Good morning! It’s Friday, December 18, 2020. Inauguration Day is 33 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
This will be the last edition of Wake Up To Politics for 2020. Thank you so much to all of you for reading this newsletter throughout the past year, during what has surely been one of the most consequential periods for news and politics in recent memory — from impeachment and coronavirus to a Supreme Court vacancy and a presidential election.
I hope you all have safe and happy holidays. I will be back in your inbox on Monday, January 4 — just in time for the Georgia runoffs!
Trump remains on the sidelines amid coronavirus, cybersecurity crises
In the past 24 hours...
- The United States reported record numbers of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, as deaths from COVID-19 soar as well.
- New details emerged about a massive cybersecurity attack that compromised several U.S. government agencies.
- The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose to its highest level since September, as lawmakers continue to negotiate an economic stimulus package.
But President Donald Trump has yet to publicly address any of those issues. Instead, here are some of the things he tweeted about in the same 24-hour timespan:
- The 2020 election, which he baselessly claimed was “rigged.”
- The U.S. Supreme Court, which he said he was “very disappointed in.”
- The investigation into Hunter Biden, which he denied having known about.
- The Russia investigation, which he called a “hoax” and a “lie.”
- The late Sen. John McCain, who he labeled as “one of the most overrated people in D.C.”
The sidelines are a rare place to find President Trump, but they are where has been languishing in recent days, staying firmly away from the spotlight on key issues from coronavirus to cybersecurity.
Trump has even remained relatively quiet on the COVID-19 vaccine, despite cheerleading it for months and contributing to its success through his Operation Warp Speed. The president has tweeted only a few times about the vaccine and opted not to address the nation on television upon its arrival. It was Vice President Mike Pence who toured a vaccine facility this week and publicly received a vaccine himself this morning.
President-elect Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are also expected to be vaccinated in recent days, but there are currently no plans for Trump to receive the shot in front of cameras. (He is the only one among that group who already contracted the coronavirus.)
Biden and congressional leaders have also all addressed the cyberattack, while Trump remained silent. (Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said it was “extraordinary” that the president has not mentioned the attack, which he called the “modern equivalent of...Russian bombers reportedly flying undetected over the entire country.”)
And the president has been virtually absent from negotiations over a coronavirus relief package: according to the Washington Post, he almost derailed the talks on Thursday by calling for larger stimulus checks, but was talked out of it by aides and has not participated in talks on the legislation.
According to the New York Times, Trump “is described by aides and allies as preoccupied with the election results he still refuses to accept,” still seeking ways to hang on to his presidency as advisers try (with little success) to refocus his attention on the vaccine or other urgent matters.
But Trump “rarely even brings up the vaccine” in private conversations, the Times reported, “and has shown no interest in participating in any kind of public health message.”
Indeed, his tweets and public comments suggest, Trump may be more interested in keeping his job than doing it.
The Washington Post: “White House officials and congressional leaders are trying to address a number of lingering policy disagreements as they race to finalize an approximately $900 billion coronavirus relief package, with growing signs that the talks will drag into the weekend.”
“Among the most vexing issues is whether to curb the powers of the Federal Reserve and how to structure a new round of stimulus checks. They are also clashing over aid for theaters and music venues and relief for cities and states, among other things. Lawmakers have fought over many of these issues since May, but they were trying to resolve them all at once Thursday, creating a chaotic scene with numerous lawmakers all unsure about the latest state of play.”
“Negotiators were hoping to resolve all of their differences and pass matching bills in the House and Senate by Friday night to marry the stimulus bill with a must-pass government funding package. But the prospect of that appeared to slip away late Thursday. Lawmakers must pass at least a stopgap spending bill by Friday night to avoid a government shutdown Saturday. Then they can continue negotiating the stimulus bill through the weekend.”
The Associated Press: “President-elect Joe Biden says he had chosen North Carolina regulator Michael S. Regan as his nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency and New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland as his pick for interior secretary.”
“Biden said Thursday that the selections round out what he said would be an experienced climate team ready from their first day in office to tackle the ‘undeniable, accelerating, punishing reality of climate change.’ Biden is proposing a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s transportation and electrical systems to cut the oil, gas and coal emissions behind worsening global warming.”
“The picks also help Biden fulfill his promise to put together a Cabinet that reflects the diversity of America. Regan is Black, while Haaland would be the first Native American Cabinet member in U.S. history. Biden will introduce Regan, Haaland and other newly named nominees at an event Saturday.”
Axios: “President Trump plans to issue a wave of pardons today, moving to expedite acts of clemency before Christmas, according to a source with direct knowledge and advocates who have been briefed on the plans.”
In Thursday’s “Daybook,” I wrote that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would be meeting with Secretary of State-designate Antony Blinken, despite noting earlier in the newsletter that Pompeo was self-quarantining after being exposed to COVID-19.
Blinken did visit the State Department on Thursday but did not meet with Pompeo, who stayed home. The report about Pompeo and Blinken meeting had been published before Pompeo’s exposure and should not have been included in the newsletter. My apologies for the error, and thanks to the readers who pointed it out.
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump will meet with Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller at 3:30 p.m. in the Oval Office.
Vice President Mike Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams received the COVID-19 vaccine at a White House event this morning. Pence will also join the president for his meeting with Acting Secretary Miller and will host a celebration marking Space Force’s first birthday at 4 p.m.
President-elect Joe Biden has no public events scheduled. He attended Mass at a church in Wilmington, Delaware, this morning, marking the 48th anniversary of the car crash that killed his first wife and infant daughter.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will meet with transition advisers.
The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and resume consideration of the nomination of Fernando L. Aenlle-Rocha to be a U.S. District Judge for the Central District of California. Roll call votes are possible later in the day, although none are currently scheduled.
The House will convene at 10 a.m. for “morning hour” debate before moving to legislative business at 12 p.m. The chamber will vote at around 1 p.m. on three pieces of legislation:
- S. 3418, the STORM Act
- S. 979, the Federal Advance Contracts Enhancement Act
- S. 2730, the Drone Advisory Committee for the 21st Century Act
Other roll call votes are possible later in the day.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will hold her weekly press conference at 2 p.m. in the Capitol.
The Supreme Court may release opinions at 10 a.m.
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