with Mariana Alfaro

Michigan’s 16 electors will convene at 2 p.m. Eastern inside a heavily guarded state capitol in Lansing to cast their ballots for Joe Biden to become president and Kamala Harris to become vice president.

A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R) said in a statement overnight that the entire capitol complex will be closed to the public based on “recommendations from law enforcement” amid “credible threats of violence.” Police will escort each of the electors from their cars amid what’s expected to be a large “Stop the Steal” protest outside.

This certainly sounds like the prudent call, but it is nevertheless lamentable that the closures – combined with coronavirus precautions – will strip some of the pomp and circumstance from a sacred American tradition that is typically pro forma.

Ugly events this weekend – from Washington, D.C., to Washington state and Minnesota to Kentucky – showed that violence is not hypothetical. This is an especially dangerous development in a democracy that depends upon losers accepting the results of free and fair elections.

Police in Olympia, Wash., arrested an armed right-wing protester and charged him with shooting a counterdemonstrator during protests on Saturday night.

In the nation’s capital, at least four people were stabbed, including someone who is now in critical condition, and 33 more were arrested, after rallies supporting President Trump descended into chaos fueled by white nationalists. D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham estimates that as many as 700 Proud Boys and their confederates roamed downtown streets looking to start fights, clashing with about 200 anti-Trump protesters.

Biden won the presidency with 306 electoral votes. That is 36 more than required for victory. It also happens to be the same number Trump won four years ago. Trump earned 232 electors last month. Federal law requires all 538 electors to “meet and give their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.” (We made an hour-by-hour schedule of when all 50 states are voting with links to livestreams of the proceedings.)

Biden carried Michigan by three points, or 154,000 votes, but Trump refuses to accept defeat and continues trying to overturn the results of the election by peddling baseless conspiracy theories. His supporters take their cues from him. 

Last Saturday night, a mob of gun-toting Trump supporters chanted “stop the steal” as they surrounded the Detroit home of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) as she prepared to watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” with her 4-year-old son. They dispersed only when police arrived.

This is one among dozens of data points of what has become a scary 2020 trend: Public officials are increasingly harassed and targeted at their homes and offices. 

“Last week, an ‘enemies’ list of state and federal officials who rejected Trump’s baseless election conspiracy theories floated up from the dark corners of the Web, with home addresses listed and red targets over their photos,” Hannah Knowles, Annie Gowen and Tom Hamburger report. “Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino, said his analysts began noticing an uptick in threats against government officials last year, probably inspired by Trump’s outspoken criticism of those he disagrees with. The aggression has worsened during the pandemic. … Levin said hate crimes rose to some of the highest levels in a decade after Trump said of a 2017 demonstration by white nationalists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville that there were ‘very fine people, on both sides.’

“Then, in April, came Trump’s call to ‘LIBERATE MICHIGAN,’ which inspired hundreds of ‘Liberate’ pages on Facebook that reached millions. In early October, state and federal officials announced that they had foiled a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D). Authorities charged 13 people who they said were involved in plans that included overthrowing the government and igniting a civil war.”

The Wolverine State allows people to openly carry guns in public, which is one of the reasons that protests against lockdown orders at the capitol turned so tense this spring and partly why there has been so much anxiety about this afternoon’s gathering.

Here in Washington, police tried to keep the Proud Boys away from anti-Trump demonstrators at Black Lives Matter Plaza throughout Saturday. But confrontations broke out after dark during a scrum near Harry’s Bar at 11th and F streets NW, which has become a hangout for the far-right group. “The crowd broke into echoing cries of ‘uhuru,’ a Swahili word for ‘freedom’ that the Proud Boys have appropriated as their battle cry, and they continually approached strangers who looked as though they did not belong,” Peter Hermann, Marissa Lang and Clarence Williams report. “The perceived outsiders were interrogated: ‘Are you antifa?’ some would ask. Proud Boys with earpieces and microphones signaled the presence of unknown individuals to each other, exchanging hand signals and trailing close behind them. 

“As the night wore on, small fires broke out as groups ignited signs and banners they had stolen from racial justice and anti-fascist demonstrators in and around Black Lives Matter Plaza. Earlier in the evening, a group of 14-year-old girls had approached D.C. police officers in tears, pointing at the backs of a group of departing Proud Boys, shouting, ‘He stole my flag! He stole my Black Lives Matter flag and then he pulled my hair!’”

A Black Lives Matter banner and sign were torn from two historic Black churches downtown and destroyed during the protests. “D.C. police said they are investigating the events as potential hate crimes,” Allison Klein reports. “In one of the incidents, videos posted on Twitter show a group of people identified as Proud Boys marching with a Black Lives Matter banner held above their heads, then cheering as it is set on fire while chanting ‘f--- antifa.’ The banner was taken from Asbury United Methodist Church, [which] has stood at the corner of 11th and K streets NW since 1836. … Another video, posted by @BGOnTheScene, shows a Black Lives Matter sign being torn down from in front of Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church at 15th and M streets NW. The group is heard chanting, ‘Whose streets? Our streets!’ as they destroy the sign in front of the church where worshipers have included historic leaders, such as Frederick Douglass.”

The pastor of Metropolitan AME responded:

The Rev. Ianther Mills, the senior pastor at Asbury United, said seeing the church’s name in flames “was reminiscent of cross burnings."

“We are a resilient people who have trusted in God through slavery and the Underground Railroad, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, and now as we face an apparent rise in white supremacy,” Mills said in a statement. “So, we will move forward, undaunted in our assurance that Black Lives Matter and we are obligated to continue to shout that truth without ceasing. We are assured that our church is surrounded by God’s grace and mercy.”

Former presidential candidate Marianne Williamson posted a video clip of the violence in downtown D.C. “Tell me how this is not like Berlin in 1935,” she tweeted. “Really. Somebody tell me.”

It is not just Black churches that were targeted on Saturday night: As a rabbi prepared to light a menorah on the front lawn of a Chabad house near the University of Kentucky’s campus in Lexington, a black SUV screeched outside and the driver shouted anti-Semitic slurs. When a community member stepped in to intervene, the driver grabbed his arm and sped away, dragging him for a block and then running over his leg before fleeing the scene. “Police soon responded and the victim, who hasn’t been identified, was treated at a hospital for injuries that weren’t life-threatening,” Tim Elfrink reports. “Police said they had video of the incident and were looking for a man in his mid- to late 20s.”

As bystanders rushed to help the injured member of their group, he insisted the ceremony continue before getting medical attention. Rabbi Shlomo Litvin told WKYT that the man said, “First, let’s light the menorah. I’m not going to allow that to stop us from celebrating our faith and spreading the light.”

The coronavirus

Shipments of Pfizer and BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine are packed into boxes and loaded onto trucks at the manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Mich. (The Washington Post)
The first vials of the coronavirus vaccine were shipped Sunday.

“Nearly 3 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are expected to arrive at 145 facilities Monday, marking the beginning of a massive logistical effort to stop the rampant spread of the virus, which has so far killed more than 298,000 Americans. The vaccine will arrive at nearly 500 additional sites on Tuesday and Wednesday. But even as state officials scrambled to distribute the first doses, they criticized the federal government for a lack of transparency and limited financial help, warning that both could hamper efforts to quickly vaccinate the most vulnerable populations, including health-care workers and the elderly,” Paulina Firozi, Meryl Kornfield and Josh Dawsey report. “As the vaccine doses made their way to hospitals Sunday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield gave the final nod, greenlighting the decision to recommend Pfizer’s vaccine for those 16 and older. Additionally, the governors of California, Washington, Oregon and Nevada announced Sunday that an independent review of the Pfizer vaccine found it was safe for public use. 

"More than 16.3 million people in the United States have tested positive, and an average of 2,470 people died of the virus every day for the past week, a pandemic record. Officials stressed that a large proportion of the nation’s population — about 70 to 80 percent — will need to get the vaccine before herd immunity is achieved. Moncef Slaoui, chief science adviser to the White House’s effort to develop a vaccine, said officials hope to ‘reach that point between the month of May and the month of June.’ … ‘It’s about 120 million people — we would have immunized 100 million people by the first quarter of 2021 with two doses of vaccines.’ Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar … said the plan is to have 20 million people vaccinated by the end of December, up to 50 million by the end of January and 100 million by the end of February. That includes plans for a second vaccine, developed by Moderna, which is expected to gain emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration soon.”

The U.S. will purchase 100 million additional doses of the Moderna vaccine, which will be issued to all Americans free of charge, when approved, upping the expected number of vaccines in the federal government’s arsenal to 300 million, Lateshia Beachum reports. Clinical trials for Moderna’s two-injection vaccine have shown that the vaccine had nearly a 95 percent efficacy rate.

Trump overturns a plan to have White House officials be among the first to receive the vaccine.

“Earlier on Sunday, the New York Times first reported that senior Trump administration officials would receive some of the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which are otherwise reserved for front-line health-care workers,” Antonia Farzan reports. “Many critics immediately cried foul, pointing out that Trump, along with top members of his administration, has repeatedly downplayed the seriousness of the pandemic while ignoring public health authorities’ pleas to wear masks and avoid large gatherings. … Trump on Sunday tweeted that people who work in the White House ‘should receive the vaccine somewhat later in the program, unless specifically necessary.’ ‘I have asked that this adjustment be made,’ he added. Trump also said in the tweet that he is ‘not scheduled to take the vaccine’ but looks forward to ‘doing so at the appropriate time.’”

Meanwhile, a Trump adviser's travel is raising coronavirus concerns: National security adviser Robert O’Brien is flying to Paris today to lead an OECD delegation apparently with his wife, whom he plans to take on a holiday tour of the Mediterranean and a series of European capitals, including a private tour of the Louvre, despite it being closed. They also plan to hang out in Tel Aviv, Rome and London, raising concerns in the host countries about the safety of their people. (Axios)

  • “Azar will be on hand at 2:30 p.m. at George Washington University Hospital in Washington when five of the hospital’s health-care workers receive doses of the newly approved immunization,” Joel Achenbach reports. “Azar will not receive a shot but plans to do so at some point to help advance public acceptance of the vaccine.” Five D.C. firefighters will get the vaccine in public later this week as part of a trust-building campaign.
  • The Trump administration, scrambling to make up for lost time after a halting start, is rushing to roll out a $250 million public education campaign to encourage Americans to take the vaccine. “Focus groups devised to help officials fine-tune the advertising to tailor it to hard-hit communities will begin on Tuesday,” the Times reports.
  • House Democrats shared an internal Trump administration spreadsheet from October where staff vetted some celebrities – the majority of them known liberal figures – for participation in the vaccination public awareness campaign, with sometimes hilarious notations.
The vaccines can have side effects. That typically means they’re working.

“Things like fever or soreness at the injection site are normal, and actually they indicate that your body is reacting to the vaccine, which is what you want,” said Ellen Foxman, an immunologist at the Yale School of Medicine. Tony Fauci, speaking Saturday, said he doesn’t think “that the allergic reactions are even close to being a showstopper for the Pfizer vaccine. He said the criteria for participation in the random trials excluded people with a history of severe allergic reactions, and it is not surprising that, as the vaccine reached the general population, such rare allergic responses emerged. He said officials will continue to monitor the safety of the vaccines long after they have received emergency authorization." (Achenbach)

Antibiotic overuse on kids may make such drugs useless against superbugs, and the pandemic has made the issue worse, experts said. Although fears of covid-19 mean fewer parents are taking their children to doctors’ offices and some have skipped routine visits for their kids, children are still getting antibiotics through telemedicine visits that don’t allow for in-person exams. (Laura Ungar)

The prime minister of Swaziland is the first head of state to die of the coronavirus.

A statement from the country’s deputy prime minister said that Ambrose Dlamini died “while under medical care in a hospital in South Africa.” The 52-year-old tested positive last month. (Farzan)

  • As Germany awaits the vaccine, mass vaccination centers are being built in less than a week. (Loveday Morris and Luisa Beck)
  • South Korea is ordering all schools to close starting today. (Farzan)
  • Two French cities began mass testing residents today as part of a campaign to detect and isolate coronavirus cases ahead of a government plan to lift restrictions for the holidays. (Erin Cunningham)

The transition

Despite the Supreme Court's rejection, Trump persists with his frontal assault on the election results.

“Trump signaled that he will continue to challenge the results of the 2020 election even after the electoral college meets Monday in most state capitols to cast votes solidifying Biden’s victory,” Felicia Sonmez reports. “In a Fox News interview that aired Sunday morning, Trump repeated his false claims of election fraud and said his legal team will continue to pursue challenges … ‘No, it’s not over,’ Trump told host Brian Kilmeade. … Biden is expected to deliver remarks Monday night in Wilmington, Del., on 'the electoral college vote certification and the strength and resilience of our democracy,’ according to his transition team. Even if Trump’s efforts to overturn Biden’s victory come up short, some of the president’s allies have suggested in recent days that they will try to change how states conduct future elections. …

“A CBS News poll released Sunday shows that 62 percent of registered voters believe that the election is over and that it is time to move on. But, notably, 75 percent of Republicans said that they believe the election is not over and that it should still be contested. Just 18 percent of those who voted for Trump in 2020 said they consider Biden the legitimate winner. … More than half of the House Republican conference signed on to the Texas lawsuit that sought to overturn the results of the election in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. One of those House Republicans, Minority Whip Steve Scalise (La.), suggested Sunday morning that it will still be too early to call Biden president-elect even after the electoral college meets Monday."

  • The Georgia Supreme Court rejected yet another Trump campaign lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s election results. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
  • Of the 17 Republican attorneys general who endorsed the Texas lawsuit, none agreed to be interviewed after its dismissal. (NYT)
  • Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) accused the Republican lawmakers who backed the Texas lawsuit of violating their oaths of office. “To appease a demagogue, they've chosen Donald Trump over democracy and over their constituents," she told the Detroit Free Press.

Quote of the day

“At least the Confederate secessionists acknowledged that Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election,” writes columnist E.J. Dionne.

Biden’s Cabinet picks frustrate liberals and civil rights leaders.

“Biden's decision to fill his White House and Cabinet with longtime colleagues has led to frustration from liberals, civil rights leaders and younger activists, who worry he's relegating racial minorities to lower-status jobs while leaning on Obama-era appointees for key positions,” Seung Min Kim and Annie Linskey report. “Biden’s Cabinet process has also discomforted some allies on the Hill, who say senators from his own party have not been sufficiently consulted about picks, even though Biden will need influential Senate Democrats to help steer nominees through the confirmation gauntlet. Senior Democratic senators have gotten little or no advance warning about the president-elect’s selections, according to a half-dozen senior congressional officials and others familiar with the process. … 

“Of the 14 Cabinet-level picks announced so far, seven are women, and nine are people of color. But Biden has also mostly selected people he’s known for years, or even decades. The average age of Biden’s department heads so far is 63, according to a Post analysis. About 80 percent of the White House and agency officials he’s announced have the word ‘Obama’ on their résumé from previous White House or Obama campaign jobs, the analysis found. Some of them will be in roles similar to the ones they held in the last Democratic administration. … The transition team never reached out to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) about Biden’s decision to tap Neera Tanden as director of the Office of Management and Budget, according to a person familiar with the lack of communication, despite Sanders’s role as the top Democrat on one of the committees that will hold Tanden’s confirmation hearings.”

  • Pete Buttigieg is emerging as a leading contender to be Transportation secretary. (CNN)
  • Samantha Power is under consideration to head the U.S. Agency for International Development, which would put her in charge of foreign aid and covid relief efforts. (Axios)
  • Doug Emhoff, the incoming second gentleman, will teach at Georgetown Law next semester. (Lauren Lumpkin)
As Biden’s lawyers draft new ethics rules, potential family conflicts arise.

“The president-elect has promised to keep his family from being hired into his administration, to prohibit family entanglements with ‘any foreign operation’ and to go even further,” Michael Scherer reports. “That pledge has now been handed over to lawyers for the presidential transition who are drafting new rules for the Biden White House that are likely to be more restrictive than the rules that governed the Obama administration. … The potential family conflicts, both with Biden and his top White House advisers, are more extensive than the Obama White House confronted.

“Biden’s son Hunter is facing a federal investigation over taxes paid on a business venture in China, which also included Biden’s brother, James Biden, a situation that is certain to test the president-elect’s promise to let the Justice Department operate independently of his personal interests. Both men have worked for years at the intersection of government and the private sector, using the Biden name to win work and sometimes partnering with Biden donors. … John T. Owens, the husband of Biden’s sister, Valerie, and a former college classmate of the president-elect, owns a Delaware-based telemedicine company that markets itself as solution for covid-19, with medical second-opinion operations in Europe and Asia.”

The new world order

Russian government hackers breached the Treasury and Commerce departments, along with other U.S. agencies.

“Officials were scrambling over the weekend to assess the nature and extent of the intrusions and implement effective countermeasures, but initial signs suggested the breach was long-running and significant,” Ellen Nakashima and Craig Timberg report. “The Russian hackers, known by the nicknames APT29 or Cozy Bear, are part of that nation’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR, and they breached email systems in some cases … The FBI is investigating the campaign, which may have begun as early as spring, and had no comment Sunday. The victims have included government, consulting, technology, telecom, and oil and gas companies in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, according to FireEye, a cyber firm that itself was breached. All of the organizations were breached through the update server of a network management system made by the firm SolarWinds, FireEye said in a blog post Sunday. SolarWinds said Sunday in a statement that monitoring products it released in March and June of this year may have been surreptitiously weaponized in a ‘highly-sophisticated, targeted … attack by a nation state.’ … 

“SolarWinds products are used by more than 300,000 organizations across the world. They include all five branches of the U.S. military, the Pentagon, State Department, Justice Department, NASA, the Executive Office of the President and the National Security Agency … The matter was so serious that it prompted an emergency National Security Council meeting on Saturday … SolarWinds’ monitoring tool has extremely deep ‘administrative’ access to a network’s core functions, which means that hacking the tool would allow the Russians to freely root around victims’ systems.”

  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a rare emergency directive overnight instructing all federal civilian agencies to review their networks for compromise and immediately shut down the use of SolarWinds Orion products.
  • “Huawei has worked with dozens of security contractors to develop surveillance products, some of which were touted as being able to identify a person’s ethnicity or to help suppress potential protests, according to company marketing documents that shed light on a little-publicized corner of one of China’s most valuable tech empires,” Eva Dou and Drew Harwell report
U.S. sanctions two Iranians for abduction and probable death of former FBI agent Robert Levinson.

“The two officials designated are high-ranking officers in the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, the Iranian equivalent of the CIA,” Carol Morello reports. “The U.S. officials said the decision to publicly assign blame in Levinson’s disappearance now, in the final weeks of Trump’s time in office, was related to the lengthy process of getting government lawyers to approve the case. But the timing also appears to be an attempt to narrow the parameters of any potential negotiations if Biden seeks to rejoin the nuclear agreement with Iran that Trump abandoned in 2018. At least three Americans are currently detained in Iran. … Levinson disappeared under murky circumstances in March 2007 while on Ish Island, a tourist spot off the coast of Iran. He was there on an unauthorized trip for the CIA to gather intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program.”

Boris Johnson is dialing up warnings of a no-deal Brexit. 

“Blowing past another deadline, Britain and the European Union said Sunday they have made enough progress in their seemingly endless trade and security talks to continue negotiations into the coming days,” William Booth and Quentin Ariès report. “Many had feared Sunday was the final hour to reach a Brexit deal, but the talks will roll on. … Still, Johnson, in a TV address, did not sound optimistic. ‘I’m afraid we’re still very far apart on some key things,’ he said. ‘But where there is life, there’s hope; we’re going to keep talking to see what we can do. The U.K. certainly won’t be walking away from the talks.’ Johnson warned ‘the most likely’ outcome would see Britain depart the European Union without a deal, leaving it to trade on what the prime minister insists on calling ‘Australian terms,’ which really means defaulting to do business by the rules set by the World Trade Organization.” 

More than 300 boys are missing after gunman raided a secondary school in northwest Nigeria.

“Hundreds of children fled into the woods after attackers on motorbikes stormed the boarding school Friday night in Katsina state, which has been plagued by bandits abducting people for ransom,” Ismail Alfa and Danielle Paquette report. “The attack was reminiscent of raids by Boko Haram, an extremist group that typically operates hundreds of miles away in the northeast.”

Armed with a handgun and disguises, a Mexican mother stalked her daughter’s killers. Then they came for her.

“Miriam Rodríguez clutched a pistol in her purse as she ran past the morning crowds on the bridge to Texas. She stopped every few minutes to catch her breath and study the photo of her next target: the florist. She had been hunting him for a year, stalking him online, interrogating the criminals he worked with, even befriending unwitting relatives for tips on his whereabouts,” the Times reports. “Ever since 2014, she had been tracking the people responsible for the kidnapping and murder of her 20-year-old daughter, Karen. Half of them were already in prison, not because the authorities had cracked the case, but because she had pursued them on her own, with a meticulous abandon. … She knew their habits, friends, hometowns, childhoods. … She threw a trench coat over her pajamas, a baseball cap over her fire engine-red hair and a gun in her purse, heading for the border to find the florist. … He recognized her and ran. … 

"Rodríguez, 56 at the time, grabbed him by the shirt and wrestled him to the rails. She jammed her handgun into his back. ‘If you move, I’ll shoot you,’ she told him … She held him there for nearly an hour, awaiting the police to make the arrest. In three years, Mrs. Rodríguez captured nearly every living member of the crew that had abducted her daughter for ransom … In all, she was instrumental in taking down 10 people, a mad campaign for justice that made her famous, but vulnerable. No one challenged organized crime, never mind put its members in prison. 

"She asked the government for armed guards, fearing the cartel had finally had enough. On Mother’s Day, 2017, weeks after she had chased down one of her last targets, she was shot in front of her home and killed. … For many in the northern city of San Fernando, her story represents so much of what is wrong in Mexico — and so remarkable about its people, their perseverance in the face of government indifference.”

Social media speed read

Trump has been silent about Russia's hack of the government he leads. Never one to pass up a culture war fight, though, Trump attacked Cleveland's baseball team over plans to drop the name Indians after 105 years:

Crowds celebrated as vaccine shipments began arriving across America:

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the No. 3 in House GOP leadership, warned Trump against pardoning Edward Snowden:

Videos of the day

“Saturday Night Live” explained what Tony Fauci and Debbie Birx’s roles will be in the next administration: