with Mariana Alfaro

After a hand recount of nearly 5 million ballots, and an audit that found no fraud or irregularities, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state announced Thursday night that President-elect Joe Biden beat President Trump in the state by 12,284 votes.

Multiple factors can be described as decisive when a race is so close, but here is one to consider: John Lewis represented Clayton County in Congress from 1986 until he died from pancreatic cancer in July. In 2016, Hillary Clinton garnered 75,908 from Clayton, which is just south of downtown Atlanta and includes the city’s airport. In 2020, Biden won with 95,232 votes from Clayton.

Trump set the tone for his relationship with urban America in January 2017 when he ripped Lewis for declining to attend his inauguration by saying that the civil rights legend was “all talk” and “no action.” This was a ludicrous line of attack: Only one of these men was nearly beaten to death by police for protesting racial injustice, and it was not Trump.

“Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested),” Trump tweeted. “Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S. I can use all the help I can get!”

There are literally hundreds of examples from the nearly four years that have followed of this president stereotyping urban areas and scapegoating their leaders with characterizations contradicted by the ground truth. Trump has governed more like the president of the Red States of America than the United States of America. He has often treated blue states and big cities more like adversaries than constituents.

Suggestions from Trump and his allies that the urban areas which overwhelmingly opposed him in battleground states are dens of corruption have reached a fever pitch over the last two weeks. 

When a Republican election official in Philadelphia went on CNN to denounce Trump’s claims of widespread fraud as “completely ridiculous,” the president immediately attacked him on Twitter: “A guy named Al Schmidt, a Philadelphia Commissioner and so-called Republican (RINO), is being used big time by the Fake News Media to explain how honest things were with respect to the Election in Philadelphia. He refuses to look at a mountain of corruption & dishonesty. We win!”

There is no evidence of widespread fraud. There is certainly not a “mountain of corruption.” 

“I have seen the most fantastical things on social media, making completely ridiculous allegations that have no basis in fact at all,” Schmidt said, responding to Trump’s claims. “One thing I can’t comprehend is how hungry people are to consume lies.”

“Trump is trying to cling to power by disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of Black voters,” writes columnist Eugene Robinson. “In Wisconsin, Trump's campaign has paid for recounts in just two counties, one of which is Milwaukee County. In Michigan, Trump personally called two Republican officials who now want to decertify the vote in Wayne County, which includes Detroit. In Pennsylvania, Trump's legal team has challenged vote-counting procedures and made unsupported allegations of fraud in two cities: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In Georgia, the Trump team filed a lawsuit targeting absentee ballots in Savannah, and another suit took aim at the state's ballot-curing process. The pattern is obvious and appalling: Trump and the Republicans are trying to invalidate votes in cities with large African American populations. … In effect, Trump is arguing that Black people have no right to vote him out of office.”

While Trump routinely claims he has done more for African Americans than any president ever, “with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln,” his baseless fear-mongering fits with a pattern of making nasty insinuation about cities with large Black populations. Trump denigrated Baltimore last summer as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” and seemed to take delight last summer in someone burglarizing the home of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who was conducting oversight of his administration and has since died. On a weekend in which Trump tweeted disparagingly more than 30 times about America’s 30th largest city, Trump claimed that Cummings’s hometown was “FAR WORSE and more dangerous” than “conditions at the Southern Border.”

Trump called Chicago an “embarrassment” to America and claimed that “Afghanistan is a safe place by comparison.”

He claimed Los Angeles and San Francisco had squandered their “prestige” by not expelling homeless people. “What they are doing to our beautiful California is a disgrace to our country,” he said last summer.

Trump has often claimed that the most dangerous cities in America are all run by Democrats. They are not.

One irony is Trump’s background as a big-city developer. Buildings in cities like Chicago have his name plastered on the side. But Trump changed his residency from New York to Florida, criticizing his hometown as he did so.

In September, Trump issued an order aimed at defunding police departments in large Democratic-led cities – specifically naming New York, the District, Seattle and Portland, Ore. – even as he falsely accused Biden of wanting to defund the police. “Anarchy has recently beset some of our states and cities,” Trump wrote. “My administration will not allow federal tax dollars to fund cities that allow themselves to deteriorate into lawless zones.”

More on the voting wars

Trump is using the power of his office to try to reverse the results of the election.

The president is "orchestrating a far-reaching pressure campaign to persuade Republican officials in Michigan, Georgia and elsewhere to overturn the will of voters in what critics decried Thursday as an unprecedented subversion of democracy,” Philip Rucker, Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey report. “After courts rejected the Trump campaign’s baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud, the president is now trying to remain in power with a wholesale assault on the integrity of the vote by spreading misinformation and trying to persuade loyal Republicans to manipulate the electoral system on his behalf. In an extraordinary news conference Thursday at the Republican National Committee headquarters, Trump’s attorneys claimed without evidence there was a centralized conspiracy with roots in Venezuela to rig the U.S. presidential election. … 

"Thursday’s show by Trump’s lawyers disquieted many, including Christopher Krebs, the Trump-appointed director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency whom the president fired Tuesday after he stated publicly that the election had been secure. ‘That press conference was the most dangerous 1hr 45 minutes of television in American history. And possibly the craziest,’ Krebs wrote on Twitter. On Capitol Hill, senior Democrats ratcheted up their rhetoric. ‘I think this borders on treason,’ said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.). … Biden’s team expressed confidence Thursday that Trump’s intensifying effort to keep power would fail. ‘None of it is legally significant,’ said Bob Bauer, a senior adviser to the Biden campaign, who runs the election protection legal efforts. … 

Trump’s focus for the moment is centered on Michigan. … [He] invited the leaders of Michigan’s Republican-controlled state Senate and House to meet him Friday at the White House ahead of next Monday’s state canvassing board meeting to certify results. The president’s allies have said that if the board deadlocks, the legislature could choose to ignore Biden’s popular-vote win and seat Trump electors. … In Georgia and Pennsylvania, where Republicans also control the state legislatures, officials said Trump’s ploy stood little chance of success. A top adviser to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) said there is ‘zero’ chance the secretary would take a phone call from the president or his advisers. Raffensperger is expected to certify the statewide result Friday … The certification then goes to Gov. Brian Kemp, another Republican, for his signature. … Privately, Trump has told advisers he is furious with the governor for not doing more to overturn the outcome. …

“The latest evolution in the Trump strategy came into view Thursday at RNC headquarters, where Giuliani and campaign attorneys Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell presented their argument for widespread fraud but provided no evidence. Powell argued that the voting systems used in many states, including those manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems, use software ‘created in Venezuela at the direction of Hugo Chávez to make sure he never lost an election.’ … There is no evidence to support this theory. … The company’s products are certified for use in states that Trump won, including Utah and Florida. In addition, Giuliani and Powell’s claims have been disproved in Georgia, where the state’s hand recount of nearly 5 million paper ballots affirmed that the Dominion scanners accurately counted the vote. … Trump was said to be enthused about the news conference and asked allies to watch it, a White House official said. The event seemed at times farcical, with streaks of what appeared to be black hair dye mixed with sweat dripping down the sides of Giuliani’s face as he spoke.” 

Giuliani’s post-election meltdown is starting to become literal. “About 100 journalists and hangers-on had crammed into this potential coronavirus incubator for a news conference on the perverse legal strategy of Trump’s failed reelection campaign, which Giuliani is trying to hustle toward a twist ending,” Dan Zak and Dawsey report. The black liquid running down his face “might have been perspiration liquefying his hair dye, or sluicing the black polymer off his eyeglasses. One Manhattan stylist told the New York Times that it might’ve been running mascara; perhaps Giuliani had applied it to touch up the color of his sideburns. One Trump campaign adviser texted a Washington Post journalist as the black streaks inched toward Rudy’s jowls: ‘Is he deteriorating in real time?’ If Rudy is deteriorating, then so is anyone who listens to him. For 90 minutes, an unmasked Rudy and four maskless colleagues … spun a confusing web of conspiracies that indicate Trump won the election that he lost. A revolution, they said, was at hand. ‘It is the 1775 of our generation,’ declared [Powell] … She continued: ‘Globalists, dictators, corporations, you name it — everybody’s against us except President Trump.’”

Quote of the day

“Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said in a statement late Thursday. “It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic act by a sitting American President.” (Timothy Bella)

Trump is putting vote certification processes through a stress test.

“Biden is now leading in Michigan by roughly 150,000 votes. … If the Board of Canvassers deadlocks on the decision to certify Michigan’s results Monday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) could seek to replace its members on the spot, or seek a court order requiring the board to certify,” David Fahrenthold, Beth Reinhard, Elise Viebeck and Emma Brown report. “In Wisconsin, a recount requested by the Trump campaign of ballots in the state’s two most heavily Democratic counties — Dane, home of Madison, and Milwaukee — will begin Friday. Biden leads Trump by about 20,600 votes in Wisconsin. … 

"In Nevada, where Biden is winning by more than 33,000 votes, the Nevada Supreme Court will meet Nov. 24 to certify statewide results, after which Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, will publicly proclaim the winner. But the following day, a Carson City judge is scheduled to hear Republicans’ formal election contest in which they argue that Biden’s victory should be overturned or annulled because of widespread fraud in the state. [There is no evidence of this.] … 

"In Pennsylvania, where Trump is losing by 82,000 votes, all counties are required to submit their official results to the state by Monday. Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar is then required to certify the results … The leaders of the Republican-controlled state legislature have said they will respect that process, but they have come under mounting pressure from some Trump supporters to try to sabotage it.”

  • “Trump told an ally that he knows he lost, but that he is delaying the transition process and is aggressively trying to sow doubt about the election results in order to get back at Democrats for questioning the legitimacy of his own election in 2016, especially with the Russia investigation,” CNN reports.
  • In Georgia, the get-out-the-vote operations that helped Biden win continue for the Senate runoffs. A group called Georgia Stand-Up has 100 volunteers signed up to knock doors and make calls this weekend. Another group that works to mobilize voters of color set up tables at a recent high school graduation to register newly eligible young voters. A third group is reaching voters at transit stations. (Vanessa Williams and Reis Thebault)
The threat of criminal prosecution may be one reason Trump refuses to relinquish the presidency.

“Two separate New York State fraud investigations into Trump and his businesses, one criminal and one civil, have expanded to include tax write-offs on millions of dollars in consulting fees, some of which appear to have gone to Ivanka Trump,” the Times reports. “The inquiries — a criminal investigation by the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., and a civil one by the state attorney general, Letitia James — are being conducted independently. But both offices issued subpoenas to the Trump Organization in recent weeks for records related to the fees." Ivanka Trump tweeted that both investigations into her dubious "consulting fees” are “100% motivated by politics, publicity and rage.”

In related news: Governments around the world are losing $427 billion each year to tax avoidance and evasion as companies and wealthy individuals shift their money to tax havens, according to a comprehensive new report from the Tax Justice Network, the Global Alliance for Tax Justice and a trade-union group called Public Services International. (Jeanne Whalen)

The coronavirus

The CDC recommends against traveling or gathering for Thanksgiving.

“In the agency’s first news briefing in months, officials said they were alarmed to see 1 million new cases reported across the United States within the past week. As the nation’s death toll since the start of the pandemic reached 250,000, officials spoke of the risks in stark terms, warning that as friends and relatives get together over the holidays, they could inadvertently bring the coronavirus with them,” Brittany Shammas reports. “For those still planning to travel, the guidelines offer tips specific to overnight stays. … Hosts should improve ventilation by opening windows or doors or putting central air and heating on continuous circulation. People should spend time together outdoors, taking a walk or sitting six feet apart for interpersonal interaction. Singing and shouting should be avoided, especially inside. Pets should be treated like human family members and kept from interacting with people outside the household.”

The seven-day average of new cases hovers at more than 160,000, according to Washington Post tracking. On Wednesday, nearly 1,900 deaths were reported, marking the deadliest day since mid-September. Biden said Trump will be remembered by history as one of the nation's most reckless leaders for delaying cooperation on the pandemic after losing reelection, and the president-elect added that an untold number of Americans are going to die as a direct consequence. Meanwhile, Vice President Pence touted encouraging news on the efficacy of vaccines and promised millions of doses could be distributed almost immediately upon approval by the FDA. “They urged the country to continue mitigation measures such as wearing masks and social distancing — even as Pence did not wear a face covering at the White House podium,” Anne Gearan and Seung Min Kim report.

  • The D.C. region reported more than 5,000 new infections on Thursday – a record for a single day – prompting the Smithsonian Institution to announce it will close facilities stating Monday it has reopened to the public, including the National Zoo. (Dana Hedgpeth and Ovetta Wiggins)
  • Retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, who is performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for policy, tested positive for the virus after meeting with Lithuania's defense minister. (Dan Lamothe)
  • Debbie Birx said the dramatic surge in new cases was caused largely by unusually cold late September weather across the Midwest driving lots of people indoors. During the first public briefing in months by the White House coronavirus task force, Birx emphasized the high number of asymptomatic cases — almost half of all infections — are driving transmission. (Antonia Farzan)
  • Stanford University’s faculty senate passed a resolution condemning Trump coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas, who is a fellow at the Hoover Institution. However, the group of professors disagreed over whether it’s appropriate for the university to investigate Atlas’s actions as ethical violations subject to disciplinary action. (Stanford Daily)
  • A petition circulating at Harvard University is drawing the ire of some Trump allies for demanding the school require “accountability” for members of his administration before they're allowed to speak or teach on campus. (Marisa Iati)
  • Utah hospital workers rushed to New York in the spring to help. Now New Yorkers are returning the favor. (Cathy Free)
  • After Virginia health authorities faulted the Little Lambs Christian Dayschool for its lack of face masks, its pastor told parents covid is a “hoax.” The state then suspended the daycare’s food-service permit. (Meagan Flynn, Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Michelle Boorstein)
  • The Christian Medical & Dental Associations urged churches to stop holding in-person services. (Farzan)
  • The El Paso County Medical Examiner’s Office – which has been using prison labor to handle the corpses of covid-19 victims – posted a listing for several “immediate job openings.” 
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech filed for U.S. emergency authorization of their vaccine.

The landmark moment signals that the vaccine could become available within weeks. Career scientists at the FDA will, for the next few weeks, scrutinize the data and determine whether the vaccine is safe and effective. Only after the agency has given the green light will a first, limited group of high-risk people be able to receive the shots. Government officials anticipate having enough vaccine to inoculate about 20 million people in December, between Pfizer’s vaccine and Moderna’s, which will likely be considered for emergency authorization soon. There will probably be enough vaccine for 25 million to 30 million people a month after that, according to Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser of Operation Warp Speed. (Carolyn Johnson)

  • The World Health Organization rejected the antiviral drug remdesivir as a covid-19 treatment, splitting with the FDA. A panel of experts from around the world concluded there’s no evidence remdesivir reduces fatalities, speeds recovery or lowers the likelihood of being placed on a respirator. (Farzan)
  • The U.S. government has agreed to pay injury compensation benefits to nearly 3,500 federal employees on the grounds that they contracted the virus while at work and granted death benefits to survivors of 14 employees for that reason. More than 2,600 other claims for benefits under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, including 68 for deaths, are pending, according to the Labor Department. (Eric Yoder)
Trump appears intent on undermining the economy Biden is set to inherit.

“Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday said he would not extend most of the emergency lending programs run in tandem with the Federal Reserve, a move the central bank immediately criticized, citing the fragile recovery,” Rachel Siegel and Jeff Stein report. “The Fed’s exceedingly rare public response reflected a government divided on how to act as the pandemic surges across the nation, threatening a new wave of shutdowns and marking an inflection point of the economic recovery. In a letter to Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell, Mnuchin not only said that several of the programs would wind down at the end of the year, but he also requested that unspent money allocated to the Fed under the first stimulus effort, the Cares Act, be reallocated by Congress. …

Treasury's "move would end most of the Fed’s emergency lending facilities, as well as two highly-scrutinized programs — the Main Street lending program and the municipal liquidity facility — which issue loans to struggling businesses and local governments. … The Treasury and the Fed jointly established a suite of emergency programs in the early days of the pandemic — and they have at times clashed over how the programs should be structured and how effective they can be. The shared responsibility also means that certain decisions can’t be made by either Powell or Mnuchin alone, setting the stage for the surprisingly outward-facing clash."

The number of new unemployment claims spiked last week to 742,000, an increase of 31,000 from the previous week. An additional 320,000 claims were processed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program for gig and self-employed workers. “About 20.3 million people are still claiming some form of unemployment insurance,” Eli Rosenberg reports. “The number of new claims has fallen from peaks in the spring but remains historically high. Claims have remained above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000, from 1982, for 35 weeks. … There are other warning signs for the economy. Credit card spending is on the decline. Reservations at restaurants, as measured by OpenTable data, have trended down in year-over-year comparisons in recent weeks. … 

An estimated 12 million people could lose unemployment payments on Dec. 26, potentially pushing many over the brink, if Congress is unable to pass a new stimulus bill before then. Economists worry about the catastrophic effects of this expiration: households with little in the way of support or savings finding themselves in increasingly dire financial straits as the national eviction moratorium expires. Meanwhile, a contraction in household spending could threaten the economy at large. Analyst Andrew Stettner estimates that 4.4 million people have already been pushed off the unemployment rolls.”

Shoppers are panic-buying toilet paper, disinfecting wipes and baking mixes just as they did in the spring. This time, though, there should be enough to go around. Retailers are reinstating limits on high-demand items faster this time in an attempt to prevent hoarding. They have also simplified their supply chains. (Laura Reiley and Abha Bhattarai)

What's left on the agenda

Congressional leaders want to stop Trump from shutting down the government a third time.

“The aides for the four principal leaders in Congress — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.); Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.); House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.); and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — held discussions shortly after White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said he couldn’t guarantee a shutdown would be averted,” Stein and Kim report. “Schumer and Democratic aides said the talks also revived discussions about stimulus relief measures that have long eluded a divided Congress. Republicans downplayed the extent of new talks on stimulus relief and insisted the meeting was primarily about legislation to avoid the shutdown, not a new stimulus package. One GOP aide … said congressional staff discussed some of the relief measures set to end in January as part of their typical year-end review of expiring federal programs.” 

  • McConnell sent GOP senators home for Thanksgiving with a warning: “Be careful.” The Senate majority leader urged Republicans to stay healthy so they'll have enough votes to pass as much of their agenda as possible before Biden takes office. (NBC)
  • Biden turns 78 today.
  • Orlando Hall was executed just before midnight after the Supreme Court declined to intervene. He became the eighth person executed by the federal government since Trump resumed federal executions for the first time in 17 years. (Ann Marimow)
  • Trump could be a no-show at this year’s virtual G-20 summit. Less than 48 hours before the scheduled start of the summit, the White House will not say whether Trump will participate. (David Lynch)
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s declaration in the Middle East that a boycott campaign against Israel is anti-Semitic reignited a long-simmering debate over whether the movement is a nonviolent expression of free speech or an attempt to delegitimize Israel’s very existence. (Carol Morello and Steve Handrix)
  • Officials planning the inaugural ceremonies are forging ahead with plans for in-person events on Jan. 20, with the understanding that it is easier to scale down than scale up operations. The platform where Biden will be sworn-in is going up near the Capitol, and the District has repaved Pennsylvania Avenue for the traditional parade. But the crowds huddled together enjoying a concert on the Mall and the celebratory balls that go late into the night are less certain. (Emily Davies and Justin Jouvenal)
  • Eric Trump's wife, Lara, is considering a Senate run in 2022 in her home state of North Carolina, per the New York Times. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, a former congressman from the state, is also thought to be mulling a run for the same seat.
Illicit American guns keep pouring into Mexico.

“In a country with just a single legal gun shop, on a military base in the capital, roughly 2.5 million illicit American guns have poured across the border in the past decade, according to a new Mexican government study. That flood has been a key accelerant in the security crisis now confronting the country. The cartels are using trafficked weapons to kill record numbers of police officers — 464 in the first nine months of 2020 alone — and smaller armed groups are fueling historically high homicide rates,” Kevin Sieff and Nick Miroff report. “Mexican officials, in rare public criticism, are now venting their frustration at what they say is the U.S. failure to stop the flow of .50-caliber rifles. At a time when the United States is pushing Mexico to target cartels more aggressively, U.S. laws that make .50-calibers and other destructive weapons easy to buy, along with a lack of enforcement at the border, are enabling those groups to expand their influence and activities in the country.” 

  • U.S. authorities made more than 69,000 arrests and detentions last month on the southern border, a 21 percent increase from September and the highest number for any October since 2005. The increase was partly due to a soaring number of repeat arrests along the border resulting from Trump's practice of quickly expelling people to Mexico after they enter the country illegally. (Miroff)
  • A group of more than 100 congressional Democrats demanded that ICE release female detainees from a Georgia detention facility who allege they received subpar gynecological care while detained there. (Teo Armus)
  • Trump hit a new roadblock in its quest to exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted in Census numbers for apportionment: The Census Bureau said it will be unable to produce state population counts from the 2020 survey before Trump leaves office. (Tara Bahrampour)

Social media speed read

The president’s (former) favorite network has joined the chorus of people questioning his lawyers:

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow revealed that her partner almost died of covid-19:

GOP consultant Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist on Romney's 2012 campaign and a Mississippi native, decried Republicans who are humoring Trump's corrosive assault on democracy:

Videos of the day

Jimmy Kimmel asked Barack Obama if he made his memoir long to ensure Trump never reads it:

Seth Meyers tried to make sense of Giuliani’s bizarre press conference: 

Stephen Colbert said Giuliani continues to fail spectacularly on behalf of the president: