with Brent D. Griffiths

Good Wednesday morning. We're off for the rest of the week and wishing you and your loved ones a healthy, safe and happy Thanksgiving. If you have the resources, we hope you might consider contributing to one of our covid-19 relief campaign partners through The Post's charitable giving initiative, Helping Hand. We're grateful for your readership, recipes and support. Thanks, as always, for waking up with us.

Pre-game: 

  • Happening today: Trump is expected to appear in Gettysburg, Pa., alongside his attorney Rudy Giuliani "where Republican state lawmakers are holding a ‘hearing’ on allegations of fraud in this month's election," reports CNN's Jeremy Diamond. There has been no evidence of voter fraud and Trump's administration has green lighted the beginning of a transition to a new president.
  • First turkey, then Flynn: "President Trump has told confidants he plans to pardon his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts," Axios's Jonathan Swan scoops. 

The people

TALKING TURKEY: Thanksgiving is tomorrow. But Americans are heading into the holiday season in the midst of a worsening pandemic with no economic aid in sight from a bitterly polarized Washington as Congress left town still bickering about the size of any relief package.

Not only have new relief measures eluded lawmakers as the coronavirus surges, but they're also facing a Dec. 11 deadline to craft a spending bill  aimed at averting a government shutdown. And they have only a handful of legislative days left on the 2020 calendar to get it all done. 

Without a stimulus deal before the end of the year, millions of Americans could face dire consequences, including an end to key economic benefits and a moratorium on evictions and student loan payments in the waning days of the Trump administration.

As it stands, tens of millions are already struggling to make rent payments and put food on the table. The $1,200 stimulus checks sent out by the government in the spring have long run dry and 12 million Americans are set to lose unemployment insurance the day after Christmas if Congress does not act. 

Drone video shows cars coming in droves on Nov. 21 to pick up meals ahead of Thanksgiving in a drive organized by the city of Houston and grocery chain H-E-B. (The Washington Post)
  • Twelve percent of all U.S. adults reported their household sometimes or often didn't have enough to eat in the last seven days, per the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of census data collected Oct. 28 thru Nov. 9.
  • Millions of Americans also face eviction or foreclosure by the end of the year as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's nationwide suspension on evictions expires at the end of December. “About 5.8 million adults say they are somewhat to very likely to face eviction or foreclosure in the next two months, according to a survey completed Nov. 9 by the U.S. Census Bureau. That accounts for a third of the 17.8 million adults in households that are behind on rent or mortgage payments,” per Bloomberg's Alexandre Tanzi. 
  • In October, over 25 percent of Americans were functionally unemployed — meaning without a job or not earning a living wage — according to an analysis of government data by the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity. 

The split-screen could not be more apparent: Wall Street and President Trump celebrated the Dow's record close Tuesday at 30,000, a striking moment in a broader rally where tech moguls and other titans have added hundreds of billions to their fortunes. 

  • The disparity is enormous: Tesla CEO Elon Musk has added more than $100 billion to his name since the start of the year as his company's stock price has increased 524 percent, per CNN. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made just shy of $14 billion in one week earlier this month. (Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)

Top economists and experts maintain that new relief is desperately needed to keep Americans afloat. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell warned earlier this month the U.S. economic recovery will be threatened without it. And last week, President-elect Joe Biden urged Congress to pass an economic relief package as soon as possible. However, talks remain stalled and President Trump has largely disengaged. 

Democrats are facing increased pressure to support a smaller aid package than the $2.2 trillion bill passed by the House, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has continued to try to push a package closer to $500 billion. 

  • To me, this is about making sure there are no winners and losers — that whatever we do is comprehensive,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) in a CNBC interview on Tuesday. “And it's less about the overall number because even if there is a short-term package for the next few months, until we get into the new Biden administration, we have to act now.”

We don't know what the magic number is for Biden; the president elect's transition team did not respond to request for comment. But Democrats insist the issue is not the price tag but that Republicans won't get on board with rental and mortgage relief, direct payments and food assistance. McConnell has previously cited job gains as a reason to support a “highly targeted” slimmer plan. 

  • “For six months, Democrats have been pressing Republicans to agree to the next round of coronavirus relief, and for six months, Leader McConnell has insisted on a ‘pause’ while the White House’s negotiators accused vulnerable families of lying about not being able to pay the bills, Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), told Power Up.
  • "My view is the level at which the economy is improving further underscores that we need to do something at about the amount that we put on the floor in September and October,” McConnell said, referring to the GOP's roughly $500 billion package. “I gather [Pelosi and Schumer] are looking at something dramatically larger. That’s not a place I think we’re wiling to go. But I do think there needs to be another package."

S.O.S: In an open letter published on Monday, a group of over 125 economists called on Congress “to send out more direct cash payments to American families to help them weather the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic downturn,” Fox News's Megan Henney reports. Earlier this year, the federal government distributed one-time payments of $1,200 for those who qualified as a part of the $2.2 trillion Cares Act. 

  • “We urge policymakers to use all the tools at their disposal to revitalize the economy, including direct cash payments, which are one of the quickest, most equitable and most effective ways to get families and the economy back on track,” the economists wrote in an open letter published Monday.
  • “A study published by the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University in June found that without the passage of the [Cares Act], one measure of the nation's poverty level would have surged to 16.3 percent from 12.8 percent precrisis,” reports Henney.

Some states are scrambling to throw together relief packages as federal action has stalled.

  • New Mexico lawmakers passed a $330 million relief bill last night providing $1,200 direct checks to all unemployed workers, “as well as additional funds for food banks, virus testing and contact tracing efforts,” the Associated Press's Cedar Attanasaio.
  • Minnesota's Gov. Tim Walz (D) proposed a relief package yesterday including a direct $500 emergency payment to families, extended unemployment insurance, and an eviction moratorium for businesses, according to WCCO's Christian Cordero. 

By the numbers: Food insecurity rates have spiked, with cars and people queued in long lines at food banks around the country. 

  • One in every four Vermont residents now struggles to obtain food compared to one of every 10 Vermonters before the pandemic, VTDigger's Amanda Gokee reports. “The Gund Institute at the University of Vermont found that 50 percent of state residents have experienced job losses, furloughs or reduced hours over the past six months.”
  • In Houston, “the Houston Food Bank is distributing 800,000 pounds of food per day, KHOU's Marcelino Benito reports. “That's 350,000 more pounds than pre-covid-19. The need for food is going up. The number of volunteers is going down. It's a bad combination.”
  • In Rhode Island, the pandemic has “plunged people into food insecurity at a rate not seen since the Great Depression,” per the Providence Journal's Donita Naylor. “In 2019, the number reporting food insecurity was 9.1 percent. This year, 25 percent said they were unable to provide enough food for themselves and their families.” 

The campaign

STILL MAKING CLAIMS ABOUT VOTER FRAUD: “Trump is expected to join his attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani in Gettysburg, Penn., [later today] where Republican state lawmakers are holding a ‘hearing’ on allegations of fraud in this month's election,” CNN's Jeremy Diamond reports.

  • Trump hasn't left the DMV since Election Day: “The trip … was not listed on the public schedule released by the White House on Tuesday night, but is being handled internally as an unannounced movement.”

A reminder: Pennsylvania and Nevada certified their election results and Biden's victory in each respective state on Wednesday.

At the White House

TRUMP PLANS TO PARDON FLYNN: “The president has told aides that he plans to pardon his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn and that it is one of a string of pardons he plans to issue before leaving office …,” the New York Times's Maggie Haberman and Michael Crowley report.

  •  
  • A reminder of how we got here: “Flynn changed his legal team last year and began seeking to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming he never lied to investigators and was the target in January 2017 of what his lawyers in court papers called an ‘ambush-interview’ by F.B.I. agents seeking to entrap him. He has since become a hero figure on the pro-Trump right, portrayed as a decorated patriot victimized by the politically motivated Russia ‘hoax’ investigation of Trump.” (Axios first broke the story.)

Flynn's lawyer admitted in court that she discussed the subject with Trump: “In a late September hearing before Judge Sullivan, a lawyer for Flynn, Sidney Powell, reluctantly admitted that she had recently spoken to Trump about the case, but said she had asked the president not to pardon her client.” 

  • Yep, this is the same Powell who appeared with Giuliani to spread a baseless conspiracy theory about how the November election was stolen with the help of “communist money,” the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and an algorithm favoring Democrats. She and the president's team parted ways, with one Trump campaign adviser memorably quipping: “She was too crazy even for the president.”

The transition

BIDEN TRANSITION HAPPENING: Biden declared “America is back” as formally unveiled much of his national security team.

President-elect Joe Biden introduced his Cabinet picks in Wilmington, Del., alongside Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris on Nov. 24. (The Washington Post)

WHAT'S TO COME:

Where's the SecDef?: The absence of a Pentagon leader during Tuesday's rollout came “amid questions about whether he has settled on longtime defense expert Michèle Flournoy as his Pentagon chief,” Anne Gearan reports this morning.

  • The chatter: “Biden has not yet made a decision and Flournoy remains very much in the running for the job, people familiar with the process said. Those people cautioned against reading too much into the absence of Pentagon and CIA nominees in the initial round of Cabinet announcements. Biden’s choice for the U.S. Agency for International Development is also pending.”

Health and Human Services secretary: “New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and former Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy have emerged as top contenders to be Biden’s health secretary, with Hispanic advocacy groups making a strong push for Lujan Grisham,” Politico's Adam Cancryn and Alice Miranda Ollstein report.

REVVING UP: “After weeks of delay, uncertainty and lawsuits, Biden’s team plunged into a formal transition, with Biden aides beginning to meet with agency officials in preparation for a head-snapping Trump-to-Biden shift throughout the vast federal bureaucracy,” Matt Viser reports.

The Trump administration's cooperation is still TBD: “But following Monday night’s long-postponed decision by a key administration official to approve the transition, Biden aides held at least 20 meetings with Trump officials and were in active discussions with every federal agency, as well as the White House,” our colleague writes. The team has also been in touch with Anthony S. Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert.

  • The PDB is also coming: “The president-elect will begin receiving the President’s Daily Brief, a compilation of the most sensitive information affecting the nation, and the secure facilities that Biden’s team has set up in Washington and in Wilmington, Del., can now be used to review classified material.”

Outside the Beltway

ONE CANDIDATE IS THE FOCUS IN GEORGIA: “Two weeks into the extraordinary runoff races that will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have combined their efforts to try to win Georgia’s pair of Senate seats … But it is Warnock who is animating the Democratic base — and the Republican opposition,” Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reports from Marietta, Ga.

Races between Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Jon Ossoff (D) as well as Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and the Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) will be decided on Jan. 5. (The Washington Post)

Democrats are hoping Warnock can sustain the energy among Black voters: “The same Black voters who helped hand Georgia’s electoral votes to a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1992,” our colleague writes.

  • Republicans are drilling into the reverend past sermons to his Ebenezer Baptist Church congregation: “Their 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 big unknown? Trump: “Sen. David Perdue has privately worried that Trump’s power might be waning and that continued support of the president could have political costs,” our colleague writes.

  • “Publicly, he and Sen. Kelly Loeffler have followed Trump’s lead and questioned the integrity of the vote in the state — and called for the resignation of a fellow Republican, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, saying he mismanaged the election.”

In the media

LINCOLN'S THANKSGIVING MESSAGE: “George Washington was the first president to proclaim a national day of thanksgiving, one time only on Oct. 3, 1789,” Gillian Brockell writes in Retropolis this morning. But “Thanksgiving as a national holiday springs from the most bitter of national divisions: the Civil War.”

  • A renowned 19th-century lady’s magazine editor first suggested an annual national holiday: “For 17 years, Sarah Josepha Hale wrote to four presidents, dozens of governors and other elected officials suggesting a national holiday of gratitude to bring the country together. Few of them responded to her,” our colleague writes.

Finally, Lincoln received her plea. He loved the idea: “On Oct. 3, 1863, three score and 14 years to the day after Washington’s proclamation, he released one of his own … Though Lincoln was a poet and could certainly write a moving speech — he would deliver the Gettysburg Address six weeks later — the text of the proclamation was drafted by then-Secretary of State William Seward.”

  • Here is just some of what that proclamation said, which called on the nation to give thanks with “one heart and one voice”: “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, …, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him …, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.” (Full text is here)