November 21, 2020

Incoming presidents "typically want to wait until they have the reins of power in order to put their fingerprints on the policies coming out of the door," Jared Bernstein, who served as President-elect Joe Biden's chief economist during the Obama administration, said this week during a virtual conference. But, he added, Biden would prefer that not be the case when it comes to coronavirus relief, which is "something that should happen now."

Biden has entered the coronavirus relief fight and wants a deal done before he's sworn in as president, Politico reports, even though waiting would theoretically increase the Democratic Party's chances of securing a larger deal, which is currently a non-starter for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "They care more about governing than they care about politics on this one," one person in touch with the transition team told Politico.

Biden's camp is reportedly focused on ensuring Black-owned businesses receive loans they had trouble securing following the first relief bill, getting funding for state and local governments, and extending enhanced unemployment benefits. The latter issue is where Biden "may have to give something up to McConnell that we really don't want to give up to get" a deal, "but we simply have to do this," another person close to the transition team said. Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

1:37 a.m.

President Trump gave what aides say is the closest he will come to conceding his loss to President-elect Joe Biden on Monday night, tweeting that while he is still fighting in court, "in the best interest of our country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same." The Emily in his tweet, General Services Administration head Emily Murphy, had already formally started the presidential transition process.

In an unusually personal letter to Biden and a separate email to her staff, Murphy said she had made the decision to finally start the peaceful transfer of power "independently, based on the law and available facts." She added: "I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official — including those who work at the White House or GSA — with regard to the substance or timing of my decision."

Murphy was looking for political cover to start the transition while Trump, with GOP backing, refused to concede, and she was afraid the angry president would "fire her and her top aides if she moved forward," The Washington Post reports. Her letter to Biden was issued shortly after Michigan certified Biden's victory, Pennsylvania's Supreme Court shot down yet another Trump legal challenge, and Republican pressure mounted for the transfer to commence.

But the ball started rolling late last week. Murphy's "team had notified the White House Counsel's Office on Friday that she planned to designate Biden the winner on Monday," the Post reports. "Murphy did not hear anything back." Trump hit his own "major inflection point" a day earlier, when his lawyers Rudy Giuliani and, especially, Sidney Powell, made wild, widely mocked vote fraud allegations but failed to present any credible evidence, Politico reports. Trump's more competent legal advisers, Jay Sekulow and Pat Cipollone, told him his chaotic legal strategy was getting untenable.

Still, "Trump only reluctantly agreed to let the transition begin," he "was described as angry about the situation," and he spent Monday calling political advisers "to say he had doubts about the GSA initiating the transition," the Post reports. "Despite Trump's resistance, officials throughout his administration were planning to coordinate directly with counterparts on the Biden team starting Tuesday," and "Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told other officials Monday evening it was time to begin the transition." Peter Weber

12:50 a.m.

David Dinkins, New York City's first and only Black mayor, died Monday. He was 93.

Born in Trenton, New Jersey, Dinkins graduated from Howard University, and while enrolled at Brooklyn Law School, worked at a liquor store owned by his father-in-law. Dinkins became involved with Democratic politics in Harlem, first serving in the state assembly, then becoming city clerk and Manhattan borough president.

In 1989, Dinkins defeated incumbent mayor Ed Koch and future mayor Rudy Giuliani, and at the time he was elected, the city's finances were in shambles. The first few years of his term were marked by a record number of homicides and race riots. A state investigation determined that Dinkins didn't act in a timely manner to stop the racial violence, and he was narrowly defeated in 1993 by Giuliani.

After leaving office, Dinkins was active in several charities and taught public affairs at Columbia University. In 2013, he published an autobiography, A Mayor's Life: Governing New York's Gorgeous Mosaic. Dinkins and his wife, Joyce, had two children: Donna and David Jr. Joyce Dinkins died on Oct. 11. Catherine Garcia

12:16 a.m.

Guitar Center filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Saturday, with CEO Ron Japinga saying this is "an important and positive step in our process to significantly reduce our debt."

Based in California, Guitar Center opened in 1959, and is the largest musical instrument store in the U.S. The company, which has more than 13,000 employees, said it will keep all 510 of its stores open through the holidays.

Guitar Center declared in court documents that it was on "extraordinarily sound footing" before the pandemic, and its sales dropped primarily because of stores having to close due to the coronavirus. Company officials said Guitar Center has more than $1.3 billion in debt, and under a reorganization plan, that number will be reduced by nearly $800 million, CBS News reports.

Several major retailers have filed for bankruptcy protection amid the pandemic, including Neiman Marcus, Hertz, and J.C. Penney. Catherine Garcia

November 23, 2020

Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for a cruise missile attack against an oil facility in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The missile hit a fuel tank at a Saudi Arabian Oil Co. facility on Monday morning, and an Energy Ministry official said the strike caused a fire. The facility is near the King Abdulaziz International Airport.

In 2015, the Iranian-backed Houthis seized Sanaa, the capital of Yemen. Since then, a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the rebels, resulting in a humanitarian catastrophe. The Houthis have used cruise missiles against Saudi targets before, The Associated Press reports, with United Nations and Western officials accusing Iran of supplying the weapons, allegations Tehran has denied.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Col. Turki al-Maliki, called the missile attack "cowardly," adding that it "not only targets the kingdom, but also targets the nerve center of the world's energy supply and the security of the global economy." Catherine Garcia

November 23, 2020

The White House is still going to hold indoor parties this holiday season, with first lady Melania Trump's spokeswoman saying attending the celebrations "will be a very personal choice."

The number of coronavirus cases is surging across the United States, with the highest-ever number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, but invitations still went out for a Nov. 30 event hosted by the first lady, ABC News reports. The White House has held events linked to coronavirus outbreaks before, including a ceremony in September to introduce President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's spokeswoman, told NBC News in a statement that the holiday celebrations will be held in the "safest environment possible," with masks "required and available" and plenty of hand sanitizer. The guest lists will be smaller, she continued, and attendees will be served "food individually plated by chefs at plexiglass-protected food stations," with all passed beverages covered.


"Attending the parties will be a very personal choice," Grisham said. "It is a longstanding tradition for people to visit and enjoy the cheer and iconic decor of the annual White House Christmas celebrations."

If he receives an invitation, Surgeon General Jerome Adams is probably going to RSVP "no," seeing as how earlier Monday he said it was important for people to "understand that these holiday parties can be superspreader events." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends holding any celebration outside with just a handful of people, and Adams said these guidelines "apply to the White House, they apply to the American people, they apply to everyone." Catherine Garcia

November 23, 2020

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Monday said she will not seek the chairmanship or ranking member position of any committees next year.

Feinstein is the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and if the Democrats take control of the Senate in January, she would have been in line to become its first female chairman, the Los Angeles Times reports. Feinstein said she will remain on several committees next year, including judiciary and intelligence.

In a statement, Feinstein said California is "a huge state confronting two existential threats — wildfire and drought — that are only getting worse with climate change. In the next Congress, I plan to increase my attention on those two crucial issues. I also believe that defeating COVID-19, combating climate change, and protecting access to health care are critical national priorities that require even more concentration."

Feinstein faced heavy criticism from progressive lawmakers and organizations last month after she embraced Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, at the end of the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett. She also stated, "This has been one of the best set of hearings that I've participated in." After fielding complaints about Feinstein and whether she is tough enough on Republicans, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he had a "very serious" conversation with her.

Feinstein is 87 years old, and the Times notes her announcement will likely renew speculation that she won't finish the entirety of her term. Catherine Garcia

November 23, 2020

President Trump has yet to concede the election, and New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman thinks his Monday evening tweet about what is in "the best interest of our country" is "the closest to a concession Trump is going to get."

Trump wrote that he spoke to Emily Murphy, the head of the General Services Administration, and recommended that she "do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols," adding that he has "told my team to do the same." Murphy needed to ascertain the election in order to formally start the transition process, and after weeks of delays, she sent President-elect Joe Biden a letter on Monday telling him the transition can officially start.

Haberman tweeted that she's been told some of Trump's advisers "had been urging him" to let the transition begin before Thanksgiving, "even if he never said the word 'concede.'" Between the Trump campaign and other Republicans, more than 30 lawsuits have been filed in six swing states, in an attempt to contest the election results, NBC News reports. Despite Trump and members of his legal team claiming there has been widespread voter fraud, no court has found a single piece of evidence.

Trump's election legal team is being led by his longtime friend and personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City. Giuliani has been "key in stoking Trump's conspiracy theories," Haberman said, but people with knowledge of the matter told her that a recent court loss in Pennsylvania made Trump realize "Giuliani was not painting an honest picture" of his chances of actually changing the election results. Giuliani, she added, took control of Trump's legal team after the campaign dropped a lawsuit in Maricopa County, Arizona, and he warned Trump that "other advisers were lying to him." Catherine Garcia

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