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Wake Up To Politics - November 9, 2020

It’s Monday, November 9, 2020. Inauguration Day is 72 days away. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

The Biden Transition

In one of his first acts as president-elect, Joe Biden unveiled a 13-person task force this morning to advise him on the COVID-19 pandemic during the transition. The task force will be chaired by Dr. David Kessler, who served as FDA Commissioner under George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton; Dr. Vivek Murthy, who served as Surgeon General under Barack Obama; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a Yale professor.

Other members include Dr. Rick Bright, who became a Trump administration whistleblower after being ousted from the Department of Health and Human Services earlier this year.

Biden’s early designation of the scientists who will guide his coronavirus response points to the vexing challenge looming over his transition: how to enact one of his cornerstone campaign promises, getting the pandemic under control.

The United States is now regularly recording more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day; according to the New York Times, one in 441 Americans tested positive for the virus in the last week. Some welcome coronavirus news was also announced this morning: Pfizer announced that an early analysis had shown its vaccine candidate to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 infections, putting the drug company on track to request authorization for the shot before the end of the month.

Dr. Rick Bright, one of President-elect Joe Biden’s new pandemic advisers, testifying before Congress in May. (Photo by Shawn Thew/AP)

Even as Biden prepares to move into the Oval Office next year, his transition cannot formally begin until a Trump administration appointee signs off. Emily Murphy, the low-profile administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA), is required to sign a letter officially designating Biden as President-elect, which gives his transition team access to millions of dollars in government funds and taxpayer-funded office space.

However, the GSA issued a statement on Saturday saying the agency had not yet made an “ascertainment” that Biden was the “apparent” Electoral College winner — as outlined by a 1963 law — despite every major media organization in the country having done so.

The Biden transition is still moving ahead full-steam, even without the GSA’s stamp of approval. According to the Washington Post, his top White House aides are expected to be announced this week; longtime adviser Ron Klain is seen as the frontrunner to be chief of staff.

Cabinet secretaries are likely to be unveiled in the following weeks. According to Politico, top contenders include former Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy (Defense), UN Ambassador Susan Rice (State), Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard (Treasury), and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones (Justice).

GSA Administrator Emily Murphy meeting with President Trump in 2018. The fate of the Biden transition rests in her hands. (Photo by Joyce N. Bohthosian/New York Times)

In denying Biden’s team funds to begin their transition, the Trump administration is merely following the lead of outgoing President Donald Trump himself. Nearly the week after the election, and trailing in enough battleground states to deny him a second term, Trump has still yet to give up in the race against Biden.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, promised to file more lawsuits in key states this week focusing on three issues: “alleged barriers to observing the counting of mail-in ballots, alleged votes cast by the deceased, and alleged backdated ballots,” according to the Wall Street Journal. There is no evidence to support any of his claims of widespread fraud.

According to Bloomberg, many of Trump’s own aides view the ongoing legal challenges as “futile” and some have urged him to concede; per the Associated Press, “Trump is not expected to formally concede....but is likely to grudgingly vacate the White House at the end of his term.”

There is no requirement for the losing presidential candidate to make a formal concession, although it has been traditional since at least 1896. Most Republican leaders have joined Trump in declining to recognize Biden’s victory; notably, former President George W. Bush broke with his party on Sunday, publicly congratulating Biden after speaking with the President-elect by phone.


All times Eastern.

President Donald Trump has no public events scheduled.

Vice President Mike Pence will chair a meeting of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, his first since October 20, at 3 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will receive a briefing from their transition COVID-19 advisory board in the morning and hold briefings with transition advisers in the afternoon.

In between the briefings, Biden will deliver remarks from Wilmington, Delaware, on “his plans to beat COVID-19 and build our economy back better.”

The Senate will convene at 3 p.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of James Ray Knepp II to be a U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio. The chamber will vote to advance the nomination at 5:30 p.m., as Senate Republicans continue to usher through President Trump’s judicial nominees as his term draws to a close.

The House will meet at 10 a.m. for a brief pro forma session.

The Supreme Court will release orders from its Friday conference at 9:30 a.m. The court will then hear oral arguments in two cases:

  • Niz-Chavez v. Barr (10 a.m.): How must the government tell noncitizens about their impending removal proceedings? To answer this question, the justices will attempt to untangle the gnarled strands of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). They will focus on whether the government must send the seven pieces of information required by the INA all at once – such as the reason for the proceedings and the right to counsel – or whether the government can deliver this information to migrants in separate, staggered documents. Agusto Nic-Chavez argues that the law requires “a notice to appear,” and therefore he should’ve received a single document. The government counters that the law only mentions a “written notice,” and so it doesn't entirely matter if the notice comes as one document or three.
  • Brownback v. King (11 a.m.): James King was walking in Grand Rapids, Michigan one afternoon when he was approached by plainclothes policemen, who falsely suspected him of invading a nearby home. The officers took King’s wallet, choked him, and punched him repeatedly in the head, to the point where a witness called 9-1-1 and said they were “gonna kill this man.” King sued the officers unsuccessfully in a federal district court. The Supreme Court will consider whether King can now sue under Bivens, a landmark 1971 case which lets citizens sue officers for violating their rights.

— Supreme Court case summaries contributed by Anna Salvatore

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