The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans

             Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC



Welcome to The Hill’s Morning Report. It is Thursday! We get you up to speed on the most important developments in politics and policy, plus trends to watch. Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver are the co-creators, and readers can find us on Twitter @asimendinger and @alweaver22. Please recommend the Morning Report to friends and let us know what you think. CLICK HERE to subscribe!

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 246,217; Tuesday, 247,220; Wednesday, 248,687; Thursday, 250,537.

Federal officials on Wednesday expressed confidence that every state will have access to at least some doses of a potentially effective COVID-19 vaccine for distribution within 24 hours after federal authorization of new drugs (The Hill), even as President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  New DOJ rule could allow executions by electrocution, firing squad MORE said the General Services Administration (GSA) should unlock his own pandemic transition planning capabilities by naming him the “apparent” election winner over President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE.  


"Every jurisdiction will have access immediately upon the initial push of the vaccine," said Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed. After the initial distribution, there will be weekly replenishments to cities, counties and states as more doses become available, Perna said.


On a video call with nurses and first responders to discuss COVID-19, Biden complained on Wednesday that he is hampered in his ability to fully plan a national pandemic response, even as he confers as a fallback with public health and research experts outside the administration. “We’re all ready to go and do an awful lot of the work right now,” he added.


As Perna and Biden spoke, the coronavirus continued to swamp healthcare systems and kill more than 1,100 Americans daily. But the surge in infections speeds up testing of vaccines that could eventually end the pandemic. Drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna are accelerating testing of their vaccines, which appear to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19. Both companies say their trial drugs are around 95 percent effective, according to research data (The New York Times). Both companies expect to soon seek emergency vaccine approval from the government (STAT News).


A study published today in the medical journal Lancet details encouraging news from AstraZeneca and Oxford University. A new potential COVID-19 vaccine triggered a strong immune response in adults older than 70. That age category is considered high risk for serious illness and death when infected. Researchers expect to release late-stage trial results by Christmas (Reuters).


State & City Watch: Michigan Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerPope Francis swipes at groups protesting COVID-19 restrictions in NYT op-ed Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Oregon governor urges hosts to 'uninvite' guests MORE (D) is under attack from state and national Republicans who say new restrictions are a draconian overreach, even as her efforts are praised by leading public health experts as a smart, targeted approach that should be a model for the rest of the country (The Hill). … Wisconsin’s mask mandate will remain in place until next year, Gov. Tony EversTony EversWisconsin police still searching for mall shooting suspect The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans Stocks close with losses as states, cities reimpose COVID-19 restrictions MORE (D) said on Wednesday (The Hill). … Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) issued a new mask mandate that’s set to take effect before Thanksgiving (The Hill). … Minnesota Gov. Tim WalzTim WalzThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans Former Minnesota Democratic leader quits party Minnesota to close bars, restaurants, gyms for four weeks: report MORE (D) today will announce new restrictions to close bars, restaurants, gyms and museums for a month, with no social gatherings permitted beyond household members because of rising confirmed cases of the coronavirus (Twin Cities Pioneer Press). … Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans Group of Florida mayors calls on DeSantis to issue mask mandate DeSantis promises to keep Florida open despite recent coronavirus case surge MORE (R), a Trump ally, vows there will be no more lockdowns in the Sunshine State. He believes restrictions are excessive because COVID-19 is survivable for most who contract it. He said residents of assisted living facilities need special protection (The Hill). … Pennsylvania tells residents to wear masks in their homes when hosting guests (The Hill). … New York City schools, the largest school system in the country, will close Nov. 19 because of a surge in virus cases (The Associated Press). … Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel BowserMuriel BowserThe Hill's 12:30 Report: How to celebrate Thanksgiving safely Governors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience MORE announced that Nationals Park will serve as a COVID-19 testing center for the city starting on Monday. Firehouses in the city are extending hours for free testing, also beginning on Monday (Fox 5). 


In the nation’s capital, Congress is experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases among lawmakers while doing exactly what Americans are being warned not to do for Thanksgiving this year: congregating together after traveling from around the country. In the last week, seven members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 and three are quarantining after exposure to people with confirmed infections. 


The cases come as the Capitol physician began offering expanded testing this week to help locate asymptomatic cases as lawmakers travel back and forth from their districts. Lawmakers continue to struggle with masks and social distancing. Extroverted members have trouble resisting group gatherings, and some still are not wearing masks correctly eight months into the pandemic, reports The Hill’s Cristina Marcos. … Rep. Dan NewhouseDaniel (Dan) Milton NewhouseRep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview MORE (R-Wash.), 65, announced on Wednesday that he tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday and is quarantining at home (The Seattle Times). 


  Holiday shopping: Black Friday will have a different look and feel this year as businesses impose new safety measures for shoppers and employees amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Major retailers are moving ahead with in-store events that are still likely to draw large crowds a day after Thanksgiving, when public health experts are urging Americans to avoid travel and remain at home. The annual shopping event carries more anxiety this year and the potential for standoffs over mask requirements as national chains such as Costco take a tough stand on facial coverings for customers (The Hill).


The New York Times: To mitigate infection with COVID-19, scrubbing and disinfecting surfaces is passé. Improving ventilation and air filtration is in, according to the latest research.


The New York Times: Democratic officials in California, including Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomVaccine skepticism emerges as early test for Biden Mayor of Denver apologizes for holiday travel after advising residents to stay put California, Texas shatter single-day nationwide record for new coronavirus cases MORE, the House Speaker and the state’s senior senator, have all been photographed flouting coronavirus restrictions and guidance they impose and/or encourage for others. Outrage has followed. “The spirit of what I’m preaching all the time was contradicted and I’ve got to own that,” Newsom said during a lengthy mea culpa on Monday. “I need to preach and practice. Not just preach.”





POLITICS & PRESIDENT: Trump continues his long-shot quest to overturn the results of the 2020 election. His campaign is filing for recounts in two Wisconsin counties and a second recount is possible in Georgia.  


The president’s campaign met the deadline for recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties, transferring $3 million for the targeted recount effort, which is significantly cheaper than the $8 million it would cost for a statewide recanvassing. Biden leads in Wisconsin by more than 20,000 votes, and recounts seldom change the outcome enough to make up for that large of a deficit (The Hill’s Campaign Report).


Julie Pace: For Trump, sowing post-election chaos is the goal.


As the president’s team targets Wisconsin, they also have their eyes on Georgia, with the president firing off multiple missives in the direction of the Peach State on Wednesday. This has not swayed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who raged on Wednesday at what he described as politicians giving false hope and ginning up anger over unsubstantiated allegations of systemic voter fraud, calling it “emotional abuse.”


In an exclusive interview with The Hill’s Jonathan Easley, Raffensperger declined to directly blame Trump for spreading baseless claims about voting machines altering ballots or “illegal” votes being counted. Instead, he slammed Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsMajority say they want GOP in control of Senate: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans Georgia secretary of state says wife has received threatening texts about recount MORE (R-Ga.) and other GOP politicians for creating a dangerous environment — including threats of violence aimed at him and his wife — as he’s disputed that systemic fraud was behind the president-elect’s win in Georgia. 


“There’s just people who are really angry and they’re being spun up,” Raffensperger said. “It’s really the spinners that should be ashamed for playing with people’s emotions. Politicians of both sides should never play with people’s emotions. It’s one thing to motivate people, I get that. But to spin people up and play with their emotions, it’s emotional abuse and they ought to grow up and start acting with integrity.”


Politico: Sens. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerTrump set for precedent-breaking lame-duck period Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight House Democrat accuses Air Force of attempting to influence Georgia runoff races MORE (R-Ga.), David PerdueDavid PerdueClub for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Groups seek to get Black vote out for Democrats in Georgia runoffs Trump set for precedent-breaking lame-duck period MORE (R-Ga.) turn to Fox viewers to fund pricey runoffs.


The New York Times: With Senate control hanging in balance, “crazytown” cash floods Georgia.





As for Trump, he remains intently focused on the legal challenges and settling scores in his final weeks as president in an attempt to cement the work of his administration. As The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant and Brett Samuels write, Trump’s recent firings of Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperActing Defense secretary makes surprise trip to Somalia Overnight Defense: Trump loyalist to lead Pentagon transition | Democrats ask VA for vaccine distribution plan | Biden to get classified intel reports Ex-Nunes aide linked to Biden conspiracy theories will lead Pentagon transition MORE and Christopher Krebs, a top cybersecurity official, could just be the start of things, with the president potentially letting loose CIA Director Gina HaspelGina Cheri HaspelA strong, committed intelligence community is part of America's good fortune Women set to take key roles in Biden administration Leadership changes at top cyber agency raise national security concerns MORE and FBI Director Christopher Wray in the coming weeks over their perceived disloyalty. 


Politico: “Traitors to the president”: Conservatives fear public preparation for Biden term.


The Hill: Trump's cyber firing stirs outrage.


Jonathan Rauch, Persuasion opinion: Trump’s firehose of falsehood.





> Elections, 2022 edition: The 2020 election is largely in the rearview mirror, and eyes are turning to 2022 and whether Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbySpending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Trump, Pelosi barrel toward final border wall showdown On The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds MORE (R-Ala.), a six-term senator, will retire or run again.


As Olivia Beavers reports, talk in Alabama political circles is focused on who might succeed Shelby, 86, who has expressed to various people his intent to retire and his desire to have Katie Britt, his former chief of staff, succeed him. 


“Shelby has indicated to a number of people and … he has even indicated to myself that he would not be seeking election to another term,” said one Alabama Republican source familiar with the matter.


The Hill: House Republicans hopeful for fundraising boost. 


The New York Times: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTop Republicans praise Trump's Flynn pardon Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' Sunday shows preview: Biden transition, COVID-19 spike in spotlight MORE (R-Calif.) doesn’t think Trump is going away.


Niall Stanage: The Memo: Democrats see warning signs beyond 2020.


The Hill: Brent Budowsky wins The Hill's 2020 election prediction contest.


CONGRESS: Lawmakers in both parties are wondering if they can trust the president to sign a government funding package to avoid a shutdown as focus intensifies on that issue rather than a COVID-19 relief bill, 


As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton writes, it remains unknown whether Trump will sign either a year-long government spending bill or a continuing resolution. Nevertheless, Senate Republicans are talking about adding a targeted relief package to the year-end omnibus, which Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.) has signaled openness to in private conversations.


However, Trump’s lack of action on the topic makes him a complete wildcard as he continues to keep his focus on a series of legal challenges in a number of states and refuses to concede the election.


“It’s in nobody’s interest. It’s not in the president’s interest, it’s not in the House’s interest, it’s not in our interest,” said Shelby, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, of a shutdown. He then added: “You never know around here.”


Elsewhere, a number of Senate Republicans broke with the president’s decision to fire Krebs, a top cybersecurity official, on Wednesday. As Jordain Carney reports, reactions from the Senate GOP conference, which largely sticks with Trump’s moves, ranged from those offering support for Krebs to those openly breaking with Trump's decision to fire him. 


“It’s the president’s prerogative but I think it just adds to the confusion and chaos, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that would like some return to a little bit more of a — I don’t even know what’s normal anymore. We’ll call it the next normal,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynCornyn says election outcome 'becoming increasingly clear': report Top GOP senator: Biden should be getting intel briefings GOP senator congratulates Biden, says Trump should accept results MORE (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden's climate plans can cut emissions and also be good politics Acting Defense secretary makes surprise trip to Somalia As Biden administration ramps up, Trump legal effort drags on MORE (R-Ky.).


> House politics: Pelosi on Wednesday confirmed that the 117th Congress will be her last term atop the House Democratic Caucus after a deal made in 2018, with the party dispensing any drama inside its ranks on Wednesday as it reelected the same party leaders for two more years. 


“I don’t want to undermine any leverage I may have,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “But I made the statement.”


Pelosi has led the House Democrats since 2003, marking the longest stretch since the legendary Rep. Sam Rayburn (Texas) died in office in 1961, as Mike Lillis and Scott Wong note


Wednesday’s elections took place following a number of key losses on the House map for Democrats. As of Wednesday night, Republicans picked off 10 incumbent seats and did not defeat any Republicans who sought reelection, with Democrats staring at their slimmest majority since World War II. 


The Hill: Biden congratulates Pelosi on Speaker nomination.


The Hill: Rep. Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Trump: Liz Cheney's election remarks sparked by push to bring US troops home Biden's lead over Trump surpasses 6M votes as more ballots are tallied MORE (R-Wyo.) seeks to cool tensions with House conservatives.


The Hill: GOP sees path to House majority in 2022.







BIDEN TRANSITION: The president-elect on Wednesday called on the General Services Administration, an independent agency that supports government functions, to declare him the “apparent” winner of the presidential election, seemingly referring to statutory language (The Hill). He urged the agency to authorize the federal transition process so he and his administration-in-waiting can focus on what Biden called a “commander in chief” role to respond to the pandemic (The New York Times).


Earlier this month, Biden affirmed to reporters that his lawyers considered possible legal challenges to the GSA’s refusal to “ascertain” Trump’s defeat but said at the time that he didn’t think confrontation with the incumbent president would be necessary. 


Since then, ballot counts in key states and the popular vote expanded for Biden, the electoral math piled up more conclusively in his column and major news organizations, one after another, projected the former vice president will be sworn in on Jan. 20 as Trump’s successor.


In the more than two weeks since Election Day, the president has shown no inclination to assist Biden and his team as they prepare to govern. Trump has repeatedly tweeted that he won the election, filed state lawsuits (most of which have been tossed out of court) and pursued recounts that election experts predict will not overturn or uncover tens of thousands of ballots needed to make a difference in the outcome. The president’s new goal? Delay and cast doubt on the legitimacy of Biden’s victory (The Washington Post).


In his remarks, Biden appeared to refer to language in the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, which states, “The terms `President-elect’ and `Vice-President-elect’ as used in this Act shall mean such persons as are the apparent successful candidates for the office of the President and Vice President, respectively, as ascertained by the [GSA] Administrator following the general elections.”


The former vice president argued, “The law says that the General Services Administration has a person who recognizes who the winner is. And then they have to have access to all the data and information that the government possesses.”


“And it doesn’t require that there be an absolute winner. It says the ‘apparent’ winner. The ‘apparent’ winner,” Biden repeated. 


It has long been the practice during contemporary presidential transitions that the outgoing president more or less freezes new policy initiatives in a nod to the incoming president and administration. Trump is going in the other direction.


With eight weeks remaining in his presidency, Trump is levying more sanctions against Tehran and selling weapons to Iran’s enemies. He was dissuaded from ordering military action after international inspectors confirmed Iran’s supply of nuclear fuel has swelled since Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015 by the United States under former President Obama.


Political considerations in Tehran, too, could complicate Biden’s policy path as Iran prepares for its own elections and its president demands compensation to make up for Trump’s sanctions. While European allies are eager for a Biden administration to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal, Israel has continued its strong opposition to the U.S. providing sanctions relief in the hopes of moderating Iran’s behavior and is bolstered by its growing alliance with Gulf countries (The Hill).


The Hill: Biden has expressed interest in canceling at least some student loan debt to stimulate the economy and provide direct relief to struggling borrowers. Questions remain about how effective such an executive action could be for stimulating the economy and how much political backlash might follow.


The Hill: The Bureau of Land Management has been buffeted during the Trump years. With a Biden pick to head the public lands agency in 2021, the president-elect could appeal to a wide array of supporters, including perhaps some Republican conservationists.   




The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: asimendinger@thehill.com and aweaver@thehill.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE! 


Our COVID-19 polarization will only get worse. We need to find a balance, by Gary Abernathy, contributing columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/36MSNf7 


Trump’s Afghan troop withdrawal puts Biden in a jam, by Eli Lake, columnist, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/38QjAtI 


The House meets at 10 a.m.


The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of the nomination of Stephen Vaden to the United States Court of International Trade.


The president has no public events scheduled.


The vice president will lead a meeting of the White House coronavirus task force at 2:30 p.m. in the White House Situation Room.


Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisKamala Harris calls nurse on Thanksgiving to express gratitude in fight against COVID-19 Trump campaign loses appeal over Pennsylvania race The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation MORE, who are in Wilmington, Del., plan to meet virtually with the National Governors Association’s executive committee and make remarks today. 


Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBiden faces challenges, opportunities in Middle East O'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Israeli military instructed to prepare for Trump strike on Iran: report MORE is in Israel and meets with Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuBenjamin (Bibi) NetanyahuMORE.


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosts a 3 p.m. event to get a pandemic update from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield. Information and registration HERE.


Economic indicators: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. reports on jobless claims during the week that ended Nov. 14. The National Association of Realtors at 10 a.m. reports on a bright spot in the U.S. economy, which analysts believe continued through October: sales of existing homes. 


The Hill’s Diversity and Inclusion Summit TODAY at 11 a.m. ET:

Nearly 250 years after its founding, America is more diverse than ever before. Yet significant barriers to justice, equal opportunity and inclusion for all still exist for many Black, Hispanic, LGBT and minority Americans. What will it take for diversity, inclusion and equity to become more than just buzzwords? At this moment of national reflection, join The Hill for a conversation with change makers and stakeholders to discuss the active steps that policymakers and citizens should take toward meaningful change. RSVP.


Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv or on YouTube at 10:30 a.m. EST at Rising on YouTube


Starbucks and pay raises: The world’s largest coffee chain will hike pay for baristas, shift supervisors and cafe attendants at its U.S. outlets by at least 10 percent, effective Dec. 14. Starbucks will also boost starting pay by 5 percent to help attract and retain employees. Some workers demand more, anticipating a $15 minimum wage in some locations. Hourly pay at Starbucks ranges from a little more than $9 an hour to $17.03 an hour (Reuters and Business Insider).


Stimulus check deadline: The IRS, lawmakers and nonprofits are working to ensure as many people as possible register to receive their coronavirus stimulus payment by Saturday’s deadline. People have until Nov. 21 at 3 p.m. EST to use the online IRS web tool for non filers to submit information to get their federal payment this year. The web tool is designed for people who are not typically required to file a tax return, generally because they have low incomes (The Hill).


TV tradition: On Wednesday, Apple bowed to public backlash, announcing it has teamed up with PBS for ad-free broadcasts of “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” (on Nov. 22) and “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (on Dec. 13). Some traditions are so embedded that tech is just a turnoff. Last month, Apple TV+ became the new home to Peanuts holiday specials. But that sparked an outcry from viewers who still love annual network appointment television. The Apple wizards in California, perhaps unaware that Charlie Brown occasionally used Snoopy’s ears to get better TV reception, listened and acted (Deadline and CNN). 


And finally … It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by Conan O’Brien’s announced pivot from late night to a new variety format on HBO Max, we’re eager for some smart guesses about his career.


Email your responses to asimendinger@thehill.com and/or aweaver@thehill.com, and please add “Quiz” to subject lines. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.


When O'Brien ended his short-lived run as host of “The Tonight Show,” who was his final guest?


  1. Amy Poehler
  2. Julia Louis-Dreyfus
  3. Robin Williams
  4. Will Ferrell


During O'Brien's career, he has twice served as the main performer/comedian at the White House correspondents’ dinner. Which comedian has made the most appearances as entertainer at the dinner?


  1. Jimmy KimmelJames (Jimmy) Christian KimmelObama jokes that he's 'scared' of Michelle, Sasha Obama surprises speechless fan with live book reading on Kimmel Obama riffs on Trump: 'We can always send the Navy SEALs in' MORE
  2. Jay Leno
  3. Tina Fey
  4. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans The Hill's Morning Report - Fearing defeat, Trump claims 'illegal' ballots The Hill's Morning Report - Biden inches closer to victory MORE


Which comedian has not served as a host of the "Late Night" franchise?


  1. David Letterman
  2. Craig Ferguson
  3. Jimmy Fallon
  4. Seth Meyers


At the end of his run at "Late Night," O'Brien said he "owed his career to ____.”


  1. His wife
  2. Lorne Michaels
  3. The Simpsons
  4. David Letterman