President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday touted retired Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, his nominee to lead the Defense Department, as “the right person for this job at the right moment” at an event in Wilmington, Del. Biden’s remarks come as he accelerates his efforts to fill top-level positions in his incoming administration.

Biden’s son Hunter said in a statement that the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware is investigating his “tax affairs." He said he handled everything “legally and appropriately.”

President Trump is continuing to falsely claim that he won the election even as he and his allies rack up more losses in court battles, including one Tuesday at the Supreme Court. Trump has advertised no public appearances Wednesday but has been tweeting grievances about the election.

Here’s what to know:
12:40 a.m.
Link copied
link

What the fight over EPA chief says about Democratic divisions

For the past month, Mary Nichols has been the front-runner to become the next administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Dubbed “the queen of green,” Nichols has been appointed head of the powerful California Air Resources Board (CARB) four times by three California governors from two parties. She has pressed auto companies to boost fuel efficiency, taken on oil companies and capped pollution from power plants and industry. Recently she fought the Trump administration to defend California’s right to set its own emissions standards.

But environmental justice activists from her own state are hoping to derail Nichols’s candidacy, lobbying the Biden transition team to choose among several candidates of color.

The fight has exposed divisions within the Democratic Party over the best way to tackle two of the biggest issues facing President-elect Joe Biden: racial equity and climate change.

11:04 p.m.
Link copied
link

Nina Turner, former campaign co-chair for Bernie Sanders, files to run for Congress

Nina Turner, a close ally of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and a critic of Democratic Party leadership, filed to run for Congress in Ohio’s 11th District ahead of an expected special election next year.

Turner, who did not respond to a request for comment, filed a statement of organization Wednesday, the first step in launching a campaign. Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio), whom President-elect Joe Biden has nominated to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, will vacate the seat if confirmed.

The district, which was drawn by Republicans to be safely Democratic, gave Biden 80 percent of its vote last month, meaning that the winner of the party’s primary is all but certain to head to Washington. Turner, who has represented part of Cleveland in Ohio’s state Senate, has not run for office since losing a race for secretary of state in 2014, a tough year for the Democratic Party across the Midwest.

After that race, Turner initially supported an effort to draft Hillary Clinton into the 2016 presidential race, but later switched to support Sanders. She was a popular surrogate for the senator that year, went on to lead his political organization, Our Revolution, and co-chaired his 2020 presidential campaign.

While Sanders threw himself into the work of electing Biden, Turner has remained critical of centrist Democrats and party officials. In 2017, she called the Democratic National Committee “dictatorial” after a delegation of protesters, led by her, was not allowed into its headquarters. This summer, she compared settling for Biden to being offered half of a bowl of excrement instead of a full bowl.

Fudge has not yet resigned her seat, which must happen before Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) sets dates for primary and general elections to replace her.

10:41 p.m.
Link copied
link

17 states back Texas lawsuit calling on Supreme Court to intervene in presidential race

Attorneys general in 17 states won by Trump asked the Supreme Court to take up a Texas lawsuit that calls for unprecedented judicial intervention in the presidential election — disallowing the results from four swing states that went for Biden.

Election law experts have been almost universally dismissive of the complaint filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), a Trump ally. But Trump is trying to turn it into something of a showdown at the Supreme Court.

“We will be INTERVENING in the Texas (plus many other states) case,” Trump wrote Wednesday on Twitter. “This is the big one. Our Country needs a victory.”

The Supreme Court — without noted dissent from any justice, including Trump’s three nominees — denied an effort by Trump allies to have Pennsylvania’s election results disqualified. That effort was filed by Republicans in the state who are loyal to the president.

The Texas effort targets Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia. A slew of individual lawsuits challenging the results in those states have been thrown out by state and federal judges. The Texas effort repackages some of those allegations about voting irregularities, mail-in ballots and recount procedures into something of an omnibus complaint. The Supreme Court has asked the targeted states to respond by Thursday, and the court’s decision about whether the case may continue could come by the end of the week. One of the requests from Texas is to delay the electoral college’s Dec. 14 meeting.

States have constitutional authority to set the rules of an election, and it is almost unheard of for another state to challenge them. But those states supporting Texas said they are protecting their own voters.

“States have a strong interest in ensuring that the votes of their own citizens are not diluted by the unconstitutional administration of elections in other states,” said the brief, spearheaded by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R).

Joining Missouri were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah and West Virginia.

Trump filed his own motion to intervene and said the Supreme Court should take up the Texas complaint to ease Americans’ distrust about the true winner of the election.

The logic is somewhat circular, because the distrust is caused by Trump’s refusal to concede the election and insistence that he won instead of Biden.

“The fact that nearly half of the country believes the election was stolen should come as no surprise. President Trump prevailed on nearly every historical indicia of success in presidential elections,” said the filing by John C. Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University. After listing some highlights of Trump’s election night — winning the vote in Ohio and Florida, getting a greater total of votes than in his 2016 campaign — Eastman wrote: “These things just don’t normally happen, and a large percentage of the American people know that something is deeply amiss.”

The filing repeated many of the complaints about voting procedures that have been the subject of unsuccessful lawsuits filed around the country.

The filing doesn’t allege fraud, which it said was unnecessary. “It is only necessary to demonstrate that the elections in the defendant states materially deviated from the ‘manner’ of choosing electors established by their respective state legislatures. By failing to follow the rule of law, these officials put our nation’s belief in elected self-government at risk.”

Eastman noted: “Despite the chaos of election night and the days which followed, the media has consistently proclaimed that no widespread voter fraud has been proven. But this observation misses the point. The constitutional issue is not whether voters committed fraud but whether state officials violated the law by systematically loosening the measures for ballot integrity so that fraud becomes undetectable.”

Eastman has testified on Trump’s behalf in previous post-election settings and wrote an opinion piece in Newsweek that questioned whether Kamala D. Harris was qualified to be vice president.

9:14 p.m.
Link copied
link

Hunter Biden’s taxes under federal investigation

Hunter Biden revealed that he is under federal investigation by the top U.S. prosecutor in Delaware over his taxes.

“I learned yesterday for the first time that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Delaware advised my legal counsel, also yesterday, that they are investigating my tax affairs,” Hunter Biden said in a statement Thursday. “I take this matter very seriously but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors.”

The news of the investigation comes days before his father, President-elect Joe Biden, will officially be elected president by the electoral college.

“President-elect Biden is deeply proud of his son, who has fought through difficult challenges, including the vicious personal attacks of recent months, only to emerge stronger,” the Biden transition team wrote in a statement.

Trump and his GOP allies targeted Hunter Biden throughout the presidential campaign, specifically his work for companies overseas while his father was vice president. Trump’s fixation on Hunter Biden began months before Joe Biden won the Democratic presidential nomination. In a July 2019 phone call, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open a public investigation into Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian energy company while simultaneously withholding U.S. military aid to the country.

(The House later impeached Trump over the request, charging that the president had abused his power by seeking foreign help against a political opponent. He was acquitted in the Senate.)

Reacting to the news of the Delaware federal investigation into Hunter Biden, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) quickly called for a special counsel investigation of Hunter Biden.

“This is why AG Barr needs to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate Hunter Biden,” he tweeted, referring to Attorney General William P. Barr. “It would be wildly inappropriate if his dad’s AG was involved in this matter.”

A person familiar with the U.S. attorney investigation, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the investigation, said it “is not connected to the attacks the Trump campaign and their allies made against Hunter during the campaign.”

The investigation was first hinted at in October, when it became public that federal authorities had issued a subpoena for a computer and hard drive linked to Hunter Biden. The subpoena, which was dated December 2019, was directed to the owner of a Wilmington, Del., computer repair shop, who said the laptop had been brought to his store by a customer — almost certainly Hunter Biden, he claimed — in April 2019.

The shop owner, John Paul MacIsaac, told The Washington Post in October that he had tried to get in touch with Hunter Biden unsuccessfully and that after he saw some of the laptop’s contents, he contacted the FBI through an intermediary. He said the agents initially told him they didn’t want to take possession of the hard drive and instead made a copy of it, but returned later in the year with a subpoena to take it.

The subpoena — a copy of which was published by Fox News — suggested a money laundering investigation, though exactly what it was looking for or had found was unclear at the time.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday.

8:32 p.m.
Link copied
link

House prepares to vote on one-week spending bill as stimulus talks drag on

The House of Representatives is preparing Wednesday to approve a one-week extension in funding for the federal government, a move aimed at giving lawmakers more time to hammer out agreements on spending bills and emergency economic relief.

Congressional leaders are pushing the short-term extension in federal funding as negotiations over an emergency economic relief package appeared to falter and prospects of a major breakthrough dimmed.

Appropriators have continued to make progress on a set of spending bills to fund the federal agencies, with only a few outstanding policy issues left to be resolved by congressional leaders, aides involved in deliberations say. But talks on the broader stimulus package seemed at risk of breaking down after the White House on Tuesday proposed a relief bill that would offer only minimal benefits to unemployed Americans, a nonstarter for congressional Democrats.

8:02 p.m.
Link copied
link

YouTube removes 8,000 channels promoting false election claims

YouTube will now remove videos that make false claims that widespread fraud or error cost Trump the election, the company announced in a blog post, and it has purged 8,000 channels since September for spreading “harmful and misleading claims.”

The Google-owned video giant has taken heat in recent weeks for not removing or individually fact-checking content that boosted conspiracy theories about voter fraud, as other social media companies have. But now that the “safe harbor deadline” — the point by which state-level election challenges must be completed — has passed, YouTube said it will bar content uploaded Wednesday or after that suggests widespread fraud or errors cost Trump the election.

“For example, we will remove videos claiming that a presidential candidate won the election due to widespread software glitches or counting errors,” the company said. “We will begin enforcing this policy today, and will ramp up in the weeks to come.”

This policy will apply to Trump himself, who on a daily basis insists without evidence that the election was rigged and that he actually won in a landslide. Biden won the Nov. 3 vote, and the White House transition is underway.

“We enforce our policies consistently, regardless of speaker,” Ivy Choi, a YouTube spokeswoman, said in an email to The Washington Post.

7:37 p.m.
Link copied
link

Arizona GOP leader says Trump called her for update on election challenge

Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward said Trump, who has been personally reaching out to election officials seeking help overturning Biden’s victory in some battleground states, called her Wednesday morning for a report on the latest post-election happenings in Arizona.

“Today I get to give you an update that I gave to the president just an hour or so ago when he called me,” she said in a video posted to Twitter on Wednesday morning.

Ward then reiterated many of the claims about alleged problems with the election that she and her lawyers have been making unsuccessfully in court in recent weeks. The Arizona Supreme Court rejected her latest case, a formal election contest seeking to annul Biden’s victory, Tuesday evening, affirming a lower-court ruling that found no evidence of misconduct, fraud or widespread errors.

Ward, apparently repeating the message she delivered to Trump, suggested she and others will continue looking for the evidence they have promised but never been able to provide. “We found some abnormalities, and we need to look for more,” she said. Ward also said she was “preparing about what to do next,” including perhaps appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. “There’s still a lot of things out there, folks. This is far from over.”

As part of her unsuccessful election contest. Ward's lawyers were able to inspect 1,626 damaged ballots that were “duplicated” — a process by which a bipartisan group of election workers determine the voter's intent and then fill out a clean, machine-readable ballot. They discovered a total of nine errors that, had they not occurred, would have netted Trump six votes. Applying that error rate to all duplicated ballots countywide would have netted Trump only 103 votes — far short of Biden's margin of victory of 10,457 votes.

Ward’s efforts to help Trump overturn Biden’s win in Arizona has laid bare a rift in the state GOP. As she and others have continued to claim widespread problems with the election, key Republican leaders — including Attorney General Mark Brnovich, House Speaker Rusty Bowers and Gov. Doug Ducey — have endorsed the state’s election integrity and resisted calls to try to discard or circumvent the will of more than 3 million Arizonans who voted in the Nov. 3 election.

Trump attacked Ducey after the governor signed certificates of ascertainment for Democratic presidential electors, making Biden’s win in the state official. When Ducey responded by standing by his state’s election results, Ward tweeted he should “STHU,” or shut up. “The feeling’s mutual,” Ducey later said, when he was asked about Ward’s tweet at a news conference.

7:19 p.m.
Link copied
link

Biden says ‘there is no doubt in my mind’ Austin will respect principle of civilian control of military

At an event in Wilmington, Del., where he introduced Austin as his choice for defense secretary, Biden addressed the issue of civilian control of the military, declaring that “there is no doubt in my mind” that his nominee would respect that principle.

Austin, who retired in 2016 as a four-star general after leading U.S. Central Command, has not been out of uniform for the seven years required by law to serve as Pentagon chief. As such, the House and Senate would need to approve a waiver — a workaround that is supposed to be reserved only for exceptional circumstances — to allow him to assume the position.

In the days since news broke of Biden’s choice of Austin, some Democrats have voiced concern that the move undermines the tradition of civilian leadership at the Pentagon.

Biden directly responded to those concerns Wednesday, saying that he fully understands and respects the principle of civilian control and noted, “That dynamic itself has been under great stress over the past four years.”

“I would not be asking for this exception if I did not believe this moment in our history didn’t call for it,” Biden said. “It does call for it. … There is no doubt in my mind — not any doubt whatsoever — whether this nominee will honor, respect, and on a day-to-day basis breathe life into the preeminent principle of civilian leadership over military matters in our nation.”

In his remarks, Austin — who would be the first Black Pentagon chief if confirmed — said he recognizes that being a member of the president’s Cabinet requires “a different perspective” than being in uniform.

“I intend to keep this at the forefront of my mind,” Austin said.

6:54 p.m.
Link copied
link

Republican congressman says Trump is ‘anxiously awaiting’ list of lawmakers who back his efforts to overturn election

A Republican congressman who has filed an amicus brief in the Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn the results of the presidential election said Wednesday that Trump is “anxiously awaiting” the list of lawmakers who support the effort.

Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) said in a letter to fellow House Republicans that Trump called him Wednesday morning “to express his great appreciation for our effort to file an amicus brief in the Texas case on behalf of concerned Members of Congress.”

“He specifically asked me to contact all Republican Members of the House and Senate today and request that all join on to our brief,” Johnson said in the letter. “He said he will be anxiously awaiting the final list to review.”

In the letter, Johnson said he and others are “not seeking to independently litigate the particular allegations of fraud,” but rather are urging the Supreme Court to conduct a “careful, timely review” of the allegations.

The letter comes as Trump has continued to spread misinformation and make false claims about the election. Trump said Wednesday that his campaign will be joining the lawsuit, tweeting, “We will be INTERVENING in the Texas (plus many other states) case. This is the big one. Our Country needs a victory!”

In a statement, Johnson defended the lawsuit and said that most House Republicans, “and countless millions of our constituents across the country, now have serious concerns with the integrity of our election system.”

The purpose of the amicus brief, he added, is “to articulate this concern and express our sincere belief that the great importance of this issue merits a full and careful consideration by the Court.”

6:21 p.m.
Link copied
link

Sen. Johnson announces hearing on election ‘irregularities’ two days after electoral college is scheduled to vote

Sen. Ron Johnson, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced Wednesday that he would hold a hearing next week, two days after the electoral college votes on the next president, to examine “irregularities” in the November election.

“I am mindful that many of the issues that have been raised have been, and will continue to be, appropriately resolved in the courts,” Johnson (R-Wis.) said in a statement. “But the fact remains that a large percentage of the American public does not view the 2020 election result as legitimate because of apparent irregularities that have not been fully examined. That is not a sustainable state of affairs for our country.”

Johnson, a frequent ally of Trump, said the “only way to resolve suspicions is with full transparency and public awareness.”

He said additional details of the Dec. 16 hearing, including witnesses, would be announced later.

6:14 p.m.
Link copied
link

Senate confirms three nominees to the Federal Election Commission

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed three nominees to the Federal Election Commission, restoring the agency’s ability to conduct official business after months without a voting quorum and bringing the panel to its full slate of six members for the first time since 2017.

The confirmations come at the conclusion of the 2020 elections, which are projected to cost $14 billion and be the most expensive. The commission, which regulates and enforces federal campaign finance laws, had a voting quorum for just 29 days in the summer. It has not been able to conduct official business for the majority of the 2019-2020 election cycle, amid mounting backlogs of complaints and advisory opinion requests.

The new commissioners are Shana M. Broussard, current FEC attorney and the first Black commissioner; Sean J. Cooksey, general counsel for GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri and the youngest person to become commissioner; and Allen Dickerson, legal director of the Institute for Free Speech, which opposes campaign finance restrictions. Broussard is a Democrat, and Cooksey and Dickerson are Republicans.

5:52 p.m.
Link copied
link

Hoyer praises choice of Austin as defense secretary but says House will ‘have to consider’ issue of granting a waiver

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) on Wednesday praised Biden’s nomination of retired Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III to serve as defense secretary but remained noncommittal on whether the House should grant a waiver that would be needed for Austin to serve so soon after leaving the military.

“President-elect Biden’s nomination of retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as our nation’s next Secretary of Defense is a historic choice, and I congratulate him on his selection,” Hoyer said in a statement, referencing that fact that Austin would be the nation’s first Black defense secretary.

“I am aware that any individual who has retired from the military fewer than seven years ago will require a waiver from Congress to be appointed as Secretary of Defense, and the House will have to consider that matter,” Hoyer added.

His comments come as Democrats from across the party’s political spectrum worry about undermining the tradition of civilian leadership at the Pentagon.

Austin retired in 2016 as a four-star general after leading U.S. Central Command. As a result, the House and Senate would need to approve a waiver — a workaround that is supposed to be reserved only for exceptional circumstances — to allow him to assume the position.

Congress has passed such a waiver only twice, most recently to allow Trump’s first defense secretary, Gen. Jim Mattis, to take office in 2017. For a party that campaigned on restoring norms it says Trump undermined or tried to dismantle, two waivers in four years represents a pattern some are loath to approve.

5:50 p.m.
Link copied
link

Biden is giving most-coveted jobs to those he knows well. That may help Doug Jones get Justice.

Attorney general is the highest-profile Cabinet slot left for Biden to fill. Multiple outlets, including NBC and CNN, are reporting that Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) is the leading contender to take over the Justice Department.

Jones has known Biden for more than 40 years. As a law student, he introduced the then-Delaware senator when he came to Alabama for a speech. He worked with Biden when he was a young staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee. When Biden first ran for president in 1988, Jones co-chaired his Alabama campaign. Two decades later, he raised money for Biden’s 2008 presidential campaign. After losing reelection last month, Jones will be out a job come January.

The events of the past 36 hours have underscored a deeper truth about Biden’s approach to staffing his administration: He prioritizes personal relationships and rapport above almost all else. In the most-coveted jobs, Biden has placed an even greater premium on proved loyalty.

5:48 p.m.
Link copied
link

Hoyer says he’s ‘certainly concerned’ that Biden’s picks are slimming Democratic House majority

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday that he’s concerned that Biden’s administration choices are narrowing Democrats’ majority in the House, after the president-elect tapped Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-Ohio) to be his secretary of housing and urban development.

“Well, I’m certainly concerned by the slimming of the majority,” Hoyer told reporters during a pen-and-pad at the Capitol on Wednesday morning. “I’ve indicated to the administration very early on that I wanted them to be very careful in terms of the members that they appointed from the Congress, given the closeness of our majority.”

Hoyer added: “But there have been close majorities before, both under Republicans and under Democrats, and we’ve gotten through those and gotten our work done. I think, frankly, we’re going to be a very unified caucus, as we were this past Congress, and many of our bills, as you probably know, we passed unanimously without losing any Democratic votes.”

Fudge is a veteran lawmaker and former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus who had been floated for other Biden administration positions.

Though Fudge’s Cleveland-area district is reliably Democratic, her seat would remain vacant until a special election, shrinking the governing majority of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) by one vote. House Democrats won 222 seats in the November elections, with results pending in two uncalled races in Iowa and New York.

The president-elect has expressed reluctance in interviews about selecting members of Congress for his administration, considering the narrow House majority and the party’s two-seat deficit in the Senate, pending two January runoffs in Georgia.

Biden has already tapped Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.) for a senior adviser position in the White House, meaning the ranks of House Democrats could drop to as low as 220 members — just two seats above the majority threshold in the 435-member House. Filling the vacancies in the nominees’ seats, plus winning the unsettled races in Iowa and New York, could give Democrats a larger cushion, but it will remain the tightest House majority in decades.

During Wednesday’s pen-and-pad, Hoyer said he expects that the vacancies that have been created will be filled “in a relatively short time, unless governors try to delay this, who are seeking partisan advantage, which would be unfortunate.”

He also told reporters that he has urged committee chairs and members of the House leadership to “try to work in a bipartisan fashion so that we will have legislation that will be acceptable to a significant number on both sides of the aisle.”

“Hopefully the minority will proceed on that basis and the majority will proceed on that basis,” he said.