The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Daily 202: Lame-duck Trump burrows loyalists inside government, starting with NSA

with Mariana Alfaro

Perhaps as consequential as President Trump firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper via tweet on Monday, which has been widely expected for months, was the hiring of Michael Ellis to be the National Security Agency’s general counsel.

As one of the most controversial staffers in the White House over the past four years, Ellis has shown himself to be as much a staunch Trump loyalist as anyone else in the administration. But his new job means that he will no longer be a political appointee. Instead, as a civilian member of the senior executive service, he gets protections that will make it quite difficult for President-elect Joe Biden to fire him.

Burrowing down into what Trump derides as “the deep state” will give Ellis, a former Republican campaign operative, a powerful platform from which he could seek to complicate or undermine the incoming Democratic administration’s agenda. This is a preview of the sort of behavior from Trump that many on Biden’s transition team expect, and fear, during the lame-duck president’s final 71 days in power, even as he refuses to concede defeat.

Ellis worked for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) before joining the National Security Council when Trump took office. In March 2017, Ellis was reportedly one of the people involved in giving Nunes access to classified files related to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. Nunes reviewed the records at the White House in the middle of the night. The notorious episode came to be known as “the midnight run.” 

In July 2019, Ellis was allegedly the first person who proposed moving the transcript of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president to a special server where fewer people would be able to see that the president had pushed his counterpart in Kyiv to announce an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter when the topic of Javelin antitank missiles came up.

Then-Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified under oath before Congress that Ellis was behind moving the transcript. But Ellis defied a subpoena to answer questions about his role in the donnybrook and what knowledge he might have had of the freeze on vital military assistance that Congress had approved for Ukraine. Ellis is named in the second article of impeachment that passed the House as a party to Trump’s obstruction of Congress.

After the GOP-controlled Senate voted not to convict the president, Trump ordered the removal of Vindman from the White House and promoted Ellis to be senior director for intelligence on the NSC.

Being general counsel for the NSA is one of the most immensely complicated and critical legal jobs in all of government, but it is somewhat insulated from politics. Ellis will report to the deputy general counsel for intelligence at the Defense Department, a civilian job. That person reports to the DOD general counsel, who is a political appointee. Once Biden’s eventual nominee for that job is confirmed by the Senate, he or she could choose to reassign Ellis to a different civil service position inside the military’s legal architecture. 

“The appointment was made under pressure from the White House,” Ellen Nakashima reports. “NSA Director Paul Nakasone was not in favor of Ellis’s selection, according to three people familiar with the matter. However, the selection was not up to him, they said. … Ellis was selected over two other finalists: acting NSA general counsel Teisha Anthony and Bradley Brooker, acting general counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Both are career civil servants.” The Pentagon and White House did not respond to a request for a comment.

Ironically, this is happening as Trump moves aggressively to roll back civil service protections for members of the bureaucracy. But it’s not surprising. Trump trying to burrow people inside the government shows just how much this president sees personnel as policy.

In related news, the top political appointee at the U.S. Agency for International Development told staff during a Monday phone call that three Trump loyalists are being elevated to top positions inside the agency in the waning days of the administration. John Barsa, who holds the title of acting deputy administrator, was formerly USAID’s acting administrator. He was supposed to step down from his position at the helm of the agency last week under the Vacancies Act but got to remain in charge after the White House fired Bonnie Glick, who had been serving as the deputy administrator.

“Glick was not given any reason for her firing but had supported the steps already taken in the transition process required by law,” Yeganeh Torbati and John Hudson report. “USAID officials also learned Monday that Max Primorac, who held previous roles focusing on religious rights in the agency, would be Barsa’s deputy … His title will be ‘senior official performing the duties of the deputy administrator.’ Primorac’s behavior while at USAID over the past two years has raised eyebrows among his colleagues. In 2019, Primorac expressed confidence during a government forum that Trump would win reelection. … And in 2018, just before he joined USAID, Primorac promoted a client’s business interests to a U.N. agency funded by USAID, ProPublica reported. … USAID, which provides billions of dollars of humanitarian assistance to foreign countries ever year, declined to comment."

Trump has also removed the official in charge of the federal program that produces the U.S. government’s definitive reports on climate change. “Michael Kuperberg, a climate scientist who had been executive director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) since July 2015, was told Friday evening to return to his previous position as a scientist at the Energy Department. He had been expected to stay on through the production of the fifth edition of the congressionally mandated National Climate Assessment,” Jason Samenow, Andrew Freedman and Juliet Eilperin report. “The USGCRP is a program Congress created to help coordinate the climate science programs of 13 federal agencies. … Kuperberg directed that office through the release of the fourth edition of the climate assessment, which detailed the potentially dire consequences for Americans should the country take little action to cut emissions.” That report angered the White House because Trump has consistently downplayed the seriousness of the climate threat.

“Removing Kuperberg could allow the White House to insert someone whose climate science views more closely align with Trump’s,” per Samenow, Freedman and Eilperin. “That may be exactly what’s about to happen, according to Myron Ebell, a climate change contrarian at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who is close to the administration. Ebell said in an interview that the job will most likely go to David Legates, a meteorologist from the University of Delaware who was recently appointed to be the deputy assistant secretary of Commerce for environmental observation and prediction at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

“While that is a senior position at NOAA reporting directly to the acting administrator, Legates does not have a role in the climate assessment process while serving in that capacity. … Even if he were to hold the climate research job for just the remaining few months of Trump’s term, Ebell said he could help select the authors of the next assessment and influence its final content that way. Once the assessment’s authors are selected, it can be difficult to change them as the process moves along, Ebell said, regardless of the administration in office at the time.”

All the president's men

Bill Barr weaponized the Justice Department to investigate Trump’s baseless fraud claims.

The attorney general gave federal prosecutors approval to pursue allegations of “vote tabulation irregularities” in certain cases before results are certified and indicated he had already done so “in specific instances” — a reversal of long-standing Justice Department policy that drew widespread internal and external criticism for fueling unfounded claims of massive election fraud pushed by Trump. “Richard Pilger, head of the Justice Department’s Election Crimes Branch, stepped down from his position in protest over Barr’s directive — though he remains at the agency,” Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett report. Sources tell them that Barr first broached a similar idea some weeks ago and that political leadership in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, of which the Election Crimes Branch is a part, pushed back. Those officials were blindsided when Barr’s two-page memo was released on Monday. “Having familiarized myself with the new policy and its ramifications,” Pilger emailed colleagues, “I must regretfully resign from my role."

“Barr seemed to take aim at previous guidance from the Justice Department’s Election Crimes Branch that said prosecutors should not — in most instances — take overt steps in voter fraud or related investigations until after election results are in and certified. The guidance was designed to ensure that voters and state and local election officials, rather than the federal government, decide the results, and that, if prosecutors wanted to deviate from the norm, they would at least first have to consult with Public Integrity prosecutors and the Election Crimes Branch. But Barr wrote that the previous directive was never ‘a hard and fast rule,'” per Zapotosky and Barrett. 

“Vanita Gupta, the former head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division during the Obama administration who is now president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said the memo amounts to ‘scaremongering’ that will allow officials to send letters or take other public steps that might suggest there is voter fraud in a particular state, when in fact there is none. Inside the Justice Department, officials had feared such a move would entice outsiders to come to federal law enforcement with specious claims, and then empower U.S. attorneys across the country to bypass consultation with Public Integrity prosecutors and announce investigations of those claims publicly — potentially undercutting the legitimacy of the election. … Barr’s directive was heavily caveated and did not offer new evidence of substantive election fraud.”

Top Republicans are standing back and standing by as Trump sows doubt in democracy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other key Republicans backed the president's efforts to contest his loss. “McConnell (R-Ky.) said from the floor of the Senate that the president is ‘100 percent within his right’ to pursue recounts and litigation. McConnell did not repeat Trump’s baseless assertions that fraud had cost him the election, but he said he had met with [Barr] and supports the president’s right to investigate all claims of wrongdoing,” Amy Gardner, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Emma Brown report

“Meanwhile, other GOP officials also rushed to bolster Trump’s case, including the two U.S. senators from Georgia, who demanded the resignation of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, after his office said there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the state. And the Republican attorneys general of about a dozen states threw their support behind a legal effort pending before the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out mail ballots in Pennsylvania that were received after Election Day — a small number of votes that state officials said would not be enough to change the outcome. 

“Behind the scenes, Trump advisers and allies are increasingly resigned to a Biden victory. … But few so far are actively discouraging the president or his campaign from pursuing all legal paths to contest the results. … ‘What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time? No one seriously thinks the results will change,’ said one senior Republican official. ‘He went golfing this weekend. It’s not like he’s plotting how to prevent Joe Biden from taking power on Jan. 20.’"

  • Housing Secretary Ben Carson tested positive for the coronavirus after attending the White House’s election night party. (Ben Terris, Tracy Jan and Seung Min Kim
  • Trump campaign adviser David Bossie also tested positive. Even though he's not a lawyer, he was tapped last week to lead Trump’s post-election legal battles. He has been in and out of the campaign’s headquarters several times over the last week. (Daily Beast)
The secretary of defense's termination underscores Trump's insistence on absolute fealty.

“Esper’s firing plunges the Pentagon into a new period of leadership upheaval as it tries to manage an unusual transition period fraught with political tensions and potential security risks,” Missy Ryan, Dan Lamothe, Paul Sonne and Dawsey report. “Esper was mostly aligned with his commander in chief on major foreign policy issues but had clashes with Trump over his steps to draw the military into partisan politics. Chief among those occurred in June, when Trump demanded that thousands of troops be dispatched on the streets of Washington amid protests over the police killing of George Floyd. … Two officials … said Esper’s public opposition to using troops in June drew the most fierce response from the president that they had ever seen. While aides talked Trump out of firing Esper that week, the president regularly raised the issue throughout the campaign season, believing the defense chief was trying to embarrass him and damage his reelection prospects … In recent months, Esper has rarely seen the president. …

Esper’s departure may be the first in what some officials say could be a series of senior-level ousters, possibly including FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, in a presidential score-settling now that the election is over. In recent days, the Trump administration has also fired the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. … John McEntee, director of the Presidential Personnel Office, has told political appointees at some other agencies that they will be fired if they are caught looking for jobs."

Quote of the day

In an exit interview with the Military Times, Esper denied that he was a yes man. “You’ve got to pick your fights," he said. “Why? Who’s going to come in behind me? It’s going to be a real ‘yes man.’ And then God help us.”

Trump installed Christopher Miller as acting SecDef. He has a thin résumé for the job, having never served in the Pentagon's top ranks and only recently became the director of the National Counterterrorism Center. But he has deep and impressive experience in special operations, including tours of duty in Special Forces units in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Miller joined the Trump administration in March 2018, serving through December 2019 as a special assistant to the president and as the senior director for counterterrorism and transnational threats on the National Security Council,” per Lamothe, Nakashima and Alex Horton.

Trump may fire CIA Director Gina Haspel, CNN reports: “Trump and some of his conservative allies have become increasingly frustrated, … accusing her of delaying the release of documents they believe would expose so-called ‘deep state’ plots against Trump's campaign [in 2016.] … Those frustrations have lingered since Election Day, with a senior administration official and three former administration officials with knowledge of the situation telling CNN they expect the President to remove Haspel from her post … Haspel has consistently raised concerns about how declassifying or releasing documents related to the FBI's Russia investigation could compromise sources and methods, at times pushing back against Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and the White House.”

As an ex-president, current and former officials fear Trump could disclose secrets he learned in office.

“As president, Trump selectively revealed highly classified information to attack his adversaries, gain political advantage and to impress or intimidate foreign governments, in some cases jeopardizing U.S. intelligence capabilities,” Shane Harris reports. “As an ex-president, there’s every reason to worry he will do the same, thus posing a unique national security dilemma for the Biden administration, current and former officials and analysts said. … Not only does Trump have a history of disclosures, he checks the boxes of a classic counterintelligence risk: He is deeply in debt and angry at the U.S. government, particularly what he describes as the ‘deep state’ conspiracy that he believes tried to stop him from winning the White House in 2016 and what he falsely claims is an illegal effort to rob him of reelection.”

The transition

The Post's Lisa Rein explains how the Trump administration is adding challenges to the transition process for President-elect Joe Biden. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)
The White House orders agencies to rebuff Biden’s landing teams. 

“Officials at agencies across the government who had prepared briefing books and carved out office space for the incoming Biden team to use as soon as this week were told instead that the transition would not be recognized until the Democrat’s election was confirmed by the General Services Administration, the low-profile agency that officially starts the transition,” Lisa Rein, Matt Viser, Greg Miller and Dawsey report. “The GSA, the government’s real estate arm, remained for a third day the proxy in the battle. Administrator Emily Murphy, a Trump political appointee … is refusing to sign paperwork … In an indication of growing frustration among Biden transition officials, they organized a call with reporters Monday night to lay out some of the government services that Murphy’s decision is denying them. Those include State Department-facilitated calls with foreign leaders and access to secure facilities where they can review classified information. The team is evaluating its legal options.”

Trump’s obstinance could make this the most contentious transition since Herbert Hoover and FDR.

“Hoover had just lost the 1932 election by a landslide to Franklin D. Roosevelt. But during a testy transition, Hoover kept trying to pressure the president-elect into fighting the Great Depression by supporting the very policies he had campaigned against. Roosevelt, who had promised Americans a ‘New Deal’ to get the country back on its feet, said no deal to endorsing the Hoover program,” Ronald Shafer reports. “During the Great Depression, inaugurations weren’t held until March 4, the date set in the early days of the Republic when transportation was difficult. So Hoover was a lame duck for four months. … Just as Trump claims the country is turning the corner on the pandemic, Hoover insisted an economic recovery was underway. Yet unemployment was rising above 20 percent and banks were failing across the country."

While Trump behaves like a sore loser, Biden projects the authority of an incoming president.

“Biden began taking calls from foreign leaders, speaking Monday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. … And he turned his attention to the coronavirus, dispatching a key aide to brief Senate Democrats this week and making a strong pitch to Americans of every ideology to follow public health recommendations,” Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan report. "Biden’s team has welcomed support from Republican senators willing to break with Trump and bolster the legitimacy of the election via congratulatory statements. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) congratulated Biden on Monday, calling him the ‘next president.’ A more nuanced statement came from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). … She congratulated Biden on his ‘apparent victory’ but also said Trump should be ‘afforded the opportunity’ to challenge the election’s outcome. … More than 30 Republican former members of Congress released a statement calling on the nation to accept the outcome of the presidential election and denouncing Trump’s allegations of widespread fraud. 

  • Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said he has no plans to pursue a Cabinet position in the Biden administration, fueling speculation he will run for governor again in 2021. (Laura Vozzella
  • Historian Jon Meacham has been helping craft Biden’s speeches, including his victory speech on Saturday. Meacham’s 2018 book, “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels,” has long served as a touchstone for Biden. (New York Times
  • Jill Biden will be the only first lady to have a job outside the White House. She plans to continue working her day job as an English professor at Northern Virginia Community College. (The Lily
  • The Nationals invited Biden to throw the first pitch on Opening Day 2021. Trump never did so. (Scott Allen)
Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un are among the world leaders who haven’t acknowledged Biden’s win.

“Even after some leaders aligned with Trump, including Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, joined the congratulatory chorus, Turkey, Russia and others held back, citing Trump’s legal challenges questioning the results,” Rick Noack reports. In Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said no statement of congratulations was to be offered because “there will be certain legal proceedings which were announced by the incumbent president,” while in Turkey, a spokesman for Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party, said, “We are waiting for the election results to be officially announced because eventually there are objections, other arguments, and things like that.” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he’s “going to wait until all the legal matters have been resolved.” Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, who has mimicked many of Trump’s tactics, has remained silent. In China, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the government understands “that the presidential election result will be determined following U.S. laws and procedures.”

North Korean state media has refrained from mentioning the election, but Kim is watching Biden’s victory with one finger on the missile test trigger. “There are reasons to believe the mood in Pyongyang is glum this week, and that Kim might be preparing his trigger finger for a new cycle of missile or nuclear testing,” Simon Denyer reports. “Biden, after all, called Kim a ‘thug’ … and implicitly compared him to Adolf Hitler. … Trump claims to have enjoyed a ‘special friendship’ with Kim, but there is no love lost between America’s president-elect and North Korea’s dictator.” 

  • Despite the Kremlin’s radio silence, the reaction in Russia to Biden's victory was a mixture of delight over the enduring U.S. political divides and relief that the rifts weren't as widely attributed to Moscow's interference this time. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
  • Far-right Estonian Interior Minister Mart Helme will resign after calling Biden corrupt and saying Trump would emerge as the winner. (Siobhán O’Grady)
  • The E.U. imposed $4 billion in tariffs on U.S. products, prolonging Trump’s trade war despite Biden’s victory. (Michael Birnbaum)
  • Joe Biden has had quite the week. So did Jo Baiden, the mayor of Yamato, Japan, who spent the weekend receiving a flurry of congratulatory messages on social media. (Jennifer Hassan)
Trump plans to form a leadership PAC in hopes of keeping his hold on the GOP. 

“The announcement is expected as soon as this week,” the Times reports. “A leadership PAC could spend an unlimited amount in so-called independent expenditures to benefit other candidates, as well as fund travel, polling and consultants. Mostly, it would almost certainly be a vehicle by which Mr. Trump could retain influence in a party that has been remade largely in his image over the past four years."

  • Trump will no longer be able to use his Mar-a-Lago helipad after Jan. 20, according to Palm Beach rules, which only allowed him to make use of the landing pad because he is president. (Palm Beach Post)
  • Trump has already been sent to the dustbin by Madame Tussaud’s in Berlin. A new display of Trump’s wax figure in the German museum features him in a dumpster along with bags of garbage and a “Make America Great Again” hat. (New York Post)
The long love affair between Fox News and Trump may be over. 

“Trump has vowed revenge on the network that propelled his political career, according to close White House aides — perhaps by publicly attacking Fox or undermining its business model by endorsing a competitor,” Sarah Ellison and Dawsey report. On election night, Fox personalities including Laura Ingraham and Jeanine Pirro were at Trump’s election-night party in the White House’s chandeliered East Room. “Fox was on the big-screen TVs as Trump won the key state of Florida, and the room filled with increasing optimism that Trump had again defied the polls. Until 11:20 p.m., when Fox News called Arizona for Biden … Trump erupted in anger … His chief of staff, Mark Meadows, phoned Fox News’s decision desk repeatedly. Top aide Hope Hicks, who had returned to the White House earlier this year after a stint at Fox Corp., messaged Raj Shah, a former Trump White House staffer whom she hired at Fox, about how to get the call reversed. … [But] Fox decision-desk chief Arnon Mishkin remained unmoved.”

Fox cuts away from Kayleigh McEnany’s Monday news conference. “From the Fox News studio, anchor Neil Cavuto cut in to end Fox’s broadcast of the video feed from the Republican National Committee headquarters. ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa,’ he said. ‘I just think we have to be very clear that she’s charging the other side as welcoming fraud and welcoming illegal voting. Unless she has more details to back that up, I can’t in good countenance continue showing you this,’” Elahe Izadi and Ellison report.

Law firms representing Trump are growing uncomfortable with his election lawsuits. “Jones Day is the most prominent firm representing Trump and the Republican Party as they prepare to wage a legal war challenging the results of the election. The work is intensifying concerns inside the firm about the propriety and wisdom of working for Mr. Trump, according to lawyers at the firm,” the Times reports. “At another large firm, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, based in Columbus, Ohio, lawyers have held internal meetings to voice similar concerns about their firm’s election-related work for Mr. Trump and the Republican Party, according to people at the firm. At least one lawyer quit in protest.”

A man featured at Rudy Giuliani’s press conference is a convicted sex offender. The first person that the president's attorney called to speak at Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Philadelphia on Saturday was Daryl Brooks, who claimed he was a GOP poll watcher in Pennsylvania. In fact, he has been a perennial candidate in New Jersey for years. “Brooks was incarcerated [for three-and-a-half years] in the 1990s on charges of sexual assault, lewdness and endangering the welfare of a minor for exposing himself to two girls ages 7 and 11,” Politico reports. “Brooks has run for various offices, including U.S. Senate and the House.”

Facebook takes down a network of pages tied to Stephen Bannon for peddling disinformation. “The seven pages, which had a total of over 2.45 million followers and had pushed the ‘Stop the Steal’ messaging that alleges election fraud, were flagged for Facebook by the liberal group Avaaz,” Elizabeth Dwoskin reports. "The pages taken down include those of Brian Kolfage, Conservative Values, We Build the Wall Inc., Citizens of the American Republic, American Joe and Trump at War. Kolfage is a longtime Bannon ally. He was indicted with Bannon and two others in August for allegedly defrauding donors to a crowdfunded effort to build a private U.S.-Mexico border wall. In an interview, Avaaz analysts said they noticed the pages were interconnected in a way that raised red flags. They tended to post content at exactly the same time, for example. Some of the pages shared an administrator — often Bannon and Kolfage.”

The chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will step aside. 

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) will not seek a second term in that post and will exit party leadership, Mike DeBonis reports“Following Democrats’ historic 2018 gains, she pledged to hold on to those Trump-friendly seats and push Democratic gains farther into the suburbs — adding to the Democrats’ 15-seat majority. But last week’s results instead appear to have cut deeply into that majority, with a net loss of four seats to Republicans so far and with more races yet to be called. Bustos herself was nearly a victim of the GOP surge, eking out a four-point victory after winning by more than 20 percentage points in 2016 and 2018. Bustos has faced angry recriminations from fellow Democrats who were blindsided by the losses, and the underwhelming results have turbocharged long-simmering infighting between moderate Democrats and liberal members who have been critical of the DCCC’s centrist messaging and recruiting practices.”

Democrats remain anxious and divided. “Moderates blame liberals for promoting socialism and proposals to ‘defund the police.’ Liberals are warning Biden not to cozy up to Senate Republicans, who might retain their majority. Latino leaders are raising alarms about Biden’s poor performance in some of their communities,” Sullivan reports. “Because both Biden and the GOP can claim successes, the outcome defies simple theories about the electorate and potentially leaves Biden without full control of Congress or a unified direction for his party. ‘There are lessons,’ said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) ‘I’m not sure what they are just yet.’”

The coronavirus

Based on its initial data, pharmaceutical company Pfizer said Nov. 9 that its experimental vaccine was more than 90 percent effective in preventing covid-19. (Video: Reuters)
Pfizer's vaccine could be cleared by mid-December.

“The findings, announced by drug giant Pfizer and German biotechnology firm BioNTech, provided much-needed hope … It augers well for other vaccines and could accelerate the timetable for reining in the pandemic,” Laurie McGinley, Lena Sun and Carolyn Johnson report. “Even with the welcome development, experts warned that the longed-for return to normalcy will take many months or more, and that the path is certain to contain unexpected twists and turns. Even after a vaccine is approved, they said, people will need to wear masks and social distance for some time — in part because the vaccine doses will be limited, and it will take time to immunize enough of the population to stop the virus from spreading." Contrary to White House claims, Pfizer’s success is not a function of Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed.”

  • The FDA approved Eli Lilly's antibody drug. Bamlanivimab is a laboratory-brewed antibody that imitates the immune system’s attack on the virus. "It is in the same family of medication as an experimental treatment Trump received,” Johnson reports. “But the initial scarcity of the drug and the logistical complexities of administering it could mute its immediate impact on the pandemic and raise questions about whether it is being distributed to people in the greatest need.”
  • Nearly 10,000 patients admitted to U.S. hospitals for the coronavirus between March and July were readmitted to the same hospital within two months of their release, according to a new CDC report. That amounts to nearly 10 percent of all hospitalized patients, adding to the growing body of evidence that suggests that even people who technically recover from covid-19 may continue to struggle with complications long after the fact. (Antonia Farzan)
  • A clinical trial found that hydroxychloroquine doesn’t benefit adults hospitalized with coronavirus, the NIH said
  • Brazil has suspended clinical trials of China’s experimental coronavirus vaccine, citing a “serious adverse event.” (Farzan)
  • Hard-hit North Dakota will allow asymptomatic health-care workers to stay on the job after testing positive, but they will be assigned to work in covid-19 units. (Farzan)
  • Oklahoma’s top health official expressed skepticism about the potential benefits of a statewide mask mandate. (Oklahoman)
  • Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian negotiator who helped craft some of the most sweeping bids for Arab-Israeli peace, died at 65 of complications from covid-19. (Brian Murphy)
  • Maryland saw a record-high number of infections Monday for the third consecutive day, leaping past Virginia to record the highest rate of spread in the greater Washington region. (Dana Hedgpeth)

Social media speed read

Every day that Trump delays the transition makes America less safe:

Barack Obama and Biden welcomed President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence to the White House on this day four years ago. Trump and Pence are not being so gracious:

Alleging fraud is Trump's go-to move when he loses. The difference between now and this tweet from after he lost in the 2016 Iowa caucuses is that Republican elected officials are unwilling to disagree with him:

Videos of the day

Americans should be happy about Biden’s win, Stephen Colbert said, but they should not be complacent: 

Seth Meyers had a fun time reading about Rudy Giuliani’s time at the Four Seasons: