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Biden gets to work while Trump shakes up Pentagon, plus an unbelievable hole-in-one

While members of the GOP are not calling Biden with congratulations, foreign leaders are. See what's on the president-elect's global to-do list.
Image: Joe Biden
President-elect Joe Biden called President Donald Trump's refusal to concede the election "an embarrassment" on Tuesday. Carolyn Kaster / AP

Good morning, NBC News readers.

A shake-up at the Pentagon has further rattled an already uncertain presidential transition.

Here's what we're watching this Wednesday morning.


Trump loyalists given top Pentagon roles after officials resign, rattling Democrats

Several loyalists to President Donald Trump were promoted to top roles in the Defense Department on Tuesday after officials resigned following the unceremonious ouster of Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

The reshuffling at the Pentagon has raised national security concerns among Democrats as President-elect Joe Biden begins his transition.

The officials being promoted to top policy and intelligence positions Tuesday are Trump loyalists who frequently appear on Fox News and have courted controversy in the past.

Retired Army Gen. Anthony Tata, who will become the Pentagon's top policy adviser, falsely called former President Barack Obama a "terrorist leader" on Twitter in 2018.

Kash Patel will become the new defense secretary's chief of staff. Patel, formerly a National Security Council official and top aide to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., is linked in media reports to efforts to discredit the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"It is hard to overstate just how dangerous high-level turnover at the Department of Defense is during a period of presidential transition, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who leads the House Armed Services Committee, told Reuters.


Biden calls Trump's refusal to concede 'an embarrassment'

President-elect Biden on Tuesday called President Trump's failure to concede the election "an embarrassment," but said neither that nor the Trump administration's stonewalling would stop him from getting to work.

"We are already beginning the transition," Biden said.

But there are growing concerns that Biden is not getting all the intelligence reports he needs — including the President's Daily Brief — to prepare for the White House.

Four Republican senators came out on Tuesday to say that the Biden team should have access to resources needed for an orderly transition. But the majority of Republicans in Congress have stayed mum about the Democrats' victory.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even said "there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration," from the State Department podium on Tuesday.

Pompeo also said it was "ridiculous" to suggest Trump's refusal to concede defeat in last week's election could undermine U.S. efforts to promote free elections and peaceful transfers of power overseas.

Trump has refused to concede defeat and made unproven allegations of voter fraud, even though state election officials from both parties have rejected the allegations.

But whether the GOP recognizes it or not, congratulatory tweets and phone calls from world leaders have been streaming in for Biden.

From Covid-19 to climate change and trade issues, check out the host of global issues waiting for the next president.


'Two-way street': Masks protect wearers and everyone else

Wearing a mask not only protects others from the spread of Covid-19, but it protects the wearer as well, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday in its strongest messaging yet on face coverings.

The CDC also said that "adopting universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns," particularly when combined with a doubling down of mitigation strategies available to virtually every American: physical distancing, hand washing and ventilation.

The new guidance comes as U.S. hospitals are seeing a record number of Covid-19 patients as cases continue to climb.

Pandemic fatigue and rising anger over having to wear masks and practice social distancing, coupled with colder weather driving people indoors where the virus is more easily spread, have created a "perfect storm" for new infections, epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said Tuesday.

Osterholm, who is also on President-elect Joe Biden's Covid-19 task force, warned on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" Tuesday that we could hit 200,000 or more cases a day.

"We have to get prepared in our hospitals for that very issue," he said.


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Plus

  • In blow to Democrats, Republican Thom Tillis won re-election in North Carolina's Senate race, NBC News projects.
  • The Supreme Court appears poised to spare the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, from a challenge by Republican-led states to strike it down.
  • Lucille Bridges, the mother of civil rights activist Ruby Bridges, who walked with her then-6-year-old daughter past crowds screaming racist slurs as she became the first Black student at her all-white New Orleans elementary school, has died. She was 86.
  • In the "you gotta see it to believe it" category, check out golfer Jon Rahm's unbelievable water-skimming hole-in-one during a Masters practice round at the famed Augusta National course on Tuesday.
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THINK about it

Legally Trump doesn't have to concede — symbolically it's vital he does anyway, chief operating officer of the Lawfare Institute and a former CIA officer David Priess writes in an opinion piece.


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A day of remembrance

Today is Veteran's Day, a day to honor all those who have served in war and peace, both dead and alive.

One 99-year-old paratrooper is still doing his part to serve the country.

Jim "Pee Wee" Martin was among the first to land during the D-Day invasion and helped liberate France during World War II.

More recently, he recorded a public service announcement encouraging his fellow citizens to wear masks in the fight against coronavirus.

Asked what he thinks about his military service, he humbly replied: "I'm proud of what I did. And our people are proud of it. But we don't go around and talk about it. It's not necessary."


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Thanks, Petra