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News & Politics Thread (Part 5)

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    vinny
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    https://www.cnn.com/style/article/utah-monolith-disappears-style-trnd/index.html This is a weird one . But it’s 2020 so not a bit shocked

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    Biden moves quickly to build a diverse administration

    by Gregory Krieg and Devan Cole, CNN
    Updated 7:17 AM ET, Mon November 30, 2020

    Washington (CNN) President-elect Joe Biden has repeatedly promised to build a government that “looks like America.” He’s not wasting any time in delivering on that front.

    Biden has moved quickly to name a diverse group to key White House and Cabinet posts.

    On Sunday night, he unveiled an all-female senior communications staff and is expected to roll out a diverse group to lead his economic team this coming week.
    The incoming administration is taking shape as the outgoing one has sought to undermine both its legitimacy and ability to deliver on many of Biden’s campaign pledges. But the President-elect’s early picks are, in themselves, a promise kept — and provide a stark contrast to those of President Donald Trump, who, despite his appointment of women and minorities to some key positions, assembled a largely White and male group during his nearly four years in office. The heavy presence of Obama alumni in Biden’s team also signals continuity from the last Democratic administration.

    Biden touted his communications hires in a statement on Sunday night, saying they would “bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better.”

    Among the group of incoming communications aides is Jen Psaki, who was Obama’s White House communications director and will assume the public-facing role of White House press secretary. Kate Bedingfield, who served as deputy campaign manager and communications director on the Biden campaign, comes aboard as the White House’s top communications aide.

    On Monday, Biden is set to formally unveil a list of people he’s planning to nominate to key economic roles, including a number of nominees who would represent historic firsts if confirmed by the Senate.

    Chief among them is Janet Yellen, the President-elect’s expected choice to head the Treasury Department. Already the first woman to have chaired the Federal Reserve, Yellen would carry the same distinction if the Senate confirms her as Biden’s Treasury secretary.

    Biden’s set to nominate Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo to serve under Yellen as the deputy Treasury secretary. If confirmed, Adeyemo, the current president of the Obama Foundation in Chicago, would be the first Black person to hold that powerful position.

    Biden is also planning to name Neera Tanden to lead the Office of Management and Budget, two people familiar with the appointment said. The chief executive of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, and a former top aide to Hillary Clinton, Tanden would be the first woman of color to oversee the agency. In tapping Tanden, Biden risked grumbles from some in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, with whom she has sparred — mostly over Twitter, where she is an active combatant — over the past four years.

    But the first round of pushback against Tanden’s nomination came not from the left, but from the communications director for Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.

    “Neera Tanden, who has an endless stream of disparaging comments about the Republican Senators’ whose votes she’ll need, stands zero chance of being confirmed,” Drew Brandewie tweeted on Sunday night.

    The selection of Cecilia Rouse, a Princeton economist, to lead the Council of Economic Advisers, is less likely to set off fireworks on social media, but it is a historical marker just the same. Rouse will become the first woman of color to chair the council.

    Last week, Biden announced several other administration picks, including the first woman to lead the US intelligence community, in Avril Haines, and Alejandro Mayorkas, who would be the first Latino and immigrant to helm the Department of Homeland Security.

    In addition to Psaki and Bedingfield, Biden also announced on Sunday that Karine Jean-Pierre, a senior adviser on the Biden campaign who later served as chief of staff to Harris, will serve as principal deputy press secretary.

    Jean-Pierre is a progressive favorite and former chief public affairs officer at MoveOn.org, the liberal activist hub. Symone Sanders, who was a senior adviser on Biden’s campaign in 2020 after serving as a national press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, will join the White House as a senior adviser and chief spokesperson for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

    CNN’s Kate Sullivan and Jeff Zeleny contributed to this report.

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    Oh hi emnyfan.
    Anyone who supports Biden supports liberal fascism and voter fraud.
    Just thought I’d throw that out there fer ya.
    Bye. Cya.

    Bless your heart

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    What is voter suppression? Understanding disenfranchisement in the U.S.
    by Christopher Johnson and Matthew Lavietes | Thomson Reuters Foundation
    Tuesday, 17 November 2020 16:14 GMT

    Despite record voter turnout in the recent presidential election, activists say the U.S. electoral process is still rooted in discrimination against ethnic minorities and other groups
    By Christopher Johnson and Matthew Lavietes

    Nov 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The U.S. presidential election saw a record voter turnout of 66.9%, prompted largely by a sharp increase in mail-in and early in-person voting.

    But despite record engagement, activists say the electoral process is rooted in a system that discriminates against ethnic minorities, the youth and people with disabilities – a phenomenon of voter suppression.

    As the battle over what party will control the U.S. Senate intensifies ahead of a January runoff in Georgia – a state rights experts say has a history of discouraging residents from casting ballots – here is a look at the history of U.S. voter suppression.

    What is voter suppression?

    Voter suppression defines any activity by a party or individual designed to curb participation in the electoral process in the United States.

    Historically the right to vote was restricted to the landed gentry – white men who owned land – before the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted it to African American men in 1870 and the 19th Amendment granted it to women in 1920.

    However poll taxes, literacy tests and violence were routinely used against the Black community to deter them from voting until the 1965 Voting Rights Act barred such tactics.

    “The idea of disenfranchising, especially people of color, was part and parcel of the development of the American South after the Civil War,” said Scott Lucas, Professor of American Studies at the University of Birmingham.

    Voter suppression persists, activists warn, pointing to examples like voter purging – the act of removing registered voters from the voting roll – and limiting the number of ballot drop boxes in more populous areas.

    This, they say, is part of a deliberate push to prevent minority groups from voting and reduces the influence that they can have on the officials that govern on their behalf.

    “Voter suppression is rarely overt, but rather manifests when states simply make it harder rather than easier for citizens to vote, often under the pretext of preventing voter fraud,” said Julie Norman, a senior teaching fellow at University College London.

    FILE PHOTO: Stacey Abrams speaks ahead of former president Barack Obama’s address in Atlanta, Georgia, one day before the election, November 2, 2020. REUTERS/Brandon Bell/File Photo
    Who is most affected?

    Historically, Black people, youth and people with disabilities have been the main victims of voter suppression, researchers and activists say.

    Across the country, one in 13 Black Americans cannot vote due to disenfranchisement laws, which include statutes that vary by state, barring former and current incarcerated Americans from voting, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a leading U.S. advocacy group.

    In 2018, the race for governor of Georgia shone the spotlight on voter suppression, when the campaign of Democrat Stacey Abrams said it was hampered by attempts to dampen turnout in areas that favored her.

    She was defeated by Republican Brian Kemp, who was secretary of state in charge of elections but refused to step down over a potential conflict of interest.

    Abrams sued Kemp in federal court, claiming he used voter roll purges, shuttered precincts, voting equipment failures and late absentee ballots to target Black voters who lean Democratic.

    The ACLU also found that one-third of voters who have a disability report difficulty voting – such as a lack of assistance to fill out ballots – and only 40% of polling places fully accommodate people with disabilities.

    On remote and rural American Indian reservations, voting activists say a lack of drop boxes keeps votes from being fully counted when tribal members do not have easy means of transportation.

    And advocates point to efforts across the country to stymie the youth vote in this year’s election.

    This year Republican lawmakers in New York were accused of moving polling sites off of college campuses to stifle the youth vote – which tends to lean Democratic – a move that the state’s Supreme Court reversed before Election Day.

    But more than half of the country’s voting-eligible young people – aged 18 to 29 – voted in the 2020 election, up from roughly 43% in 2016, according to an analysis by Tufts University.

    Voter suppression feeds polarisation, said Lucas, as “it relies on certain people being classified as being not worthy of being involved”.

    “Those people who have their votes suppressed therefore feel resigned. They will ask themselves: why should we be involved in the process anyway?,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    Voters wait in line to cast their ballots during early voting at ONEOK Field in Tulsa, Oklahoma, U.S., October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Nick Oxford
    Have any efforts managed to tackle it?

    Abrams is being lauded by Democrats, academics, voters and activists around the country for bringing attention to the issue of voter suppression and helping propel former Vice President Joe Biden to victory.

    She has spearheaded get-out-the-vote efforts and a legal onslaught against voter suppression Georgia, helping to register more than 800,000 voters for the 2020 election.

    Voter turnout in Georgia was more than 74%, Kemp’s office said last week, boosted by early voting by Black Georgians, up 40% from 2016. Biden was declared the winner in Georgia, the first Democrat to win the state in 28 years.

    The 2020 election also highlighted concerns that the geographical isolation of Native American tribal lands prevents their votes from being counted.

    A recent report by the Native American Rights Fund, an advocacy group, found Native Americans – who number about 6.8 million people – face obstacles registering, casting ballots and having their votes counted.

    It cited factors such as poor roads, language barriers and a lack of internet access and traditional addresses.

    To counter those obstacles, several tribes in Montana successfully fought in court to allow voting groups to collect and deliver the tribe’s ballots to election offices.

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    All eyes are on Georgia ahead of Trump’s rally and Senate debate

    by Alex Rogers, CNN
    Updated 3:21 PM ET, Sat December 5, 2020

    (CNN) The eyes of the political universe are on Georgia this weekend, as the voter registration deadline for January’s Senate runoffs approaches.

    Each side is desperately trying to motivate their party before the Monday deadline and early voting begins on December 14. Former President Barack Obama and former state House minority leader Stacey Abrams held a virtual event for Democratic Senate challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock on Friday, while Vice President Mike Pence rallied for the Republicans.

    Next in the frenzied rush is President Donald Trump’s own rally on Saturday to elect Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and protect the party’s control of the chamber. Then on Sunday, Loeffler and Warnock will participate in a debate hosted by the Atlanta Press Club.

    The focus on Georgia comes as the state is ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. It reported its highest number of cases in a single day on Friday — 5,023 — and saw the postponement of the Georgia-Vanderbilt football game partially because of Covid-19.

    Trump is faced with the task of motivating his own supporters to vote for the two Republican senators after he undermined their faith in the electoral process by falsely decrying that his election was rigged. Since his loss in Georgia to President-elect Joe Biden, Trump has attacked top Republican officials in the state, including Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Kemp certified the results of Biden’s victory, while Raffensperger has vociferously defended the state’s election integrity.

    Trump on Saturday called Kemp and attempted to pressure the governor to convince state legislators to overturn Biden’s win in Georgia, according to a source familiar with the conversation. He also asked the Republican governor to order an audit of absentee ballot signatures.

    Kemp explained that he did not have this authority and denied the request, the source said.

    The President’s continued refusal to concede has worried Republicans determined to prevent Democratic control of the Senate. A group of prominent Georgia Republicans, including former Gov. Nathan Deal and former Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, released a statement this week urging the party to unify, and shift its attention to electing Loeffler and Perdue.

    Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel on Saturday dismissed concerns that Trump’s messaging on election integrity could dissuade Georgia Republicans from voting on January 5.

    “I think the voters very much support the President. I think they’re concerned with the state and how they administered the election,” she told Fox News, adding, “However, they want to make sure we keep David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in as well, and they can balance both.”

    There is little evidence that Trump will stop his unceasing attacks on the democratic process and the state officials in charge of the election.

    In the past few weeks, Trump publicly called Raffensperger an “enemy of the people” and privately called Kemp a “moron” and “nut job,” according to two sources. On Saturday — hours before his visit to the Peach State — Trump again attacked the two top Georgia officials on Twitter, calling for a signature audit of the absentee ballot envelopes in the state, while making false or misleading claims about the potential process.

    The President also asked in a recent phone call why Loeffler, who ran in a 20-person special election, did not secure a majority of votes on Election Day against Warnock, who received a plurality of the votes.

    After no Senate candidate received 50% of the vote in November, the races turned to particularly nasty runoffs. Democrats have charged that Perdue and Loeffler profited off the pandemic, saying their multi-million dollar stock trades drew the attention — although no charges — from the Justice Department. Meanwhile, the Republican senators have said they were cleared during the investigations, and have called Ossoff and Warnock socialists who will destroy America. Democrats have rejected those attacks as false fear-mongering.

    Pence said on Friday that Republicans need to elect Perdue and Loeffler to defend the Trump administration’s accomplishments over the past four years.

    “We need to send them back because the Republican Senate majority could be the last line of defense preserving all that we’ve done to defend this nation, revive our economy, and preserve the God-given liberties we hold dear,” said Pence in Savannah.

    While Biden narrowly won Georgia — the first time for a Democratic presidential nominee since Bill Clinton in 1992 — Republicans have a number of advantages in the two races. The state has not sent a Democrat to the Senate in 20 years. Last month, Perdue received tens of thousands of more votes than Ossoff. And Republicans are spending about $38 million more on ads than the Democrats, according to Kantar Media/CMAG data.

    But Democrats are hopeful that the Republican intra-party fight, voter registration drives by Abrams and others and the state’s rapidly diversifying suburbs will fuel their victories and flip the Senate.

    “The special election in Georgia is going to determine, ultimately, the course of the Biden presidency,” said Obama at the virtual event on Friday.

    This story has been updated with additional reporting.

    CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Jeremy Diamond, Jason Hoffman, Liz Turrell, Kristen Holmes and Veronica Stracqualursi contributed to this report.

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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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