President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday pledged to “change the course” of the coronavirus pandemic as he introduced key members of his health team at an event in Wilmington, Del. As he continues to build his administration, Biden has said he will announce his nominations for two other marquee jobs — including attorney general — by the end of the week. Meanwhile, according to people familiar with the transition plans, Biden is expected to name former agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack for the position again, and pick Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

President Trump, who continues to insist he won the election, appeared at a White House “vaccine summit” to tout his administration’s efforts to combat the pandemic. He also expressed hope that he would have a second term.

Here’s what to know:
  • Biden plans to tap retired Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III to be defense secretary, according to three officials familiar with the decision. If confirmed, Austin would be the first Black Pentagon chief.
  • Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) is denouncing Trump’s efforts to have the Pennsylvania legislature overturn his election loss, calling the president’s actions “completely unacceptable.” Trump called the speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives twice during the past week to make the extraordinary request.
  • Tuesday is “safe harbor” day. Under federal law, every state is expected to have made its election results official by the end of the day, setting up Biden for an electoral college victory next week.
  • Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), chairman of the Biden inaugural committee, said that many of the Jan. 20 inauguration activities will be virtual because of the pandemic but that he hopes a more complete celebration can occur on the Fourth of July.
1:40 a.m.
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Arizona Supreme Court rejects Republican election challenge

The Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected Republicans’ attempt to upend President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state, affirming a lower-court ruling that found no evidence of wrongdoing to justify tossing out the votes of more than 3 million Arizonans.

The “challenge fails to present any evidence of ‘misconduct,’ ‘illegal votes’ or that the Biden Electors ‘did not in fact receive the highest number of votes for office,’ let alone establish any degree of fraud or a sufficient error rate that would undermine the certainty of the election results,” Chief Justice Robert Brutinel wrote.

The ruling, released hours before the federal deadline for states to choose presidential electors, is the latest in a long string of courtroom losses for President Trump and his allies.

Kelli Ward, chair of the Arizona Republican Party, filed the formal election challenge last week after Biden was certified the winner.

She claimed the election results should be scrapped because officials in Maricopa County engaged in “misconduct” by allegedly failing to give observers adequate access to ballot-processing activities.

A Maricopa County judge dismissed that claim because, he said, Republicans waited too long to bring it. They should have complained earlier, when the alleged problem was happening and could have been corrected.

In a two-day evidentiary hearing last week, Ward’s lawyers showed that election workers made a handful of errors when they “duplicated” damaged ballots, a process by which they determine the voter’s intent and then fill out a clean, machine-readable ballot. But there were only nine errors in 1,526 ballots — an error rate that, if applied to all 27,000 duplicated ballots countywide, would have resulted in just over 100 more votes for Trump. Biden won the state by a margin of 10,457.

12:38 a.m.
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Biden to pick Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary, reprising a role he had during Obama’s eight years

Biden has chosen Tom Vilsack to be his secretary of agriculture, reprising a role that Vilsack held during all eight years under President Barack Obama, according to two people familiar with the nomination.

Vilsack, who is also a former mayor and state senator, was governor of Iowa for two terms before joining the Obama administration and has been a close friend of Biden’s throughout his political career.

Biden views Vilsack as bringing essential experience to the role at a time when the country is experiencing a heightened hunger crisis, according to a transition official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a nomination that has not been made public yet.

Vilsack is also well liked among Republicans, was confirmed by unanimous consent in 2009 and is unlikely to face fierce opposition.

But the pick is also likely to upset some within Biden’s party and has already met resistance among prominent civil rights groups who met with Biden this afternoon.

Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, said that Vilsack should be disqualified from the role, citing a controversy from 2010 in which he fired Shirley Sherrod from her position as the department’s rural development director in Georgia amid a misunderstanding over racial comments. Vilsack later apologized and offered her a new position.

“We think that an individual who unjustifiably fired Shirley Sherrod — who is a civil rights icon, a legend, who worked with John Lewis — should not be considered,” he said.

“There are many other well-qualified candidates,” Johnson said. “We should not go backward. We should go forward.”

He said that Biden’s decision could also have a significant impact in Georgia, which is Sherrod’s home state, at a time when Democrats are trying to energize Black voters in order to win two special elections that will decide the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

“In order to win Georgia, you have to have a very energized African American voting base,” Johnson said in a recent interview. “At the very minimum, you shouldn’t do anything to dampen the energy and enthusiasm of that base.”

12:05 a.m.
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Trump appointee who oversees Voice of America refuses to cooperate with Biden transition team

A Trump appointee with a short but controversial record of overseeing Voice of America and other federally funded news agencies has declined to cooperate with Biden’s representatives as they seek access to records and personnel.

Biden’s aides have indicated that he would replace Michael Pack, who has headed the U.S. Agency for Global Media since June and has ordered a series of sweeping changes that have shaken up VOA and sister agencies, such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Office for Cuba Broadcasting and Radio Free Asia.

11:39 p.m.
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Giuliani says he has ‘exactly the same view’ of coronavirus after testing positive

In an interview with New York’s TalkRadio 77 WABC Tuesday, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, said his views of the coronavirus pandemic and on mask-wearing have not changed in the days since he contracted the virus.

Giuliani’s response to testing positive stands in contrast to that of former New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R), who said in October that he was “wrong” not to wear a mask at an event in the White House Rose Garden where the virus spread among several attendees.

“No. I have exactly the same view," Giuliani said during a phone interview from his hospital room in Washington when asked whether, like Christie, his views of the virus had changed. “You know, I’ve also been through cancer, a couple of other things — very serious, very serious, emergency knee operation. Things happen in life, and you have to go with them. You can’t overreact to them. Otherwise, you let the fear of illness drive your entire life."

Asked about whether his perspective on masks in particular has changed, Giuliani responded, “No. It does not. I think you can overdo the masks."

Giuliani said he has been given two medications — remdesivir and dexamethasone — that Trump was also given during his bout with covid-19 in October. But one of the radio hosts pointed out that those drugs are “not something that the normal American is going to be able to get, because it’s quite expensive,” Giuliani said he wasn’t aware that the treatment isn’t widely available.

“I, well, I didn’t know that," he said. "I mean, they give it to us here at this hospital. ... I’m not sure. I’m not sure about that.”

Giuliani also made some statements about the virus that are not true for all Americans.

“This is a curable disease at this point,” Giuliani said, even though most Americans are not able to get treatment at the level that he received. "This is in the category now of a curable disease. The mortality rates are nothing like they were five, six months ago.”

And he claimed that being admitted to a hospital as quickly as possible can eliminate one’s chances of dying from the disease — making no mention of most Americans’ lack of access to the best care.

“My advice to people is, get early treatment. ... If you get early treatment, nothing’s going to happen to you," he said. "The earlier you get treated for this, number one, you totally eliminate the chance of dying, and number two, you probably eliminate the chance of getting, you know, a more complicated illness.”

Giuliani did, however, acknowledge that his “celebrity” status contributed to the care he has received.

“I think if it wasn’t me, I wouldn’t have been put in the hospital," he said. "Sometimes, when you’re — you know, when you’re a celebrity, they’re worried if something happens to you, they’re going to examine it more carefully, and they do everything right.”

11:08 p.m.
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Biden to pick Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio for HUD secretary

President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to two officials familiar with the decision.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to confirm a decision that has not been made public. Fudge is a veteran lawmaker and former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus who had been floated for other Biden administration positions.

The next HUD secretary is expected to reverse policies under its current chief, Ben Carson, that have eviscerated Obama-era fair-housing rules, protections for transgender homeless people and legal tools to meant to keep lenders, landlords and insurers from discriminating.

Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), perhaps Biden’s most pivotal endorser during the 2020 Democratic primaries and a powerful Fudge backer, confidently predicted earlier Tuesday in an MSNBC interview that the Ohio congresswoman would be tapped for a Cabinet-level job.

Fudge declined to confirm her nomination in a brief conversation with reporters on Capitol Hill, saying Tuesday afternoon that she is “in a holding pattern.” She also said she has spoken with Biden and others in the transition team.

“Let me just say that — if I were to be named — certainly it’s an honor and a privilege to be asked to be in a president’s Cabinet,” Fudge said. “It is something that probably in my wildest dreams I never would have thought about. If I can help this president in any way possible, I am more than happy to do it. It’s a great honor and privilege to be a part of something so good.”

Biden has been under pressure from allies to select Black nominees for his Cabinet. On Wednesday, he is scheduled to formally introduce retired Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III as his defense secretary-designate. Austin would be the first Black Pentagon chief.

10:42 p.m.
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Senate confirms Trump nominee for FCC, threatening deadlock under Biden

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Nathan Simington as a new Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission, a move that threatens to saddle the nation’s foremost telecom regulator with political deadlock at the start of the Biden administration.

The chamber backed Simington on a 49-to-46 vote, installing a new commissioner at the FCC who has pledged “regulatory stability” and expressed an openness to using the agency’s rulemaking powers to explore the way social media sites handle political speech.

Simington’s confirmation comes as the FCC’s GOP chairman, Ajit Pai, is preparing to leave in January. The two staffing moves combined will leave the five-member agency with two Democrats and two Republicans at the start of next year, curtailing the commission’s ability under Biden to carry out the party’s telecom agenda as soon as he is inaugurated.

10:15 p.m.
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NAACP president urges Biden to create prominent racial justice role

NAACP President Derrick Johnson, in a meeting this afternoon with Biden, pressed the president-elect to appoint a national adviser on racial justice and elevate the position to a prominent role in the administration.

Ahead of the meeting — the first Biden has held with civil rights groups that had requested a meeting just after the election — Johnson said he would call for an elevated position that would work throughout the federal government to address systemic racism.

He said Biden had set the precedent for such a role by creating a climate envoy position for former secretary of state John F. Kerry.

“I think racial justice rises to that level,” Johnson said in an interview an hour before the meeting. “I think it should be on equal footing to what he announced for national adviser on climate. It is important that his vision of social justice is realized. And it can only be realized if someone is responsible for overseeing it.”

While the Justice Department has a civil rights division, Johnson wants the position he is advocating for to be more focused on ensuring broader representation throughout the federal government. The adviser would report directly to Biden and would have an office with funding and staff.

“Many corporations struggling with this have empowered an inclusion and diversity officer who reports directly to the chief executive,” he said. “It’s similar to that … to bring more people into the process of opportunity and inclusion, whether budgeting, or the rollout of programs or governance. All of those things should be looking forward to ensure a more inclusive environment.”

It was not immediately clear how Biden reacted to the proposal.

“This is about making sure the policies that are being considered, regulations that are being enforced, are not void of a racial point of reference,” Johnson said. “Are you governing with a racial lens to ensure there are no blind spots and no unintended exclusions?”

10:04 p.m.
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Arizona GOP asks followers if they are willing to die ‘for this fight’

The Arizona Republican Party, whose chairwoman has formally challenged Biden’s victory in the state, is using its Twitter account to ask its followers whether they are willing to die “for this fight.”

One of the party’s tweets sent late Monday night featured a video clip and quote from the movie “Rambo”: “This is what we do, who we are. Live for nothing, or die for something.”

Another shared a message from an organizer of pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” rallies, who wrote that he was willing to give his life for the fight.

“He is,” the Arizona GOP said. “Are you?”

The incendiary language comes as elections officials around the country — including Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) — have faced a wave of threats.

“The Republican Party of Arizona condemns all forms of violence in the strongest terms. Fictional movie scenes should be weighed in their proper context,” Arizona GOP spokesman Zachery Henry said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

Also hours later, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) tweeted an apparent response to his party, writing: “The Republican Party is the party of the Constitution and the rule of law. We prioritize public safety, law & order, and we respect the law enforcement officers who keep us safe. We don’t burn stuff down. We build things up.”

During a meeting with some Arizona GOP lawmakers last week, Trump campaign lawyers Rudolph W. Giuliani and Jenna Ellis repeated baseless conspiracy theories about election fraud and encouraged the legislature to disregard Biden’s certified win of more than 10,000 votes and appoint Trump electors — something state lawmakers cannot do.

Twenty current Arizona lawmakers and eight who were elected Nov. 3 have endorsed “decertification” of Biden’s win, according to a report retweeted by the state GOP. But Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, a Trump backer, has said he will not support any attempt to circumvent the people’s vote. There are 90 lawmakers in the Arizona legislature.

Kelli Ward, chairwoman of the state GOP, filed an election challenge last week, arguing that Biden’s victory in the state should be annulled or overturned. A Maricopa County judge rejected that argument last week, finding no evidence of fraud, misconduct or widespread errors that would justify tossing out the votes of more than 3 million Arizonans.

Ward has appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court, which could rule later Tuesday.

9:48 p.m.
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Biden lays out plan to combat covid in first 100 days, including requiring masks on interstate buses, trains

At an event in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday, Biden laid out a three-point plan to begin defeating the coronavirus pandemic during his first 100 days in office, saying he will sign an executive order the day he is sworn in to require Americans to wear masks on buses and trains crossing state lines, as well as in federal buildings.

Biden also pledged to distribute at least 100 million vaccines during that time, singling out educators, who he said should get shots “as soon as possible” after they are given first, under current plans, to health workers and people who live and work in long-term care facilities.

He did not specify whether he meant 100 million doses or vaccinating that many people. The two vaccines nearing approval both require two doses.

9:11 p.m.
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Trump legal adviser Jenna Ellis tests positive for coronavirus, official says

Senior Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a White House official who was told of her diagnosis.

Ellis tested positive Monday, according to the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter. Ellis did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday; she tweeted multiple times throughout the day, but made no mention of a diagnosis.

Together with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, Ellis has been traveling the country and meeting indoors with members of state legislatures in an effort to persuade them to overturn the results of the presidential election. Videos of the appearances showed that Ellis, Giuliani and several others were not wearing face masks during the meetings.

Giuliani tested positive for the coronavirus last week. He is being treated at Georgetown University Medical Center, according to a person with knowledge of his condition. According to Bloomberg News, Giuliani said in a radio interview Tuesday that he has been given remdesivir, an intravenous antiviral, and dexamethasone, a powerful steroid that has shown promise for treating patients with severe covid-19 but may cause harm for those with minor infections.

Trump received both medications during his own bout with covid-19 in October.

Many White House staffers are upset that Ellis went to the White House senior staff party Friday night while she was apparently infected with the coronavirus, according to two White House aides.

After Trump revealed the news of Giuliani’s positive diagnosis Saturday, several state legislatures where the president’s legal team had spoken abruptly announced new coronavirus precautions. In Arizona, the state Senate “will be closed in the coming week” because of coronavirus concerns, Senate GOP spokesman Mike Philipsen told The Washington Post on Sunday evening.

Meryl Kornfield contributed to this report.

8:48 p.m.
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State AGs denounce Texas effort to overturn Biden win in key battlegrounds

Attorneys general in battleground states where Texas is seeking to invalidate Biden’s win criticized its filing Tuesday as factually wrong, lacking substance and eroding confidence in American democracy.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said he would ask the Supreme Court to intervene in the election in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, claiming they failed to enforce their own statutes as they administered voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Biden’s win has already been certified in all four states.

“With all due respect, the Texas Attorney General is constitutionally, legally and factually wrong about Georgia,” Katie Byrd, spokeswoman for the Georgia Attorney General’s Office, said in a statement. Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr is a Republican.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) called the effort an attack on American elections that is “uniquely unserious” and “beyond meritless, beyond reckless” in a statement. He also reacted on Twitter, writing that the push to overturn election results has “become a circus”:

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul (D) promised to “defend against this attack on our democracy” on Twitter:

And Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) released a statement describing Paxton’s actions as “beneath the dignity of … the people of the great state of Texas”:

Aaron Schaffer contributed to this report.

8:26 p.m.
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Trump, McConnell continue to deny Biden’s victory

President Trump spoke at the Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit on Dec. 8. (The Washington Post)

At separate events, Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to acknowledge Biden’s victory, each suggesting that the outcome is still unknown.

Trump, announcing an executive order that he says will force drug companies to prioritize Americans before shipping coronavirus vaccines overseas, was asked by a reporter why no one from the Biden transition team was invited because the next administration will be responsible for distribution of the vaccines.

“We’re going to have to see who the next administration is because we won in those swing states,” Trump said falsely. “Hopefully the next administration will be the Trump administration.”

The president then repeated his baseless conspiracy theories that the election was stolen from him, and called on state governments or the Supreme Court to overturn the results.

“We were rewarded with a victory,” he said, which isn’t true. “Now let’s see if somebody has the courage, whether it’s a legislator or legislators, or whether it’s a justice of the Supreme Court or a number of justices of the Supreme Court, let’s see if they have the courage to do what everybody in this country know is right,” he said.

Trump is lying when he says “everybody” in the country believes the election was stolen from him — nearly every lawsuit the Trump campaign has brought to challenge the election results has been rejected.

McConnell also continued to refuse to acknowledge that Biden had won the election.

“This has become a weekly ritual,” McConnell said during his weekly news briefing on Capitol Hill when asked whether he accepted Biden’s victory. “The electoral college is going to meet on the 14th and cast a vote, and we’re going to have a swearing-in of the next president on the 20th of January.”

8:19 p.m.
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Biden pledges to ‘change the course of the disease’ in his first 100 days

President-elect Joe Biden on Dec. 8 introduced his plan to complete “100 million covid vaccine shots” in his first 100 days in office. (The Washington Post)

Biden on Tuesday laid out multiple initiatives for combating the coronavirus during his first 100 days in office, pledging at an event in Wilmington, Del., to “change the course of the disease” as he introduced key members of his health team.

The president-elect pledged to “require masks wherever possible,” said he would push to have 100 million Americans vaccinated in his first 100 days, and said he would seek to have most schools open by the end of that period.

“Out of our collective pain we’re going to find collective purpose,” Biden said, pledging that his team would “be ready on Day One” and “spare not a single effort.”

Biden said he would sign an order requiring masks on federally controlled property and work with governors and mayors to pursue local measures.

“As a new president, I’m going to speak directly to the American people,” he said, suggesting the importance of the bully pulpit.

Biden said a “herculean task” lies ahead to distribute vaccines but pledged to pursue “the most efficient mass vaccination plan in U.S. history,” resulting in 100 million shots in arms in 100 days. He said it would be essential for Congress to provide funding for the effort.

The president-elect also stressed the importance of opening schools and said he was determined to ensure that as many as possible would be operating safely at the end of his first 100 days.

Also speaking at the event was Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, who said in a pretaped video that he didn’t travel to Wilmington because “a close friend and colleague” at the National Institutes of Health, Harvey Alter, was receiving the Nobel Prize in medicine at the same time and he wanted to attend the ceremony to show support.

“Such an achievement is a reminder of the incredible public servants we have at the NIH and of America’s place as a pioneer in science and medicine,” Fauci said.

He also emphasized that “in the fight against this pandemic, we must lead with science.” And he said he looks forward to advising Biden and working with his “team of world-class experts, whom I have known for many years and deeply respect.”

“Whether it’s maintaining social distancing and not congregating indoors … or to get as many people vaccinated as possible, these actions are bold, but they are doable and essential to help the public avoid unnecessary risks, to help us save lives, reopen schools and businesses, and to eventually beat the pandemic,” Fauci said.

6:52 p.m.
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Judge in N.Y. orders votes re-tallied in House race with 12-vote margin

A New York state judge ordered ballots re-tallied Tuesday in one of the closest House races in history, potentially leaving the question of who will represent the 22nd Congressional District unsettled into the new year.

New York State Supreme Court Justice Scott J. DelConte ordered officials in eight counties to recanvass ballots after a Monday hearing in which, according to media reports, he expressed frustration with attorneys for both the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Anthony Brindisi, and his Republican opponent, former congresswoman Claudia Tenney.