Live politics updates: Biden unveils health team; Giuliani in the hospital after testing positive for COVID

Live politics updates: Biden unveils health team; Giuliani in the hospital after testing positive for COVID thumbnail

USA TODAY’s coverage of the 2020 election and President-elect Joe Biden’s transition continues this week as he rolls out more of his picks for top jobs in his administration. Meanwhile, the remaining final states certify their vote counts before the Electoral College ballots are officially cast Dec. 14.

President Donald Trump has cleared the way for Biden’s team to use federal resources and get briefings during the transition, although Trump has yet to formally concede the race.

Be sure to refresh this page often to get the latest information on the election and the transition.

Civil rights leaders to discuss appointees with Biden

Leaders of civil-rights organizations plan to meet Tuesday with President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to discuss how to increase diversity in the appointments to Cabinet-level seats and other top administration posts.

Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, said he and leaders of other civil rights organizations will discuss racial equity and social justice with Biden and Harris.

Biden has said he would appoint a Cabinet and an administration that looks like America, with more diversity than previous administrations. But members of various groups such as Black people, Latinos and Asian Americans have voiced impatience with his appointees so far, even as he has named Janet Yellen to become the first female secretary of Treasury and Alejandro Mayorkas to become the first immigrant and Latino as secretary of Homeland Security.

“Look, it’s each one of these groups’ jobs to push their leaders to make sure there’s a greater diversity,” Biden said at a news conference Friday. “What I can promise you is when this is all said and done, you see everyone that I’ve announced – and it was going to be in the next several weeks, we’ll have it all out there – you’re going to see significant diversity. I’m not going to tell you now exactly what I’m going to do in any department, but I promise you it will be the single most diverse Cabinet based on race, color, based on gender, that’s ever existed in the United States of America.”

– Bart Jansen

1,500+ attorneys sign letter condemning Trump’s legal team

More than 1,500 attorneys, law professors, and officials in the legal professions have signed on to an open letter that condemns President Donald Trump and his legal team’s efforts seeking to overturn the results of the election.

The letter, from Lawyers Defending Democracy, reads: “More than 35 losses in election-related cases have made one thing painfully clear: President Trump’s barrage of litigation is a pretext for a campaign to undermine public confidence in the outcome of the 2020 election, which inevitably will subvert constitutional democracy. Sadly, the President’s primary agents and enablers in this effort are lawyers, obligated by their oath and ethical rules to uphold the rule of law.

“Bar Associations need to condemn this abuse and bar disciplinary authorities need to investigate it,” it continues.

The letter comes as multiple legal efforts regarding the election in several key battleground states were rejected by judges on Monday. One that was dismissed was from Trump supporter lawyer Sidney Powell, who claimed she would “release the Kraken” with her lawsuits.

Almost all of the lawsuits filed by the Trump legal team and supporters thus far have been dismissed for lack of evidence, or other problems.

“We urge all lawyers and bar associations to publicly condemn this conduct and bar disciplinary authorities to investigate it. Silence and inaction are not options,” the letter reads.

– Savannah Behrmann

Biden picks for DOD, Justice expected this week

President-elect Joe Biden told reporters Monday that he expects to name his choices for attorney general and defense secretary this week.

The transition later put out a statement saying that Biden will announce “his nominee for Secretary of Defense and members of his economic and domestic cabinet before the end of this week” – but said nothing about filling the attorney general’s slot.

Biden visited The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, for a meeting with transition advisers on Monday and briefly described his plans afterward.

In response to questions from reporters who travel with him, Biden said he would name his choice to lead the Pentagon on Friday.

Biden is already scheduled to introduce his choices for his health team Tuesday, including California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as secretary of Health and Human Services.

Biden earlier announced his choices for his national-security and economics teams.

Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of Defense during the Obama administration, is a potential Pentagon nominee. She is a co-founder of WestExec Advisers and senior fellow at Harvard University’s Belter Center for Science and International Affairs. Another potential nominee is Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a former assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs and a former Army National Guard helicopter pilot who was wounded in Iraq.

Potential nominees to lead the Justice Department include Sally Yates, a former acting attorney general from the Obama administration who was fired early in the Trump administration for refusing to defend his ban against incoming travel from majority-Muslim countries. Another potential choice is Deval Patrick, a former Massachusetts governor and assistant attorney general during the Clinton administration.

– Bart Jansen and David

House to vote Wednesday on one-week extension to avoid government shutdown

The House will vote Wednesday on a continuing resolution to keep the government funded at its current levels for one week as Democrats and Republicans negotiate a compromise to avert a government shutdown. 

The federal government is set to shut down Friday unless Congress acts, but the move by the House would extend that deadline by one week as lawmakers hurry to come to a deal before leaving for the holidays. The Senate would also need to pass the stop-gap measure before it goes to President Donald Trump for his signature. 

“I am disappointed that we have not yet reached agreement on government funding. The House will vote on Wednesday on a one-week CR to keep government open while negotiations continue,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said on Twitter, announcing the vote. 

Some of the biggest sticking points, according to a Democratic aide, revolve around immigration, as they have in years past – with funding for a wall along the southern border and immigrant detention beds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement – at the center of the dispute. Another hurdle is possibly adding language on police reform after a summer of protests over the killings of Black people, including George Floyd in Minneapolis.

As lawmakers wrestle with a deal on government spending, they also hope to find a compromise on coronavirus relief with plans to add proposals into the must-pass spending bill. It is an ambitious feat with a short deadline after both sides of the aisle spent months at an impasse over needed help for Americans weathering the pandemic. 

– Christal Hayes and Nicholas Wu

Michigan health official says Giuliani almost certainly contagious at hearing

LANSING, Mich. – Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said it’s “extremely likely” Rudy Giuliani was contagious when he testified before the state House Oversight Committee last week.

Those who attended the Wednesday hearing without a mask or were within 6 feet of Giuliani must quarantine until Dec. 17, according to a Monday press release from the department. She suggested anyone who attended also quarantine.

“Unfortunately, Mayor Giuliani has been hospitalized with COVID-19. His hospitalization comes only days after being in a confined conference room in Lansing for several hours without a mask,” Vail said in a press release. “Adding to my concern is that many attendees were also unmasked. This is the highest level of risk. Those who were present without a mask and those who were within 6 feet of Mayor Giuliani must quarantine for the safety of others. I wish Mayor Giuliani a full and speedy recovery.”

Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, testified last week in an unconventional committee meeting in which he repeated misinformation about the November election results. He did not wear a mask, nor did many of the witnesses who appeared next to him.

– Carol Thompson, Lansing State Journal

Top Trump aide Navarro cited for Hatch Act violation

Peter Navarro, a top trade aide to President Donald Trump, violated a law intended to keep federal employees from engaging in political activity, the latest senior member of the administration ensnared by the prohibition.

Navarro violated the law in a series of interviews and social media posts, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel said Monday. More than a dozen similar reports have been leveled against Trump administration officials with little consequence.

Navarro, an assistant to the president and the director of the Office for Trade and Manufacturing Policy, repeatedly attacked President-elect Joe Biden in media interviews and on social media in the months before the election, the office said. In one instance cited by the office, Navarro used his Twitter account to argue that “nice guys don’t vote for NAFTA and China’s entry into the WTO and destroy American factories and jobs like Joe did.”

The Office of Special Counsel, an independent agency that investigates Hatch Act violations and other matters, referred the report to the president for “appropriate disciplinary action.” The White House has declined to act on the reports in the past and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told Politico over the summer that “nobody outside of the Beltway really cares” about the violations.

The same office found in October that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue had violated the law in advocating for Trump’s reelection during a visit over the summer to North Carolina. Kellyanne Conway, a former senior aide to Trump, was also cited by the office for violating the act. Conway left the White House in August.

The 1939 Hatch Act is restricts federal workers from engaging in specific political activity in an effort to prevent members of the executive branch from interfering in elections. Prohibited activities include running for office, hosting fundraisers, making campaign speeches or distributing campaign materials.

– John Fritze

Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus pushes Biden transition team on diversity in Cabinet

President-elect Joe Biden has rolled out his next slate of Cabinet appointments, but mostly absent from the list so far are any Asian Americans. During a call with Biden’s transition team on Monday, lawmakers in the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus told top Biden transition aides Jeff Zients, Ted Kaufman and Steve Richetti that the Asian American community was “hurt” about the Asian American community’s turnout for Biden and potential lack of an Asian American in the Cabinet, according to a source familiar with the call.

Biden announced Monday morning he would appoint former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to the same position in his administration, but the caucus had wanted Murthy appointed to a higher-level role and had asked for his inclusion in the Cabinet. Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., said Monday in a statement the surgeon general should be elevated to a Cabinet-level position to “send a message that public health and true representation are sincere priorities.”

However, during Monday’s call, the transition team told the caucus the elevation of surgeon general to a Cabinet-level position was unlikely, which Chu said was disappointing.

Senior campaign adviser and incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain had been scheduled to attend the call but did not due to a conflict, which the source described as causing “more disappointment.” The caucus is concerned that Asian Americans do not have a connection to the White House, given the lack of representation at the top of the campaign, transition and inauguration teams.

Chu told USA TODAY in a brief phone interview later Monday the caucus was “disappointed” by what the Biden team had told them about the surgeon general position.

“When considering the fact that we have the worst pandemic in recent history that has affected so many parts of American life in such a terrible manner, we need to have a person on that Cabinet who is a voice for public health, and who is a physician,” she said.

– Nicholas Wu

Donald Trump says Rudy Giuliani is ‘doing well’

President Donald Trump said Monday his attorney Rudy Giuliani is winning his battle with COVID-19.

“Rudy’s doing well,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “No temperature.”

The former New York City mayor is in the hospital after testing positive for the virus, aided said Sunday.

Trump said he spoke by phone with Giuliani earlier Monday.

– David Jackson

After second recount, Georgia
recertifies Joe Biden’s victory in state

Georgia officials on Monday recertified President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory in Georgia after a second recount reaffirmed – again – the Democrat won the state and its 16 electoral votes.

The latest recount found Biden defeated President Donald Trump in Georgia by 11,769 votes, a narrower margin than the 12,284-vote advantage Biden had going into the second recount.

“We have now counted legally cast ballots three times and the results remain unchanged,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said at a news conference.

Raffensperger also said “disinformation regarding election administration should be condemned and rejected.”

“I know there are people who are convinced that the election was fraught with problems, but the evidence – the actual evidence, the facts – tell us a different story.”

Gov. Brian Kemp, who is required to sign off on the certification by state law, resisted calls from Trump and his allies to call a special legislative session to overturn the election and submit a new slate of Trump electors for the Electoral College.

Kemp and Raffensperger, who are both Republicans, have faced intense scrutiny from Trump as the president, who has refused to concede his election loss, has leveled baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.

Biden’s win in Georgia is a major accomplishment for Democrats, who hadn’t had a presidential candidate carry Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992.

The secretary of state’s office ordered an initial hand recount prior to the first certification of Biden’s victory that trimmed Biden’s lead from more than 14,000 votes to 12,284 after uncounted ballots were found in four counties.

The second recount, which was conducted by rescanning all paper ballots, was requested by the Trump campaign, which had the right to ask the recount because the margin of Biden’s victory was within .5%. Raffensperger last week said the second recount would show “no substantial changes.”

In a ruling from the bench, a federal judge Monday dismissed a lawsuit from former Trump attorney Sidney Powell, an ally of the president, that sought to decertify Georgia’s election results and have voting machines reexamined.

— Joey Garrison

‘The people have spoken’: Judge rejects Sidney Powell’s Michigan election lawsuit

A Michigan federal judge has ruled against a sweeping legal bid to overturn election results in the state, determining the lawsuit brought by an ally of President Donald Trump was riddled with “theories, conjecture and speculation” but little evidence of wrongdoing.

U.S. District Judge Linda V. Parker ruled against a request from Sidney Powell – an attorney disavowed by the Trump campaign who still champions its causes – to force the state to award its electoral votes to Trump despite President-elect Joe Biden winning Michigan by nearly 155,000 votes.

“In fact, this lawsuit seems to be less about achieving the relief Plaintiffs seek – as much of that relief is beyond the power of this Court – and more about the impact of their allegations on People’s faith in the democratic process and their trust in our government,” reads a portion of the 36-page opinion.

“Plaintiffs ask this Court to ignore the orderly statutory scheme established to challenge elections and to ignore the will of millions of voters. This the Court cannot, and will not, do. The people have spoken.”

This is the latest in a series of legal flops from the Trump campaign or supporters. Judges throughout Michigan and the U.S have rejected their claims, noting there is no evidence of widespread fraud.

– Dave Boucher, Detroit Free Press

Arizona Legislature closes after Giuliani possibly exposed lawmakers to COVID-19

PHOENIX – The Arizona Legislature will close for a week “out of an abundance of caution” after Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, possibly exposed several Republican lawmakers to COVID-19.

The president announced Giuliani had tested positive for the virus Sunday afternoon, less than a week after the former New York City mayor visited Arizona as part of a multistate tour aimed at contesting 2020 election results. The 76-year-old was later admitted to Georgetown University Medical Center.

Giuliani had spent more than 10 hours discussing election concerns with Arizona Republicans — including two members of Congress and at least 13 current and future state lawmakers — at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix last Monday. He led the meeting maskless, flouting social distancing guidelines and posing for photos.

Giuliani also met privately with Republican lawmakers and legislative leadership the next day, according to lawmakers’ social media posts.

– Maria Polletta, Arizona Republic

Biden and Harris announce inaugural committee

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris announced the chair and co-chairs for their inaugural committee to help plan the Jan. 20 event.

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C. will serve as the committee’s chairman; Reps. Cedric Richmond, D-La., and Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Del., will join Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as co-chairs, the committee said in a statement.

“Kamala and I are honored and grateful to these leaders for joining our inaugural committee as co-chairs and helping to organize a safe inauguration for all Americans,” Biden said. “These leaders reflect the strength, spirit, and diversity of America and have always held a steadfast commitment to restoring the soul of the nation, building back the middle class, and unifying the country.”

All were strong proponents of Biden during the campaign. Clyburn is widely credited with breathing life into what was a floundering primary campaign for the former vice president. Richmond has been named to serve as a senior White House adviser and director of the Office of Public Engagement in the incoming administration. Blunt Rochester, a longtime friend of the Biden family, served on the committee that helped choose Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to be the then-nominee’s running mate.

The inaugural committee works in coordination with Congress’ planning group on the arrangements for the Capitol ceremony, and organizes inaugural balls and other events surrounding the swearing-in. The format of those events is up in the air amid the global coronavirus pandemic, which has surged across the country.

Last week, Biden named Delaware State University president Tony Allen to serve as CEO of the inaugural committee and campaign chief operating officer Maju Varghese as the group’s executive director.

Because of concerns about the spread of COVID-19, Biden’s inauguration is expected to be a scaled-down affair. Biden said Friday he expects it will primarily be a virtual event with a “more imaginative” format than in previous years.

“It is highly unlikely that there will be a million people on the mall,” Biden said. “My guess is that there will not be a gigantic inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.”

– William Cummings

‘Organized chaos’:Inauguration Day move into the White House for Bidens complicated by COVID

Biden announces nominations for health team

President-elect Joe Biden unveiled his team of top health officials Monday morning, a key announcement for an administration that will immediately have to wrestle with the COVID-19 pandemic that is infecting an average of more than 200,000 Americans every day.

Biden’s announcement confirmed Sunday’s reports that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is his pick to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Becerra would be tasked with leading Biden’s fight to contain the virus, including the massive logistical operation that will be required to quickly distribute the coming vaccines to the U.S. population.

If confirmed by the Senate, Becerra, 62, would be the first Latino to head the Department of Health and Human Services, a $1-trillion-plus agency with 80,000 employees and a portfolio that includes drugs and vaccines, leading-edge medical research and health insurance programs covering more than 130 million Americans.

Anthony Fauci, who has served as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, will act as Biden’s chief medical adviser.

Biden’s pick to replace Robert Redfield as the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is Rochelle Walensky, the head infectious disease doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital and a Harvard Medical School professor.

Biden also tapped former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to return to the role he held for the last three years of the Obama administration.

Jeff Zients, who served as director of the National Economic Council during the Obama administration will act as White House counselor and COVID-19 response coordinator. Former White House adviser Natalie Quillian will serve as deputy coordinator. Marcella Nunez-Smith will chair Biden’s COVID-19 equity task force, which will work to address the disproportionate impact of the virus on minority communities.

– William Cummings

Rudy Giuliani tests positive for COVID-19

Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, has tested positive for COVID-19. Trump shared the news by tweet, writing “Get better soon Rudy, we will carry on!!!”

Giuliani was taken to Georgetown University Medical Center on Sunday where his son Andrew Giuliani said he is “resting, getting great care and feeling well.”

Since the presidential election, Giuliani, 76, has traveled the country challenging the election results and integrity of the electoral system itself. During much of his travels, Giuliani was seen not wearing a mask and flouting social distancing guidelines.

Along with a cadre of lawyers affiliated with the Trump campaign, Giuliani has held regular news conferences claiming, without evidence, various conspiracy theories and baseless allegations of mass voter fraud.

The former New York City mayor has had an eventful year. Prior to the election, Giuliani was central to a story alleging criminal intent on the part of President-elect Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. Giuliani was also briefly featured in the sequel to the movie “Borat” in a sordid scene he later called “a hit job.”

– Matthew Brown

Contributing: Meredith Newman, Delaware News Journal; The Associated Press

Read More

Scroll to Top