Trump Administration, Week 204: Friday, 11 December – Thursday, 17 December 2020 (Days 1,421-1,427)



This is an ongoing project, and I update the site frequently during the day. Because I try to stay focused on what has actually happened, I usually let the news ‘settle’ for a day or so before posting. I hope readers will peruse the articles in full for a better understanding of the issues and their context; our democracy and our future depend on citizens who can distinguish between facts and falsehoods and who are engaged in the political process. Passages in bold in the body of the texts below are usually my emphasis, though not always.


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Friday, 11 December 2020, Day 1,421:


Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Friday, 11 December 2020: Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) Clears Pfizer Vaccine and Millions of Doses Will Be Shipped Right Away. The accelerated timeline comes after President Trump’s chief of staff threatened the F.D.A. head’s job if he didn’t get it done on Friday. The Trump Administration will buy another 100 million doses of Moderna vaccine. New York Times, Friday, 11 December 2020:

  • With F.D.A. approval, Pfizer will ship millions of vaccine doses immediately.

  • Trump administration to buy another 100 million doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine.

  • Los Angeles County could face ‘catastrophic suffering and death,’ a health official warns.

  • Mexico approves Pfizer vaccine for emergency use, and other news around the world.

  • To build confidence, Fauci says he’ll ‘get vaccinated publicly.’

  • Indoor dining in N.Y.C. will shut down again, Cuomo says.

  • Devin Nunes said he has tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.

  • Superspreading Boston biotech conference in February is linked to 1.9 percent of all U.S. cases.

Many other significant developments are included in this article.

Some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic on Friday, 11 December 2020: Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, first approved in the U.S., The Washington Post, Laurie McGinley, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Lateshia Beachum, Meryl Kornfield, Derek Hawkins, Marisa Iati, Hamza Shaban, and Miriam Berger, Friday, 11 December 2020: “The Food and Drug Administration on Friday gave emergency use authorization to the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine, setting in motion a highly choreographed and complex distribution process aimed at expediting vaccines throughout the United States to curb the pandemic. The nation set a record for covid-19 deaths Thursday for the second day in a row, surpassing 3,300. The death tally for Friday was 2,950, only slightly lower, bringing the U.S. death toll to nearly 295,000.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

  • The United States reported 237,092 new infections and 108,507 coronavirus inpatients, both new highs.
  • Mexico has authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the coronavirus, health officials announced Friday.
  • The Trump administration said it will purchase an additional 100 million doses of a Moderna vaccine.
  • The coronavirus can travel farther and faster inside restaurants than previously thought, a South Korean study suggests.

Presidential Transition Highlights: Democrats and Some Republicans Applaud Supreme Court Rejection of Suit to Overturn Election, The New York Times, Friday, 11 December 2020:

  • ‘Our institutions held’: Democrats (and some Republicans) cheer Supreme Court ruling on election suit.

  • Texas suit to overturn election results is denied by the Supreme Court.

  • Still divided over a stimulus deal, Congress staved off a shutdown this week.

  • Congress might ban surprise medical billing, and that’s a surprise.

  • The long, strange road Trump took to challenge the election results.

  • Biden is considering Cuomo for attorney general.

  • The federal investigation into his son is likely to hang over Biden as he takes office.

Other significant developments are included in this article.

Continue reading Week 204, Friday, 11 December  – Thursday, 17 December 2020 (Days 1,421-1,427):

Presidential Transfer of Power: Top Republican, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, joins group supporting Texas lawsuit seeking to invalidate election results, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Friday, 11 December 2020: “House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and 19 other GOP lawmakers were added Friday to an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court that supports the efforts of Texas to invalidate election results from four states that President-elect Joe Biden won. With the additions, 126 of the 196 House Republicans support the effort, which Trump continued to champion Friday. Biden plans to roll out his latest high-profile picks for administration posts at an event Friday in Wilmington, Del., as he continues his transition to the White House.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

  • A Wisconsin judge has rejected a challenge from Trump’s campaign to the results of the November election, dealing a blow to one of the last of Trump’s challenges pending over results in key swing states.
  • White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Friday told Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, to submit his resignation if the agency does not clear the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine by day’s end.
  • With his legal options dwindling and time running out before a key electoral college deadline, Trump ramped up pressure on the Supreme Court to help overturn Biden’s victory.
  • Election results have been under attack. Here are the facts.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn the coronavirus vaccine must be authorized Friday or he needs to resign, CNN Politics, Kaitlan Collins, Kevin Liptak, and Jim Acosta, Friday, 11 December 2020: “White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn he needed to grant an emergency use authorization for Pfizer/BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine by the end of Friday, and if not, he would have to resign, an administration official and a source familiar with the situation tell CNN. Another person familiar with the matter, who also confirmed the demand that the vaccine be authorized by the end of Friday, said President Donald Trump has been venting about the FDA chief since the vaccine was rolled out in the UK earlier this week. The FDA announced the authorization late Friday night.” See also, Trump slams the Federal Drug Administration (F.D.A.) ahead of expected vaccine authorization, The New York Times, Sharon LaFraniere, Friday, 11 December 2020: “President Trump lashed out anew at the Food and Drug Administration in a Friday morning tweet, attacking the agency’s commissioner, Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, by name for not approving a Covid-19 vaccine faster. Continuing his practice of publicly upbraiding subordinates with whom he is displeased, Mr. Trump told Dr. Hahn to ‘stop playing games and start saving lives!!!’ He called the F.D.A. ‘a big, old, slow turtle,’ flush with funds but mired in bureaucracy. The F.D.A. has been walking a thin line, trying to fast-track vaccine approval without undercutting public confidence in the process. Dr. Hahn has repeatedly said regulators will not approve a vaccine that has not been proven safe and effective. The president’s tirade came the morning after an outside advisory panel of experts voted overwhelmingly to recommend that F.D.A. regulators approve a vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, for emergency use.”

Supreme Court Rejects Texas Suit Seeking to Subvert Election.  The suit, filed directly in the Supreme Court, sought to bar Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin from casting their electoral votes for Joseph R. Biden Jr. New York Times, Adam Liptak, Friday, 11 December 2020: “The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a lawsuit by Texas that had asked the court to throw out the election results in four battleground states that President Trump lost in November, ending any prospect that a brazen attempt to use the courts to reverse his defeat at the polls would succeed. The court, in a brief unsigned order, said Texas lacked standing to pursue the case, saying it ‘has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections.’ The order, coupled with another one on Tuesday turning away a similar request from Pennsylvania Republicans, signaled that a conservative court with three justices appointed by Mr. Trump refused to be drawn into the extraordinary effort by the president and many prominent members of his party to deny his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his victory. It was the latest and most significant setback for Mr. Trump in a litigation campaign that was rejected by courts at every turn.” See also, Supreme Court dismisses bid led by Texas attorney general to overturn the presidential election results, blocking Trump’s legal path to a reversal of his loss, The Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Friday, 11 December 2020: “The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a long-shot bid by President Trump and the state of Texas to overturn the results in four states won by Democrat Joe Biden, blocking the president’s legal path to reverse his reelection loss. The court’s unsigned order was short, and it denied Texas’s request to sue Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin over how they conducted their elections. Texas has not shown it has a legal interest ‘in the manner in which another state conducts its elections,’ the order said. It dismissed all pending motions about the case.” See also, Supreme Court rejects Texas’ and Trump’s bid to overturn election, CNN Politics, Ariane de Vogue and Maegan Vazquez, Friday, 11 December 2020: “The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a bid from Texas’ attorney general — supported by President Donald Trump — to block the ballots of millions of voters in battleground states that went in favor of President-elect Joe Biden. The court’s order, issued with no public dissents, to dismiss the challenge is the strongest indication yet that Trump has no chance of overturning election results in court, and that even the justices whom he placed there have no interest in allowing his desperate legal bids to continue. The Electoral College will convene Monday to affirm Biden’s win.” See also, The Supreme Court Rejects Texas’s Shameful Lawsuit, But There Has to Be a Reckoning, The New Yorker, Amy Davidson Sorkin, published on Saturday, 12 December 2020: “Even the Court’s conservatives seemed to recognize that this was not a constitutional controversy that merited its involvement but a crude power grab.” See also, It’s Not Just Trump’s War on Democracy Anymore. Republicans have gone far beyond merely humoring their losing leader. The New Yorker, Susan B. Glasser, Friday, 11 December 2020.

As two-thirds of House Republicans support the Texas election suit, a Democrat called them ‘traitors,’ The New York Times, Luke Broadwater, Chris Cameron, and Andy Newman, Friday, 11 December 2020: “With nearly two-thirds of House Republicans supporting Texas’s lawsuit seeking to overturn the election in the U.S. Supreme Court, a Democratic House member on Friday called the Republicans ‘traitors’ and urged the House’s Democratic leadership not to seat the Republicans when the 117th Congress convenes in January. The congressman, Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey, cited a Reconstruction-era passage of the 14th Amendment disqualifying elected officials who ‘have engaged in insurrection or rebellion’ against the United States…. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democrats on Friday that Republicans were ‘subverting the Constitution by their reckless and fruitless assault on our democracy.’ As of Friday afternoon, 126 Republican members of the House, including the minority leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy, had signed a brief in support of a Hail-Mary lawsuit, filed by Texas on Tuesday, seeking to overturn President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victories in the battleground states of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. If the suit succeeded, it would give President Trump enough electoral votes to win re-election. The Supreme Court was expected to act on the suit as soon as Friday.” See also, Rallying Behind Trump, Most House Republicans Joined Failed Lawsuit. More than 60 percent of the chamber’s Republicans — including party leaders — signed onto a brief, underscoring the party’s willingness to back the president no matter how extreme the test. New York Times, Catie Edmondson and Luke Broadwater, Friday, 11 December 2020: “In the hours before the Supreme Court rejected it, another 20 House Republicans — including their top leader — joined a legal brief on Friday supporting an extraordinary lawsuit seeking to overturn President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, underscoring the increasingly extreme lengths to which many in the party are willing to go to invalidate the election results. The Supreme Court on Friday rejected the suit brought by Texas to throw out the results in four battleground states won by Mr. Biden, but not before more than 60 percent of House Republicans had signed onto the effort. The group reached beyond Mr. Trump’s staunchest allies and included powerful figures such as the chamber’s top two officials and the leaders of influential committees, all of whom put their official stamp on a brazen effort to upend millions of legally cast votes.” See also, Here Are the Names of 126 Members of the House Who Refuse to Accept That Biden Won the Presidency, BuzzFeed News, Stephanie K. Baer, Friday, 11 December 2020.

FBI agents seek Texas attorney general records in Paxton probe, Austin American-Statesman, Tony Plohetski, Friday, 11 December 2020: “Federal agents served at least one subpoena Wednesday on the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in an ongoing investigation into allegations that Paxton abused his authority by helping a friend and campaign donor. Three sources confirmed to the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV that FBI agents delivered the request for information to the agency’s headquarters on West 14th Street. The sources did not immediately know how many subpoenas were issued or what information FBI agents sought. Federal authorities are investigating claims by former top Paxton aides that he used his position to aid Austin investor Nate Paul, whose offices were raided by the FBI last year.” See also, The FBI has subpoenaed Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general leading the long-shot lawsuit to overturn the 2020 election for Trump, Business Insider, Tom Porter, Friday, 11 December 2020: “The FBI has served subpoenas to the office of Texas’ attorney general, Ken Paxton, as part of its investigation into abuse of office and bribery allegations, local media reported. It is not clear exactly how many subpoenas were issued or what information the agency is seeking to obtain with them, sources told KENS5. The Austin American-Statesman reported that federal agents visited the attorney general’s office on Wednesday to serve the subpoenas. Neither the FBI nor the Office of the Texas Attorney General immediately responded to requests for comment from Insider.”

Manhattan District Attorney Intensifies Investigation of Trump, The New York Times, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess, and David Enrich, Friday, 11 December 2020: “State prosecutors in Manhattan have interviewed several employees of President Trump’s bank and insurance broker in recent weeks, according to people with knowledge of the matter, significantly escalating an investigation into the president that he is powerless to stop. The interviews with people who work for the lender, Deutsche Bank, and the insurance brokerage, Aon, are the latest indication that once Mr. Trump leaves office, he still faces the potential threat of criminal charges that would be beyond the reach of federal pardons. It remains unclear whether the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., will ultimately bring charges. The prosecutors have been fighting in court for more than a year to obtain Mr. Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns, which they have called central to their investigation. The issue now rests with the Supreme Court. But lately, Mr. Vance’s office has stepped up its efforts, issuing new subpoenas and questioning witnesses, including some before a grand jury, according to the people with knowledge of the matter, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation.”

Congress votes to send defense bill to Trump with veto-proof majorities, The Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian, Friday, 11 December 2020: “The Senate passed a $741 billion defense authorization bill Friday with a veto-proof majority, defying President Trump’s repeated threats to scuttle legislation that covers funding for most aspects of the military, from overseas operations to pay raises for troops. The 84-to-13 vote, and a similarly lopsided result in the House earlier this week, leaves the president with a pivotal dilemma in the final weeks of his administration: accept defeat now and sign, or go down fighting in a veto battle with Congress that he is certain to lose.” See also, Senate Approves Defense-Policy Bill Despite Trump Veto Threat. Trump opposes provision that would lead to renaming military installations honoring Confederate figures. The Wall Street Journal, Lindsay Wise, Friday, 11 December 2020: “The U.S. Senate voted 84-13 on Friday to approve a bipartisan defense-policy bill over President Trump’s objections, with support for the legislation exceeding the two-thirds majority needed to override any eventual veto. The National Defense Authorization Act is an annual bill that sets pay rates for troops and authorizes funds for military construction projects, aircraft, ships, nuclear weapons and other national-security programs. Congress has passed it on a bipartisan basis for 59 years in a row. Earlier this week, the House approved final passage by a veto-proof 335-78 majority. The bill will now go to the president’s desk. The lopsided votes in both chambers came in the face of Mr. Trump’s strong opposition, as most GOP lawmakers—including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and other Republican leaders—rejected his demands to alter the bill’s text in the waning weeks of his presidency. Among the exceptions were a few Republican senators whose names have been floated as possible future presidential contenders: Sens. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Josh Hawley (R., Mo.). A total of 7 Republicans and 6 Democrats voted no. Mr. Trump has said he would veto the NDAA unless Congress eliminates language that creates a commission to rename military installations, monuments and paraphernalia honoring Confederate commanders. He also has insisted on including language in the bill to terminate Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which grants social-media companies broad immunity for the content they publish from users on their sites.”

Congress bans anonymous shell companies after long campaign by anti-corruption groups, The Washington Post, Jeanne Whalen, Friday, 11 December 2020: “A groundbreaking measure to ban anonymous shell companies in the United States cleared Congress on Friday as the Senate joined the House in passing a defense-spending bill with a veto-proof margin. The Corporate Transparency Act, which was tacked onto the defense bill, would require corporations and limited liability companies established in the United States to disclose their real owners to the Treasury Department, making it harder for criminals to anonymously launder money or evade taxes. The rule applies to future and existing entities alike.”

Jobless Benefits Saved Them, Until States Wanted the Money Back. A pandemic relief program allows no forgiveness of overpayments, even when recipients are not at fault and the funds are already spent. The New York Times, Gillian Friedman, Friday, 11 December 2020: “Unemployment payments that looked like a lifeline may now, for many, become their ruin. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program that covers gig workers, part-time hires, seasonal workers and others who do not qualify for traditional unemployment benefits, has kept millions afloat. The program, established by Congress in March as part of the CARES Act, has provided over $70 billion in relief. But in carrying out the hastily conceived program, states have overpaid hundreds of thousands of workers — often because of administrative errors. Now states are asking for that money back. The notices come out of the blue, with instructions to repay thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. Those being billed, already living on the edge, are told that their benefits will be reduced to compensate for the errors — or that the state may even put a lien on their home, come after future wages or withhold tax refunds. Many who collected payments are still out of a job, and may have little prospect of getting one. Most had no idea that they were being overpaid.”

Justice Department Carries Out 10th Execution This Year, The New York Times, Hailey Fuchs, Friday, 11 December 2020: “The Justice Department on Friday executed Alfred Bourgeois, a 56-year-old inmate sentenced to death for murdering his 2-year-old daughter in 2002. Mr. Bourgeois’s execution was the 10th carried out by the Trump administration since the federal government resumed its use of capital punishment in July after a 17-year hiatus. The last scheduled by the Trump administration for 2020, Mr. Bourgeois’s execution adds to what became the deadliest year in the history of federal capital punishment since at least the 1920s.”

Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah Blocks Legislation for Latino and Women’s Museums, NPR, Elizabeth Blair, Friday, 11 December 2020: “In a move that infuriated supporters of museums to be dedicated to Latinos and women on the National Mall, Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah blocked legislation Thursday that would lead to the creation of both…. As far back as 1994, the Smithsonian, in the report Willful Neglect, acknowledged that it ‘almost entirely excludes and ignores Latinos in nearly every aspect of its operations.’ The movement to create a Latino Museum as part of the Smithsonian Institution has been decades in the making, eventually gaining bipartisan support…. Calling Lee’s decision ‘dismissive, condescending and misguided,’ the advocacy organization The Friends of the American Latino Museum vowed to keep fighting. In a statement to NPR, President and CEO Estuardo Rodriguez said: ‘We are committed to getting this through before the Senate recesses and will be working with Republican and Democratic sponsors in the House and Senate to have this included in the omnibus.’ Lee also squashed legislation that would establish a national women’s museum, an initiative that has also been years in the making. When Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine tried to get passage of the Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Act, which also has bipartisan support, Lee once again voted no.”


Saturday, 12 December 2020, Day 1,422:


Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Saturday, 12 December 2020: First U.S. Vaccines Are About to Be Shipped as Virus Ravages the U.S. With Pfizer’s vaccine cleared for emergency use on Friday, states eagerly began their own preparations to receive the vaccine within days. Deaths are rising sharply in college towns. The New York Times, Saturday, 12 December 2020:

  • UPS and FedEx say plans to ship the vaccine are underway.

  • A C.D.C. panel has endorsed the Pfizer vaccine for people 16 and over.

  • With the first injections expected to be given as early as Monday, this is how states are preparing.

  • Charley Pride, country music star, dies from complications of Covid-19.

  • The largest health care provider in the New York region is frantically prepping for the arrival of the vaccine.

  • Deaths from the virus have risen sharply in college towns — but few have been college students.

  • Britain, Canada and the U.S. start their vaccination campaigns, and other news from around the world.

  • An outbreak at an Illinois veterans home has killed more than a quarter of residents.

Other significant developments are included in this article.

First coronavirus vaccine shipments set to arrive in states on Monday, The Washington Post, Frances Stead Sellers, Ariana Eunjung Cha, Lena H. Sun, and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Saturday, 12 December 2020: “Hospitals that have spent months seeking a silver bullet against a virus that has killed more than 295,000 people in the United States will begin receiving shipments of the first coronavirus vaccine on Monday, U.S. officials said, comparing the start of distribution this weekend to the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. Saturday, said the four-star Army general overseeing vaccine rollout, was ‘D-Day,’ following the Food and Drug Administration’s Friday-night clearance for emergency use of the two-dose regimen developed by Pfizer and the German company BioNTech.”

‘The last wall’: How dozens of judges across the political spectrum rejected Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, The Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman and Elise Viebeck, Saturday, 12 December 2020: “They are both elected and appointed, selected by Democrats and Republicans alike. Some have served for decades — while others took the bench only months ago…. In a remarkable show of near-unanimity across the nation’s judiciary, at least 86 judges — ranging from jurists serving at the lowest levels of state court systems to members of the United States Supreme Court — rejected at least one post-election lawsuit filed by Trump or his supporters, a Washington Post review of court filings found. The string of losses was punctuated Friday by the brief and blunt order of the Supreme Court, which dismissed an attempt by the state of Texas to thwart the electoral votes of four states that went for President-elect Joe Biden.”

Trump and his Republican allies vow to ‘fight on’ after Supreme Court rejects legal challenge to overturn election results, The Washington Post, Colby Itkowitz, Saturday, 12 December 2020: “President Trump on Saturday amplified his unfounded claims and falsehoods about President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, lashed out at his attorney general and GOP governors he deemed unfaithful to him, and vowed to continue challenging the election results, despite the Supreme Court dealing a final blow to his brazen legal efforts to overturn the vote. ‘I WON THE ELECTION IN A LANDSLIDE, but remember, I only think in terms of legal votes, not all of the fake voters and fraud that miraculously floated in from everywhere! What a disgrace!’ Trump tweeted shortly after 8 a.m., one in a series of morning posts that Twitter labeled as disputed. Many of Trump’s Republican allies in Congress were unswayed by the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the challenge brought by the Texas attorney general that asked the justices to invalidate millions of ballots cast in four battleground states — Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia — and toss out Biden’s win. The members of Congress accused the Supreme Court of dodging or lacking courage.” See also, ‘An Indelible Stain’: How the Republicans Tried to Topple a pillar of Democracy. The Supreme Court repudiation of President Trump was also a blunt rebuke to Republican leaders who had put their interests ahead of the country’s.  New York Times, Jim Rutenberg and Nick Corasaniti, Saturday, 12 December 2020: “The Supreme Court repudiation of President Trump’s desperate bid for a second term not only shredded his effort to overturn the will of voters: It also was a blunt rebuke to Republican leaders in Congress and the states who were willing to damage American democracy by embracing a partisan power grab over a free and fair election. The court’s decision on Friday night, an inflection point after weeks of legal flailing by Mr. Trump and ahead of the Electoral College vote for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday, leaves the president’s party in an extraordinary position. Through their explicit endorsements or complicity of silence, much of the G.O.P. leadership now shares responsibility for the quixotic attempt to ignore the nation’s founding principles and engineer a different verdict from the one voters cast in November. Many regular Republicans supported this effort, too — a sign that Mr. Trump has not just bent the party to his will, but pressed a mainstay of American politics for nearly two centuries into the service of overturning an election outcome and assaulting public faith in the electoral system. The G.O.P. sought to undo the vote by such spurious means that the Supreme Court quickly rejected the argument. Even some Republican leaders delivered a withering assessment of the 126 G.O.P. House members and 18 attorneys general who chose to side with Mr. Trump over the democratic process, by backing a lawsuit that asked the Supreme Court to throw out some 20 million votes in four key states that cemented the president’s loss. ‘The act itself by the 126 members of the United States House of Representatives, is an affront to the country,’ said Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee. ‘It’s an offense to the Constitution and it leaves an indelible stain that will be hard for these 126 members to wipe off their political skin for a long time to come.'” See also, Some Republicans Find Themselves Speechless Following a Supreme Court Defeat, The New York Times, Stephanie Saul and Nicholas Fandos, Saturday, 12 December 2020: “A day after President Trump’s stinging defeat in the Supreme Court, Republicans around the country seemed to be having trouble finding the right words. The bellicose statements from some quarters that had characterized the postelection period — claims of switched and missing votes, a ‘rigged’ election and even threats of secession from Texas Republicans after the ruling on Friday — had given way to something resembling muted resignation and an acceptance of the inevitable. Many were completely silent, even in the face of a tweet from Mr. Trump himself in which he vowed, ‘WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT!!’ Of 17 Republican attorneys general who had endorsed the case, filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, none agreed to be interviewed by The New York Times. Mr. Paxton, who had issued a statement calling the decision ‘unfortunate,’ did not respond to a request for comment. Other attorneys general who issued statements mostly seemed to acknowledge that all legal avenues had been exhausted in efforts to overturn the election results.”

Trump Castigates Attorney General William Barr for Not Publicly Disclosing Hunter Biden Investigation, The New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Saturday, 12 December 2020: “President Trump on Saturday excoriated Attorney General William P. Barr, castigating him on Twitter for not violating Justice Department policy to publicly reveal an investigation into President-Elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son. The critical tweets about Mr. Barr, who has largely been a close confidant to the president since he was appointed two years ago, came a day after the Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit seeking to subvert the results of the election. With the Electoral College set to meet on Monday and Congress to formally tally the results in January, the prospects for Mr. Trump to change the outcome are all but gone. The president’s statements undermining faith in the electoral process — and his assaults on institutions — have escalated since the election on Nov. 3, as he enters the final weeks of his time in office. Privately, he has railed against Mr. Barr for not bolstering his false claims of widespread fraud in the election and instead affirming Mr. Biden’s victory.” See also, Trump raised firing Attorney General William Barr in a White House meeting on Friday, CNN Politics, Kevin Liptak and Jamie Gangel, Saturday, 12 December 2020: “President Donald Trump raised the prospect of firing Attorney General William Barr in a meeting on Friday, but it’s unclear whether he’ll choose to dismiss Barr before the end of his term next month. A person familiar with the matter told CNN that Trump was furious in the meeting with advisers at the White House that Barr had worked to keep the federal investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes from becoming public before the November election. Trump was also upset at reports Barr was considering departing the administration before January 20, believing the leaks to be self-serving. Trump told officials he is serious about replacing Barr, but whether he actually goes ahead with the move remains in question. He has been encouraged by advisers over the past several months not to do so.”

The Republican Party Can No Longer Be Relied on to Protect Democracy, The New Yorker, John Cassidy, Saturday, 12 December 2020: “The gall of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his fellow-backers of Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the election is only surpassed by their irresponsibility and fecklessness…. A fair reading of the G.O.P.’s record of gerrymandering and voter suppression over the past couple of decades, and its abject servility toward Trump during the past four years, is that its commitment to democracy has long been subservient to its desire to retain power. But even for an organization as tarnished as this one, the decision by so many Republican congressmen, and so many state attorneys general, to support the Texas lawsuit [to overthrow the 2020 election result] marked a new low.”

Veterans groups demand Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie resign after scathing report that he tried to discredit assault victim, The Washington Post, Lisa Rein, Saturday, 12 December 2020: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called on Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to resign Saturday, following a report that he tried to smear a congressional aide who said she was assaulted at a VA hospital. ‘The VA Inspector General report makes clear that Secretary Wilkie engaged in an extremely disturbing cover-up campaign of sexual assault against a veteran,’ Pelosi said in a statement. ‘He has lost the trust and confidence to serve, and he must immediately resign.’ The country’s leading veterans groups — including the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America — echoed the call, saying that Wilkie had breached their trust and could no longer effectively lead an agency responsible for the care of 9 million veterans.”

Under Biden, Justice Department Lawyers Seek a Shield From Partisan Battles. More than 40 current and former department employees said they wanted an attorney general who would protect them from undue political influence. The New York Times, Katie Benner, Saturday, 12 December 2020: “Since President Trump took office, the Justice Department has been under sustained attack as he questioned whether the lawyers and investigators who serve the country were loyalists who supported his personal agenda or traitors who should be rooted out and fired. But under President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., the department’s former and current employees hope that his pick for attorney general will shield the agency from partisan battles and political concerns. More than 40 current and former department employees shared with The New York Times who they thought should run the Justice Department. They all wanted someone who would stand up for the employees and protect them from undue political influence, something that they say Mr. Trump’s attorneys general have largely been unable or unwilling to do.”


Sunday, 13 December 2020, Day 1,423:


Presidential Transition Highlights: Congress Faces Make-Or-Break Week for Virus Stimulus Deal, The New York Times, Sunday, 13 December 2020:

  • This week will be decisive in determining whether Congress passes a stimulus deal before the end of the year.

  • Trump again threatened to veto a military bill, days after it passed both chambers by veto-proof majorities.

  • Here’s what to expect when the Electoral College votes on Monday.

  • The fight to overturn the election is ‘not over,’ Trump says.

  • Some Trump backers in the House are plotting a final-stage challenge to reverse Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.

  • Trump delays a plan to fast track vaccines for White House staff members.

  • Some of the Electoral College’s biggest critics are the electors themselves.

  • Four people were stabbed and one was shot as Trump supporters and opponents clashed.

Other significant developments are included in this article.

Trump Allies Eye Long-Shot Election Reversal in Congress, Testing Vice President Mike Pence, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt, Sunday, 13 December 2020: “President Trump lost key swing states by clear margins. His barrage of lawsuits claiming widespread voting fraud has been almost universally dismissed, most recently by the Supreme Court. And on Monday, the Electoral College will formally cast a majority of its votes for President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. But as the president continues to refuse to concede, a small group of his most loyal backers in Congress is plotting a final-stage challenge on the floor of the House of Representatives in early January to try to reverse Mr. Biden’s victory. Constitutional scholars and even members of the president’s own party say the effort is all but certain to fail. But the looming battle on Jan. 6 is likely to culminate in a messy and deeply divisive spectacle that could thrust Vice President Mike Pence into the excruciating position of having to declare once and for all that Mr. Trump has indeed lost the election.”

Historic D.C. Black churches attacked during pro-Trump rallies on Saturday, The Washington Post, Allison Klein, Sunday, 13 December 2020: “A Black Lives Matter banner and sign were torn from two historic Black churches in downtown D.C. and destroyed during pro-Trump protests Saturday night. D.C. police said they are investigating the events as potential hate crimes. In one of the incidents, videos posted on Twitter show a group of people identified as Proud Boys marching with a Black Lives Matter banner held above their heads, then cheering as it is set on fire while chanting ‘f— antifa.’ The banner was taken from Asbury United Methodist Church, one of the oldest Black churches in the city. Asbury United has stood at the corner of 11th and K streets NW since 1836. ‘Last night demonstrators who were part of the MAGA gatherings tore down our Black Lives Matter sign and literally burned it in the street,’ the Rev. Ianther M. Mills, the church’s senior pastor, said in a statement. ‘It pained me especially to see our name, Asbury, in flames. For me it was reminiscent of cross burnings.'” See also, Pro-Trump rally descends into chaos as Proud Boys roam D.C. looking to fight, The Washington Post, Peter Hermann, Marissa J. Lang, and Clarence Williams, Sunday, 13 December 2020: “Nearly three dozen people were arrested during a night of unrest in downtown Washington that began Saturday with rallies supporting President Trump and descended into chaos and violence as a group with ties to white nationalism roamed the streets looking to fight. One  of  those  arrested  was 29-year-old Phillip Johnson of the District, who was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon in connection with at least one of four stabbings that occurred. For most of the day, police largely kept opposing factions separated, at times frustrating the Proud Boys, a male-chauvinist organization that supports Trump’s attempts to reverse an election he lost. Confrontations broke out after dark, when Proud Boys and their supporters ventured near Black Lives Matter Plaza and were prevented access by police, many using bicycles as mobile barricades. Four people were stabbed, one critically, during a scrum near Harry’s Bar at 11th and F streets NW, a Proud Boys hangout where hundreds had gathered, some dressed in body armor and helmets, and where many had been drinking in the street for hours.”

After Supreme Court dismisses Texas case, Trump says his efforts to challenge the election results are ‘not over,’ The Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez, Sunday, 13 December 2020: “President Trump signaled that he will continue to challenge the results of the 2020 election even after the electoral college meets Monday in most state capitols to cast votes solidifying Joe Biden’s victory. In a Fox News interview that aired Sunday morning, Trump repeated his false claims of election fraud and said his legal team will continue to pursue challenges, despite the Supreme Court’s recent dismissal of a long-shot bid to overturn the results in four states Biden won.”

Russian Hackers Broke Into Federal Agencies, U.S. Officials Suspect, The New York Times, David E. Sanger, Sunday, 13 December 2020: “The Trump administration acknowledged on Sunday that hackers acting on behalf of a foreign government — almost certainly a Russian intelligence agency, according to federal and private experts — broke into a range of key government networks, including in the Treasury and Commerce Departments, and had free access to their email systems. Officials said a hunt was on to determine if other parts of the government had been affected by what looked to be one of the most sophisticated, and perhaps among the largest, attacks on federal systems in the past five years. Several said national security-related agencies were also targeted, though it was not clear whether the systems contained highly classified material.” See also, Suspected Russian hackers spied on U.S. Treasury and Commerce Department emails, Reuters, Christopher Bing, Sunday, 13 December 2020: “Hackers believed to be working for Russia have been monitoring internal email traffic at the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments, according to people familiar with the matter, adding they feared the hacks uncovered so far may be the tip of the iceberg.”

Cleveland’s Baseball Team Will Drop Its Indians Team Name, The New York Times, David Waldstein and Michael S. Schmidt, Sunday, 13 December 2020: “After years of protests from fans and Native American groups, the Cleveland Indians have decided to change their team name, moving away from a moniker that has long been criticized as racist, three people familiar with the decision said Sunday. The move follows a decision by the Washington Football Team of the N.F.L. in July to stop using a name long considered a racial slur, and is part of a larger national conversation about race that magnified this year amid protests of systemic racism and police violence…. In response to Cleveland’s decision, many fans praised the move, saying it was long overdue and proposing ideas for new names. Others — in particular President Trump — criticized the decision. ‘Oh no!’ Trump tweeted. ‘What is going on? This is not good news, even for “Indians”. Cancel culture at work!'”

Trump on attending Biden inauguration: ‘I don’t want to talk about that,’ The Hill, John Bowden, Sunday, 13 December 2020: “President Trump refused to rule out the possibility of skipping his successor’s inauguration in January during an interview that aired Sunday on Fox News. Speaking with ‘Fox & Friends’ co-host Brian Kilmeade, the president would not answer when asked directly by Kilmeade whether he would attend President-elect Joe Biden‘s inauguration next month. ‘So would you show up at the inauguration?’ Kilmeade asked. ‘I don’t want to talk about that,’ Trump responded.”

A Political Obituary for Donald Trump. The effects of his reign will linger. But democracy survived. The Atlantic, George Packer, January/February 2021 print edition. Published online in December 2020: “To assess the legacy of Donald Trump’s presidency, start by quantifying it. Since last February, more than a quarter of a million Americans have died from COVID-19—a fifth of the world’s deaths from the disease, the highest number of any country. In the three years before the pandemic, 2.3 million Americans lost their health insurance, accounting for up to 10,000 ‘excess deaths’; millions more lost coverage during the pandemic. The United States’ score on the human-rights organization Freedom House’s annual index dropped from 90 out of 100 under President Barack Obama to 86 under Trump, below that of Greece and Mauritius. Trump withdrew the U.S. from 13 international organizations, agreements, and treaties. The number of refugees admitted into the country annually fell from 85,000 to 12,000. About 400 miles of barrier were built along the southern border. The whereabouts of the parents of 666 children seized at the border by U.S. officials remain unknown. Trump reversed 80 environmental rules and regulations. He appointed more than 220 judges to the federal bench, including three to the Supreme Court—24 percent female, 4 percent Black, and 100 percent conservative, with more rated ‘not qualified’ by the American Bar Association than under any other president in the past half century. The national debt increased by $7 trillion, or 37 percent. In Trump’s last year, the trade deficit was on track to exceed $600 billion, the largest gap since 2008. Trump signed just one major piece of legislation, the 2017 tax law, which, according to one study, for the first time brought the total tax rate of the wealthiest 400 Americans below that of every other income group. In Trump’s first year as president, he paid $750 in taxes. While he was in office, taxpayers and campaign donors handed over at least $8 million to his family business. America under Trump became less free, less equal, more divided, more alone, deeper in debt, swampier, dirtier, meaner, sicker, and deader. It also became more delusional. No number from Trump’s years in power will be more lastingly destructive than his 25,000 false or misleading statements. Super-spread by social media and cable news, they contaminated the minds of tens of millions of people. Trump’s lies will linger for years, poisoning the atmosphere like radioactive dust.”


Monday, 14 December 2020, Day 1,424:


Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Monday, 14 December 2020: U.S. Starts Vaccine Rollout as High-Risk Health Care Workers Go First, The first shots were given as the U.S. surpassed 300,000 virus-related deaths. Vaccinations also began in Canada. The New York Times, Monday, 14 December 2020:

  • ‘The weapon that will end the war’: Vaccinations begin across virus-ravaged America.

  • The number of people with the virus who died in the U.S. passes 300,000.

  • A new survey finds that about a quarter of Americans don’t want to get vaccinated.

  • At a national kickoff event, officials plead with the public to get vaccinated.

  • ‘It was so close’: Those who lost loved ones to Covid-19 grapple with a vaccine’s arrival.

  • In Canada, the first vaccines leave health workers in tears of relief.

  • Puerto Rico gets only half the vaccine doses it was expecting.

  • Health care workers breathe a sigh of relief as they receive the first vaccinations.

  • A World War II veteran near Boston was the first Veterans Affairs patient to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

Many other significant developments are also included in this article.

Some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, 14 December 2020: U.S surpasses 300,000 coronavirus deaths as first vaccine shots are given, The Washington Post, Reis Thebault, Lateshia Beachum, Brittany Shammas, Taylor Telford, Marisa Iati, Antonia Noori Farzan, Erin Cunningham, Siobhán O’Grady, and Jacqueline Dupree, Monday, 14 December 2020: “The coronavirus has now killed more than 300,000 Americans, a death toll bigger than the largest cities in 20 states. And it is rising faster than at any other point in the pandemic. The United States marked the milestone on a day that offered a glimmer of hope: Front-line health-care workers began receiving the country’s first doses of a coronavirus vaccine.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

First Covid-19 Vaccine Given to U.S. Public, The Wall Street Journal, Peter Loftus and Melanie Grayce West, Monday, 14 December 2020: “The first U.S. Covid-19 vaccinations outside of clinical trials began Monday, kicking off the most urgent mass immunization campaign since polio shots were rolled out in the 1950s. A nurse in New York was among the first to receive the shot, and health workers throughout the U.S. were also set to receive the newly authorized vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE. Pfizer shipped vaccine vials out Sunday, and hospitals and health departments across the country received them early Monday.”

Presidential Transition Highlights: Election ‘Should Be Celebrated, Not Attacked,’ Biden Says as Electoral College Affirms His Victory, The New York Times, Monday, 14 December 2020:

  • Biden calls Trump’s attacks on voting ‘unconscionable.’

  • With votes from California’s electors, Biden crosses 270-vote threshold.

  • After the Electoral College votes, a rush of Senate Republicans warily accept Trump’s loss.

  • The electoral process unfolds smoothly across the country, despite fears of unrest.

  • Early voting begins in the Georgia runoffs, which will determine control of the Senate.

  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a $748 billion stimulus compromise, separating out the most contentious sticking points.

  • Putin’s recognition of Biden win follows a discovery that Russia carried out a cyberattack on the U.S.

  • Representative Paul Mitchell leaves Republican Party over its refusal to accept Trump’s loss.

  • Trump announces that Barr is out as attorney general.

  • ‘It was important for me to do this one thing,’ a terminally ill elector said, casting his vote for Biden.

Other significant developments are included in this article.

Presidential Transfer of Power: Biden secures his win over Trump as electoral votes put president-elect over the top, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Felicia Sonmez, Paulina Firozi, Emma Brown, Rosalind S. Helderman, and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Monday, 14 December 2020: “President-elect Joe Biden addressed the nation Monday night after amassing the electoral votes to secure his White House win, taking a harder line than he has in the past against the efforts by President Trump and his supporters to overturn the election. ‘It’s a position so extreme, we’ve never seen it before — a position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law and refused to honor our Constitution,’ Biden said in Wilmington, Del. He also called for national unity, even as polls show voters remain deeply divided and many Republicans refuse to recognize Biden’s win. Biden’s speech came hours after California and its 55 electoral votes put him over the top. Hawaii was the last state to complete the vote. Trump had no public events but has continued to tweet grievances about the election, which he claimed Sunday is ‘under protest.’ He abruptly announced via tweet Monday night that Attorney General William P. Barr will be departing the administration later this month.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

  • Six of the states in which Trump contested his defeat — Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — cast their electoral votes for Biden. Follow the vote here.
  • In a prime-time address Monday night, Biden delivered another victory speech, speaking to the nation after the electoral college vote. ‘In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed,’ he said.
  • Trump reversed course on a plan to have some White House staff members be among the first Americans to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
  • Trump signaled that he will continue to challenge the results of the 2020 election even after the electoral college meets to cast votes solidifying Biden’s victory.
  • Here’s how the electoral college works.
  • Election results are under attack: Here are the facts.

Joe Biden’s speech to America: ‘It is time to turn the page,’ The Washington Post, Matt Viser, Monday, 14 December 2020: “President-elect Joe Biden reaffirmed his faith in the integrity of American elections and the legitimacy of his presidency after the electoral college formalized his November win Monday, ridiculing President Trump for claiming victory despite multiple failed efforts to overturn the election results. In sweeping and sometimes agitated comments 37 days after he was projected the winner, Biden attempted to unify a polarized and skittish country with direct appeals to the more than 74 million Americans who voted for Trump.”

William Barr Is Out as Attorney General, The New York Times, Katie Benner, Monday, 14 December 2020: “President Trump said on Monday that Attorney General William P. Barr would depart next week, ending a tenure marked by Mr. Barr’s willingness to advance the president’s political agenda and by criticism that he eroded the post-Watergate independence of the Justice Department. Mr. Barr had in recent weeks fallen out of favor with the president after acknowledging that the department had found no widespread voter fraud. Tensions between them escalated this past weekend when Mr. Trump accused his attorney general of disloyalty for not publicly disclosing the department’s investigation into President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son Hunter Biden during the campaign. Mr. Trump sought to play down their differences on Monday, saying in a tweet announcing Mr. Barr’s departure that ‘our relationship has been a very good one, he has done an outstanding job!’ The decision to quit was Mr. Barr’s, not the president’s, a person familiar with the matter said, and the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, helped to facilitate his exit on cordial terms with Mr. Trump.” See also, William P. Barr to depart as attorney general, Trump announces, The Washington Post, Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, and Devlin Barrett, Monday, 14 December 2020: “William P. Barr is stepping down as attorney general, ending a controversial tenure in which critics say he repeatedly used the Justice Department to aid President Trump’s allies, only to have Trump turn on him when he did not announce investigations of political foes and disputed White House claims of widespread election fraud. Trump revealed the move on Twitter, writing that he and Barr had a “nice meeting” at the White House, and that Barr would ‘be leaving just before Christmas to spend the holidays with his family.’ Trump also posted a copy of Barr’s resignation letter, in which Barr indicated he had just provided the president an ‘update’ on the department’s review of voter fraud allegations.”

After Electoral College Votes, More Republicans Warily Accept Trump’s Loss, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Monday, 14 December 2020: “Support for President Trump’s attempt to overturn his election loss began to collapse in the Senate on Monday after the Electoral College certified President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, with many top Republicans saying the time had come to recognize results that have been evident for weeks. While they insisted that Mr. Trump could still challenge the results in court, the senators said the certification should be considered the effective conclusion of an election that has fiercely divided the country. And after weeks of silence as Mr. Trump and others in their party sought to overturn the results in increasingly extreme ways, some urged their colleagues to move on.”

Trump antagonizes Republicans with Georgia fundraising ploy. Emails and texts raising cash for Trump’s PAC have rankled Republicans, who want cash to flow directly to Georgia’s endangered Republican senators. Politico, Alex Isenstadt, Monday, 14 December 2020: “President Donald Trump couldn’t make it any clearer: He needs his supporters to fork over cash for the all-important Georgia Senate runoff elections. ‘We MUST defend Georgia from the Dems!’ he wrote in one recent text message. ‘I need YOU to secure a WIN in Georgia,’ he said in another. ‘Help us WIN both Senate races in Georgia & STOP Socialist Dems,’ he pleaded a few days later. There’s just one hitch: Trump’s new political machine is pocketing most of the dough — and the campaigns of the Georgia senators competing in the Jan. 5 races aren’t getting a cent. Trump’s aggressive fundraising blitz appears to be devoted to helping the party defend Georgia’s two Senate seats and, with them, the Senate majority. But the fine print shows that most of the proceeds are going toward Trump’s newly launched PAC, which he plans to use to fund his future political activities. Only a fraction is going to the Republican National Committee, which is investing $20 million into the runoffs.”

Scope of Russian Hack Becomes Clear: Multiple U.S. Agencies Were Hit. The Pentagon, intelligence agencies, nuclear labs and Fortune 500 companies use software that was found to have been compromised by Russian hackers. The sweep of stolen data is still being assessed. The New York Times, David E. Sanger, Nicole Perlroth, and Eric Schmitt, Monday, 14 December 2020: “The scope of a hack engineered by one of Russia’s premier intelligence agencies became clearer on Monday, when some Trump administration officials acknowledged that other federal agencies — the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and parts of the Pentagon — had been compromised. Investigators were struggling to determine the extent to which the military, intelligence community and nuclear laboratories were affected by the highly sophisticated attack. United States officials did not detect the attack until recent weeks, and then only when a private cybersecurity firm, FireEye, alerted American intelligence that the hackers had evaded layers of defenses. It was evident that the Treasury and Commerce Departments, the first agencies reported to be breached, were only part of a far larger operation whose sophistication stunned even experts who have been following a quarter-century of Russian hacks on the Pentagon and American civilian agencies. About 18,000 private and government users downloaded a Russian tainted software update — a Trojan horse of sorts — that gave its hackers a foothold into victims’ systems, according to SolarWinds, the company whose software was compromised.” See also, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, and the National Institutes of Health join list of federal agencies, now five, hacked in major Russian cyberespionage campaign, The Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima and Craig Timberg, Monday, 14 December 2020: “The Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and the National Institutes of Health on Monday joined the list of known victims of a months-long, highly sophisticated digital spying operation by Russia whose damage remains uncertain but is presumed to be extensive, experts say. The list of victims of the cyberespionage, which already included the Treasury and Commerce departments, is expected to grow and to include more federal agencies and numerous private companies, said officials and others familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it is under investigation. SolarWinds, the maker of widely used network-management software that the Russians manipulated to enable their intrusions, reported in a federal securities filing Monday that ‘fewer than 18,000’ of its customers may have been affected. That’s a small slice of the company’s more than 300,000 customers worldwide, including the Pentagon and the White House, but still represents a large number of important networks. Russia has denied any role in the intrusions.”

12 Trump Attacks on the Environment Since the Election. In its final days, the Trump administration is rushing to cement its destructive legacy with attacks on clean air, wildlife, and public lands that could be difficult to undo. The Revelator, Tara Lohan, Monday, 14 December 2020: “In the aftermath of the Nov. 3 election, President Donald Trump has tried every trick in the book to avoid facing the reality of his loss. A barrage of lawsuits accompanied by disinformation campaigns has attempted to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election. But a close look at regulatory actions and executive moves shows that, even as Trump makes a show of refusing to concede or transition power to the incoming Biden administration, his team is pushing through a slew of last-minute rules and regulations. Many of these changes will harm the environment and public health. It isn’t surprising that an administration that has attempted to roll back more than 100 environmental protections in the past four years would step up its assault in its waning months. But that doesn’t make the continued attacks any less important. Here’s some of what’s at risk.”

Retiring Michigan congressman Paul Mitchell quits the Republican party over Trump’s refusal to accept defeat in the presidential election, The Washington Post, Paul Kane, Monday, 14 December 2020: “A retiring Michigan congressman quit the Republican Party on Monday over President Trump’s refusal to accept defeat in his election campaign, blasting GOP leaders in Washington for aiding and abetting Trump’s endeavors. ‘It is unacceptable for political candidates to treat our election system as though we are a third-world nation and incite distrust of something so basic as the sanctity of our vote,’ Rep. Paul Mitchell wrote in a 2½ -page letter to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel. ‘Further, it is unacceptable for the president to attack the Supreme Court of the United States because its judges, both liberal and conservative, did not rule with his side.'” See also, Read Representative Paul Mitchell’s letter quitting the Republican Party, fearing ‘long-term harm to our democracy’ with its support for Trump’s actions, CNN Politics, Monday, 14 December 2020.


Tuesday, 15 December 2020, Day 1,425:


Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Tuesday, 15 December 2020: U.S. and Pfizer Discuss Deal for Tens of Millions More Vaccine Doses Next Year, The New York Times, Tuesday, 15 December 2020:

  • The U.S. and Pfizer are negotiating a deal for more vaccine doses next year.

  • With more body bags and mobile morgues, California braces for grim days ahead.

  • A day after vaccination, these early recipients felt little more than a sore arm.

  • Nursing homes in four states are getting an early start vaccinating residents.

  • Fauci says Biden and Harris should get vaccinated soon, and Trump and Pence, too.

  • The F.D.A. is likely to approve emergency use of the Moderna vaccine this week.

  • A snowstorm in the Northeast threatens to snarl vaccine deliveries.

  • The F.D.A. greenlights a new at-home virus test.

  • Tom Cruise erupts at the ‘Mission: Impossible’ crew over a breach of Covid-19 protocols.

Many other significant developments are included in this article.

Some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic on Tuesday, 15 December 2020: California prepares for onslaught of covid-19 deaths as second vaccine nears approval, The Washington Post, Hannah Knowles, Reis Thebault, Paulina Villegas, Taylor Telford, Antonia Noori Farzan, Erin Cunningham, Miriam Berger, and Brittany Shammas, Tuesday, 15 December 2020: “California’s governor said Tuesday that the state has ordered thousands of body bags in the face of soaring covid-19 deaths — echoing grim messages from leaders nationwide as a massive vaccination effort begins in the coronavirus pandemic’s darkest days. The country is breaking records for new daily deaths and hospitalizations. The Food and Drug Administration is likely to authorize another vaccine candidate as soon as Friday, but experts say the fast-tracked vaccines will come too late to prevent a deadly winter wave.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

Moderna Vaccine Is Highly Protective Against Covid-19, the Food and Drug Administration Finds, The New York Times, Noah Weiland, Denise Grady, and Carl Zimmer, Tuesday, 15 December 2020: “The coronavirus vaccine made by Moderna is highly protective, according to new data released on Tuesday, setting the stage for its emergency authorization this week by federal regulators and the start of its distribution across the country. The Food and Drug Administration intends to authorize emergency use of the vaccine on Friday, people familiar with the agency’s plans said. The decision would give millions of Americans access to a second coronavirus vaccine beginning as early as Monday. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, cleared last week, was the first to be authorized.” See also, Food and Drug Administration Finds Moderna Covid-19 Vaccine Highly effective, The Wall Street Journal, Thomas M. Burton and Peter Loftus, Tuesday, 15 December 2020: “The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. was ‘highly effective,’ setting the stage for an emergency authorization later this week that would add a second vaccine to the arsenal against the pandemic. The agency posted online documents, prepared by its staff and by Moderna, analyzing the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in a large clinical study. The findings will go before an independent advisory panel that will vote Thursday on whether to recommend FDA authorization.”

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Authorizes 1st Home Coronavirus Test That Doesn’t Require a Prescription, NPR, Rob Stein, Tuesday, 15 December 2020: “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized the first coronavirus test that people will be able to buy at a local store without a prescription and use for immediate results at home to find out if they’re positive or negative. The test will cost about $30 and be available by January, according to the Australian company that makes it, Ellume. The FDA had previously authorized other tests that let people avoid long lines by collecting a sample themselves at home. But those tests require people to send the sample to a lab and wait for the results. Another recently authorized test doesn’t have to be sent off to a lab, but it requires a prescription to get it…. It takes about five minutes to collect the sample and produces results within 15 minutes.”

Presidential Transition Highlights: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Congratulates Biden and Lobbies Senators to Oppose Effort to Overturn Results, The New York Times, Tuesday, 15 December 2020:

  • McConnell congratulates Biden and lobbies colleagues to oppose a final-stage G.O.P. effort to overturn his victory.

  • Biden picks Pete Buttigieg for transportation secretary.

  • Biden will nominate Jennifer Granholm for energy secretary.

  • Biden will name Gina McCarthy as the White House’s climate coordinator.

  • Top congressional leaders met to discuss a stimulus deal and a year-end spending bill before the deadline on Friday.

  • Biden speaks in Georgia, where strong early voting turnout suggests voters understand Senate control is on the line.

  • Putin, Bolsonaro and other world leaders belatedly congratulate Biden.

  • Inauguration planners ask Americans to stay home on Jan. 20 and watch the historic event virtually.

Other significant developments are included in this article.

Presidential Transfer of Power: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell congratulates Biden on win; Biden picks Pete Buttigieg for transportation secretary, The Washington Post, Felicia Sonmez, John Wagner, and Donna Cassata, Tuesday, 15 December 2020: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday congratulated President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris on their victory, one day after the electoral college voted in state capitals across the country. The remarks by McConnell (R-Ky.) came as Biden traveled to Georgia, where he campaigned for the two Democratic Senate candidates competing in runoff elections. ‘The only thing that can tear America apart is America itself. So let’s choose hope over fear, unity over division, science over fiction and yes, truth over lies,’ Biden said in a ‘get-out-the-vote’ appeal. The races will determine which party controls the Senate when Biden takes office. Meanwhile, Biden plans to nominate former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg for transportation secretary, elevating a formal rival for the Democratic nomination to a key Cabinet position, according to three people familiar with the decision.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell breaks with Trump in finally recognizing Biden as the new president, The Washington Post, Seung Min Kim and Rachael Bade, Tuesday, 15 December 2020: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made his sharpest and most significant break from President Trump on Tuesday, finally acknowledging Joe Biden as the rightful president-elect even as Trump refused to publicly admit his decisive loss in both the electoral college and the popular vote. In a Senate floor speech early Tuesday, McConnell rattled off accomplishments he attributed to Trump and his administration, but made it clear that he accepted the electoral college’s certification Monday of Biden’s victory, something he and the majority of GOP lawmakers in both chambers had declined to do for weeks.” See also, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the first time recognizes Biden as President-elect, CNN Politics, Manu Raju and Ted Barrett, Tuesday, 15 December 2020: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for the first time acknowledged Joe Biden’s victory and referred to him as President-elect, six weeks after Election Day and amid President Donald Trump’s continued refusal to accept defeat. ‘The electoral college has spoken,’ McConnell said in remarks from the Senate floor in the US Capitol, adding, ‘Today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.’ McConnell’s comments are significant given that many Senate Republicans still wouldn’t recognize Biden’s victory on Monday evening even after the Electoral College made the win official. Behind the scenes, McConnell also urged Republican senators on a private conference call not to join House members on January 6 to object to state electoral results, a source on the call tells CNN, when Congress formally counts the Electoral College votes and members of Congress can object. Other top Republicans — including Senate Majority Whip John Thune and Senate Rules Chairman Roy Blunt — echoed that sentiment. Doing so, they said, would be fruitless and force them to cast a politically challenging vote against the President that day.” See also, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally congratulates Biden and lobbies colleagues to oppose a final-stage Republican effort to overturn his victory, The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos and Luke Broadwater, Tuesday, 15 December 2020: “Breaking with President Trump’s drive to overturn his election loss, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Tuesday congratulated President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on his victory and began a campaign to keep fellow Republicans from joining a last-ditch effort to reverse the outcome when Congress tallies the results next month. Although Mr. McConnell’s moves came weeks after Mr. Biden was declared the winner, they amounted to a clear effort by the majority leader, who is the most powerful Republican in Congress, to put an end to his party’s attempts to sow doubt about the election. They were also a bid to avoid a messy partisan spectacle on the floor of the House that could divide Republicans at the start of the new Congress, pitting those loyal to Mr. Trump against institutionalists.”

A new Trump administration rule could shrink protected habitat for endangered wildlife, The Washington Post, Darryl Fears, Tuesday, 15 December 2020: “The Trump administration adopted a rule Tuesday that could shrink the historic habitats of plants and animals threatened with extinction, an action that opponents say will make it more difficult for them to recover. On their way out of office, the directors of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service established a rule that changed the definition of what determines a habitat under the Endangered Species Act. It was the second major rollback the administration has made to the signature wildlife protection law. Under the new definition, only ‘critical habitat’ that can sustain the species in question can be protected, as opposed to a broader habitat the plant or animal might one day occupy if it is suitable.”

Cybersecurity hack may have exposed deep US secrets; damage yet unknown, Associated Press, Frank Bajak, Tuesday, 15 December 2020: “Some of America’s most deeply held secrets may have been stolen in a disciplined, monthslong operation being blamed on elite Russian government hackers. The possibilities of what might have been purloined are mind-boggling. Could hackers have obtained nuclear secrets? COVID-19 vaccine data? Blueprints for next-generation weapons systems? It will take weeks, maybe years in some cases, for digital sleuths combing through U.S. government and private industry networks to get the answers. These hackers are consummate pros at covering their tracks, experts say. Some theft may never be detected. What’s seems clear is that this campaign — which cybersecurity experts says exhibits the tactics and techniques of Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency — will rank among the most prolific in the annals of cyberespionage. U.S. government agencies, including the Treasury and Commerce departments, were among dozens of high-value public- and private-sector targets known to have been infiltrated as far back as March through a commercial software update distributed to thousands of companies and government agencies worldwide. A Pentagon statement Monday indicated it used the software. It said it had “issued guidance and directives to protect” its networks. It would not say — for “operational security reasons” — whether any of its systems may have been hacked.”

Experts Warn Right-Wing Embrace of Conspiracy Is ‘Mass Radicalization,’ NPR, Hannah Allam, Tuesday, 15 December 2020: “The widespread embrace of conspiracy and disinformation amounts to a ‘mass radicalization’ of Americans, and increases the risk of right-wing violence, veteran security officials and terrorism researchers warn. At conferences, in op-eds and at agency meetings, domestic terrorism analysts are raising concern about the security implications of millions of conservatives buying into baseless right-wing claims. They say the line between mainstream and fringe is vanishing, with conspiracy-minded Republicans now marching alongside armed extremists at rallies across the country. Disparate factions on the right are coalescing into one side, analysts say, self-proclaimed ‘real Americans’ who are cocooned in their own news outlets, their own social media networks and, ultimately, their own ‘truth.'”

Amanda Chase, Republican contender for Virginia governor, says Trump should declare martial law, The Washington Post, Laura Vozzella, Tuesday, 15 December 2020: “State Sen. Amanda F. Chase, a brash Republican gubernatorial contender who bills herself as ‘Trump in heels,’ called on President Trump on Tuesday to declare martial law to prevent his removal from office. One day after the electoral college formally confirmed former vice president Joe Biden’s victory over Trump, Chase (Chesterfield) doubled down on baseless allegations of election fraud in an early-morning Facebook post. ‘Not my President and never will be,’ she wrote, referring to Biden. ‘The American people aren’t fools. We know you cheated to win and we’ll never accept these results. Fair elections we can accept but cheating to win; never. It’s not over yet. So thankful President Trump has a backbone and refuses to concede. President Trump should declare martial law as recommended by General Flynn.’… Under martial law, she said, troops would ‘go and seize these [voting] machines and voting equipment to find the voter fraud. There needs to be a national audit.'”

Judge rejects Trump Organization’s claim of privilege to shield documents from New York attorney General’s office, ABC News, Aaron Katersky, Tuesday, 15 December 2020: “A judge in New York on Tuesday rejected President Donald Trump’s claim of attorney-client privilege that could have shielded documents from the New York Attorney General’s office. The Trump Organization was given until Friday to turn over documents from the engineer of its Seven Springs Estate, a property in Westchester County being investigated by Attorney General Tish James over how it was valued by the organization while seeking tax benefits from New York state. At issue is whether the property’s conservation easement is legitimate. The president’s son, Eric, sat for a deposition. James’ office is looking into whether an improper valuation let the Trump Organization take a $21 million tax deduction.”


Wednesday, 16 December 2020, Day 1,426:


Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Wednesday, 16 December 2020: Officials Stress That the Pandemic ‘Is Not Over Yet’ as U.S. Vaccinations Begin, The New York Times, Wednesday, 16 December 2020:

  • With 244,365 new cases reported in a single day, the U.S. enters new territory.

  • How good is that mask you’re wearing? You may soon find out.

  • ‘It doesn’t get better than this,’ N.Y.C.’s mayor says as Elmhurst Hospital workers are vaccinated.

  • After personal threats over a local mask mandate, the Dodge City, Kansas, mayor resigns.

  • 2 Alaska health care workers had allergic reactions to the vaccine.

  • In cities expecting snow, some coronavirus testing is delayed.

  • A happy surprise as vaccine vials turn out to hold more than thought.

  • Chris Christie, reflecting on his own coronavirus experience, releases a video urging people to wear masks.

Some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday, 16 December 2020: Pence to get coronavirus vaccine live on camera Friday; Biden expected to get it next week, The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey, Matt Viser, Reis Thebault, Kim Bellware, Taylor Telford, Paulina Villegas, and Miriam Berger, Wednesday, 16 December 2020: “Vice President Pence is expected to be vaccinated against the coronavirus Friday live on camera, according to the White House. Also vaccinated will be second lady Karen Pence and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, the White House said on Wednesday. Meanwhile, officials from the Biden transition said the president-elect is expected to receive the vaccine as soon as next week.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

‘Like a Hand Grasping’: Trump Appointees Describe the Crushing of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.). Kyle McGowan, a former chief of staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and his deputy, Amanda Campbell, go public on the Trump administration’s manipulation of the agency. The New York Times, Noah Weiland, Wednesday, 16 December 2020: “Kyle McGowan, a former chief of staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and his deputy, Amanda Campbell, were installed in 2018 as two of the youngest political appointees in the history of the world’s premier public health agency, young Republicans returning to their native Georgia to dream jobs. But what they witnessed during the coronavirus pandemic this year in the C.D.C.’s leadership suite on the 12-floor headquarters here shook them: Washington’s dismissal of science, the White House’s slow suffocation of the agency’s voice, the meddling in its messages and the siphoning of its budget. In a series of interviews, the pair has decided to go public with their disillusionment: what went wrong, and what they believe needs to be done as the agency girds for what could be a yearslong project of rebuilding its credibility externally while easing ill feelings and self-doubt internally. ‘Everyone wants to describe the day that the light switch flipped and the C.D.C. was sidelined. It didn’t happen that way,’ Mr. McGowan said. ‘It was more of like a hand grasping something, and it slowly closes, closes, closes, closes until you realize that, middle of the summer, it has a complete grasp on everything at the C.D.C.'”

Emails reveal Trump appointee Paul Alexander demanded ‘herd immunity’ strategy: ‘We want them infected,’ Politico, Dan Diamond, Wednesday, 16 December 2020: “A top Trump appointee repeatedly urged top health officials to adopt a ‘herd immunity’ approach to Covid-19 and allow millions of Americans to be infected by the virus, according to internal emails obtained by a House watchdog and shared with POLITICO. ‘There is no other way, we need to establish herd, and it only comes about allowing the non-high risk groups expose themselves to the virus. PERIOD,’ then-science adviser Paul Alexander wrote on July 4 to his boss, Health and Human Services assistant secretary for public affairs Michael Caputo, and six other senior officials. ‘Infants, kids, teens, young people, young adults, middle aged with no conditions etc. have zero to little risk….so we use them to develop herd…we want them infected…’ Alexander added. ‘[I]t may be that it will be best if we open up and flood the zone and let the kids and young folk get infected’ in order to get ‘natural immunity…natural exposure,’ Alexander wrote on July 24 to Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Caputo and eight other senior officials. Caputo subsequently asked Alexander to research the idea, according to emails obtained by the House Oversight Committee’s select subcommittee on coronavirus. Alexander also argued that colleges should stay open to allow Covid-19 infections to spread, lamenting in a July 27 email to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield that ‘we essentially took off the battlefield the most potent weapon we had…younger healthy people, children, teens, young people who we needed to fastly [sic] infect themselves, spread it around, develop immunity, and help stop the spread.'”

Presidential Transition Highlights: Biden Introduces Buttigieg as His Choice for Transportation Secretary, The New York Times, Wednesday, 16 December 2020:

  • Biden formally names Buttigieg as his nominee for transportation secretary.

  • Pelosi backs Haaland for interior secretary, calling her ‘one of the best’ members of Congress.

  • Biden is expected to name Brenda Mallory to lead the Council on Environmental Quality.

  • McConnell tells Republicans that Georgia’s senators were ‘getting hammered’ for Congress’s failure to act.

  • A 27-year-old agreement may prevent Trump from living at Mar-a-Lago.

  • Chris Christie, reflecting on his own coronavirus experience, releases a video urging people to wear masks.

  • Despite scaled-back plans, Biden inauguration offers perks to major donors.

  • Trump taps Giuliani’s son for membership on the Holocaust Memorial Council.

  • Fired cybersecurity chief calls baseless election fraud claims ‘dangerous’ in Senate testimony.

Presidential Transfer of Power: Biden introduces Buttigieg as transportation secretary nominee and meets virtually with governors, The Washington Post, Colby Itkowitz, Felicia Sonmez, John Wagner, Elise Viebeck, Karoun Demirjian, and Chelsea Janes, Wednesday, 16 December 2020: “President-elect Joe Biden introduced Pete Buttigieg, a former rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, as his pick for transportation secretary Wednesday, calling him ‘a policy wonk with a big heart.’ Biden also met virtually with a group of governors. The campaign of President Trump, who continues to falsely claim that he won the election, released a video urging supporters to call their lawmakers ahead of Jan. 6, when Congress formally counts the electoral college votes.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

A Glitch in Trump’s Plan to Live at Mar-a-Lago: A Pact He Signed Says He Can’t. Neighbors of the president say he has violated the 1993 agreement he made with Palm Beach that allowed him to convert a private residence into a moneymaking club. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Wednesday, 16 December 2020: “President Trump’s neighbors in Florida are seeking to enforce a decades-old compact that says Mar-a-Lago, his private social club, cannot be used as a full-time residence — as Mr. Trump has suggested he plans to do after he leaves the White House. Neighbors of Mar-a-Lago sent a letter to the Town of Palm Beach and the U.S. Secret Service on Tuesday complaining that Mr. Trump has violated the 1993 agreement he made with the town that allowed him to convert the property to a moneymaking club. ‘Per the use agreement of 1993, Mar-a-Lago is a social club, and no one may reside on the property,’ wrote Reginald Stambaugh, a lawyer representing the DeMoss family, which has a property next to Mar-a-Lago.”

Biden Political Appointee Tracker, The Washington Post in collaboration with Partnership for Public Service, Wednesday, 16 December 2020: “Presidents are required to fill roughly 4,000 politically appointed positions in the executive branch, including more than 1,250 that require Senate confirmation. The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service are tracking nominees for roughly 800 of those 1,250 positions, including Cabinet secretaries, chief financial officers, general counsels, ambassadors and other critical leadership positions. To fill these positions, President-elect Joe Biden must formally nominate candidates to be confirmed by the Senate as part of its ‘advice and consent’ responsibilities under the Constitution. From announcement to confirmation, a nominee must pass through several steps, including a formal nomination, a referral to at least one Senate committee, a committee hearing and an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.”

Nearly 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty since the summer, The Washington Post, Heather Long, Wednesday, 16 December 2020: “The U.S. poverty rate has surged over the past five months, with 7.8 million Americans falling into poverty, the latest indication of how deeply many are struggling after government aid dwindled. The poverty rate jumped to 11.7 percent in November, up 2.4 percentage points since June, according to new data released Wednesday by researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame.”

Pentagon estimates show Biden order to halt border wall project would save the U.S. $2.6 billion, The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey and Nick Miroff, Wednesday, 16 December 2020: “The U.S. government would save about $2.6 billion if President-elect Joe Biden halts construction on the border wall project on his first day in office, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates reviewed by The Washington Post. Biden told reporters this summer he would not build ‘another foot’ of the border barriers that became a symbol of the Trump presidency and one of the most expensive federal infrastructure projects in U.S. history. But the financial implications of a decision to stop work — including the costs to the government it will potentially incur — have not been publicly disclosed.”

Billions Spent on U.S. Defenses Failed to Detect Giant Russian Hack. The broad Russian espionage attack on the U.S. government and private companies, underway since spring and detected only a few weeks ago, is among the greatest intelligence failures of modern times. The New York Times, David E. Sanger, Nicole Perlroth, and Julian E. Barnes, Wednesday, 16 December 2020: “Over the past few years, the United States government has spent tens of billions of dollars on cyberoffensive abilities, building a giant war room at Fort Meade, Md., for United States Cyber Command, while installing defensive sensors all around the country — a system named Einstein to give it an air of genius — to deter the nation’s enemies from picking its networks clean, again. It now is clear that the broad Russian espionage attack on the United States government and private companies, underway since spring and detected by the private sector only a few weeks ago, ranks among the greatest intelligence failures of modern times. Einstein missed it — because the Russian hackers brilliantly designed their attack to avoid setting it off. The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security were looking elsewhere, understandably focused on protecting the 2020 election. The new American strategy of ‘defend forward’ — essentially, putting American ‘beacons’ into the networks of its adversaries that would warn of oncoming attacks and provide a platform for counterstrikes — provided little to no deterrence for the Russians, who have upped their game significantly since the 1990s, when they launched an attack on the Defense Department called Moonlight Maze.”


Thursday, 17 December 2020, Day 1,427:


Some Global Coronavirus Updates for Thursday, 17 December 2020: In California, Counting the Dead by the Hour. A second coronavirus vaccine moves a step closer to being authorized. President Emmanuel Macron of France has tested positive for the virus and is isolating. And smaller vaccine shipments take state officials by surprise. The New York Times, Thursday, 17 December 2020:

  • As California I.C.U’s fill up, the dead are counted by the hour.

  • U.S. virus deaths and cases set records, as vaccines bring a glint of hope to a dark holiday season.

  • A second vaccine moves closer to U.S. authorization.

  • States are getting smaller-than-expected vaccine shipments next week.

  • Weeks before his execution date, a death row inmate tests positive for the virus.

  • As a stimulus deal takes shape, final disputes could affect Biden’s latitude to provide more relief.

  • Congress members and Supreme Court justices will get early vaccinations.

Many other significant developments are included in this article.

Some significant developments in the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, 17 December 2020: Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee recommends approval of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine. California becomes epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S. The Washington Post, Laurie McGinley, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Lateshia Beachum, Reis Thebault, Taylor Telford, Paulina Firozi, Kim Bellware, and Adam Taylor, Thursday, 17 December 2020: “Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine got the greenlight from a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee Thursday, paving the way for authorization of a second shot as the United States reported single-day highs in new infections, hospitalizations and deaths. California has become the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., posting in the past 48 hours more than 100,000 new cases and setting a new daily death record. In Southern California, a region that includes Los Angeles and San Diego, ICU capacity fell to 0 percent.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

U.S. Surpasses 3,600 Daily Coronavirus Deaths and Breaks Prior Hospitalization Record, NPR, Jaclyn Diaz, Thursday, 17 December 2020: “The U.S. on Wednesday reported the highest number of new cases of the coronavirus and the most COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began. As of 1:30 a.m. Thursday, more than 3,600 Americans died Wednesday from complications of the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking coronavirus infection data. Data from the COVID Tracking Project revealed more than 230,000 new coronavirus infections and showed 113,090 Americans were hospitalized with the virus — a number that’s been on the rise since Dec. 6. Revelations of yet another spike in new reported cases, hospitalizations and deaths comes the same week the U.S. began the rollout of its COVID-19 vaccination program and surpassed 300,000 deaths from the virus. It also comes on the heels of the Thanksgiving holiday, when many Americans gathered with family and friends against health officials’ warnings. Authorities are concerned about a similar spike following the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.”

Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine Gets Backing From Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Advisory Panel, The Wall Street Journal, Thomas M. Burton and Peter Loftus, Thursday, 17 December 2020: “A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommended Thursday that Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine be cleared for broad use, setting the stage for the FDA to grant an expected emergency-use authorization by late Friday. The advisory panel’s vote was 20-0, with one abstention, to recommend use of the Moderna vaccine for people 18 years of age and older. That puts it in line to become the second Covid-19 vaccine to be granted an emergency use authorization, following the FDA’s green light of a vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE last week.”

Pfizer Says It Has Millions of Vaccine Doses ‘Sitting in Warehouses,’ But Hasn’t Been told Where to Send Them, Forbes, Leah Rosenbaum, Thursday, 17 December 2020: “In a press release issued Thursday, Pfizer said that the company has millions of doses of its Covid-19 vaccines sitting in warehouses that have not been delivered because the company has not received shipping instructions from the federal government. Pfizer said that the company has so far shipped 2.9 million doses of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, which it produced with German company BioNTech, to locations specified by the U.S. government around the country. The company also said that it hasn’t experienced any production issues or shipping delays in regards to its vaccine. The statement comes in the wake of several public comments from Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who told reporters this week that Pfizer was experiencing ‘manufacturing challenges’ and ‘hiccups.’ Unlike other Covid-19 vaccine candidates, Pfizer declined to take any U.S. government funding from Operation Warp Speed to manufacture its vaccine, instead footing most of the development costs itself.”

Presidential Transition Highlights: Stimulus Deal Appears Within Reach, but Final Product Could Limit Biden in the Future, The New York Times, Thursday, 17 December 2020:

  • As a stimulus deal takes shape, final disputes could affect Biden’s latitude to provide more relief.

  • Biden addresses accusations against his son, saying ‘I think it’s kind of foul play.’

  • Biden picks Deb Haaland to lead the Interior Department.

  • One of Biden’s closest advisers, Cedric Richmond, tests positive for the virus.

  • Alarm grows as more hacking attacks are identified, and Biden says ‘a good defense isn’t enough.’

  • Federal judges dismiss two cases on absentee ballots in Georgia ahead of the runoff races.

  • Here’s a look at the economy Biden will inherit next month.

  • Pence will be vaccinated publicly on Friday, and Biden is expected to be as soon as next week.

Many other significant developments are included in this article.

Presidential Transfer of Power: Vice President Mike Pence campaigns in Georgia Senate races; Biden nominates Michael Regan as the next Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator and Representative Deb Haaland as the next secretary of the interior, the first Native American in the post, The Washington Post, Colby Itkowitz, Felicia Sonmez, and John Wagner, Thursday, 17 December 2020: “Vice President Pence made another trip to Georgia on Thursday to campaign for the pair of Republicans competing in next month’s Senate runoffs, which will determine whether his party maintains control of the chamber with a Democrat in the White House. President-elect Joe Biden, meanwhile, has decided to nominate Michael S. Regan, who heads the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, as the next Environmental Protection Agency administrator, and Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) as the next secretary of the interior, the first Native American in the post. Biden has advertised no public events Thursday. Neither has President Trump.

Here are a few of the significant developments included in this article.

Biden makes historic choice by nominating Native American Deb Haaland as Interior Secretary, The Hill, Rebecca Beitsch, Thursday, 17 December 2020: “Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) has been selected to lead the Interior Department in President-elect Joe Biden‘s administration, making history as the first Native American tapped for a Cabinet position. Haaland, who has been backed by a number of progressive groups as well as tribes, would take over a sprawling, 70,000-person agency with a mandate from Biden to help deliver on his climate promises. ‘A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,’ Haaland said in a statement thanking Biden for the nomination. ‘As our country faces the impacts of climate change and environmental injustice, the Interior has a role and I will be a partner in addressing these challenges by protecting our public lands and moving our country towards a clean energy future.’ If confirmed by the Senate, Haaland would likely deliver a significant turnaround for an agency that has rolled back environmental and endangered species protections and expanded oil and gas drilling. Biden has pledged to bar any new oil and gas leasing on public lands — an effort likely to require action from Interior.” See also, With historic choices, Biden puts environmental justice front and center, The Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin, Dino Grandoni, and Brady Dennis, Thursday, 17 December 2020: “President-elect Joe Biden chose Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) Thursday to serve as the first Native American Cabinet secretary and head the Interior Department, a historic pick that marks a turning point for the U.S. government’s relationship with the nation’s Indigenous peoples. With that selection and others this week, Biden sent a clear message that top officials charged with confronting the nation’s environmental problems will have a shared experience with the Americans who have disproportionately been affected by toxic air and polluted land.”

US jobless claims rise to 885,000 amid resurgence of virus, Associated Press, Paul Wiseman, Thursday, 17 December 2020: “The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose again last week to 885,000, the highest weekly total since September, as a resurgence of coronavirus cases threatens the economy’s recovery from its springtime collapse. The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of applications increased from 862,000 the previous week. It showed that nine months after the virus paralyzed the economy, many employers are still slashing jobs as the pandemic forces more business restrictions and leads many consumers to stay home. The number of claims was much higher than the 800,000 that economists had expected.”

Nuclear weapons agency breached amid massive cyber onslaught. Hackers accessed systems at the National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. Politico, Natasha Bertrand and Eric Wolff, Thursday, 17 December 2020: “The Energy Department and National Nuclear Security Administration, which maintains the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, have evidence that hackers accessed their networks as part of an extensive espionage operation that has affected at least half a dozen federal agencies, officials directly familiar with the matter said. On Thursday, DOE and NNSA officials began coordinating notifications about the breach to their congressional oversight bodies after being briefed by Rocky Campione, the chief information officer at DOE.”

Supreme Court Rejects Religious School’s Challenge to Kentucky Virus Order to Temporarily Close All of the State’s K-12 Schools, The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Thursday, 17 December 2020: “The Supreme Court on Thursday refused to exempt religious schools in Kentucky from an order from Gov. Andy Beshear that temporarily shut down all elementary, middle and high schools, whether public or private, in an effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic. The court’s brief, unsigned ruling stressed that the order from Mr. Beshear, a Democrat, would not be in place much longer. ‘The governor’s school-closing order effectively expires this week or shortly thereafter, and there is no indication that it will be renewed,’ the court’s opinion said.” See also, Supreme Court won’t exempt religious school from Kentucky coronavirus-closure order, The Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Thursday, 17 December 2020: “The Supreme Court on Thursday denied a Kentucky Christian academy’s plea that it should be exempt from the governor’s order requiring all K-12 institutions to temporarily cease in-person classes because of rising coronavirus cases. Danville Christian Academy, joined by Kentucky’s attorney general, said it should not be compared to other schools, but to businesses that have been allowed to remain open with reduced capacities, and doing otherwise was a violation of religious rights. But the court, in an unsigned order, noted that schools are about to begin their holiday breaks, and Gov. Andy Beshear’s mandate expires before schools reopen Jan. 4. If Beshear (D) reissues the restriction, the court said, the plaintiffs could return to court.”

As Trump Leaves the White House, His Imprint on the Judiciary Deepens. Published opinions from the nation’s appeals courts this year show that Trump appointees stand out from other judges, even those named by other Republican presidents. The New York Times, Rebecca R. Ruiz and Robert Bebeloff, Thursday, 17 December 2020: “As Democrats look to the incoming Biden administration to reverse much of President Trump’s work, the conservative imprint he has left on the federal courts is only deepening. Much attention in recent months has focused on the Supreme Court and its newly appointed justice, Amy Coney Barrett. But an analysis of decisions by the country’s appellate bench — where nearly all contested federal litigation ends — shows the transformation of the judiciary under Mr. Trump. Early this year, The New York Times reviewed more than 10,000 published decisions and dissents during the first three years of the Trump administration. It found that the president’s picks for the appeals courts were more likely than past Republican appointees to disagree with peers selected by Democrats, and more likely to agree with their Republican colleagues, suggesting they were more consistently conservative. An updated analysis of more than 1,700 opinions published over the first six months of the year shows that the trend has intensified as the judges have established a larger body of work.”

More Hacking Attacks Found as Officials Warn of ‘Grave Risk’ to U.S. Government, The New York Times, David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, Thursday, 17 December 2020: “Federal officials issued an urgent warning on Thursday that hackers who American intelligence agencies believed were working for the Kremlin used a far wider variety of tools than previously known to penetrate government systems, and said that the cyberoffensive was ‘a grave risk to the federal government.’ The discovery suggests that the scope of the hacking, which appears to extend beyond nuclear laboratories and Pentagon, Treasury and Commerce Department systems, complicates the challenge for federal investigators as they try to assess the damage and understand what had been stolen. Minutes after the statement from the cybersecurity arm of the Department of Homeland Security, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. warned that his administration would impose ‘substantial costs’ on those responsible. ‘A good defense isn’t enough; we need to disrupt and deter our adversaries from undertaking significant cyberattacks in the first place,’ Mr. Biden said, adding, ‘I will not stand idly by in the face of cyberassaults on our nation.’ President Trump has yet to say anything about the attack. Echoing the government’s warning, Microsoft said Thursday that it had identified 40 companies, government agencies and think tanks that the suspected Russian hackers, at a minimum, had infiltrated. Nearly half are private technology firms, Microsoft said, many of them cybersecurity firms, like FireEye, that are charged with securing vast sections of the public and private sector.” See also, Biden and lawmakers raise alarms over cybersecurity breach amid Trump’s silence, The Washington Post, Anne Gearan, Karoun Demirjian, Mike DeBonis, and Annie Linskey, Thursday, 17 December 2020: “Democrats and some Republicans raised the alarm Thursday about a massive and growing cybersecurity breach that many experts blame on Russia, with President-elect Joe Biden implicitly criticizing the Trump administration for allowing the hacking attack to occur…. President Trump, by contrast, has said nothing about the hack affecting numerous federal agencies as well as U.S. companies. U.S. national security agencies are still assessing the scope and severity of the breach, which was discovered by a commercial firm. The president’s silence about an organized attack on the U.S. government marks the latest example of his persistent reluctance to criticize Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies have accused of interfering in the 2016 election to help Trump.”