5 min read

Wake Up To Politics - November 18, 2020

It’s Wednesday, November 18, 2020. Inauguration Day is 63 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

Do you have a question you want me to answer in the next episode of the Wake Up To Politics Podcast? Send it over in a voice memo and you might be featured in the episode!


An experimental COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. is 95% effective, the company announced this morning after completing Phase 3 of its testing. The trial included nearly 44,000 subjects, half of whom received the vaccine and half of whom received a placebo shot. Out of 170 instances where participants developed symptomatic cases of COVID-19, 162 had received the placebo while eight had received the vaccine.

  • “Efficacy was consistent across age, gender, race and ethnicity demographics,” Pfizer said in a statement announcing its final results, including a 94% efficacy rate among adults over 65 years of age.
  • Pfizer also said that it plans to apply for emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “within days,” becoming the first company to submit its coronavirus vaccine candidate for final approval. Pfizer completed its trials in about eight months, a record speed for vaccine development.

The promising vaccine news comes as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the United States. According to the COVID-19 Tracking Project, more than 155,000 Americans tested positive for the virus on Tuesday. Nearly 77,000 Americans were in hospitalization due to coronavirus, while 1,565 died on Tuesday due to the virus.

  • “There is now aggressive, unrelenting, expanding broad community spread across the country, reaching most counties, without evidence of improvement but rather, further deterioration,” the White House Coronavirus Task Force said in a dire report obtained by CNN. “Current mitigation efforts are inadequate and must be increased to flatten the curve to sustain the health system for both Covid and non-Covid emergencies.”
  • Many states and cities are heeding the call to adapt new social restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, including California, Illinois, and Maryland. Several Republican governors who had resisted implementing mask mantes have also done so, such as the leaders of Utah, Iowa, and North Dakota.

Transfer of Power

President Donald Trump fired Christopher Krebs, the top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security. Krebs, who had directed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) since its creation in November 2018, oversaw efforts to protect the 2020 elections from cyberattacks. In that role, he had repeatedly debunked misinformation promoted by President Trump; his agency joined a statement last week calling the 2020 election “the most secure in American history.”

  • “The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate,” Trump claimed in a Tuesday night tweet announcing the official’s firing, explicitly tying Krebs’ ouster to his efforts to rebut allegations of election fraud.
  • The president also took to Twitter last week to terminate Defense Secretary Mark Esper, one of several officials who Trump has clashed with and then fired since Election Day. In a tweet of his own after his dismissal, Krebs responded: “Honored to serve. We did it right.”

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, appeared in court on behalf of the Trump campaign for the first time. Giuliani, who was placed in charge of the president’s post-election legal efforts last week, represented the campaign on Tuesday in an attempt to block certification of the vote count in Pennsylvania. The former mayor claimed that the Pennsylvania results were marred by voter fraud; President-elect Joe Biden is on track to win the state by about 80,000 votes. There is no evidence of any widespread fraud.

  • According to the Washington Post, Giuliani’s legal strategy centers around blocking the vote totals in key states from being certified, in a last-ditch attempt to ensure neither candidate receives 270 electoral votes, which would force the vote to the House of Representatives.
  • However, a number of judges have knocked down legal claims by the Trump campaign, and most states are on track to certify their results in the coming weeks. Republican appointees on the canvassing board in Michigan’s largest county, Wayne County, attempted to block results from being certified on Wednesday but later reversed themselves and signed on to the certification.


The Senate blocked a controversial nomination to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors on Tuesday. Judy Shelton, who was nominated by President Trump in July 2019, has called in the past for the United States to return to the gold standard, which would require every dollar in circulation to be backed by gold or another precious metal. Most nations, including the U.S., abandoned the archaic system in the 20th century.

  • Shelton’s nomination failed to advance in a 47-50 vote; Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) joined all 48 Democrats in opposition. (Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also switched his vote to “nay,” a procedural device that allows him to submit her nomination again later.)
  • Three senators did not participate in the vote: Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Rick Scott (R-FL). Alexander was opposed to the nomination, but if Grassley and Scott had been in attendance (and McConnell had switched his vote), Shelton could have been advanced in a 50-50 vote (with Vice President Mike Pence braking the tie.)
  • Grassley and Scott were both in quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19. Grassley announced later Tuesday night that he had tested positive for the virus. At age 87, he is among the oldest members of the Senate and serves as president pro tempore of the chamber, an honorary position that places him third in the presidential line of succession.


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump has no public events scheduled.

  • Vice President Mike Pence will attend a U.S. Space Command basing briefing at 2 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden will participate in a virtual roundtable with frontline health care workers in Wilmington, Delaware.

  • Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will hold meetings with transition advisers.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. The chamber will consider the nomination of Stephen A. Vaden to be a Judge on the U.S. Court of International Trade, voting on cloture at 11 a.m. and confirmation later in the afternoon. The Senate will also vote to invoke cloture on the nomination of Kathryn Kimball Mizelle to be a U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Florida in the afternoon.

  • Vaden has served as General Counsel of the Agriculture Department since December 2018. Mizelle, a 33-year-old Jones Day attorney, will be the youngest federal judge in almost four decades. She has never tried a case in court and has been rated “Not Qualified” by the American Bar Association.

The House will convene at 10 a.m. The chamber will consider a motion to go to conference on H.R. 6395, the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. The House will then vote on 22 pieces of legislation, most of them focused on foreign affairs.

  • Among the pieces of legislation that will be voted on by the chamber: a resolution condemning China’s actions in Hong Kong, a resolution condemning the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and a bill prohibiting Russian participation in the Group of Seven (G7), an international group which it was formerly included in.
  • House Democrats will hold their leadership elections today. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) are all expected to be easily re-elected. The octogenarian trio has led the Democrats caucus since 2003. There are a handful of contested races: for assistant speaker, caucus vice chair, and caucus leadership representative.
  • House Republicans held their leadership elections on Tuesday and re-elected their top three leaders: Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), and Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-WY).

The Supreme Court has no oral arguments or conferences scheduled.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, please consider donating to support me and my work, listening to my podcast with St. Louis Public Radio, and spreading the word about the newsletter to your friends and family. If this newsletter was forwarded to you, go to wakeuptopolitics.com to subscribe and learn more.