with Mariana Alfaro

Black voters delivered for Joe Biden. By rallying behind him in South Carolina’s February primary, they catapulted the former vice president to the Democratic nomination. By turning out in huge numbers from Philadelphia to Detroit and Milwaukee in November, they ensured he won the electoral college. By defying expectations in Georgia on Tuesday, and turning out at higher rates than their White counterparts, it appears more likely than not that they have just provided Democrats with control of the Senate for the first time in six years and, with it, the ability for the president-elect to enact key elements of his agenda and confirm his nominees.

Democrats have definitely picked up one of Georgia’s two runoff elections and lead in the other. The Rev. Raphael Warnock defeated appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler to become the first African American Democrat to ever win a Senate seat in what was once the Confederacy. Jon Ossoff and national Democrats declared victory this morning over Sen. David Perdue (R) in the other contest, but his lead is narrower, and that race remains too close to call.

If Ossoff prevails, Democrats would control the 50-50 Senate because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris can cast a tie-breaking vote. The Californian, one of just 10 Black senators to ever serve in the chamber, will be the first Black vice president.

Campaigning with Harris on Sunday in his hometown of Savannah, Warnock reminisced about once being arrested by Capitol Police during a protest for racial justice. “They were doing their job, and I was doing my job, but in a few days I’m going to meet those Capitol Hill police officers again and, this time, they will not be taking me to central booking,” he said. “They can help me find my new office.”

With votes still to be counted in the Georgia runoff elections, Democrat Raphael Warnock declared victory over Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) on Jan. 6. (Reverend Raphael Warnock YouTube)

The 51-year-old grew up in the Savannah housing projects and became the senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, which was led by Martin Luther King Jr. until his martyrdom in 1968. Warnock was the 11th of 12 children. His mother, Verlene, grew up in a sharecropping family. She spent her summers picking cotton and tobacco as a teenager in the 1950s.

“The 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” Sen.-elect Warnock said in a live-streamed address in the wee hours of this morning. “The improbable journey that led me to this place in this historic moment in America could only happen here.”

A third of Georgia’s population is African American. In Fulton County, which as home to Atlanta is the state’s most populous, more in-person voters showed up Tuesday than on Nov. 3. But Democrats also benefited from major turnout across the more rural, majority African American counties such as Macon and Randolph that comprise what’s known as the Black Belt. 

Loeffer saturated the airwaves with commercials that featured out-of-context clips of past sermons by Warnock at Ebenezer. She and her bevy of Republican consultants misrepresented standard-fare religious teachings as somehow sinister and anti-military.

Loeffler’s attacks backfired by galvanizing Black voters who historically have not voted at high rates in runoff elections. More than 100 religious leaders condemned the “naked hypocrisy” and “blatant contradictions” of Loeffler’s message in an open letter last month. “We see your attacks against Warnock as a broader attack against the Black Church and faith traditions for which we stand,” the letter said.

Biden’s narrow victory there in November might also have motivated African Americans, who saw that their votes can make a real difference. Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the governor’s race in 2018, has also spent years spearheading voter registration efforts in the Black community to combat what she decries as continuing voter suppression.

Senate Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff thanked supporters on Jan. 6, as he narrowly leads Republican David Perdue in Georgia’s runoff race. (Jon Ossoff | YouTube)

Some African Americans also said they were motivated by the death from cancer of civil rights legend and longtime congressman John Lewis, who had frequently been on the receiving end of President Trump’s attacks. Ossoff once interned for Lewis, who supported his campaign before he passed away, and he worked as a staffer for Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), another Black congressman. 

If he wins, the 33-year-old Ossoff would be the youngest newly elected Democratic senator since a 29-year-old kid named Joe Biden won a 1972 upset in Delaware.

During his victory speech on Nov. 7, the president-elect referred to the South Carolina primary. “Especially those moments when this campaign was at its lowest ebb, the African American community stood up again for me,” Biden said. “You’ve always had my back, and I’ll have yours.”

Warnock, the first Democrat of any color to win a Senate seat in Georgia since 2000, said this morning that he plans to continue pastoring while holding public office. “I intend to return to my pulpit and preach on Sunday mornings and talk to the people,” Warnock said on CNN. “The last thing I want to do is become disconnected from the community and just spend all of my time talking to the politicians. I might accidentally become one, and I have no intentions of becoming a politician. I intended to be a public servant.”

The Trump era looks like it may end in 14 days with Republicans having lost control of the House, Senate and White House. Trump loomed large in these runoffs, and his domination of the battle space may have helped gin up Democrats who hate him as much as the Republicans who love him but also now doubt the efficacy of voting because he spread so much disinformation.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) might have erred by appointing Loeffler last year to replace Johnny Isakson when the senator retired for health reasons. This put him at loggerheads with Trump, who had pushed Kemp to appoint Rep. Doug Collins (R), a frequent defender of the president on Fox News. Collins challenged Loeffler from the right, and to make it to the runoff, she lurched far to the right. But the first-time candidate often did so in ham-handed and cartoonish ways. 

Loeffler campaigned with QAnon adherents and ran a commercial that described her as “more conservative than Attila the Hun.” She also coupled her fate completely with Trump’s, boasting at every stop that she supports him “100 percent” of the time. This week, Loeffler even announced plans to vote against certifying the presidential results from her own state in a bid to placate Trump. 

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may soon be demoted from majority leader to minority leader because of the post-election donnybrook caused by Trump. His former campaign manager and chief of staff Josh Holmes, who remains a top adviser, said the party’s messaging in Georgia repulsed the suburbanites who reliably voted Republican in the pre-Trump era:

Other Republicans also pointed fingers. A writer for National Review cited a trio of factors:

And a leading immigration hardliner, who has been a close ally of White House aide Stephen Miller, warned that the Georgia results could undermine Trump’s hope for a comeback in 2024:

Join us this afternoon for a special report.

I will join Libby Casey in The Washington Post newsroom starting at noon Eastern for live video coverage as Congress counts electoral votes. We will live-stream the floor proceedings as long as they go, offering context and analysis during any pauses in the proceedings, as well as analyzing the returns from Georgia and the protests in Washington. Watch free on our home page or on YouTube.

The voting wars

Supporters of President Trump gathered in Washington D.C. on Jan. 5, one day before Congress votes to certify President-elect Biden’s electoral college win. (The Washington Post)
Vice President Pence prepares for a final performance that will probably infuriate Trump.

“Pence and his team have huddled for hours with the Senate parliamentarian. They have studied historical examples of other vice presidents who have presided over election results. And they have begun anticipating the ire of Trump — likely to come in the form of angry tweets — in the aftermath of Wednesday’s certification of the electoral college vote count before a joint session of Congress,” Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey report. “Pence’s team views the vice president’s role as procedural and limited, not unlike an umpire calling balls and strikes but ultimately hemmed in by the rules of the game. … The president’s faulty belief that Pence can somehow overturn the election results is being fueled by agitators who are feeding Trump misinformation … The group includes Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney; Peter Navarro, a top White House trade adviser; and Sidney Powell, a lawyer and Trump ally. Few if any legal experts agree. … 

"During their weekly lunch Tuesday, Pence explicitly told Trump that he does not believe he has the authority to block the congressional certification of Biden’s electoral victory, according to a White House official. But Trump issued a statement later Tuesday denying the conversation. … Some advisers have proposed that Pence, while leading the Senate on Wednesday, make comments that allege irregularities while still certifying the results, in a bid to show Trump he is fighting and is supportive. … 

“Two administration officials said the president was frustrated because he thought that Pence should be doing more to publicly push his view that the election was stolen and that Pence had given up too easily. A person familiar with Trump’s ire said the president largely blames Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, for the vice president’s rhetorical caution. Short has told others that Pence’s language about the election has been deliberately careful and that the vice president did not want to echo some of Trump’s most incendiary claims.”

  • Republican lawyer Cleta Mitchell, who advised Trump during his weekend call to Georgia’s secretary of state, resigned as a partner in the D.C. office of law firm Foley & Lardner. Mitchell’s resignation came a day after the law firm issued a statement saying it was “concerned by” her role in the call. (Michael Kranish)
  • The city of Detroit is trying to get the pro-Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood disbarred. “We have been horrified by the inappropriate actions of these attorneys and the plaintiffs themselves, and we have intended to seek any sanction the court can order,” said Detroit’s counsel David Flink. (Law and Crime)
  • After the abrupt and unexplained resignation of the top federal prosecutor in Atlanta, Trump bypassed the normal line of succession on Tuesday to install a temporary replacement from outside the office. The president named Bobby Christine, the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Georgia, to replace BJay Pak on an acting basis, even as he maintains his current role. Longtime federal prosecutor Kurt Erskine would have otherwise assumed the job. (Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett)
  • Trump and his campaign shared the wrong phone number on social media for a Michigan legislator, urging followers to call and demand a vote to decertify the election results. The 28-year-old who has that number was deluged by calls from angry Trump supporters. (Jaclyn Peiser)
  • “At this point, the strategy of his legal team is far more Jim Jones than James Baker,” quipped journalist Ben Jacobs.
Democrats are prepared for today’s culminating dispute.

“The Biden camp, led by rival-turned-ally Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), prepared to force the dissenters to debate into the night, hoping to dispose of the challenge as quickly as possible and prevent a days-long ordeal. Klobuchar and her aides also distributed background to Democrats and lined up swing-state lawmakers to speak," Annie Linskey and Michelle Ye Hee Lee report“During Wednesday’s proceedings, a joint session of Congress is set to accept the electoral college tallies as they are called out alphabetically by state. If at least one senator and one House member question any state’s result, the chambers individually debate and vote on that challenge. The Republican dissenters say they will object to the tallies of at least three states — Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania — and adding more could prolong the process to more than 24 hours. Klobuchar, who as the top Democrat on the Senate Rules Committee will be one of four lawmakers tallying the votes, said that although the rules allow for a break — Klobuchar said she and Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) have decided they would not take one.”

Republican Sens. Tim Scott (S.C.), Jerry Moran (Kan.) and John Boozman (Ark.) announced their opposition on Tuesday to the efforts led by fellow Republicans Josh Hawley (Mo.) and Ted Cruz (Tex.) to challenge the results. “There is no constitutionally viable means for the Congress to overturn an election,” Scott said in a statement. (Here's our whip count. More than a dozen senators have not taken a clear position on what they'll do.)

Quote of the day

“The coup-fighters are a group that is bipartisan,” Klobuchar said in an interview. “This is game day.”

Trump diehards began protesting in D.C. on Tuesday.

“For nearly eight hours, speakers repeated election conspiracy theories, closed their eyes to pray and shared discount codes for MyPillow, a company owned by a Trump ally. Shortly before 8 p.m., they danced to a part-country, part-rap song, ‘Roger Stone did nothing wrong.’ Stone, who was pardoned by Trump for lying to Congress and obstructing justice, appeared onstage in a pinstripe suit and feathered fedora, swinging his hips to the tune,” Marissa Lang, Emily Davies, Peter Hermann, Jessica Contrera and Clarence Williams report. “He then launched into a speech comparing the investigation into his wrongdoing to centuries of abuses and terror inflicted on Black people. He claimed he was the subject of a ‘legal lynching.’ He said Trump ‘freed this slave,’ referring to himself. The mostly White crowd howled their support, chanting his name. [Someone else recently pardoned by Trump, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, also spoke during the rally.] …

"All day, the crowd ranted against the need for masks, vaccines and precautions against the virus … D.C. police are not enforcing the District’s mask mandate, despite the worsening coronavirus surge … Local law enforcement will instead focus on arresting anyone who is unlawfully armed. … In all, D.C. police made five arrests Tuesday and Park Police made one. Charges included weapons violations and assault. … A group of about 200 Trump supporters marched to the police line at Black Lives Matter Plaza just before 10:15 p.m. Punches were thrown at the line and a woman was bloodied.”

  • Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, accused of burning a Black Lives Matter banner taken from a Black church, was barred from the District by a judge, forcing him out of the city ahead of potentially volatile demonstrations led by his followers. He is allowed to return only for a court hearing on June 8. (Peter Hermann and Keith Alexander)
  • A group of Trump supporters heckled Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) as he flew from Salt Lake City to Washington. The group, recorded on video, chanted “Traitor!” for 20 seconds and demanded that he resign. Before boarding, Romney was approached by a maskless woman, who yelled at him for not supporting Trump. “I do support President Trump in things I agree with,” Romney responded, calmly and patiently. (Jaclyn Peiser)
As Trump backers descend on the capital, the military hopes to avoid the political fray.

“Pentagon leaders are bracing for any renewed presidential attempts to employ the military for political ends,” Paul Sonne, Missy Ryan and Ellen Nakashima report. “Top Pentagon officials, in answering a request by D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) to deploy National Guardsmen in the nation’s capital in advance of Wednesday’s protests, emphasized that the Guard wouldn’t carry firearms, use armored vehicles or helicopters, or receive backup from units in other states — a far more muted presence than in June after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. The careful posture reflects the Pentagon’s wariness in the final days of a presidency during which Trump has tested the norms of a politically impartial military. … A senior U.S. official said Tuesday that the Pentagon senior leadership — civilian and military — will not obey an unlawful order from the president to use the military to his own political ends. These leaders likely would resign before following an unlawful order, the senior official said." 

  • Multiple air traffic controllers in New York heard someone vow on their radio channel that will be revenge for the killing of Iran's Qassem Soleimani. "We are flying a plane into the Capitol on Wednesday. Soleimani will be avenged,” a voice in the audio said. Federal officials don't believe this is a credible threat, but they're investigating the breach of aviation frequencies. And a message was sent to all air traffic controllers yesterday reminding them any threat or a plane deviating from its flight path should be reported immediately. (CBS News)
  • Three people who have spoken to Trump recently say he privately acknowledges he lost the presidency but say he's continuing his fight to keep attention on himself. “The point is to still be relevant and still be talked about in the news,” one of the people told Politico.
  • The White House denied reports Trump will travel to his resort in Scotland to golf during Biden's inauguration. (William Booth and David Fahrenthold)
Trump's anti-democratic impulses are contagious.

“The seating of new Pennsylvania legislators turned into a bitter partisan spectacle Tuesday, as Republicans in the state Senate blocked a Democratic lawmaker from taking his oath of office and removed the Democratic lieutenant governor from his role overseeing the proceedings,” Hannah Knowles reports. “Republicans say they will not seat Sen.-elect Jim Brewster as a legal challenge to his victory is pending, although his win has been certified and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently sided with him in a dispute over how to count votes in a close race. Democrats decried the move as an overreach and an echo of Republican attempts to overturn the result of the presidential election. In an interview, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) accused Republicans of ‘raw partisanship,’ drawing a ‘straight line’ between their actions and broader GOP resistance to certifying the election of Biden. … Brewster edged out his Republican opponent Nicole Ziccarelli by 69 votes, and Ziccarelli is urging a federal court to discount about 300 mail ballots from Allegheny County without handwritten dates on their envelopes."

The coronavirus

States in the West and South have the highest share of residents hospitalized.

“More than 131,000 covid-19 patients were hospitalized nationwide as of Tuesday,” Fenit Nirappil and William Wan report. “Several Los Angeles hospitals have turned away ambulance traffic in recent days because they can’t provide the airflow needed to treat patients. Arizona now has the nation’s highest rate of coronavirus hospitalizations. In the Atlanta area, nearly every major hospital is almost full, prompting state officials to reopen a field hospital for the third time. … Vaccine distribution is also off to a slow start, with at least 4.6 million inoculated, far short of the 20 million the Trump administration vowed to vaccinate by the end of 2020. … 

“The back-to-back timing of Christmas and New Year’s Eve could have catastrophic results because many people develop symptoms roughly five to seven days after infection and are most contagious during the 48 hours before those symptoms appear. That means someone who was exposed to the virus on Christmas could have been contagious by the time they attended a New Year’s party or began traveling home. Just how bad the situation gets in the United States may depend on how widely the virus’s new variant — which scientists believe is more contagious, but not deadlier or vaccine-resistant — is circulating. The variant has been reported in five states including Georgia, which reported its first case [on] Tuesday. … New daily deaths and cases have increased by more than 20 percent over the past week, to a total of more than 355,000 fatalities and 21 million infections. But experts say the toll on hospitals paints a clearer picture of the pandemic because of complications in reporting test results during the holidays."

  • Two House Republican from Texas, Reps. Kevin Brady and Kay Granger, tested positive for the virus. Brady received the first of two vaccine shots last month. Both are isolating. (NPR)
  • Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will deploy the state’s National Guard to help local health departments as they inoculate medical workers, and he threatened to take away unused vaccines from hospitals that are slow to administer them. (Erin Cox, Rebecca Tan and Lola Fadulu)
  • Moderna said it will be able to produce at least 600 million doses of the vaccine this year, 100 million more than previously announced. The Massachusetts company also said it is making investments and adding staff to make as much as 1 billion doses this year. (WSJ)
The rich receive special invites to the front of the vaccine line in Florida.

“The invitation to affluent Floridians arrived in writing and by telephone. ‘He asked me if I wanted to have a vaccine,’ said Ryna Greenbaum, 89, recounting the phone message she got last week. ‘I’m one of the people who has given him some money.’ The call, she said, had come from Keith Myers, chief executive of MorseLife Health System, a high-end nursing home and assisted-living facility in West Palm Beach, Fla.,” Isaac Stanley-Becker and Shawn Boburg report. “MorseLife has made scarce coronavirus vaccines — provided through a federal program intended for residents and staff of long-term-care facilities — available not just to its residents but to board members and those who made generous donations to the facility … 

"The arrangement, in appearing to rely on a program run by chain pharmacies for nursing home residents and staff, may have violated national immunization guidelines, as well as state protocols, even though state officials … acknowledged that the rules have not been spelled out clearly enough by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). … The MorseLife episode highlights how the country’s patchwork approach to immunization against the coronavirus — leaving decisions about eligibility to state and local authorities as well as to individual providers — is creating opportunities for facilities to provide access to well-connected people while thousands of others wait in line. In Florida, some elderly residents have camped out overnight in hopes of receiving a shot.”

  • Native American tribes are prioritizing the vaccination of speakers of endangered languages. “When all of us first-language speakers are gone, it’s gonna be gone,” John Ross, a Cherokee translator who was among the first to get immunized, told the Tulsa World.
  • “When the coronavirus began spreading through New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered state-run hospitals to stop suing patients over unpaid medical bills. But one chain of hospitals plowed ahead with thousands of lawsuits: Northwell Health, which is the state’s largest health system and is run by one of Mr. Cuomo’s closest allies. The nonprofit Northwell sued more than 2,500 patients last year,” the Times reports.
  • The coronavirus-free nation of Palau could soon vaccinate almost all its people. A partnership with the U.S. government provided 2,800 doses of the Moderna vaccine. The island has a population of 18,000. (Adam Taylor and Miriam Berger)
  • A nurse became the first person to be vaccinated in the Netherlands as the Dutch government faces growing criticism for its belated rollout. The Netherlands is the last country in the E.U. to begin distributing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. (Antonia Farzan)
  • Colleges are adjusting their plans for in-person spring semesters. Since mid-December, Syracuse, the University of Colorado at Boulder, Old Dominion University and more than a dozen other schools have updated their academic calendars. (WSJ)
  • So many pets have been adopted during the pandemic that shelters are running out in the D.C. region. “We thought people would stop adopting because they would need to conserve their money,” said Cindy Sharpley, founder and director of Last Chance Animal Rescue, a nonprofit animal shelter in Waldorf. “It’s been just the opposite. They’re going like hot cakes.” Last Chance saw its pet adoptions — mostly dogs — increase 30 to 40 percent last year. (Dana Hedgpeth)
China claims it’s “negotiating” with the WHO over a mission to investigate the pandemic’s origins.

“Responding to criticism from the World Health Organization that China had blocked a scheduled mission to investigate the origins of the coronavirus, Beijing on Wednesday said the two sides were ‘still negotiating,’” Lily Kuo reports. “Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing that the issue of tracing the source of the virus was ‘very complicated’ and arrangements were needed to ‘ensure the smooth progress' of the team of researchers. … An international team of scientists led by the WHO were to begin a deployment to China on Tuesday but WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the group was barred from traveling to the country … In a rare rebuke of China, Tedros said at a news conference on Tuesday that he was ‘very disappointed.’”

  • More than 41 Hong Kong residents, including pro-democracy activists, lawmakers, a pollster and a lawyer, were arrested in an early-morning sweep that marked the most far-reaching and chilling use of a new Beijing-imposed national security law. Many of those who have been detained were taken from their homes by plainclothes officers. (Shibani Mahtani and Theodora Yu)
  • Trump signed an executive order banning transactions with a number of Chinese mobile apps, including Alipay and WeChat Pay. The order will take effect in 45 days, after the start of Biden’s administration, leaving its fate unclear. (Jeanne Whalen)
  • The United Arab Emirates will soon start manufacturing China’s Sinopharm vaccine. (Paul Schemm)
The pandemic intensified world hunger last year, but 2021 could be worse. 

“The World Food Program, the branch of the United Nations responsible for delivering lifesaving food assistance, expects to need to serve 138 million people this year — more than ever in its 60-year history,” Siobhán O’Grady reports. “The rise in hunger is ‘due to what I call ‘the three Cs’ — conflict, covid and climate,’ said Steve Taravella, a WFP spokesman.”

The lame-duck agenda

A new Trump rule says it’s okay to kill scores of birds. 

“In a last-gasp effort before departing the White House, the Trump administration took another swipe at weakening enforcement of a 100-year-old law that protects migrating birds,” Darryl Fears reports. ”With only two weeks left in office, the administration published a rule Tuesday that spares industries and individuals from prosecution or penalties under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act if their actions, such as development or failure to cover tar pits, results in bird deaths. If the deaths were unintentional, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says in the rule, there will be no enforcement.

"Conservation groups immediately promised to sue to stop the rule from going into effect a month from now. They also called on the Biden administration to overturn it. The groups are confident a legal challenge will prevail due to an earlier court decision that rejected the opinion on which the new rule is based. U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni issued a blistering opinion in August that quoted Harper Lee’s famous novel, after deciding in favor of state attorneys general and conservationists who sued the administration. ‘It is not only a sin to kill a mockingbird, it is also a crime,’ Caproni wrote. … 

“In May 2019, a United Nations panel determined that 1 million species face extinction — ‘more than any other period in human history.’ Four months later, top ornithologists in government and academia reported that 3 billion birds have vanished in North America over the past 50 years. … The American Exploration and Production Council, an oil industry lobby group, supported the rule … Past Fish and Wildlife estimates show that industry sources kill an average of 709 million birds each year, and up to 1.1 billion. Oil pits alone kill up to 1 million birds yearly.”

Trump races to undermine decades-old rules against discrimination.

“The Justice Department is seeking to change interpretation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin by recipients of federal funding. Under these rules, actions are considered discriminatory if they have a discriminatory effect, what’s known as a ‘disparate impact,’ on protected groups. Under the new version, only intentional discrimination would be prohibited,” Laura Meckler and Devlin Barrett report. “The Trump administration has been considering this change for more than two years but waited until its final weeks to try to put it into effect. … The Justice Department currently distributes about $6 billion a year in grants or awards … The planned change was pushed in late December by William P. Barr, one of his last acts as attorney general. … Typically regulations of this magnitude are published first as proposals and the government collects public comment before publishing its final version. It would be unusual to publish a final regulation — particularly one of this magnitude — without going through that process, but the document says that its proposal falls under an exception and therefore the administration is not required to seek public comment.”

The intelligence community officially blames Russia for the major cyberattacks.

“The statement, issued jointly by four agencies in a special task force, counters Trump’s baseless suggestion last month that the intrusions might have been the work of Chinese hackers,” Ellen Nakashima reports. “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said previously that the breaches were ‘clearly’ Russian in origin, and U.S. officials have for weeks said privately that Moscow’s foreign intelligence service carried them out. The breaches were so alarming that they had government and private-sector personnel working through the holidays to identify and mitigate them."

Biden names more Obama administration alumni for key foreign policy jobs. 

“For deputy secretary of state, Biden will nominate Wendy Sherman, the chief U.S. negotiator of the Iran nuclear deal under the Obama administration,” John Hudson reports. “The nomination for the No. 3 job at the State Department, undersecretary for political affairs, is expected to go to Victoria Nuland, who served as spokesperson for the department under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and was the top U.S. diplomat for Europe under Secretary of State John F. Kerry … At the National Security Council, Biden is expected to give the job of deputy national security adviser to Jon Finer … Finer is a former Washington Post reporter who worked in a number of jobs in the Obama administration that culminated in his role as director of policy planning at the State Department."

Social media speed read

Stuart Stevens, who was Mitt Romney's chief strategist in 2012 and has emerged as a vocal Trump critic, celebrated Loeffler’s defeat:

George W. Bush's spokesman said the former president will attend Biden’s inauguration:

And his brother got the vaccine:

Alabama's DeVonta Smith became the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy in 29 years: 

Videos of the day

Seth Meyers said Republicans are running a scam by suggesting to voters that there is a chance Trump can remain in office: 

Stephen Colbert said Trump is putting Pence in a bind: