As a diplomat in Switzerland, Pakistan, Kenya, Gambia, Nigeria, Jamaica and Liberia, Thomas-Greenfield taught a lot of foreigners how to make gumbo. She would invite her local counterparts over to the American embassy show them how to make a roux. They would chop onions to go with the celery and green peppers that make up the holy trinity.
“I put a Cajun spin on it. I called it ‘gumbo diplomacy,” the 68-year-old said here Tuesday after Biden introduced her and five other members of his national security team. “It was my way of breaking down barriers, connecting with people and starting to see each other on a human level. A bit of lagniappe is what we say in Louisiana!”
Biden said he came to admire Thomas-Greenfield when he was vice president and she was the top State Department official in charge of Africa policy during the Ebola outbreak. He announced that he will give her Cabinet-level status to make sure she has a voice in all major foreign policy discussions.
The current U.N. ambassador, Kelly Craft, is not a member of President Trump’s Cabinet. Nor is she a career diplomat. She is a GOP megadonor who is married to a billionaire coal baron, her third husband. She also happens to be friends with Elaine Chao, Trump’s Transportation secretary and the wife of the Senate majority leader, someone she has also contributed generously to over the years.
Talk about a contrast. LTG – as she is known at Foggy Bottom – was part of the mass exodus of career diplomats who left the State Department during the Trump era. Speaking at the Queen theater here, she declared that she wanted to send a message to diplomats around the world who have been marginalized, disparaged and otherwise dispirited over the past years.
“America is back,” she said. “Multilateralism is back. Diplomacy is back.”
This comment angered Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who attacked her on Fox News. “I couldn’t tell exactly from her statement,” he said, “but multilateralism for the sake of hanging out with your buddies at a cool cocktail party? That’s not in the best interest of the United States of America.”
Pompeo, whose mishandling of the Ukraine imbroglio deeply soured his relationship with the foreign service, said the Trump administration has developed “coalitions that actually deliver real results and reflect the reality on the ground.”
“I know some of these folks,” Pompeo told Bret Baier of Biden’s picks. “They took a very different view. They lived in a bit of a fantasy world. They led from behind. They appeased. I hope they will choose a different course.”
As ballots continue to be counted, Biden’s vote total has just crossed 80 million. This is 10 million more votes than the previous record set by Barack Obama – and him – in 2008.
All six of Biden’s first round of nominees worked for the Obama administration. NBC’s Lester Holt asked the president-elect during an interview that aired morning on the “Today” show what he says to people wondering if he is trying to create a third Obama term.
“This is not a third Obama term because we face a totally different world than we faced in the Obama-Biden administration,” he replied. “President Trump has changed the landscape. It's become America first. It's been America alone.”
In observance of Thanksgiving, we will not publish The Daily 202 on Thursday or Friday.
The coronavirus killed at least 2,092 Americans on Tuesday, our highest daily death toll since May 6, and 171,621 new cases were reported. At least 259,000 people have died in the United States from the contagion since March. Nine states reported their highest number of daily deaths yesterday. It could get worse because some people are traveling for the holidays.
Many more Americans will likely die in the coming months. Millions more will lose their jobs and their homes as the economy appears to be backsliding. Untold numbers of families will go hungry. There is a lot that can make you angry or afraid right now, but there are also important reasons to give thanks. Our pilgrim ancestors survived some dark winters during their early years of settlement here. We, too, will endure.
I am thankful for our doctors and nurses on the front lines of the fight, who are making this contagion less fatal than it was in the spring.
I am thankful for our scientists and logisticians who are working tirelessly to get us safe vaccines and treatments as quickly as possible – from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca in the private sector to the career professionals at the FDA, CDC and NIH.
Finally, I am thankful for you, dear reader. The underpinnings of our system, and truth itself, have been challenged, but America is poised to persevere. Our founding fathers knew freedom depended on an informed citizenry.
Please stay safe. Know that better days are ahead.
More on the transition
Biden is searching for an attorney general to restore the DOJ’s independence.
“Most senior Democrats and former Justice Department officials agree a top contender for the position is Sally Q. Yates, the former deputy attorney general whose tenure stretched from 2015 to the early, tumultuous days of the Trump administration. Other names under consideration include Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), former homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and former White House adviser Lisa Monaco,” Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky report. “Behind the scenes, each Democratic contender has a constituency as well as detractors. But whomever Biden picks will have to be confirmed by a Senate that is currently controlled by Republicans …
"Among Biden’s transition team, early talks have focused on reinstituting a more robust civil rights department and pushing more vigorously on criminal justice reform … At the same time, Biden has pledged to restore independence at the department, and his senior advisers are keen to improve morale after the departing attorney general, William P. Barr, gave a speech in September excoriating many of the department’s career employees. … Talks among Biden transition officials have also focused on environmental issues, perhaps signaling a more aggressive role for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division … In the Trump administration, Biden’s campaign website noted, the Environmental Protection Agency referred the fewest number of criminal anti-polluting cases to the Justice Department in decades. …
“Beyond the basic question of criminal investigations, Biden’s team is also likely to wrestle with a version of the same problem the Obama administration faced in its first months — how much time and political capital to expend on the controversies and scandals of the previous administration. The Biden Justice Department will probably face decisions about how much information to share with Congress, or through Freedom of Information Act requests, about the Trump administration’s family-separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border, the department’s handling of cases involving people close to the president and any internal discussions about pardons."
- Carol Moseley Braun, the first Black female senator and an early Biden endorser, wants to be Interior secretary. She’s be an unconventional pick,” Juliet Eilperin reports. “She has relatively little experience in environmental policy or public lands. And Westerners have occupied the post for more than 120 years, with the single exception of Rogers Morton, who served under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.”
- Janet Yellen, Biden’s choice for Treasury secretary and the former Federal Reserve chair, brings an impressive résumé as a top economist and policymaker. “Her leadership style is sometimes compared with that of Mary Poppins: firm but kind, and always prepared,” Heather Long writes in a profile.
- New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) and former surgeon general Vivek Murthy are the two leading contenders for secretary of health and human services. Hispanic advocacy groups are pushing Grisham. (Politico)
Biden aides held at least 20 meetings with Trump officials and are in discussions with every agency.
“Uncertainty remains over how much cooperation the Biden team will get from Trump’s political appointees — some of whom are embracing the false notion that the president could somehow still win reelection — as Biden hopes to rebuild a demoralized federal workforce and prepare it to implement his drastically different agenda. But Tuesday marked a clear shift from delay to action,” Matt Viser reports. "They have been in touch with Anthony S. Fauci, whom Biden has said he would keep as the nation’s top infectious-disease expert. The president-elect will begin receiving the President’s Daily Brief … The Biden team got new email addresses in the hours after the transition became official, along with a new website domain affiliated with the federal government. They prepared to go over voluminous briefing books that provide updates on budgets, upcoming projects and nascent regulations, and the FBI can now begin conducting background checks on Biden’s nominees. …
"The transition continued to pick up momentum in other ways, as Pennsylvania and Nevada certified Biden’s wins, though Trump continued to fight the results in court and insisted that he will ‘never concede.’ ‘Joe Biden did win Arizona,’ Gov. Doug Ducey (R), who had been reluctant to declare Biden the victor, acknowledged Tuesday during an interview with KTAR radio. … Biden, speaking to reporters Tuesday, said he would be willing to meet with Trump, though an invitation appears unlikely. ‘Of course I would, if he asked,’ Biden said."
Mitch McConnell still refuses to acknowledge Biden's victory.
“McConnell’s ongoing silence, even as the Trump administration moves to allow Biden to start his transition, leaves a question mark over what could be the most important Washington relationship of the next two years — between an incoming president who promised to tackle the nation’s most pressing concerns and the win-at-all-costs Capitol Hill operator who may well serve as his legislative gatekeeper,” Mike DeBonis reports. “The two men — Senate colleagues for 24 years and sparring partners in several high-stakes negotiations during Biden’s time as vice president — still have not spoken since the election."
Senate Republicans with presidential ambitions in 2024 signaled opposition to Biden's picks: "Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called Biden’s early nominees ‘polite & orderly caretakers of America’s decline’ … Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) referred to them as ‘a group of corporatists and war enthusiasts.’ … Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) dismissed them as ‘panda huggers who will only reinforce his instincts to go soft on China.’ … Should Republicans retain control of the Senate after a pair of Jan. 5 runoff elections in Georgia, it will be in McConnell’s hands whether and when to bring those nominees to the Senate floor for a vote.”
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is maneuvering to make his successor’s job harder.
“Mnuchin will put $455 billion in unspent Cares Act funding into an account that his presumed successor, former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, will soon need authorization from Congress to use,” Bloomberg News reports. “The money will be placed in the agency’s General Fund, a Treasury Department spokesperson said Tuesday. Most of it had gone to support Federal Reserve emergency-lending facilities, and Mnuchin’s clawback would make it impossible for Yellen as Treasury secretary to restore for that purpose without lawmakers’ blessing. Democrats swiftly criticized the move, with Bharat Ramamurti, a member of the congressionally appointed watchdog panel overseeing Fed and Treasury Covid-19 relief funds, saying ‘the good news is that it’s illegal and can be reversed next year.’ A Treasury spokesperson rejected that analysis, saying Mnuchin’s move was legal."
A $17 billion bailout fund intended for Boeing ended up un very different hands.
“The Trump administration has used a $17 billion loan fund meant for businesses critical to U.S. national security to help a hodgepodge of little-known companies with unclear importance to national defense, and the fund remains mostly unspent nearly eight months after Congress approved it as part of a $2 trillion stimulus bill,” Yeganeh Terbati and Aaron Gregg report. “Aircraft manufacturers including Boeing were the fund’s intended recipients but balked at the terms and did not apply. Instead, the 11 companies that have tapped the fund so far include a company that has pitched its products as an enabling technology for the facial recognition tracking of immigrants, a manufacturer of roadblock barriers and surveillance firms.”
More on the voting wars
Trump reportedly plans to join Rudy Giuliani today at a “voter fraud” event in Gettysburg, Pa.
“Trump expressed strong interest in joining Giuliani for the trip and directed aides to make plans for him to travel to Pennsylvania, multiple sources said. The trip, which would be his first outside of the Washington area since Election Day, was not listed on the public schedule released by the White House on Tuesday night, but is being handled internally as an unannounced movement,” CNN reports. “The event is the latest attempt by Trump and his allies to undermine confidence in the 2020 election … The Trump campaign and Pennsylvania Senate Republicans announced plans for the Gettysburg event, a meeting of the Pennsylvania Senate Majority Policy Committee, on Tuesday … The meeting is being organized by the Pennsylvania state Senate GOP, which is holding it at a hotel – not at the state Capitol.”
Trump’s assault on election integrity could cause lasting damage to U.S. democracy.
“By lodging baseless claims of voter fraud and embracing — or declining to reject — outlandish conspiracy theories about the electoral process, Trump and his allies have normalized the kind of post-election assault on institutions typically seen in less-developed democracies, according to historians, former administration officials, and lawmakers and diplomats from across the political spectrum,” per Toluse Olorunnipa, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Rosalind Helderman. "Lingering damage to the U.S. electoral system could be among the most consequential legacies of the Trump presidency, said Michael Chertoff, a homeland security secretary under President George W. Bush. … ‘We’ve now seen a blueprint, which has been road-tested in other parts of the world, being adopted by Donald Trump here in the U.S.,’ he said, adding that Trump’s attempts have been ineffective in part because of their clumsiness. ‘But a more effective and a more skillful want-to-be autocrat could use the same playbook.’”
- Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) filed complaints in five states to have Giuliani and 22 other Trump campaign lawyers disbarred. (Kim Bellware)
- Global election observers are appalled by America’s chaos. “These are challenging times for foreigners whose job it is to interpret American politics for people in other countries,” Carol Morello reports. “For many, it is a struggle to maintain confidence that America’s principles and ideals will prevail."
- YouTube suspended One America News for peddling pandemic misinformation. The action against OANN, which Trump’s allies have praised in recent weeks while raging against Fox News for supposed disloyalty following the election, was the latest sign that Silicon Valley remains prepared to enforce policies against false and misleading information. (Craig Timberg)
- Fox News reached a settlement with the parents of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich, whose death stoked conspiracy theories. (Elahe Izadi and Paul Farhi)
The lame-duck president pardons a turkey.
“Of the two stars of the day, it’s hard to know who needed a pardon more: Corn the Turkey or President Trump,” Maura Judkis reports. “Following this year’s annual presidential turkey pardon, Corn, along with his alternate, Cob, will retire to a quiet life in a college town. Where the president will go next is less certain. … When Trump becomes a private citizen on Jan. 20, 2021, he will lose the immunity that protects presidents from litigation. He is facing numerous investigations and civil lawsuits. … Pardoning a turkey, is usually one of the most farcical things a president does in a year, but Trump granting clemency to a corpulent bird in the Rose Garden is somehow the most normal thing that’s happened in Washington all month.”
Quote of the day
“Thanksgiving is a special day for turkeys,” the president said during the turkey pardoning. “I guess probably, for the most part, not a very good one.”
Next on Trump's list of pardons? Maybe Michael Flynn. Axios reports that Trump has told confidants he plans to pardon his former national security adviser, who pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts: “Flynn's lawyer Sidney Powell acknowledged at a hearing in September that she had spoken to Trump recently and had requested that he not issue a pardon. It's unclear what discussions Powell and the president have had since then. The bottom line: Trump's pardon of Flynn would take the matter out of the hands of the courts and of a Biden-controlled Justice Department.” In addition to Flynn, CNN reports that "others who could be under consideration are George Papadopoulos and Paul Manafort.”
- The former sheriff in Chester County, Pa., Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh, who was among Trump’s earliest boosters in the key swing state and appeared frequently at the White House in the years after he won, has been charged with theft for an alleged scheme to charge taxpayers for volunteer work benefiting a K-9 unit. (Tim Elfrink)
- Some on the left are trying to block Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) from becoming the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, even though he has the most seniority, because they want Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who is more of a brawler. (Politico)
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are looking to live in New Jersey.
“Town officials in Bedminster, N.J., have the plans for a possible Trump family future, or at least the blueprints: a major addition to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s ‘cottage’ on the grounds of the Trump National Golf Club, four new pickleball courts, a relocated heliport, and a spa and yoga complex,” the NYT reports. “New York now seems inhospitable and nowhere in their plans. … The new plans before Bedminster Township call for an expanded master bedroom, bath and dressing room, two new bedrooms, a study and a ground floor veranda, making it more comparable to the $5 million house they rent for $15,000 a month in the gilded Washington enclave of Kalorama."
In the Georgia runoffs, the focus — and the fire — is on Raphael Warnock.
“That’s because both sides are treating Warnock, the fiery 51-year-old preacher who leads the legendary Atlanta church associated with [Martin Luther] King, as the key factor in determining who wins the Jan. 5 races,” Cleve Wootson Jr reports. “Democrats hope his presence on the ballot can sustain the energy of Black voters who helped hand Georgia’s electoral votes to a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1992. … Republican attacks have focused on Warnock’s support of Barack Obama’s controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and an old sermon in which Warnock declared, ‘You cannot serve God and the military.’ Democrats have highlighted his origin story in the Kayton Homes projects in Savannah and his fight for health care while leading a church at the symbolic center of the civil rights movement.”
The first 6.4 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine could go out in mid-December.
“The federal government plans to send 6.4 million doses of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to communities across the United States within 24 hours of regulatory clearance, with the expectation that shots will be administered quickly to front-line health-care workers,” Lena Sun reports. “Gen. Gustave Perna, who oversees logistics for Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s effort to speed up treatments and vaccines, told reporters that state officials were informed on Friday night of the allocation, which is based on each state’s overall population. The amount would cover only a portion of the nation’s 20 million health-care workers, let alone the U.S. population of 330 million. But Perna said ‘a steady drumbeat’ of additional doses will be delivered as manufacturing capacity ramps up in each successive week. … U.S. government officials are on track to have 40 million doses of vaccines from Pfizer and [Moderna] by the end of the year, enough to vaccinate 20 million people. (Each vaccine requires two doses.) It is likely to be April before the general public begins to get vaccinated.
“The initial batch of 6.4 million doses also includes vaccines that would go to five federal agencies — the Bureau of Prisons, the Defense and State departments, Indian Health Service and the Veterans Health Administration — that receive allocations directly from the federal government. … States are supposed to designate their top five sites capable of receiving and administering the Pfizer vaccine, which must be stored at a temperature of minus-70 Celsius … Many states have designated large hospital systems to be the first places to receive vaccines because they have ultracold freezers and can efficiently vaccinate many people. …
"Once a vaccine is cleared by the FDA, an independent advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — will hold a public meeting within 48 hours to vote on final recommendations for the vaccine’s use and who should get the first shots. Health-care workers will be the first priority, the group has said. About 3 million residents of long-term care facilities are also likely to be included in that first phase. Next in line will be an estimated 87 million other essential workers, including first responders, teachers and grocery workers; more than 100 million adults with high-risk medical conditions; and about 53 million adults over the age of 65.”
A negative test before Thanksgiving is not an all-clear.
Scientists don’t yet know exactly when a person who is infected will start testing positive. It’s possible that someone could test negative in the morning (and not be contagious) and then test positive in the afternoon – and be very contagious. The bottom line is that diagnostic tests are most accurate when used on people experiencing symptoms. (Vox)
- The CDC will likely recommend shortening the quarantine period from 14 days to as few as seven. Adm. Brett Giroir, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said officials are rethinking the guidance based on “a preponderance of evidence that a shorter quarantine complemented by a test might be able to shorten that quarantine period." (NPR)
- “Thanksgiving leftovers won’t taste as good if you’re on a ventilator,” the Salt Lake County Health Department warns in a public service announcement posted to Facebook. “In fact, if you’ve got COVID-19, they probably won’t taste like anything at all.” (Paulina Firozi)
- Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.) joined the growing list of lawmakers to test positive. (Journal Constitution)
Rural Americans stopped staying in. Then covid-19 hit.
“As new virus cases broke records all over, Americans in rural counties were leaving home about as much as they did before the pandemic struck, a Wall Street Journal analysis of coronavirus case data from Johns Hopkins University and cellphone mobility metrics from data firm SafeGraph found. In cities, people have remained more hunkered down,” the Journal reports. “Infection rates for the week ended Nov. 14 were about 60% higher in rural areas than in urban counties."
If hospitals in Longmont, Colo., begin running out of beds, Mayor Brian Bagley wants them to turn away patients from communities where restrictions are not being enforced. Bagley directed city staff to draft an ordinance making it illegal “to provide medical services to any resident of a county or municipality wherein their elected officials have refused to comply with the governor’s emergency orders, so long as there is a resident of a county or municipality that does comply with the governor’s emergency orders needing access to Longmont hospitals,” the Longmont Times-Call reports
- A report on student grades from Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, one of the nation’s largest school districts, offers some of the first concrete evidence online learning is forcing a striking drop in academic performance. The most vulnerable students are children with disabilities and English-language learners. By the end of the first quarter of 2020-2021, nearly 10,000 Fairfax students had scored F’s in two or more classes — an increase of more than 4,300 students compared with last year. (Hannah Natanson)
- A major South Dakota-based health provider parted ways with its CEO after he downplayed the crisis and said he had “no interest in using masks as a symbolic gesture.” (Antonia Farzan)
- A judge rejected a restaurant group’s plea to strike down Los Angeles’s ban on outdoor dining as California shattered its record for new cases. (LAT)
- The organizers of a wedding that drew thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn were fined $15,000 for violating public health restrictions. (NYT)
There is a story behind every life we have lost.
- Samara Rand, a 25-year-old teacher in rural Mississippi profiled earlier this year by the Hechinger Report about her work teaching high-school students amid the pandemic, passed away after contracting the virus. “Even though some students say they don’t like school, some depend on school as a safe haven,” Rand said in April. “Some actually look forward to actually coming to school. Everyone misses it.” (Magnolia State Live)
- Iris Meda, a 70-year-old nurse who came out of retirement to teach other nurses, died of covid-19 complications after a student exposed her to the virus. Meda had retired in January, but came back to work once the pandemic hit. “She felt like if she could gain momentum by teaching some of those basics, we could contain any virus,” her daughter, Selene Meda-Schlamel, said. “She wanted to do something that would make a difference.” (Andrea Salcedo)
- Gerardo Gutierrez, a 70-year-old father of four who worked at the deli counter of the Florida-based grocery chain Publix, passed away from the virus alone at a hospital eight days after the supermarket started requiring employees to wear masks in late April. Gutierrez had asked his employer whether he could wear a face covering at his store, but he was denied, according to a lawsuit filed in Miami court on his behalf. (Meryl Kornfield)
- Honestie Hodges, a 14-year-old Black girl who was handcuffed three years ago by police outside her home in Grand Rapids, Mich., died from the virus on Sunday. (NYT)
France and Britain will loosen lockdowns ahead of Christmas.
Leaders acknowledged that the virus is far from under control, but they're worried about the economy. French President Emmanuel Macron outlined a three-step deconfinement plan under which nonessential shops could reopen starting Saturday and, while restaurants would need to remain closed into January, exceptions would be granted for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans for his national lockdown to end Dec. 2. It will be replaced with a region-by-region tiered system of restrictions. (James McAuley, Karla Adam and Michael Birnbaum)
- Anders Tegnell, the architect of Sweden’s controversial herd immunity strategy, predicted in May that the country would have a high level of immunity by the fall to protect the country against a second wave – something he now admits has not come to pass. (Farzan)
- Two Houston men face federal charges for selling $317 million in phantom N95 masks to a foreign government. There were no masks, according to prosecutors. The foreign government allegedly wired money to purchase the masks, but the U.S. government stopped the transaction before it could be completed. (Lateshia Beachum)
- Global growth in new cases slowed last week, according to the World Health Organization’s latest update, with Europe and South East Asia continuing their “downward trends in weekly cases” even as outbreaks worsen in the U.S. and Brazil. (Rick Noack)
- “China’s Sinopharm Group has submitted a request with China’s pharmaceutical regulator to bring an experimental coronavirus vaccine to market, according to a Chinese media report,” Eva Dou reports.
Social media speed read
That computer repairman in Wilmington who claimed he gave Hunter Biden’s hard drives to Giuliani closed up his shop and disappeared after the election. His lawyer won't say where he went, only that he had gotten death threats:
As the Dow passed 30,000 for the first time, a former Republican congressman noted that this does not mean the economy is healthy:
Ironically, a Trump campaign lawyer shared a made-up quote from Teddy Roosevelt about the importance of telling the truth. Roosevelt definitely never said this:
And a reminder that Twitter is not real life:
Videos of the day
Barack Obama told Stephen Colbert about his frustrations with Trump's failed coronavirus response:
Jimmy Kimmel mocked Trump's turkey pardon:
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris explained last year why dry brining your turkey is better: