’ US will reach 300,000 COVID-19 deaths by the end of the year MORE, the government’s leading infectious disease expert, joined task force coordinator Deborah BirxDeborah BirxFauci, Birx urge Americans to take precautions against virus in rare White House appearance Trump COVID-19 outreach to governors drops off Second-highest number of new coronavirus cases reported on Election Day MORE (pictured below) in repeating familiar guidance – wear masks (including indoors), distance from others, avoid crowds and family gatherings indoors and practice basic hygiene everywhere – while at the same time encouraging Americans to accept new vaccines as “really solid” when they’re available.
Even as states and major cities impose temporary new restrictions on businesses and schools because of overburdened hospitals and rampant asymptomatic spread of the virus, Pence said the president fervently opposes lockdowns and wants schools to remain open. “We do not support closing schools,” he said.
Biden told reporters he is not advocating a nationwide lockdown of the economy and is working with state and local officials, including governors with whom he spoke during a virtual meeting on Thursday, about mandating masks to mitigate spread until hundreds of millions of Americans can be vaccinated.
The Washington Post: Biden on Trump: “one of the most irresponsible presidents in American history.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced at the White House that Pfizer, along with its partner BioNTech, will seek authorization from the Food and Drug Administration on Friday to begin emergency use of a vaccine that has been shown to be highly effective in late-stage clinical trials (The Hill and CNN). Vaccine developers predict that COVID-19 could be “under control” by late next year if people accept the preventative drugs that show promise this year in worldwide research.
> Guidelines: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance on Thursday urging Americans to avoid all forms of travel for Thanksgiving and to celebrate the holiday with members of their respective households.
“As we’re seeing exponential growth in cases, and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another, leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time,” Henry Walke, COVID-19 incident manager at the CDC, said in a press call with reporters Thursday.
The updated CDC guidance also clarifies the definition of “household” to mean people who have been living in the same home for at least 14 days before celebrations. The update was directed at college students who typically return home from campus for the holidays (The Hill).
CNBC: CDC urges Americans against traveling for Thanksgiving as coronavirus outbreak worsens.
The Hill: Medical groups urge Americans to scale back holiday plans amid COVID-19 surge.
Much of the attention remains on the holiday season, but as Fauci and others noted, help is on the way in the form of a vaccine. As The Hill’s Reid Wilson writes, vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer both use technology that has never been successful before, but could be on course to reshape global health care in the long run.
STATE WATCH: California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomNewsom orders 1-month curfew in California to combat rising virus cases GM predicts lower costs, increased range with new electric vehicle batteries GOP lawmaker defends Newsom for breaking ‘idiotic’ COVID-19 rules MORE (D) issued a limited stay-at-home order in 41 of 58 counties on Thursday, including a curfew for one month starting on Saturday. Last week, California became the second state after Texas to surpass 1 million coronavirus cases (The Hill). Newsom’s order includes Napa County, where he recently attended an indoor, mask-free birthday party at the upscale French Laundry restaurant, inviting criticism that he failed to heed precautions he imposed on others (Fox News). … Ohio also has a curfew from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. for 21 days to try to slow the spread of the virus (Reuters). … The Smithsonian Institution announced Thursday that all museums and the National Zoo will temporarily close as COVID-19 cases surge in and around Washington, D.C. The closures will take place on Monday. No reopening date was announced (The Hill). … Iowa’s Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyOn The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds Grassley, Wyden criticize Treasury guidance concerning PPP loans IRS races to get remaining stimulus checks to low-income households MORE (R), 87, who is third in line for the president as the president pro tempore of the Senate, said in an update on Thursday that he is “feeling strong and symptom free” after testing positive for the virus earlier in the week. … New Hampshire Gov. Chris SununuChris SununuGOP holds line in state legislatures, dealing blow to Democrats Biden wins New Hampshire New England ice rinks shut down after coronavirus case clusters emerge linked to hockey MORE (R) on Thursday ordered a statewide mask mandate beginning Friday as the state deals with a new surge of COVID-19 infections (The Hill).
International: Mexico is now the fourth nation to top 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, following the United States, Brazil and India (The Associated Press).
LEADING THE DAY
BIDEN TRANSITION: Biden on Thursday continued to pressure Trump to provide access to government intelligence as part of a transition, warning that the president’s continued efforts to overturn the election erode trust in democracy among Americans and the rest of the world. He called it “incredibly damaging” and “totally irresponsible.”
The independent General Services Administration (GSA) has not acknowledged an election winner, despite Biden’s margin in the Electoral College, which major news organizations and state elections offices project as decisive against Trump. Until GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, a Trump appointee, “ascertains” Biden as the victor (a word without definition in the statute), the former vice president and incoming administration cannot access federal resources, intelligence information and briefing materials prepared by agencies and departments for the purposes of a transfer of power by Jan. 20 (The Hill).
The Hill: Two House committee chairwomen demand a briefing by Monday from GSA’s Murphy about her refusal to immediately grant the benefits of a presidential transition to Biden.
Cabinet: Biden said his choice to be Treasury secretary will be announced “just before or just after Thanksgiving.” His advisers told allies in the business community that a narrowed list for Treasury includes economist and member of the Fed board of governors Lael Brainard, TIAA CEO Roger Ferguson and former Federal Reserve Chair Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenRoger Ferguson, potential Biden Treasury pick, to retire in 2021 Biden considering Yellen as possible Treasury secretary: report Fed formally adopts new approach to balance inflation, unemployment MORE — all familiar, experienced candidates with ties to various factions of the Democratic Party (CNBC). … Biden is being urged to select a person of color to lead the Health and Human Services Department in a nod to the higher risks faced by Black, Latino and indigenous Americans amid the pandemic (NBC News). … House Democrats urge Biden to make history by nominating Native American Rep. Deb HaalandDebra HaalandHaaland says Biden will be ‘breath of fresh air’ on Native American issues US is far from gender balance in politics despite record year for women candidates Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election MORE (D-N.M.) to be Interior secretary (Politico).
Senate Republicans: Incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said Biden has not yet spoken to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRomney on Trump election tactics: ‘Difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action’ by president We need a new COVID-19 stimulus package now McConnell, Pelosi hunt for funding deal as shutdown deadline looms MORE (R-Ky.). Neither Biden nor McConnell has explained the delay.
Governors: Biden held a virtual roundtable with some of the nation’s governors from both parties on Thursday, focusing on ways in which he and his transition team can build on state-based information to plan to respond to the pandemic and vaccine distribution next year in the absence of cooperation from Trump (The Associated Press).
CEOs: Leading organizations that represent business interests as well as individual chief executives are publicly breaking with Trump to urge immediate transition cooperation with Biden and Harris, as required by law (Axios and The New York Times).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS & ADMINISTRATION: The president continued to lay low on Thursday. However, his legal team, led by Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiRomney on Trump election tactics: ‘Difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action’ by president Sasse condemns Giuliani’s ‘wild press conferences’: They ‘erode public trust’ Trump campaign legal fight keyed to court of public opinion MORE, made waves at a press conference and continued to lob unfounded accusations of voter fraud in an attempt to swing the election in the president’s favor.
At a press conference on Capitol Hill, Giuliani and a team of Trump lawyers steering legal challenges in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and elsewhere levied various claims of fraud. Giuliani asserted the president was a victim of a scheme by dozens of Democratic election officials from Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and other major cities that contributed to Biden getting more votes, even though Trump also improved over his 2016 performance in those traditionally Democratic areas.
“This was not an individual idea of 10 or 12 Democrat bosses. This was a plan. You would have to be a fool not to realize that,” Giuliani said from the Republican National Committee’s headquarters.
Giuliani and attorney Sidney Powell, however, did not produce any evidence of their claims outside of presenting sworn affidavits from citizens who claimed they saw suspicious behavior. The former New York City mayor would not commit to detailing support for his claims publicly (The Hill).
Giuliani’s performance came under heavy criticism from those not affiliated with the legal efforts. Christopher Krebs, a top cybersecurity official who was fired by Trump this week and earned plaudits from across the political spectrum for his work, panned the event, during which Giuliani’s hair coloring appeared to streak both sides of his face.
“That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history. And possibly the craziest,” Krebs tweeted. “If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re lucky” (The Hill).
The Hill: Sen. Ben SasseBen SasseRomney on Trump election tactics: ‘Difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action’ by president Sasse condemns Giuliani’s ‘wild press conferences’: They ‘erode public trust’ Hillicon Valley: Trump fires top federal cybersecurity official, GOP senators push back | Apple to pay 3 million to resolve fight over batteries | Los Angeles Police ban use of third-party facial recognition software MORE (R-Neb.) on Giuliani’s “wild press conferences”: They “erode public trust.”
Fox News: Giuliani presses Trump election challenge case in fiery news conference with legal team.
John Kruzel, The Hill: Trump campaign legal fight keyed to court of public opinion.
The Hill: Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstRomney on Trump election tactics: ‘Difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action’ by president Sasse condemns Giuliani’s ‘wild press conferences’: They ‘erode public trust’ Clock running out on Trump as states move to finalize vote counts MORE (R-Iowa): Trump lawyer claims that candidates pay to rig elections “absolutely outrageous.”
As The Hill’s Jonathan Easley writes, Giuliani’s efforts have had little success as states race to finalize vote counts and certify the results of the election, with the Trump legal team continuing to flail in its myriad court challenges.
In Georgia, a manual recount certified that Biden won the state, with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) saying that it did not uncover any sort of systemic fraud, locking in the state’s 16 electoral votes for the former VP (The Hill). Certification deadlines are also creeping up in Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Arizona, even as the Trump campaign makes sweeping claims about criminal activity that they’ve failed to substantiate in court.
In Wisconsin, a recount will begin today in two Democratic counties. However, Biden’s lead of about 20,000 votes appears ironclad.
Axios: Trump is on an island.
The New York Times: Trump tries to subvert the election, inviting Michigan GOP lawmakers to the White House.
The Washington Post: Trump invites Michigan Republican leaders to meet him at the White House as he escalates attempts to overturn election results.
The Associated Press: Explainer: A look at Trump’s long-shot legal challenges.
> Politics/Congress: Despite dropping the election, the president is set to receive a hefty increase in border wall funding — $1.9 billion instead of last year’s $1.375 billion — as lawmakers hope to avoid a government shutdown ahead of the Dec. 11 deadline.
As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton details, lawmakers have signed off on the increase of nearly $600 million because they want to avoid a year-end explosion from Trump and know that one of the few issues he cares deeply about is immigration. However, this has dismayed progressive outside groups who believe the bill should be written with the election results in mind.
The Hill: Trump keeps tight grip on GOP amid divisions.
The Hill: McConnell, Pelosi hunt for funding deal as shutdown deadline looms.
The Hill: White House suggests a deal to strip Confederate military base names in exchange for repealing a tech liability shield.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: [email protected] and [email protected]. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
A bogus dispute is doing real damage, by Peggy Noonan, columnist, The Wall Street Journal. https://on.wsj.com/3m0T9W5
Keep Biden’s inauguration simple — and ditch all the hoopla, by Karen Tumulty, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3nIRiFs
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 9 a.m. The House Armed Services Committee holds a 9 a.m. hearing on U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.
The Senate will resume legislative business at 3 p.m. on Nov. 30.
The president at 6:50 a.m. participates in a virtual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ meeting from the White House Situation Room. Trump, as expected, will describe rulemaking changes at 2:30 a.m. intended to lower prescription drug prices (The Wall Street Journal). The president invited Michigan GOP officials to meet at the White House today in a bid to overturn election results (The Associated Press).
Vice President Pence will travel to Canton, Ga., and Gainesville, Ga., to campaign at 1:05 p.m., and 4:10 p.m., respectively, for the state’s two Republican senators, who face voters in runoff elections on Jan. 5. The winners will determine which party controls the Senate next year (The Hill).
Biden will speak at 3 p.m. to the National League of Cities in pre-recorded remarks.
Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: White House suggests stripping Confederate base names in exchange for repealing tech liability shield | Biden faces mounting hurdles to rejoining Iran deal | Military coronavirus cases up Joe Lieberman warns Biden against rushing to rejoin Iran deal US to label goods from Israeli settlements in West Bank as ‘Made in Israel’ MORE is in Israel and will tour the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem.
Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. EST at Rising on YouTube.
➔ Automobile breakthrough? General Motors said on Thursday that within five years, a pending breakthrough in battery chemistry will cut the price of its electric vehicles so they equal those powered by gasoline. The technology also will increase the range per charge to as much as 450 miles. The company promises that by 2025, a small electric SUV will cost less than $30,000 and pledged to roll out 30 battery-powered models worldwide. Nearly all current electric vehicles cost more than $30,000. Electric vehicle technology is evolving rapidly and electric cars may dominate the automotive sector sooner than projected (The Associated Press).
➔ Science: The National Science Foundation announced plans Thursday to close the massive telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The telescope is too dangerous to operate, according to the foundation, after it incurred significant damage in August and earlier this month — representing a major blow to scientific research into planets, asteroids and extraterrestrial life (The Associated Press).
➔ Fed’s Main Street Lending Program to end: Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinGrassley, Wyden criticize Treasury guidance concerning PPP loans Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID-19 emergency funds We need a new COVID-19 stimulus package now MORE on Thursday announced the administration will not extend several emergency loan programs set up with the Federal Reserve to support the economy in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. In a letter to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, Mnuchin said the Fed’s corporate credit, municipal lending and Main Street Lending programs would not be renewed when they expire on Dec. 31. The decision drew a terse rebuke from the nation’s central bank (The Associated Press). The Main Street Lending Program has been criticized based on its lending criteria and the paltry lending approved during the crisis. As of Oct. 30, only $3.7 billion worth of such loans were issued — just over half a percent of the total funding allotted for the program (Mortgage Professional America magazine).
And finally … Bravo to the winners of this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Relying on savvy guesses (along with some top-notch Googling), readers knew their Conan O’Brien/late night television trivia.
Here are the quiz masters out there who got 4/4 on this week’s puzzle: Patrick Kavanagh, Leslie Wustrack, Ki Harvey, Daniel Bachhuber and Lori Benso.
They knew that Will Ferrell was the final guest to appear on “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.” (Fun fact: he was also the first guest on the program.)
Jay Leno headlined the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner four times, a record for an entertainer invited to leaven the annual spring “nerd prom.”
Craig Ferguson has not served as a host of the “Late Night” franchise. He hosted “The Late Late Show” from 2005-2014.
Finally, at the end of his run at “Late Night,” O’Brien said he “owed his career” to television producer Lorne Michaels, (pictured below), best known as the creator of “Saturday Night Live.”