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News & Politics Thread (Part 5)

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    Rudy Giuliani tests positive for coronavirus, Trump says

    (CNN) Rudy Giuliani, the personal attorney to President Donald Trump, has tested positive for Covid-19, Trump announced.

    “Get better soon Rudy, we will carry on!!!” Trump wrote Sunday on Twitter.

    Giuliani has not announced his diagnosis. CNN has reached out to him for comment.

    Giuliani has been crisscrossing the country to battleground states, leading the President’s long-shot legal battle to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

    He was mostly recently at the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta on Thursday to attend a Georgia state Senate hearing on the November election. During a break in the hearing, Giuliani removed the mask he was wearing to greet and take pictures with supporters.

    He traveled to Michigan on Wednesday for a state House committee hearing that lasted four and a half hours, during which he was maskless as he pushed misleading claims that the election was stolen from Trump.

    At the beginning of the week, Giuliani was in Arizona Monday, meeting with some GOP members of the state’s legislature to discuss unsubstantiated allegations that the election was fraudulent.

    The 76-year-old former mayor of New York is considered at high risk for complications from the coronavirus due to his age.

    Last month, Giuliani’s son, Andrew, who is a White House staffer, tested positive for Covid-19 after attending a Trump campaign legal team news conference with his father in Washington, DC.

    Giuliani is the latest person in the President’s orbit to contract the virus. The President, first lady Melania Trump, his sons Donald Jr. and Barron, his chief of staff Mark Meadows and a number of other top aides both in his campaign and in the White House have tested positive in recent months.

    Giuliani was also in close proximity with Bill White, a Trump booster in Georgia who attended the President’s rally Saturday night in Valdosta. White shook hands and closely embraced Giuliani last week.

    As the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths have been on the rise, the White House has continued to flout US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and host large events without masks and little social distancing.

    This story has been updated with additional information about Giuliani’s recent travels.

    CNN’s Annie Grayer, Wesley Bruer and DJ Judd contributed to this report.

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    Biden unveils health team that will lead pandemic response

    Washington (CNN) President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced the health team that will lead his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic when he takes office in January.

    Biden’s transition team announced California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as his nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Vivek Murthy as his nominee for US surgeon general, Dr. Rochelle Walensky as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith as the chair of his Covid-19 equity task force.

    Dr. Anthony Fauci will serve as chief medical adviser to the President on Covid-19 and will also continue in his role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Biden transition co-chair and former Obama administration official Jeff Zients will serve as coordinator of the Covid-19 response and counselor to the President and Natalie Quillian, another Obama administration veteran, will serve as deputy coordinator of the Covid-19 response.

    The team will lead the administration’s response as the US grapples with a pandemic that has killed more than 282,000 Americans as of Monday morning and shut down businesses and schools across the country.

    Biden is expected to hold an event on Tuesday to introduce his health team, a transition official confirmed to CNN. The official would not immediately say if every member of the health team, including Fauci, would be in attendance.

    “This trusted and accomplished team of leaders will bring the highest level of integrity, scientific rigor, and crisis-management experience to one of the toughest challenges America has ever faced — getting the pandemic under control so that the American people can get back to work, back to their lives, and back to their loved ones,” Biden said in a statement.

    He continued, “This team of world-class medical experts and public servants will be ready on day one to mobilize every resource of the federal government to expand testing and masking, oversee the safe, equitable, and free distribution of treatments and vaccines, re-open schools and businesses safely, lower prescription drug and other health costs and expand affordable health care to all Americans, and rally the country and restore the belief that there is nothing beyond America’s capacity if we do it together.”

    Fauci told CNN’s John Berman on “New Day” Monday that he had worked with all of the other members of Biden’s health team and praised them as “excellent choices.”

    “Obviously this is an enormous challenge that we’re all going to be facing throughout the country, as we emerge into and from the winter months, so there’s going to be a lot of activity both from a fundamental science standpoint — vaccines, therapies, understanding the disease better — as well as the public health response,” Fauci said.

    He said he didn’t believe his role on Biden’s health team would be “substantially different” than his current role as a leading member of President Donald Trump’s White House coronavirus task force.

    “I’m not exactly sure what the precise structure that will be put up, but it certainly will be something similar in the sense of a daily monitoring and involvement of this extraordinary challenge that we’re going through,” Fauci said.

    Becerra is the attorney general of California, the first Latino to serve in that role, and has been the chief defender of the Affordable Care Act in court. He has led a group of Democratic attorneys general arguing that the law remains valid as the Trump administration and a coalition of Republican state attorneys general fight to invalidate the landmark health reform law.

    If confirmed by the United States Senate, Becerra would be the first Latino to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. He served 12 terms in Congress as a member of the US House of Representatives and held several leadership posts, including the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the ranking member of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security. He was also the first Latino to serve as a member of the Ways and Means Committee. He also sat on the Ways & Means subcommittee on health, where he worked on major health programs, such as Medicare.

    Murthy served as US surgeon general during the Obama administration from 2014 to 2017 and would reprise his role if confirmed by the Senate. As surgeon general under Obama, Murthy helped lead the national response to the Ebola and Zika viruses and the opioid crisis, among other health challenges.

    Murthy, a doctor of internal medicine, has been a top health adviser to Biden since the campaign. He was part of Biden’s public health advisory committee as the pandemic first took hold in the US and has been serving as a co-chair of the President-elect’s Covid-19 advisory board during the transition.

    Walensky, a physician, is the chief of the infectious diseases division at Massachusetts General Hospital and is also a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Her post as director of the CDC does not require Senate confirmation.

    Walensky currently serves as the chair of the National Institutes of Health’s Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council and is a member of the US Department of Health and Human Services Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents.

    Nunez-Smith is a co-chair of Biden’s transition team and serves as an associate professor of medicine, public health, and management and associate dean for health equity research at the Yale School of Medicine. Nunez-Smith is the founding director of Yale’s Equity Research and Innovation Center, which is focused on addressing inequities in health and health care. She created the Eastern Caribbean Health Outcomes Research Network, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health, to improve health outcomes in an historically underserved region.

    Biden told CNN’s Jake Tapper last week that he had asked Fauci to stay on in his role and to be a chief medical adviser in Biden’s incoming administration. Fauci, who has a lengthy career serving under six presidents from both parties, is a leading member of President Donald Trump’s White House coronavirus task force. He has served as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. Fauci’s role does not require Senate confirmation.

    Zients was a top economic adviser under Obama and is a co-chair of Biden’s transition team. Zients is credited with reviving the Obamacare enrollment website, Healthcare.gov, which had been plagued with issues and crashed shortly after its launch in 2013. The website, an online marketplace for medical insurance, was a critical centerpiece to Obama’s landmark health care law. Zients was the fix-it man and provided advice to the US Department of Health and Human Services as it worked to resolve the problems. Zients’ role does not require Senate confirmation.

    At the beginning of the Obama administration, in 2009, Zients was confirmed by the US Senate to serve as the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, and later served as acting director. He later served as the director of the National Economic Council and assistant to the President for economic policy under Obama.

    Quillian is a former White House and Pentagon senior adviser, and most recently served as a deputy campaign manager for Biden’s presidential campaign. Quillian served all eight years in the Obama administration and helped coordinate the interagency response to the opioid epidemic. She has served in a number of national security positions at the National Security Council and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and as deputy assistant to the President and senior adviser to the White House chief of staff. Quillian’s role does not require Senate confirmation.

    This story has been updated with additional information about Biden’s health team and with comments made by Fauci on CNN on Monday morning.

    CNN’s Chandelis Duster and Arlette Saenz contributed to this report.

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    Biden signals defense secretary and attorney general announcements coming this week

    (CNN) President-elect Joe Biden said Monday that he planned to announce his nominee for secretary of defense on Friday, and signaled that he could also name his pick for attorney general earlier in the week.

    “I’ll have an announcement for you on Wednesday and Friday,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, when asked when he would announce his picks for attorney general and defense secretary. He specified his pick for defense secretary would be named Friday.

    CNN has reported that there are three people in final contention to lead the Pentagon: Michèle Flournoy, a veteran Pentagon official who served as under secretary of defense for policy in President Barack Obama’s administration, Jeh Johnson, a former secretary of Homeland Security, and Lloyd Austin, a retired Army general who led Central Command during the Obama era.

    Flournoy would be the first female secretary of defense if chosen and confirmed by the Senate. Johnson and Austin, who are African American, would also make history as the first Black secretary of defense.

    Johnson has also been mentioned as a potential contender for attorney general, along with several other contenders, CNN has reported. Doug Jones, a United States senator from Alabama, Deval Patrick, a former governor of Massachusetts, Sally Yates, a former acting attorney general, and Lisa Monaco, a former Homeland Security adviser in the Obama White House and who previously worked at the FBI and as top national security prosecutor at the Justice Department, are also potential nominees.

    Biden has moved quickly to build out his administration since being elected last month. Earlier Monday, Biden’s transition team announced key members of the President-elect’s health team who will lead his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic when he takes office in January.

    His health team includes California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as his nominee for secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Vivek Murthy as his nominee for US surgeon general and Dr. Anthony Fauci as chief medical adviser to the President. Monday’s announcement came as coronavirus cases have spiked across the country and the death toll stood at more than 282,000 Americans.

    Last week, Biden introduced several members of his economic team, including his nominee for secretary of the Treasury Department, Janet Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, who would help him rebuild an economy battered by the pandemic.

    Biden has also named several key members of his national security and foreign policy teams. He named Antony Blinken, his top foreign policy aide, as the next secretary of state, Alejandro Mayorkas, a former deputy secretary of at the Department of Homeland Security, as the next DHS secretary, and Avril Haines to lead the US intelligence community, among others.

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    Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis contracts coronavirus, source says

    (CNN) Jenna Ellis, a lawyer who has been leading the Trump campaign’s legal efforts to dispute the results of the 2020 presidential election, has contracted the coronavirus, a source familiar with the situation confirmed to CNN.

    The source said White House aides have been informed that she has contracted the virus, but that Ellis has not been forthright with White House officials about it.

    Axios first reported that Ellis had tested positive.

    Ellis attended a Christmas party designated for senior staff on Friday, a senior official told CNN. She regularly does not wear a mask when she is at the White House.

    Ellis adds to the growing list of individuals in President Donald Trump’s orbit testing positive for coronavirus in recent months. Most recently, Rudy Giuliani, another Trump lawyer working on baseless efforts to challenge the election results, was admitted to the hospital this weekend for symptoms related to Covid-19.

    Giuliani and Ellis have frequently appeared maskless while crisscrossing the country in recent weeks to advance Trump’s baseless election fraud claims.

    The new case from someone close to the President comes amid a record number of hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients and a surge in deaths in the US.
    This story is breaking and will be updated.

    CNN’s Jeremy Diamond, Sam Fossum and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.

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    Supreme Court rejects Pennsylvania Republicans’ attempt to block Biden victory

    (CNN) The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to block certification of the commonwealth’s election results, delivering a near fatal blow to the GOP’s long-shot bid to invalidate President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

    The Supreme Court’s action is a crushing loss for Trump, who has frequently touted the high court’s potential to overturn his election loss.

    Just hours before the court’s order was released, Trump made a direct appeal to state officials and members of the Supreme Court to assist him in his efforts to subvert the will of voters, as he continually and falsely suggested there was massive voter fraud during the election.

    “Let’s see whether or not somebody has the courage, whether it’s legislators or legislatures or a justice of the Supreme Court or a number of justices of the Supreme Court,” Trump said. “Let’s see if they have the courage to do what everybody in this country knows is right.”

    Tuesday’s one-line order was issued with no noted dissents or comment from any of the nine justices. The court is made up of six conservative justices — including Trump’s three nominees — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — and three liberals.

    The order marked Barrett’s first vote on an election-related dispute.

    The quick action with no public dissents (justices may choose whether to announce their dissent) is a signal the Supreme Court may not want to get involved in the ongoing Trump challenges, said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and University of Texas Law professor.

    “The fact that the justices issued a one-sentence order with no separate opinions is a powerful sign that the court intends to stay out of election-related disputes, and that it’s going to leave things to the electoral process going forward,” Vladeck said.

    “It’s hard to imagine a more quietly resounding rejection of these challenges from this court,” Vladeck added.

    Tuesday marks the “safe harbor” deadline for the state under federal law. That means that when Congress tallies the electoral votes in January, it must accept electoral results that were certified before the deadline.

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    Biden’s trailblazing Pentagon pick set to cap a 40-year Army career with a rise to the pinnacle

    (CNN) Gen. Lloyd Austin, President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to lead the Pentagon, is poised to make history as the first Black secretary of defense and is “the person we need in this moment,” Biden says — but first, he will have to overcome resistance from the President-elect’s own party.

    The epic nature of Austin’s journey — from a childhood in deeply segregated Alabama, through a military still plagued with racial inequity, to the pinnacle of US national defense — might be matched only by the scale of the challenges that would face him there.

    In tapping Austin, Biden is choosing a former colleague he knows well from years working together during the Obama administration, a period that saw Austin lead US Central Command, serve as vice chief of staff of the Army, and commanding general of US forces in Iraq. Austin and Biden also share a personal link.

    Biden’s son Beau served on Austin’s staff in Iraq and the two forged a close relationship there, sitting side by side at Mass almost every Sunday and maintaining the friendship when Beau returned from deployment, according to a source familiar with Biden’s decision.

    “A comfort level”

    Biden and Austin have “known each other for a long time,” a second source said. “There’s a comfort level.” This source added that “the historic nature of the pick … is something Biden is excited about. Especially given the history of the US military being barrier breakers in a lot of areas.”

    Biden himself cast his choice in light of unprecedented challenges facing the military and his deep familiarity with Austin, a fellow Catholic.

    “In his more than 40 years in the United States Army, Austin met every challenge with extraordinary skill and profound personal decency,” Biden wrote in The Atlantic. “He is a true and tested soldier and leader. I’ve spent countless hours with him, in the field and in the White House Situation Room. I’ve sought his advice, seen his command, and admired his calm and his character. He is the definition of a patriot.”

    “Austin’s many strengths and his intimate knowledge of the Department of Defense and our government are uniquely matched to the challenges and crises we face,” Biden wrote. “He is the person we need in this moment.”

    Biden will formally introduce Austin as his nominee at a Wednesday event in Wilmington, Delaware.

    If Austin gets the job, the former battlefield commander would join an elite fraternity of African Americans who have risen to the executive branch at a time when a charged national debate about racial justice is forcing a reckoning in the military as well.

    As a decorated officer known for his deep public reserve, but not nimble political instincts, Austin would be stepping onto the global stage as he navigates the work of reshaping the Defense Department while progressive Democrats call to scale back military funding.

    At the Pentagon, he would inherit an institution strained by political tensions over the last four years, analysts say, one that is juggling rising threats such as China, ongoing risks from the likes of North Korea, the need to develop new capabilities in cyber, space and artificial intelligence, and manage the distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine as the pandemic continues to ravage the US.

    “He’s going to have his work cut out for him,” said Eric Edelman, a former undersecretary of defense for policy, diplomat and White House official.

    Austin’s “trailblazing career,” as Biden put it, suggests he has the drive and work ethic required.

    The 67-year-old was born in Mobile, Alabama, in 1953, a time of sharply truncated opportunity for African Americans. He retired in 2016 as a four-star general awarded the military’s third highest military decoration for valor, five of the highest non-combat related military awards and a slew of other honors.

    “Only the sixth”

    Defense Department data shows that while Black service members represent 19% of all enlisted personnel, they make up only 9% of the mostly White, male officer corps. Biden noted in The Atlantic that Austin was “the 200th person ever to attain the rank of an Army four-star general, but only the sixth African American.”

    Austin got there through West Point, the elite military academy that is only now beginning to come to terms with a legacy of racism. He went on later to earn a Master’s in Education from Auburn University and a Master’s in Business Management from Webster University.

    Austin has had some stumbles along the way. His tenure as commander at CENTCOM coincided with the rise of ISIS, a period that witnessed the terror group’s capture of major cities in Syria and Iraq.

    At a 2015 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Austin received a stinging rebuke from then-Chairman Sen. John McCain for his relatively optimistic assessment about the fight against ISIS despite the group’s major advancements on the battlefield.

    “There haven’t been any dramatic gains on either side,” Austin told the hearing, speaking about a year after ISIS captured Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul.

    “I’ve never seen a hearing that is as divorced from the reality of every outside expert and what you are saying,” McCain retorted.

    Unlike some of his predecessors and successors at US Central Command, Austin never publicly expressed criticism or opposition to administration policy, a reserve that likely made him an attractive pick for Biden, who famously clashed with military brass at the start of the Obama administration over the size of the military footprint in places such as Afghanistan.

    Now, as Austin looks to lead the world’s largest employer, with 1.3 million active duty troops and a total of more than 2.8 million employees, his first hurdles will lie in the US Senate.

    Democrats are raising concerns about his ties to the defense industry and investment firms — a complaint raised about other candidates for the defense secretary job and some of Biden’s nominees to other Cabinet positions. Austin’s positions on the boards of the investment firm Pine Island Capital Partners and defense contractor Raytheon have drawn criticism.

    More urgently for the Biden team, Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which would vote first on Austin’s nomination, are stressing the need for civilian leadership at the helm of the Pentagon.

    Austin does not meet the standard set by law requiring defense secretaries to have been out of active-duty service for seven years before taking the top civilian post and some of Biden’s closest allies are squeamish — if not outright opposed — to granting the waiver that would allow him to do so.

    Waiver battle ahead

    Waivers have only been granted twice since the defense secretary position was created in 1947, most recently for James Mattis, President Donald Trump’s first defense secretary.

    While some Democrats, including Jack Reed, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, are showing signs of softening on the issue, others have been adamant.

    “I will not support the waiver,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. “It is exciting and historic,” he said of Austin’s expected nomination, “but I believe that a waiver of the seven-year rule would contravene the basic principle that there should be civilian control over a nonpolitical military. The principle is essential to our democracy.”

    Pentagon planning to prioritize medical personnel then senior leaders in coronavirus vaccine rollout
    Montana Sen. Jon Tester, who opposed the waiver for Mattis, said he would do so again for Austin. “I thought Mattis was a great secretary. And I think this guy is gonna be a great secretary of defense,” he said. “I just think that we ought to look at the rules.”

    The Biden team has done some “engagement with people on the Hill about a waiver,” the second source familiar with the decision told CNN. This source said the Biden-Harris transition team is “hopeful leaders of the committees and members responsible for bringing that forward will support that,” particularly given the historic nature of the nomination.

    According to a transition official, the transition team has so far engaged with more than 100 House and Senate offices on Austin’s nomination and waiver.

    Austin is also expected to speak with Congressional leadership, including Senate and House Armed Services Committee members, “early on” as he begins the confirmation process, according to the official.

    Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, himself a retired Black four-star Army general, offered Austin a high-profile endorsement on Wednesday, calling him a “superb choice” and saying Congress “should have no concern” in waiving the requirement.

    Edelman, who is now a counselor at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the waiver “is a huge challenge for the Biden administration,” and noted the Democratic Party platform said it would restore civil-military balance at the Defense Department.

    “It almost inevitably comes out as being portrayed as some reservation about Austin and the historic nature of his nomination, it gets all wrapped up in this issue, it’s really not about him, it’s about institutional equities and balance,” Edelman said.

    CNN’s Jake Tapper, Ryan Browne, Barbara Starr, Ted Barrett, Manu Raju and Jessica Dean contributed to this report

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    NAACP wants Biden to create a Cabinet-level civil rights envoy

    (CNN) The head of the NAACP planned to push President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to create the role of civil rights czar, following a model Biden has already established in naming John Kerry to a Cabinet-level position as a climate envoy, during a virtual meeting Tuesday.

    The proposal was to come during a virtual meeting Biden and Harris held with the leaders of civil rights organizations Tuesday in Delaware. It’s part of an effort by Black leaders, who delivered Biden to victory in the Democratic primary, to hold him to his promise to nominate the most diverse Cabinet in history.

    “We oftentimes as a country talk about the reaction to history as opposed to talking about the opportunity of the future as it relates to diversity and equity. And that’s what we want to lean into,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in an interview before the meeting in which he previewed the proposal.

    In a statement, the NAACP called the position it is proposing the “National Advisor on Racial Justice, Equity and Advancement.”

    Johnson said the call for a civil rights czar is modeled after corporations that have tapped top-level diversity and inclusion officers, and that those posts have been most effective when those officers report directly to the company’s leader.

    He wouldn’t name specific individuals he’d like to see named to such a post, saying he first wanted to “see if there’s buy-in by this administration so that we can really see the position come to life.”

    Johnson said Black leaders want to see Biden select Black nominees for top positions in government and choose an overall pool of political appointees that includes more Black people than former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama selected. Clinton left office with Black people in 6.2% of political appointee positions, and Obama left with Black people in 11.8% of those spots, Johnson said.

    Johnson said it’s too soon to assess how fully Biden has lived up to his pledge for the most diverse Cabinet in history. “It’s still early. I would like to give that assessment once we have a complete picture,” he said.

    Last week, Biden promised a Cabinet with “significant diversity” after hearing frustrations from the NAACP and other civil rights groups that Biden had not selected Black nominees to lead the State and Treasury departments.

    “I’m not going to tell you now exactly what I’m doing in any department, but I promise you, it’ll be the single most diverse cabinet, based on race, color, based on gender, that’s ever existed in the United States of America,” Biden told reporters Friday.

    Since then, Biden chose retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the former commander of US Central Command, to be his secretary of defense. And he tapped California Attorney General Xavier Beccera to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, after the Congressional Hispanic Caucus voiced frustrations over his team’s handling of another candidate, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, for the post.

    On Monday, more than 1,000 influential Black women signed a letter urging Biden and Harris to consider and appoint more Black women to hold Cabinet positions. One person singled out in the letter, Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, is set to be nominated to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, two people familiar with the transition told CNN, a decision that would add another African American woman to the ranks of Biden’s Cabinet.

    Asked in a news conference after Tuesday’s meeting about prospects for attorney general, several of the civil rights leaders said they want to see Biden select a Black appointee or someone with what Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, called “a clear and bold record when it comes to civil rights and racial justice.”

    Attendees, though, said they did not offer or discuss names of potential nominees.

    Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, specifically named former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who once helmed the Justice Department’s civil rights division, and Sally Yates, the former deputy attorney general. One person whose name did not come up, but who prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan members responsible for the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four Black girls, is outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones.

    Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League, said he was “looking for the profile of Eric Holder, and a preference for an African American, civil rights-focused attorney general.”

    Morial also told reporters after the meeting that the civil rights leaders “heard the reaffirmation of a commitment by President-elect Biden to make history when it comes to appointments” by selecting more Black and Latino people for his administration than any before.

    “We pushed very hard on that. We will continue to push very hard on that. It is central to, we think, his ability to make progress on racial justice,” Morial said.

    This story has been updated with additional reporting.

    CNN’s Jasmine Wright, Jeff Zeleny and Dan Merica contributed to this report.

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    Attorney general remains key spot to fill in Biden Cabinet, with Doug Jones seen as a leading contender

    (CNN) As President-elect Joe Biden formally introduces his defense secretary nominee Wednesday, the role of attorney general remains the biggest outstanding position in the Cabinet yet to be named.

    Three leading contenders for the post are Sen. Doug Jones, Judge Merrick Garland, and Sally Yates, people familiar with the matter say, after Jeh Johnson informed allies late Tuesday he would not be serving in the Biden administration.

    Jones, the Alabama senator who lost his race in November, is seen as the leading candidate to run the Department of Justice, people close to the matter say, particularly given his long-standing friendship with Biden and his strong civil rights record. He also fits a pattern developing among several key Cabinet nominees: Biden is turning to people with whom he has strong relationships, are seen as competent and could face an easier road to confirmation.

    “All signs point to Doug Jones,” a person close to the Biden transition tells CNN, but noted that Biden had not informed candidates of his final decision.

    Garland, whose nomination to the Supreme Court was blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the final year of the Obama administration, has also been under consideration for weeks. Some people close to the process say his candidacy has become more serious over the last week and he remains an option.

    Yet his nomination also faces more challenges than Jones, including a more complicated confirmation battle, the vacancy it would create on the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit and questions from civil rights groups.

    Yates, a former deputy attorney general, would also likely face a more difficult confirmation than Jones. As a 30-year career official at Justice, it’s also an open question whether she is best suited to lead the department in the post-Trump era. During her time as deputy attorney general, she stood by while then-FBI Director James Comey, who reported directly to her, repeatedly violated Justice Department policy in handling the Hillary Clinton email probe.

    CNN has previously reported that Lisa Monaco, a former Homeland Security adviser in the Obama White House who worked closely with Biden on his vice presidential search, is also under consideration for the attorney general post. Deval Patrick, the former Massachusetts governor and former civil rights chief at the Justice Department, was also being considered.

    A Biden transition official said a decision had not yet been made and a formal announcement is not expected this week.

    Johnson, who had been under consideration for several potential positions, is no longer in the running for a Cabinet post, people familiar with the matter say.

    Johnson had been in strong contention for secretary of defense and was one of several candidates being eyed for attorney general. He preferred Pentagon over any other position and when retired Army General Lloyd Austin was picked for that position, Johnson made clear he would not be joining Biden’s team.

    Johnson served as Homeland Security secretary in the Obama administration, but an ally said he did not have a particularly strong relationship with Biden.

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    https://apnews.com/article/high-court-reject-gop-bid-halt-biden-win-0b7005328243eeca23f8bc3368549879

    So will he finally give up and admit he lost? I mean its kinda getting annoying to see him say fraud this fraud that and keep getting told “No.”

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    Facebook must be broken up, the US government says in a groundbreaking lawsuit

    by Brian Fung, CNN Business
    Updated 6:00 PM ET, Wed December 9, 2020

    (CNN Business) Dozens of states and the federal government sued Facebook (FB) on Wednesday in twin antitrust lawsuits, alleging that the social media giant has abused its dominance in the digital marketplace and engaged in anticompetitive behavior.

    The Federal Trade Commission, in particular, is seeking a permanent injunction in federal court that could, among other things, require the company to divest assets, including Instagram and WhatsApp, effectively breaking up Facebook as we know it. The states are also calling for the company to be broken up, if necessary.

    “Personal social networking is central to the lives of millions of Americans,” said Ian Conner, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, in a statement. “Facebook’s actions to entrench and maintain its monopoly deny consumers the benefits of competition. Our aim is to roll back Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can thrive.”

    The parallel lawsuits, months in the making, represent an unprecedented challenge to one of Silicon Valley’s most powerful corporations. The complaints zero in on Facebook’s acquisition and control over Instagram and WhatsApp, two key services in its social media empire. Facebook announced in 2012 that it was buying Instagram for $1 billion; two years later, it announced a $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp.

    The suits come roughly 14 months after New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that her office was leading a group of attorneys general in investigating Facebook for potential anticompetitive practices. More than 40 attorneys general ultimately signed onto Wednesday’s complaint. The FTC, meanwhile, has been conducting its own antitrust investigation of Facebook since June 2019.

    “For nearly a decade, Facebook has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out competition,” James said at a press conference Wednesday. “By using its vast troves of data and money, Facebook has squashed or hindered what the company perceived to be potential threats.”

    The state suit calls for a court order requiring Facebook to notify state officials of any future acquisitions valued at $10 million or more.

    “The most important fact in this case, which the Commission does not mention in its 53-page complaint, is that it cleared these acquisitions years ago,” Jennifer Newstead, VP and General Counsel at Facebook, said in a statement. “The government now wants a do-over, sending a chilling warning to American business that no sale is ever final.”

    “People and small businesses don’t choose to use Facebook’s free services and advertising because they have to, they use them because our apps and services deliver the most value,” Newstead added. “We are going to vigorously defend people’s ability to continue making that choice.”

    Although regulators may not have opposed the WhatsApp and Instagram deals at the time, competition watchdogs have every right to change their minds in light of new evidence, said William Kovacic, a former chairman of the FTC.

    “There’s nothing in US merger law that says an agency’s decision not to challenge a proposed deal immunizes that deal from future review,” he said.

    Much of the scrutiny of Facebook concerns the companies it has purchased to build up a massive audience that now totals more than 3 billion users across its portfolio of apps, according to its financial statements. That dominance has raised questions by some legal experts, including US lawmakers, about whether Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg set out to neutralize competitive threats by gobbling them up.

    As the drumbeat in Washington against Facebook has grown louder, the company has had years to prepare for a showdown. It’s moved to tightly integrate its apps on a technical level, a decision some critics have suggested is a strategy to frustrate any potential breakup. It’s stepped up its hiring of lawyers with antitrust and litigation experience. And the company has fine-tuned its talking points, settling on a narrative that Facebook welcomes regulation but that cracking down too hard could risk giving other countries like China a competitive edge in the fast-moving technology sector.

    Wednesday’s legal action makes Facebook the second global tech company to be taken to court by US and state government officials this year over antitrust concerns. In October, the Justice Department and 11 states filed a lawsuit against Google, alleging that it had stifled competition to maintain its powerful place in online search and search advertising. (Google has called the suit “deeply flawed” and that consumers use Google’s platform because they choose to, not because they are forced to.) The last major tech antitrust suit before that, experts say, dates back to the US government’s landmark case against Microsoft in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

    Facebook and Google aren’t the only tech companies of concern among policymakers. US officials have increasingly probed the entire tech sector for potential anticompetitive behavior, giving particular focus to the big four firms that now touch every corner of our lives. The scrutiny has ranged from Apple’s control over the iOS app ecosystem to Amazon’s treatment of independent sellers on its e-commerce platform.

    In Facebook’s case, government officials will need to prove in court that the company’s alleged misconduct led to real-world, measurable harms to consumers or competition, said Hal Singer, an economist and antitrust expert at George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy.

    “It doesn’t have to be a price effect; it could be some privacy thing,” Singer said. “But you have to show it causally.”

    According to the state suit, Facebook’s alleged misconduct has resulted in consumers being harmed. Internet users have fewer choices among social media platforms and poorer experiences, the complaint said, while the tech industry has suffered from “reduced investment in potentially competing services.”

    In another critical allegation, state officials said Facebook opened its platform to third-party app developers to draw them into the company’s orbit, then cut off their access to Facebook’s services once Facebook perceived them to be a competitive threat.

    Singer said that if Facebook is ultimately deemed to have violated the law, the company could try to forestall a breakup by arguing that its services are too tightly integrated to be unwound. But, he said, it would be up to the courts to determine whether that is a persuasive argument.

    As the Microsoft case showed, antitrust lawsuits can take years to play out. But they can ultimately have an enormous impact. Experts credit the Microsoft suit, which was eventually settled, with paving the way for Google’s rise.

    Similarly, a court ruling that breaks up Facebook or imposes certain behavioral limitations could have wide-ranging effects on what new startups may emerge — and what products consumers see in the marketplace.

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    President-elect announces slate of new Cabinet and top administrative picks

    (CNN) President-elect Joe Biden’s goal is to have his remaining Cabinet selections announced before Christmas, a transition official told CNN, with no plans of delaying any decisions until the outcome of the Georgia runoffs determines control of the Senate.

    This is contingent on Biden making up his mind and not delaying decisions on his picks, as he hears criticism and suggestions from outside supporters and advocates.

    Several announcements are expected next week. CIA director is expected to be at the beginning of the week, with others grouped together later.

    The timing of an attorney general announcement remains unclear, with sources offering conflicting indications of when it will happen. A separate source on Thursday insisted Biden has yet to reach a final decision, but others believe he has. The four finalists are Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, Merrick Garland, Sally Yates, and Deval Patrick, with Jones and Garland seen as the top two options.

    Meanwhile, on Thursday, the President-elect announced a slate of new Cabinet nominees and picks for top roles in his administration, including Denis McDonough for secretary of Veterans Affairs, Tom Vilsack for Agriculture secretary and Marcia Fudge for secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

    Biden tapped Susan Rice, former national security adviser during the Obama administration, as his director of the Domestic Policy Council. The President-elect also announced Katherine Tai, who oversaw trade enforcement for China during the Obama administration, as his nominee for United States Trade Representative. All of Biden’s picks announced Thursday except Rice will require confirmation by the United States Senate to serve in their roles.

    Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are expected to introduce these key administration members at an event on Friday in Wilmington, Delaware, the transition team said. CNN had previously reported all of these administration picks.

    The picks reflect how Biden is turning to longtime advisers and experts in their respective fields for top posts in his administration. Many have close ties with Biden, and developed relationships with the President-elect while working in the Obama administration.

    “This dedicated and distinguished group of public servants will bring the highest level of experience, compassion, and integrity to bear, solving problems and expanding possibilities for the American people in the face of steep challenges,” Biden said in a statement.

    The President-elect continued, “The roles they will take on are where the rubber meets the road — where competent and crisis-tested governance can make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, enhancing the dignity, equity, security, and prosperity of the day-to-day lives of Americans. This is the right team for this moment in history, and I know that each of these leaders will hit the ground running on day one to take on the interconnected crises families are facing today.”

    Vilsack served as agriculture secretary for the entirety of President Barack Obama’s time in the White House. He was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate in January 2009 and served in that post until he stepped down in 2017, shortly before President Donald Trump took office. Vilsack is also the former governor of Iowa — in 1998, Vilsak became the first Democrat elected governor of Iowa in more than 30 years. He served as governor from 1999 to 2007.

    McDonough was a longtime chief of staff to former President Barack Obama. He served as chief of staff during Obama’s entire second term and also worked as deputy national security adviser. McDonough developed a close relationship with Biden while serving in both positions. He also chaired the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee, which is responsible for formulating the administration’s national security and foreign policy.

    Fudge has represented Ohio’s 11th Congressional District since 2008. She serves on a number of committees, and previously chaired the Congressional Black Caucus. Prior to running for Congress, Fudge made history as the first woman and first African American to be elected mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio.

    Rice was thought to be a contender to be Biden’s vice president or secretary of state. First Obama’s UN ambassador and then later his national security adviser, Rice has a long and close relationship with Biden and has deep foreign policy experience. She also served in Clinton’s administration as the special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House, the assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs at the State Department and the director of international organizations and peacekeeping at the National Security Council.

    Tai is seen as an expert on China trade policy, and if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first woman of color to serve as USTR. She is currently the top Democratic trade counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee. Tai played a key role in negotiating trade policy for Democrats in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which came under Trump’s administration and replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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    The first public Covid-19 vaccines have been injected just as the US death toll nears 300,000

    (CNN) What seemed impossible months ago is now a reality: the first doses of a Covid-19 vaccine have been given to the American public, less than a year after the disease was first spotted in the US.

    It’s an astonishing feat, since most vaccines take years to develop. But it will be several months before most Americans can get a Covid-19 vaccine. In the meantime, thousands of Americans are dying from the virus every day.

    And the rates of new infections and deaths are accelerating at unprecedented rates, meaning Americans must hunker down this winter before rolling up their sleeves.

    Who’s getting the first Covid-19 vaccines

    A critical care nurse was the first person in New York and among the first people in the country to get a first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Friday.

    Sandra Lindsay, an ICU nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens was given the shot at 9:20 a.m. ET Monday. She said the shot didn’t feel any different than any other vaccine.

    “I’m feeling well. I would like to thank all the frontline workers and all my colleagues … doing their job during this pandemic all over the world,” she said.

    “I feel hopeful today, relieved. I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time.”

    The US Food and Drug Administration recently authorized the vaccine for emergency use, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has allowed it to be given to people 16 and older.

    “We expect 145 sites across all the states to receive vaccine on Monday, another 425 sites on Tuesday, and the final 66 sites on Wednesday, which will complete the initial delivery of the Pfizer orders for vaccine,” said Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed.

    Each person who receives a vaccine needs two doses, and it’s up to states to allocate their share of vaccines.

    But the CDC has recommended that health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities get the vaccine first.

    Keeping the vaccines way below freezing

    The ultra-cold temperatures required by the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is a massive logistical challenge.

    The vaccine needs to be stored at about minus 75 degrees Celsius (about minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit). It is diluted and thawed before getting injected into people’s arms.

    “The minus-100-degree requirement with dry ice, making sure it moves, making sure the temperature is maintained, making sure the dry ice that follows the shipment after the vaccine arrives, that’s important,”said Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare.

    Wheeler said the command center for UPS is watching every shipment and tracking all packages.

    States balance precautions with vaccine distribution

    Los Angeles International Airport tweeted that it had received its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines.

    “This is a major milestone for science, our country and our community,” LAX said. “Thank you to all those who made this delivery possible, and are part of the incredible effort to distribute vaccines around the world.”

    Like many parts of the US, California is struggling with a massive Covid-19 surge.

    More than 90% of California residents are under orders to stay at home, except for essential needs like grocery shopping, banking and medical appointments.

    The state issued the stay-at-home order when ICU capacity for the region fell below 15%.

    In Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak extended Covid-19 restrictions until January 15, saying the state is still seeing the fallout from a Thanksgiving-induced Covid-19 surge.

    “We are at a critical point,” Sisolak said Sunday., “We will be monitoring and evaluating our current situation day to day and week by week will remain under the current restrictions for now, with the goal of getting through the next month.”

    While he did not say exactly when vaccinations would start, Sisolak said plans are in place to distribute the first allocation to frontline health care workers and staff and residents in the nursing facilities for “immediate vaccination.”

    In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee said public vaccinations in his state are expected to begin Tuesday.

    An initial 62,000 doses will be distributed to 40 facilities and 29 counties, said Michele Roberts, acting assistant secretary of the Washington Department of Health.

    Since the number of available vaccines will be limited for months — and since each person needs two doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine — officials say wearing masks is just as important now as it was last week.

    “I want to be clear, this does not change the importance of our safety precautions,” Inslee said.

    “Masking, physical distancing, and limiting interactions is just as important tomorrow as it was yesterday.”

    Americans can’t “drop our guard”

    The director of the National Institutes of Health warned that even those who get the vaccine should keep wearing masks for the foreseeable future.

    “You still need to think of yourself as potentially contagious even though you are protected from getting sick at a very high percentage of certainty,” Dr. Francis Collins told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

    Data shows the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is highly effective in preventing people from getting sick with Covid-19, but it’s not yet clear whether people can still carry the virus and infect others.

    Collins said it was “an urgent question to discover” and figuring it out will take a couple of months.

    “Masks are still going to be part of our life,” he said. “We need to recognize that and not step away or start to drop our guard.”

    CNN’s Maggie Fox, Hollie Silverman, Kay Jones, Gregory Wallace, Claudia Dominguez, Chuck Johnston, Jessica Jordan, Kay Jones, Artemis Moshtaghian, Naomi Thomas and Jennifer Selva contributed to this report.

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    Electors in key battleground states affirm votes for Biden

    (CNN) State electors are casting their ballots for president Monday, opening the formal Electoral College process of sealing Joe Biden’s election as the 46th president of the United States.

    Vermont’s three electors were the first to cast their votes for Biden just after 10 a.m. ET, with Tennessee following shortly after with 11 votes for President Donald Trump.

    Electors from battleground states Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Wisconsin cast ballots for Biden, with another key state that Biden flipped, Michigan, slated to meet Monday afternoon.

    Two key states that Trump won, North Carolina and Ohio, cast their ballots for the President on Monday.

    Electors for all 50 states and the District of Columbia will meet in each state throughout Monday to cast their ballots for president, formally affirming the election result for Biden.

    It’s a constitutionally mandated ritual that’s typical no more than a curious afterthought following a presidential election, but the Electoral College vote has taken on newfound significance this year as Trump and his GOP allies make unprecedented efforts to subvert the popular will of the voters and overturn Biden’s November victory.

    Trump has continued to spread false claims of widespread fraud despite courts in all of the battleground states rejecting his campaign’s challenges to the election. The Supreme Court dealt the final blow against his efforts to overturn the election result late Friday, dismissing a case brought by the Texas attorney general that sought to disenfranchise millions of voters in four states.

    Wisconsin’s Supreme Court denied yet another challenge from Trump’s campaign on Monday, just before the state’s electors were scheduled to meet and cast their votes for Biden.

    While Trump has directed most of his Twitter ire at the courts and the GOP state officials who have properly certified their states’ election results for Biden, he turned his attention to the Electoral College vote on Sunday evening with even more false claims. In a Fox News interview over the weekend, Trump claimed “it’s not over” and vowed to keep fighting to stay in office. He and his allies have suggested state legislatures should try to put forward alternate slates of electors that would go against the votes in their states.

    Republicans who had been named as electors for Trump in Pennsylvania and Georgia met separately to cast symbolic votes for the President on Monday. Those votes have no validity under federal law, but officials in the two states said the Trump electors met conditionally to preserve the Trump campaign’s legal challenges.

    Security concerns in several states

    The heightened attention on today’s Electoral College voting has prompted several states to put in place security protocols due to concerns over safety, threats and protests.

    In Arizona, the electors met at an undisclosed location, according to the public information office for the Secretary of State. And in Wisconsin, electors were told to use an unmarked entrance with police escort, according to one of the electors.

    “For elections officials in Arizona, this is the final step in our process. And one that is usually conducted with much pomp and circumstance, with the reverence it deserves for its place in history,” Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, said during the state’s gathering. “But this year’s proceeding, which occurs only once every four years, has unfortunately had an artificial shadow cast over it in the form of baseless accusations of misconduct and fraud, for which no proof has been provided, and which court after court has dismissed as unfounded. And this fabrication of misdeed, leveled against everyone from poll workers to me and my office, has led to threats of violence against me, my office, and those in this room today.”

    The Michigan House and Senate offices were closed to the public Monday after “credible threats of violence” as the state’s 16 electors prepare to cast their votes for president and vice president, a spokeswoman told CNN.

    A Michigan House Republican was stripped of his committee assignments for the rest of the term after inciting violence around protests expected later Monday in Lansing. Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, a Republican, and Speaker-elect Jason Wentworth released a statement on Monday condemning the comments of House Republican Rep. Gary Eisen, who said in a radio interview that he could not offer assurances there wouldn’t be violence on Monday.

    Eisen, one of the Michigan lawmakers to support the Texas attorney general lawsuit that was dismissed by the Supreme Court, would not give details about the events unfolding in Lansing beyond saying, “It’s going to be violence, it’s going to be protests.”

    In a statement, Chatfield said the state will not change electors to give Trump the win, because doing so would “bring mutually assured destruction for every future election in regards to the Electoral College.”

    “I fear we’d lose our country forever” should Republicans switch the slate of electors, Chatfield added.

    “I fought hard for President Trump,” he wrote. “Nobody wanted him to win more than me. I think he’s done an incredible job. But I love our republic, too. I can’t fathom risking our norms, traditions and institutions to pass a resolution retroactively changing the electors for Trump, simply because some think there may have been enough widespread fraud to give him the win.”

    Congress will count Electoral College votes next month

    Monday’s Electoral College vote is not the final step in the constitutional process of selecting a president. The votes cast on Monday are sent to Congress, where they will be counted on January 6 in a joint session led by Vice President Mike Pence.

    Many congressional Republicans who have refused thus far to say that Biden won the election have claimed they are waiting for Monday’s Electoral College vote to certify the results. But some of Trump’s staunchest House Republican allies are preparing for a floor fight when the votes are counted in Congress next month.

    Lawmakers can dispute a state’s election result when the votes are counted next month. But a challenge can only be considered if both a House member and a senator sign onto it. So far only House Republicans have said they will contest the results, although some GOP senators have suggested they are considering joining.

    Even if a senator signs on to challenge the results, it’s only delaying the inevitable. In that case, the House and Senate separately debate the matter for two hours and vote on it. Democrats control the House, and enough GOP senators have already said they reject Trump’s claims of fraud that a challenge would not succeed there either.

    After the state electors cast their ballots on Monday, those results will be certified and sent to Congress, the National Archives and to the courts.

    The states’ electors are meeting throughout the day, as each state sets its own rules for how electors meet and vote. At least one state — Nevada — met virtually due to the pandemic.

    Electors are picked by the state parties before the November election. Federal lawmakers are not allowed to be electors, but the slates usually include local officials and party alumni. In New York, for instance, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cast electoral votes for Biden.

    In Florida, Republican state Senate President Wilton Simpson, who was a state elector, tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday night. As a result, Simpson is not participating in the Electoral College vote Monday and an alternate will take his place when the states’ electors cast their ballots for Trump.

    The Electoral College votes will conclude later Monday evening, when California’s electors meet at 5 p.m. ET and Hawaii’s at 7 p.m. ET.

    CNN’s Annie Grayer, Kristina Sgueglia, Leslie Perrot, Adrienne Broaddus and Bill Kirkos contributed to this report.

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    Attorney General William Barr resigns

    (CNN) Attorney General William Barr resigned on Monday, ending a tenure in which the President Donald Trump loyalist carried the administration’s “law and order” message but ultimately dealt the most credible blow to Trump’s unfounded claims that the 2020 election was littered with fraud.

    “Just had a very nice meeting with Attorney General Bill Barr at the White House. Our relationship has been a very good one, he has done an outstanding job! As per letter, Bill will be leaving just before Christmas to spend the holidays with his family,” Trump tweeted, announcing the news.

    “Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen, an outstanding person, will become Acting Attorney General. Highly respected Richard Donoghue will be taking over the duties of Deputy Attorney General. Thank you to all!”

    Barr repeatedly and unapologetically prioritized Trump’s political goals while furthering his own vision of expansive presidential power. In his most notorious move, Barr delivered a misleading summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report, essentially clearing Trump in the Russia probe, which drew a sharp rebuke from Mueller himself.

    He remained steadfast in his support of the President heading into Election Day, including by launching various operations across the country to combat violence and drug trafficking and reiterating Trump’s message not to participate in mail-in voting prior to the presidential election. He also appointed a special counsel to continue investigating one of Trump’s longtime infatuations, that intelligence and law enforcement violated the law in investigating the 2016 Trump campaign.

    But the decision from the former attorney general to rebuke the President’s false claims of widespread fraud in his loss to Democrat Joe Biden represented a final failure of Trump’s often successful attempt to weaponize the Justice Department as a personal and potent political weapon.

    Following the 2020 election, Trump’s legal team filed dozens of civil lawsuits in federal and state courts across the country in an effort to prove that Biden did not fairly win the election. Barr told the Associated Press in an interview on December 1 that the Justice Department had not found any such evidence.
    “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” he said.

    The President was frustrated with his attorney general’s comments to the AP and had a “contentious,” lengthy meeting at the White House the day they were published, according to a person familiar with the meeting.

    By early December, Barr was considering leaving his post before January 20, the day Trump leaves office, a source with knowledge of the matter told CNN days after he buffed the President’s election fraud claims. The source said Barr was not happy with Trump and that the former attorney general “is not someone who takes bullying and turns the other cheek!”

    No stranger to controversy

    The attorney general echoed the President’s anger at coronavirus lockdowns, calling them, apart from slavery, “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.” Barr also asked for the Justice Department to take over the President’s defense in a defamation lawsuit filed against him by Jean E. Carroll, who accused him of sexual assault.

    In one dramatic scene in June, Barr ordered authorities to disperse a large crowd of peaceful protesters near the White House so Trump could walk to the nearby historic St. John’s Church, where a fire had been set in the basement the previous night during unrest sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

    His extraordinary decision to use force on the protesters underscored his commitment to Trump’s law and order message, and in the days following the incident, he defended his actions and claimed there was no connection between his order and a photo-op Trump staged at the church.

    The attorney general also faced criticism for saying that systemic racism is not an issue in US law enforcement agencies, comments that came as throngs of people took to the streets across the country to protest police violence and racism.

    “I think there’s racism in the United States still but I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist. I understand the distrust, however, of the African American community given the history in this country,” he said in an interview with CBS in June.

    And he ordered his prosecutors to dismiss charges against Trump’s first national security advisor Michael Flynn, who has since been pardoned by the President.

    Despite offering such service to the President, there had been signs that Trump has been becoming ever more frustrated with Barr. He lashed out against the attorney general before the election, complaining he had not indicted Obama-era officials for their role in the Russia investigation.

    The tension suggested that for all of Barr’s apparent moves to placate Trump and his clear sympathy with the President over the Russia investigation in particular, he remained within the lines of evidence and legal procedure on the issue of election interference.

    A tough public spot

    Barr’s loyalty to Trump during his tenure at the Justice Department had sometimes put him in a tough public spot, including in September, when he was asked about Antifa, a left-wing group the Justice Department has claimed stirs protests toward violence.

    The attorney general was asked to address Trump’s assertion that “thugs” had intimidated a passenger on a plane. Barr told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer at the time that authorities were tracking people who had flown from city to city to stir up violence, but did not give examples and said he didn’t know specifically what Trump was describing.

    He made headlines last year when he suggested during testimony before the House Appropriations Committee that Trump’s campaign was spied on, saying he would be looking into the “genesis” of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation that began in 2016 of potential ties between the campaign and the Russian government. He later defended the comment, saying he made it “off the cuff” and that he wasn’t using the word “spying” pejoratively.

    Barr had also infuriated Democrats when he took two days after Mueller gave him his probe’s findings in March 2019 to announce in a letter that the special counsel “did not find” that any Trump campaign associates coordinated with Russian interference in the election, and that Mueller “did not draw a conclusion — one way or the other” about whether the President obstructed justice. His pronouncements prompted Trump to proclaim “no collusion” and “no obstruction.”

    Mueller objected — first in a letter to Barr, then in a public statement and again when he testified to Congress last year. Barr’s rollout “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Office’s work and conclusions” of the report, Mueller said. The special counsel had documented multiple links between Trump campaign officials and Russian government-linked people.

    In an echo of the appointment of Mueller, Barr in early December appointed Connecticut US Attorney John Durham to act as special counsel investigating the 2016 election. The appointment virtually ensured that Durham will keep his investigation and doubled down on one of Trump’s longtime infatuations — that national security and criminal concerns about his campaign and Russia in 2016 sullied the legitimacy of his election and presidency.

    The move left a political bomb ticking for Trump’s successor and his new attorney general.

    This is a breaking story and will be updated.

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    Mitch congratulated Soon to Be President Biden 🙂 You know the phrase it ain’t over the fat lady sings. She sang and Trump better have heard it.

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