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Biden announces Science and Technology Policy director, elevates position to Cabinet-level
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden will be announcing one of the last major department heads on Saturday, highlighting his campaign refrain to prioritize "science over fiction."
Biden will name Dr. Eric Lander to serve as his top science adviser and will be elevating Lander's position as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to a Cabinet rank position for the first time.
During the Saturday rollout of his science team, Biden will also announce he is keeping Dr. Francis Collins as the director of the National Institutes of Health. Collins was first appointed by former President Obama in 2009.
Lander is an acclaimed mathematician and biologist who led the Human Genome Project, and now serves as director of the Broad Institute at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Biden transition team says Lander will lead a team focused on tackling challenges from Covid-19 to climate change, racial justice and the economic downturn.
Biden further outlined the questions he wants Lander's team to address in a letter to Lander: What lessons can be drawn from the pandemic about how to better prepare for addressing health challenges in the future; how scientific breakthroughs can be harnessed to address climate change while also promoting economic growth; how the United States can maintain an advantage in developing new technologies over other nations like China; how to ensure scientific advances benefit all Americans; and how to promote science and technology education in America.
“They are big questions, to be sure, but not as big as America’s capacity to address them,” Biden wrote.
Dr. Alondra Nelson will serve as Lander's deputy director. Nelson is the current president of the Social Science Research Council and is also a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, a research institute located in Princeton, N.J. Biden also will announce that two women: Dr. Frances Arnold, the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, and Dr. Maria Zuber, a geophysicist who was the first woman to lead a NASA planetary mission, will lead the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology. It will be the first time two women will lead the group.
Kei Koizumi will serve as chief of staff for the OSTP, and Narda Jones will join as legislative director.
“Science will always be at the forefront of my administration — and these world-renowned scientists will ensure everything we do is grounded in science, facts, and the truth,” Biden said in a statement announcing the lineup. “Their trusted guidance will be essential as we come together to end this pandemic, bring our economy back, and pursue new breakthroughs to improve the quality of life of all Americans.”
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris said the past year has only “reaffirmed the importance of listening to scientists when it comes to meeting the unprecedented challenges facing the American people.”
Julia Letlow, the widow of congressman-elect who died of Covid-19, will run for his vacated seat
WASHINGTON — Julia Letlow, an education professional whose husband, Luke, passed away last year from Covid-19 shortly after his election to the House of Representatives, will run for the seat her husband had been slated to fill before his death.
Letlow, a Republican, announced her congressional bid Thursday in a radio interview, her campaign noting in a statement that her husband announced his race on that same platform last year.
"Luke and I have been best friends and a team for the last eight years, and we always believed that you have to work hard for your dreams and often that requires stepping out and taking a leap of faith. “During Luke’s campaign for Congress last year, Luke and I traveled to every corner of Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District — from Bastrop to Bunkie to Bogalusa — and all points between," Letlow said in a statement.
"I am running to continue the mission Luke started — to stand up for our Christian values, to fight for our rural agricultural communities, and to deliver real results to move our state forward."
Luke Letlow won the runoff election for Louisiana's 5th Congressional District last December, and had been set to take office in 2021 to replace Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham, who unsuccessfully ran for governor. But Letlow contracted Covid-19 and passed away days before he was going to be sworn in.
Julia Letlow previously worked for the University of Louisiana-Monroe and Tulane University, according to a biography sent out by her campaign.
A handful of candidates had already announced their bids, but USA Today Network reports that a group of Republicans all have decided not to run now that Letlow is seeking office. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards has set the special primary election for March 20 and the general for April 24.
Shortly after Letlow's announcement, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise endorsed her, saying that she "shares the same commitment to public service" as her husband and "I can't think of anyone better to carry on Luke's legacy in representing Louisiana's 5th Congressional District."
The GOP impeachment defectors by the numbers
WASHINGTON — Ten House Republicans voted to impeach President Trump on Wednesday. Here's what you need to know about them by the numbers:
Less than one percentage point: The closest margin of victory in 2020 for any of those 10, for Rep. David Valadao, who won his California seat back from Democrat TJ Cox after being defeated by a narrow margin in 2018.
44 percentage points: The widest margin of victory in the 2020 general election for any of those 10, for Wyoming at-large Rep. Liz Cheney.
Eight out of 10: The number of House Republicans voting for impeachment who won their 2020 general election by more than 10 percentage points.
Eight out of 10: The number of House Republicans voting for impeachment whose congressional districts were won by Donald Trump.
Three out of 10: The number of House Republicans voting for impeachment whose states (Washington and California) have a nonpartisan top-two primary process.
1: The number of people in American history to successfully impeach two presidents (Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton, who voted to impeach former President Bill Clinton, and then to impeach Trump on Wednesday. Upton did not support the first impeachment of Trump.)
1: The number of House Republicans voting for impeachment who also objected to certification of the electoral votes last week.
On a historical note, 46 members who voted Wednesday were also serving during the impeachment of former President Clinton. Of those, nine are Republicans who voted for impeaching Clinton but voted no on impeaching Trump (the other two Republicans who served during both impeachments are Upton, who voted to impeach both, and Texas Rep. Kay Granger, who did not vote on Wednesday and has Covid-19). And 35 are Democrats who opposed impeaching Clinton but voted to impeach Trump.
Putting Trump’s House GOP defectors into historical context
WASHINGTON — In 1998, five House Democrats broke with their party to impeach Bill Clinton over his affair with Monica Lewinsky.
And in 2019, zero House Republicans defected from Donald Trump when he was impeached over the Ukraine matter. (One GOP senator, Mitt Romney, voted to convict Trump in the Senate trail.)
That’s the modern-day historical context to evaluate the number of House Republicans who might eventually vote on Wednesday to impeach Trump over his role in last week’s insurrection at the Capitol.
As of publication time on Wednesday, there are at least five House Republicans who said they will vote for Trump’s impeachment today.
How high will that number eventually be?
More than $50 mil spent on political cable TV ads in D.C. this cycle, many targeting Trump
WASHINGTON — One unique repercussion of having a president who is an avowed cable news watcher is that a massive amount of money was spent in the Washington D.C. cable market in the 2020 election cycle, much of it targeting Trump himself.
Analysis from AdImpact shows that advertisers spent $30.3 million on political TV ads on Washington D.C. cable in 2020 and $21.5 million in 2019. Those figures don't even include spending on national TV spots still aimed at the president's viewing habits, and also exclude spending by congressional candidates for districts that include a piece of the D.C. market.
That kind of spending is significant — the 2020 sum alone is more than was spent on traditional advertising for any House race this past cycle (New Mexico's 2nd District had $29.4 million in total TV/radio spending, although it should be noted that D.C.'s media market is far more expensive than most).
And a deeper dive at the top spenders and their content indicates that many of these ads were directly aimed at reaching Trump, who regularly tweeted praise and criticism of the various news shows he watched, primarily on cable.
The Lincoln Project, the anti-Trump group started by former Republican campaign hands in exodus, spent more than any other group on D.C. cable with $5.7 million. Many of their spots directly criticized the president for his handling of coronavirus or civil unrest, but it also spent money running spots specifically attacking top Trump campaign hands and criticizing the president for associating with them.
The ads were tailored directly at Trump, sometimes calling him out directly. And the tactics prompted responses from the president, who tweeted about the Lincoln Project ads on at least one occasion.
Over the past few days, the Lincoln Project also started running a spot using Trump's comments refusing to accept the 2020 election and putting them alongside violent imagery and rhetoric from last week's pro-Trump rally and subsequent attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The group's strategy prompted at least one Republican group to give them a taste of their own medicine — the conservative group Club for Growth Action ran a spot of its own in D.C. criticizing the Lincoln Project and its founders.
Other groups directly called on the White House to make specific policy changes (sometimes targeting the president by name), like this spot from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on drug pricing' one from Americans for Tax Reform specifically asking "Mr. President, please reject socialist price controls for Medicare Part B." A similar spot from Americans for Limited Government criticized a Trump executive order on health care as "every socialists' dream" and accused the president of adopting socialism. And one from the Pebble Limited Partnership asked "President Trump" to "continue to stand tall and don't let politics enter the Pebble mine review process."
And Trump's presidential campaign spent $1.8 million on cable ads in Washington D.C., despite the fact that the city votes almost universally Democratic in presidential elections and that most Republicans all-but wrote off neighboring Virginia in the 2020 presidential election. That spending sparked questions as to whether the campaign was running the ads so that Trump could see them while watching television.
One other thing the spending figures don't include: Those who targeted Trump while he visited his Mar-a-Lago getaway in Florida.
It's not new to see groups spending on the airwaves in Washington D.C. in the hopes of trying to influence decision-makers. But what's been a new feature of the Trump era is how directly many groups targeted the president himself, thanks to his well-known TV diet, to either try to convince him or rattle him.
Biden said his Cabinet 'will look like America'. Here's his final slate.
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden promised that his Cabinet would be the most diverse in history and that it would "look like America." And Biden addressed that pledge on Friday when announced the final round of Cabinet selections.
"This will be the first Cabinet ever with a majority of people of color occupying this Cabinet. And it has more than a dozen history-making appointments," Biden said.
Of 21 Cabinet-level positions that require Senate confirmation, Biden will nominate four Latino secretaries:
- Alejandro Mayorkas, Department of Homeland Security
- Xavier Becerra, Department of Health and Human Services
- Miguel Cardona, Department of Education
- Isabel Guzman, Small Business Administrator
And nearly half of Biden's announced Cabinet will be women. In addition to Guzman:
- Janet Yellen, Department of Treasury
- Jennifer Granholm: Department of Energy
- Deb Haaland: Department of Interior
- Gina Raimondo: Department of Commerce
- Marcia Fudge, Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.N. Ambassador
- Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence
- Neera Tanden, Office of Management and Budget Director
- Katherine Tai, U.S. Trade Representative
Biden also chose four Black members to serve in his Cabinet: Fudge, Thomas-Greenfield, Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin and Michael Regan.
If confirmed, Austin would be the first Black secretary of Defense, and Regan would be the first Black man to head the Environmental Protection Agency.
Biden's pick to lead the Transportation Department, Pete Buttigieg, would be the first openly gay member of a Cabinet confirmed by the Senate. President Trump's former acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell, was the first openly gay Cabinet member.
Kamala Harris continues to build out staff with new hires
WASHINGTON — Vice President-elect Kamala Harris announced additional staff hires Friday morning including economic and policy advisers as well as additional communications staff.
Mike Pyle, who served on former President Obama's economic policy team, will serve as Harris' chief economic adviser. He is a former clerk for President-elect Biden's attorney general-designee, Merrick Garland.
Harris also announced her deputy chief of staff will be Michael Fuchs, who currently works at the Center for American Progress, and served as a foreign policy adviser to Bill Clinton. Fuchs will work closely with Harris’ chief of staff Tina Flournoy, who also comes from the Clinton orbit.
“These deeply experienced public servants reflect the very best of our nation, and they will be ready to get to work building a country that lifts up all Americans,” Harris said in a statement. “Their counsel and expertise are grounded in a commitment to making sure our economy works for working people and all those looking to work. And their leadership will be critical as we work to meet the challenges facing the American people — from the coronavirus pandemic to this economic recession to our climate crisis and long-overdue reckoning on racial injustice.”
Harris’ speechwriting director will be Katie Childs Graham, who led the speechwriting team for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, and worked as Sen. Amy Klobuchar's, D-Minn., communications director.
Also joining Harris’ office are Sabrina Singh as deputy press secretary, Vincent Evans as deputy director of the office of public engagement and intergovernmental affairs, Deanne Millison as deputy policy director and Peter Velz as director of press operations. Singh, Evans and Velz all worked for Harris during the general election campaign and Millison comes from Harris’ Senate office.
Some of Harris’ hires could be an indication of where her policy focuses will be as Biden's V.P. One incoming policy adviser, Dr. Ike Irby, specializes in marine science and is an expert in climate change.
“President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris have a bold agenda that will build our nation back better than before. These appointees will work tirelessly for the American people, and I am proud to have them join our White House team,” Flournoy said.
Biden likely to be inaugurated with no confirmed Cabinet secretaries
WASHINGTON — When George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump took their initial oath of office, they did so the same day that several of their Cabinet secretaries were confirmed by the Senate. President-elect Joe Biden will likely not have that reality.
Senate confirmation hearings routinely happen before a president-elect's inauguration because the Senate has been sworn in and in session before Jan. 20. And in most cases, that means that the newly inaugurated president will be able to start work with at least some key Cabinet secretaries in place to receive briefings and lead departments.
In President Trump's case, his secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security were both confirmed on Inauguration Day. And confirmation hearings for his picks for attorney general, and to lead the departments of Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation and Treasury all began prior to Jan. 20.
It was a similar story for Obama's first term. Obama's secretaries for six departments were confirmed on Inauguration Day: Agriculture, Education, Energy, Homeland Security, Interior and Veterans Affairs. Hillary Clinton, Obama's first secretary of state, was confirmed the day after inauguration, and Obama's first secretary of defense was a holdover from the Bush administration and was able to start work on Jan. 20 because he had already been Senate confirmed.
Even Bush, whose presidential win wasn't confirmed until nearly six weeks after Election Day, was able to start work with a partially confirmed Cabinet.
Bush's secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, State and Treasury were all confirmed on Jan. 20, 2001. And unlike the process for Obama and Trump's nominees, many of Bush's nominees received hearings when the Senate stood at a 50-50 split with the opposing party in control.
Republicans did not hold control of the Senate until Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney were inaugurated.
And that's a similar position Biden's secretary-designees find themselves in. Control of the Senate was decided on Jan. 6 after Georgia Democrats Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won their respective runoff races. But the Senate does not need to wait for the new Congress to take control and be sworn-in to begin hearings.
Last November, Biden called for his picks to go through the Senate confirmation process before Senate control was determined.
While Biden has announced his secretary-designees for nearly all of the Cabinet positions, no confirmation hearings have been scheduled in the Senate. And after a day of riots in the Capitol on Jan. 6, current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell adjourned the Senate, announcing that the Senate would reconvene for just three pro forma sessions before the inauguration — on Jan. 8, Jan. 12 and Jan. 15.
The Senate is not set to reconvene in full until Jan. 19.
Illinois Republican joins more than 100 congressional Democrats to call for Trump removal
WASHINGTON — Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger became the first Republican member of Congress to support President Trump’s removal from office, as calls mount primarily among Democrats for Trump to be removed for ginning up the rioters that broke into the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday.
According to an NBC News count, more than 100 House and Senate Democrats have called for either impeaching President Trump or enacting the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. Kinzinger is the only Republican, and the count includes 101 members of the House and seven Senators.
The highest-ranking Democrat to join the call is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who did so in a statement Thursday morning that said he supports either method of removing Trump.
Many have done so in bulk — all 17 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee wrote a letter to Vice President Pence asking him to invoke the 25th Amendment.
“Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides the vice president and a majority of sitting Cabinet secretaries with the authority to determine a president as unfit if he ‘is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office,’” the letter read.
They added, “President Trump’s willingness to incite violence and social unrest to overturn the election results by force clearly meet this standard.”
The calls haven’t just come from lawmakers — the head of the National Association of Manufacturers called for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment in a statement,
How Democrats overperformed in the Senate runoffs from November
WASHINGTON — With Democratic Rev. Raphael Warnock projected to win and Democrat Jon Ossoff in the lead, the story from Tuesday's Georgia Senate runoff is that Democrats improved their vote margins in many of Atlanta's most-populous counties.
That dynamic is especially true in counties with a significant Black population, like Clayton and DeKalb, where they hit or exceeded President-elect Joe Biden's winning margins from November.
The easiest comparison to make is in the race between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Ossoff because the two faced off one-on-one on November's ballot and again in January (the special election between Warnock and GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler had a jungle primary in November, with all candidates on one ballot regardless of party).
With at least 95 percent or more of the expected vote in from each county, here's a look at some of those margins in November and where the margin stands now:
The Atlanta suburbs
- Fulton (the most vote-rich county in the state): In November, Ossoff won 69.8 percent to Perdue's 28.1 percent. In the runoff, Ossoff is at 71.6 percent to Perdue's 28.4 percent.
- Gwinnett (outside Atlanta's city limits): In November, Ossoff won 56.8 percent to Perdue's 40.6 percent. In the runoff, Ossoff is at 59.9 percent to Perdue's 40.1 percent.
- Cobb (another Atlanta suburb): In November, Ossoff won 54 percent to Perdue's 43.4 percent. In the runoff, Ossoff is at 55.8 percent to Perdue's 44.3 percent.
- DeKalb (contains about 10 percent of Atlanta; majority black): In November, Ossoff won 81.2 percent to Perdue's 16.8 percent. Now, Ossoff is at 83.3 percent to Perdue's 16.7 percent.
- Henry (Atlanta suburb): In November, Ossoff won 58.8 percent and Perdue won 39 percent. In the runoff, Ossoff is at 61.3 percent to Perdue's 38.7 percent.
- Clayton (was represented by the late Democratic Rep. John Lewis): In November, Ossoff won 84.4 percent of the vote to Perdue's 13.4 percent. In the runoff, Ossoff is at 88.4 percent to Perdue's 11.6 percent.
- Douglas (another Atlanta suburb that was reliably GOP until 2008): In November, Ossoff won 61.1 percent to Perdue's 36.5 percent. Now, Ossoff is at 64.7 percent to Perdue's 35.3 percent.
- Chatham (Georgia's most populous county outside of Metro Atlanta): In November, Ossoff won 57.6 percent of the vote here to Perdue's 40.2 percent. In the runoff, Ossoff is at 59.1 percent to Perdue's 40.9 percent
The big, GOP-leaning counties
- Cherokee (exurban Atlanta): In November, Perdue won 69.2 percent to Ossoff's 27.8 percent. In the runoff, Perdue is at 70.6 percent to Ossoff's 29.4 percent.
- Forsyth (exurban Atlanta): In November, Perdue won 66.8 percent of the vote here to Ossoff's 30.6 percent. In the runoff, Perdue is at 68.1 percent to Ossoff's 31.9 percent.
- Hall (exurban Atlanta): In November, Perdue won 71.1 percent to Ossoff's 26.2 percent. In the runoff, Perdue is at 72.4 percent to Ossoff's 27.6 percent.
- Paulding (exurban Atlanta): In November, Perdue won 63.3 percent of the vote to Ossoff's 34 percent. In the runoff, Perdue is at 63.4 percent to Ossoff's 36.6 percent.
- Columbia (outside of Augusta): In November, Perdue won 62.9 percent to Ossoff's 34.7 percent. In the runoff, Perdue is at 63.3 percent to Ossoff's 36.7 percent.
Georgia's runoff rules are in part thanks to state's segregationist past
WASHINGTON — With the 2020 race for the Senate heading into overtime eight weeks after Election Day, casual observers may be asking themselves: Why?
Both Senate races in Georgia headed to runoffs because no candidate in either contest received more than 50 percent of the vote in November. But the state’s election laws are unique in the United States, and their origins — at least in part — lie in the South’s segregationist past.
While several other states require candidates to receive 50 percent plus one in many federal and state primary contests, Georgia is alone in requiring that share for both primaries and subsequent general elections.
The law requiring the threshold was signed in 1964, a year after being introduced by a Democratic state lawmaker named Denmark Groover from Macon, Ga.
Groover was a vocal segregationist also known for his work to include the Confederate flag in a redesign of the state flag of Georgia, in defiance of federal desegregation efforts.
Groover understood the electoral power of the Black vote, having lost a race in 1958 when his strength with white voters was outmatched by the 84 percent of the Black vote that went for his opponent.
Here’s what an Interior Department report on voting rights, published in 2007, had to say about Groover’s reaction to that loss:
“The Macon politico blamed his loss on 'Negro bloc voting.' … Groover soon devised a way to challenge growing black political strength. Elected to the House again in 1962, he led the fight to enact a majority vote, runoff rule for all county and state contests in both primary and general elections.”
Groover was a Democrat before a massive political realignment in the South scrambled traditional racial political alliances.
Now, with Black voters firmly in the Democratic coalition, the 50 percent plus one rule has largely been a stumbling block for the party.
In fact, since 1988 — the first year for which Secretary of State records are available — Democrats have won just one of eight statewide contests that went to a runoff in Georgia, despite receiving more votes in the initial general election contests in several cases.
The only race they won: A Democrat’s campaign for Public Service Commissioner in 1998. The same candidate later switched parties and will also compete in a runoff on January 5 — as a Republican.
Georgia Senate elections set new ad spending records powered by massive outside spending
WASHINGTON — Election day in Georgia's Senate runoffs is Tuesday, and both races have already seen enough TV and radio spending to become the two most expensive Senate contests (by ad spending) in U.S. election history.
Combining runoff spending with the general election, both contests (GOP Sen. David Perdue v. Democrat Jon Ossoff, and GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler v. Democrat Raphael Warnock) easily clear the record of $251 million spent on the airwaves in North Carolina’s 2020 Senate race.
The Perdue-vs.Ossoff race is set to have about $382 million spent on TV and radio, and the Loeffler-vs.-Warnock race is set to have about $284.3 million in TV and radio spending (this total includes money booked to be spent on Monday and Tuesday), per AdImpact.
The majority of that spending has come in the compressed runoff window — $250 million in the Perdue/Ossoff race and $235 million in the Loeffler/Perdue contest.
Another trend that's common across both races since the runoff began is that Democratic candidates have been consistently outspending their GOP rivals on the airwaves, but GOP outside groups have more than filled the void to give Republicans a final spending edge.
Through Tuesday, Ossoff is expected to spend about $87 million to Perdue's $50 million, compared to Warnock's $70 million and Loeffler's $50 million. But in both races, GOP outside groups have outspent Democratic outside groups by more than 3 times — with Democratic groups spending about $26 million in each race to the GOP's more than $80 million.
Biden taking longer than most former presidents to name his attorney general
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden still hasn't announced his attorney general designee. With Election Day being 62 days ago, Biden is on track to announce his attorney general pick later than the last 7 seven presidents.
According to Senate confirmation records that date back to former President Jimmy Carter's Cabinet picks, Biden has taken longer to announce his attorney general designee than most. Prior to Biden, Carter had the longest gap (48 days) between Election Day and announcing his attorney general designee.
Here's how that looks by the numbers:
- President Trump announced his AG pick 11 days after Election Day.
- Barack Obama announced his first pick (just including first terms) 28 days after Election Day.
- George W. Bush named his pick after 46 days.
- Bill Clinton’s first 1992 pick was announced 52 days after Nov. 3 1992.
- George H. W. Bush announced his attorney general 21 days after Election Day.
- Ronald Reagan named William French Smith 38 days after Election Day 1980.
- Jimmy Carter announced his pick after 48 days.
Biden's incoming press secretary Jennifer Psaki told reporters to expect more Cabinet announcements this week, but didn't clarify if that would include Biden's designee for attorney general. However, outgoing Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and former deputy attorney general and acting attorney general Sally Yates are all rumored to be under consideration.
Biden also hasn't named his picks to lead the Commerce and Labor departments, the Small Business Administration and the CIA director.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp dismisses Trump's call to resign
LAWRENCEVILLE, GA. — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp dismissed President Trump's call for him to resign on Wednesday and said that any pressure to challenge the 2020 presidential election results should be focused in Washington D.C., not in Georgia.
“There is a constitutional and legal process that is playing out, and I'm very comfortable letting that process play out,” Kemp told reporters. “But that horse has left the barn in Georgia and it's headed to D.C. right now. The next vote is going to be there, not here. So people need to focus on the vote that is happening here.”
Trump tweeted on Wednesday that Kemp should resign from office and called the governor an "obstructionist".
Kemp said that his constituents would rather him be focused on distributing the Covid-19 vaccines and helping keep the Republican Senate majority, not on the president's tweets.
“That's what everybody else, quite honestly, should be focused on while the rest of the process is playing out," Kemp said.
He added, "I've supported the legal process that [the president] or any other campaign can go through in this state, but at the end of the day I also have to follow the laws and the Constitution."
Ahead of the Jan. 5 Georgia Senate runoffs, Republican Sen. David Perdue said on Wednesday that Trump's criticism of Kemp and other Georgia officials wasn't making his race more difficult.
"I think that what the president is doing is exercising his rights,” Perdue said during a Fox News interview.
Perdue also defended the president's claims of voter fraud in Georgia.
“We know there are potentially some improprieties there and the president has done nothing but asking for some questions to be answered," Perdue said.
Georgia's secretary of state's office released a signature match audit of Cobb County's absentee ballots which found "no fraudulent absentee ballots".
Kemp said he would continue to support both Perdue and fellow Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, but hasn't been invited to President Trump's Jan. 4 Georgia rally.
"I don't want to wake up on January the sixth and wonder what else I should have done. I'm doing everything I can with the time that I have to support sending them back up there," Kemp said.
Georgia breaks runoff turnout record for Senate races
WASHINGTON — Georgians have already broken the state's runoff turnout record in the dual Senate runoffs that will decide control of the U.S. Senate, new numbers show Tuesday, a mark reached about a week before the day of the election.
More than 2.3 million voters have cast their ballots, with more than 800,000 voting absentee by mail and 1.5 million voting early, in person, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. The previous runoff turnout record was set in 2008, when Georgians cast 2.137 million total ballots in the entire election.
More than 78,000 Georgians who did not vote in the general election have already voted in the runoff race, according to the analysis of early vote data by the Democratic political data firm TargetSmart. Tom Bonier, TargetSmart's CEO said Monday that a majority of those voters were voters of color, with African-Americans making up a strong portion.
Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock have been holding GOTV rallies targeting key constituencies within the Black, Latino, and Asian Americans and Pacific Islander communities, as well as young voters with key surrogates like President-elect Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama.
Republicans have been rallying their supporters with key figures as well, and President Donald Trump will rally for Republicans Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler on Jan.4 (the day before the election) in the northwest Georgia congressional district of Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Green, a Republican who has been amplifying Trump's unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud.
Some Republicans are anxious that Trump's false claims and repeated undercutting of the state's election results could turn off voters the party needs in January.
The Georgia Secretary of State’s office tells NBC News 3,283 absentee ballots have been rejected as of Tuesday morning. Those voters have until the Friday after Election Day to cure their ballots.
Andrew Yang files paperwork for New York City mayoral bid
WASHINGTON — Former Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang has filed paperwork with New York City to run for mayor, marking the next political chapter for the entrepreneur who mounted an underdog bid for president in 2020.
Yang, who had been reportedly eyeing a bid for New York City mayor, filed on Wednesday with the city's Campaign Finance Board. An affiliated committee, Yang For New York, which is associated with a top Yang aide, also registered with the city board.
Yang has not yet commented on the filing, but a source close to Yang told NBC that the filing is "just procedural" and that "no decision has been made," but that since Yang was "seriously considering it" that filing "was the necessary next step."
With New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio term-limited, the mayoral race is expected to be wide open.
New York Democratic Rep. Max Rose, who lost his re-election bid this year, is exploring a bid. Other prominent candidates include New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, former de Blasio aide and police oversight board head Maya Wiley (a former MSNBC legal analyst), former Housing and Urban Development Sec. Shaun Donovan, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia.
Yang announced his 2020 presidential campaign in late 2017, far before almost any other major candidate. And while he was initially viewed as a long-shot, his campaign caught a jolt of momentum as he pitched his plan for all Americans to receive monthly $1,000 checks as part of a universal basic income.
He ultimately dropped out of the race after the New Hampshire primary and started a nonprofit aimed at advancing his ideas, including universal basic income. He endorsed President-elect Joe Biden in March.
For the first time, New York City will be running the mayoral primary races with ranked-choice voting, which allows voters to rank a slate of candidates. If no candidate wins a majority vote, the votes for the lowest-finishing candidates will be reallocated to their next preferred candidate, with the process repeating until one candidate hits a majority.
DNC will elect new chair at Jan. 21 virtual Winter Meeting
WASHINGTON — The Democratic National Committee will pick its new chair during its virtual Winter Meeting on Jan. 21, NBC News has learned, one day after President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.
The party informed committee-members today of the date of its Winter Meeting, one of the seasonal gatherings where it conducts party business, a DNC aide told NBC.
The centerpiece of the Winter Meeting will be the party's officer elections, which will include the election of a new chair. Current DNC Chairman Tom Perez has said he will not serve another four-year term, opening the vacancy at the top of the organization.
With Biden entering the White House, he'll have significant sway over who leads the party. While there are no official candidates yet, former South Carolina Senate nominee Jaime Harrison has expressed openness to running, telling The Washington Post last month "If that's something that they are interested in me doing, I'll definitely take a good look."
Harrison proved to be a strong fundraiser during his failed bid for the Senate this past cycle, raising more money in a single fundraising quarter than any candidate in American history. He ultimately lost that race to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham by about 10 points.
The Democrat has sought to lead the party before — he ran for DNC chair after the 2016 election, and Perez tapped him to be the DNC's associate chairman after that election. Before that, he led the South Carolina Democratic Party.
And he's close with one of Biden's key allies, South Carolina Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, after having worked as one of his top aides in the House.
While other DNC seasonal meetings include various caucus forums and committee work, including the work that helps to shape the party's rules, the party will just focus on electing its new officers during the January session. On top of the chairperson's race, the party will also be electing vice chairs, secretaries, treasurers and national finance chair.
Perez will leave the party after one term as its leader, in which the party won back both the House and the White House in the 2018 and 2020 elections respectively. The former Labor Secretary during the Obama administration, he inherited a DNC in turmoil after the party's loss in the 2016 presidential election, as well as after hacked emails showing some key party leaders deriding Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders were released.
Perez faced criticism from some Democrats and DNC members for the party's fundraising in the early years of his tenure. And even as the party won back the White House in November, Democrats lost ground in the House and underperformed its targets in the Senate (control of that body will now be decided in the two runoff Senate elections in Georgia).
But Perez and top Democrats have pointed to the steps taken to dig the party out of its 2016 hole to help its eventual nominee, Biden, defeat President Trump, including investments in organizing staff and its voter file, emphasizing targeting key constituencies, and helping to fund expansive voting-rights litigation effort across the country.
Iowa Democrat Rita Hart files challenge to six-vote defeat in the House
WASHINGTON — Iowa Democrat Rita Hart is officially contesting Iowa's Second Congressional District election, asking the House of Representatives to recount ballots and arguing that she would have won but for lawful votes left uncounted.
Hart ran against Republican state Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks in November's election, and the state's election officials certified the Republican's narrow victory, by just six votes, late last month.
But in an official "notice of contest" filed with the House, Hart's campaign claims it has identified "at least 22 lawful ballots" that were left out of the count (the vast majority of those votes, but not all, were for Hart). The campaign says that if those votes were correctly added to the tally, the Democrat would have won.
The request goes on to request a "hand recount of every ballot" to be sure all votes are captured.
"We believe that in a democratic system, that it is important that this process be abided by, and that every vote be counted. It is better to get it done right than to simply ignore the fact that voters have been disenfranchised because it might be more convenient," Mark Elias, the Hart campaign's lawyer, said in a briefing with reporters.
Miller-Meeks and fellow Republicans slammed the decision.
"Every vote has been counted under Iowa law, and recounted under Iowa law. The canvas of votes was approved unanimously by a bipartisan board, and certified by the state of Iowa. I'm proud that a narrow majority of you elected me," Miller-Meeks said in a video statement Tuesday.
"Unfortunately, Rita Hart now wants Washington politicians to override the will of Iowa voters and disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Iowa voters."
And in a statement, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Bob Salera called the decision to petition the House a "naked power grab."
The challenge is the latest twist in what's slated to be one of the tightest House races in modern American history. First, the state's unofficial results found Hart 47 votes behind Miller-Meeks, but the margin narrowed to six votes after a recount requested by Hart.
Ultimately, the House has control over who it decides to seat, so it will be up to the Democratic-controlled body as to whether to investigate and ultimately decide who should be seated. One high-profile example of the process happened in 1984, when the House conducted a recount that ultimately overturned the results in Indiana's 8th Congressional District.
The request for the House to weigh in comes as Democrats have criticized President Donald Trump for claiming, without evidence, that he is the rightful winner of the 2020 presidential election, even despite all votes being certified and electoral votes already cast.
The 176-page challenge from the Hart campaign specifically identifies ballots the campaigns believe should have been counted, and includes affidavits from those involved in the counting process, as well as from voters. The campaign says the votes weren't counted for a variety of reasons, including an error by an election worker, a misplaced signature, and ballots not being sealed properly.
Asked about the GOP criticism of bringing the challenge to the Democratic-controlled House, Elias said that the move wasn't partisan, but that they were only following the process laid out in federal law to contest federal elections. And he added that while the ballots he identified were not counted for a handful of reasons, he’s not suggesting any animus.
“Elections are, under the best of circumstances, challenging to administer. In the middle of a pandemic, they are even more challenging,” he said.
Larry Hogan celebrates bipartisan Covid relief deal in new 'No Labels' ad
WASHINGTON — Maryland RepublicanGov. Larry Hogan is appearing in a new ad campaign applauding the "bipartisan leadership" that led to Congress passing a Covid-relief deal over months of stalemate, NBC News has learned.
In the ad — on which No Labels says it will spend $350,000 to run on cable and digital across the country — Hogan pitches a hopeful message about Congress' way forward, calling the agreement "how our government needs to work," by putting partisan "labels aside and put the country first."
"This is what real, bipartisan leadership looks like. This relief package will save lives, save businesses and save jobs. It's what Americans have been waiting for," Hogan says in the ad.
"So many people are hurting, and I know it's hard to see our way through this. But if we unite as Americans and work together, I promise you, we can come out of this stronger and better than ever."
Lawmakers have been struggling to reach a consensus on a new round of relief for months, but broke the logjam over the weekend. But a deal materialized over the last few weeks, and Congress ultimately passed an almost $900 billion relief package late Monday. The deal includes new stimulus checks and an extension of the expanded unemployment benefits, and also provides more funds for areas including the vaccine rollout, for schools and for businesses.
No Labels supports the House Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group that has been pushing for compromise in the House on Covid relief and other issues. A handful of the top negotiators in the latest round of Covid relief in the Senate are allies of the group too.
In a statement to NBC, Ryan Clancy, the chief strategist for No Labels, applauded those allies who "kept working" when "congressional leaders weren't talking, and a deal seemed impossible" because "they knew the stakes and that millions of Americans desperately needed help.
"This deal simply would not have happened if not for the work of this group. So No Labels wanted to highlight this rare and welcome act of bipartisanship but just as important, to let Americans know we can see a lot more of this in 2021 if we demand it," Clancy said.
The new ad appearance comes in the early weeks of Hogan's term at the helm of the organization. The Maryland Republican has sought to stake out an independent lane in recent years within a GOP dominated by support for President Donald Trump.
The former head of the National Governor's Association, Hogan has been out-front on his state's response to the coronavirus pandemic, and told "Meet the Press" in July that he's a "lifelong Republican who has not been afraid to stand up and disagree with the president on any number of issues."
"I don't know what the future holds in November, but I know that the Republican party is going to be looking at what happens after President Trump and whether that's in four months or in four years. And I think they're going to be looking to, “How do we go about becoming a bigger tent party?” he said at the time.
Here's where Joe Biden fell short with critical Hispanic voters
WASHINGTON — In the early days of the 2020 Democratic primaries, former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign began polling to learn why their candidate was struggling to gain traction with Hispanic voters, in comparison to primary rivals like Bernie Sanders. Their data found that many Hispanics knew little about Biden — remembering him as Barack Obama’s vice president, and almost nothing else.
That lack of familiarity spelled trouble once Biden became the Democratic nominee, and left him vulnerable to President Trump and other Republicans' campaign to paint Biden and other Democrats as supporting socialist policies that could hurt Latinos economically.
Nationally, Biden fell just one percentage point behind 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton among Latinos, 65 to 66 percent respectively per exit polls. But several factors — like varying ideologies, countries of origin and where they live in the U.S. — influence the political leanings of Latinos, especially in key battleground states where Republican investment and communication infrastructure are prominent.
Among Latino men: Biden won 59 percent, a drop-off of four points from Clinton in 2016. The Trump campaign had prioritized outreach to them after identifying Latino business owners could be persuaded by Trump's economic message.
The Biden campaign also did little door-to-door campaigning during the pandemic, which may have also affected his ability to persuade a group that doesn't have a set party affiliation.
Biden advisers insist the campaign jumped into action when they realized Biden wasn't gaining ground with Hispanic voters. They allotted millions for paid media to micro-target Latino communities. And Biden still won an overwhelming majority of voters against Trump nationally.
Matt Baretto, whose polling firm Latino Decisions assisted the Biden campaign, said the campaign had done a good job reintroducing the candidate to Hispanic voters by describing his nearly-five decade political record and his commitment to his family and Catholic faith.
But he said the campaign, and the Democratic Party broadly, needed to do much more.
“You can only give the campaign so much criticism and credit. This is something that the party as a whole needs to be engaged with consistently from now on starting the day after inauguration,” Baretto said.
The Biden campaign’s chief strategist Mike Donilon echoed that point in a recent press briefing, noting that the party and Biden’s White House “are focused on and fully intend to strengthen” their outreach to the Latino community.
In Arizona and Nevada, investments and cohesion between Hispanic grassroots groups and state Democratic parties helped put Biden over the top. And Hispanic turnout also jumped in other battleground states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
But Biden saw a concerning dip in Hispanic support in Florida where Republicans worked to convince Miami-Dade County’s Cuban-American community that Biden was sympathetic to socialism. Biden won the county by just 7.3 points, a 23 point swing from Clinton’s total in 2016. And in south Texas, the once heavily Democratic Rio Grande Valley along the border with Mexico saw a steep drop in support for Biden compared to Clinton in 2016.
Strategists there said Trump's law enforcement message turned many voters in the region away from Biden even as Biden publicly stated that he didn't support the "defund the police" effort.
“A lot of the border patrol, law enforcement are heavily Latino in the Rio Grande valley. So when you are talking about ‘defunding the police’ and you don’t stand up to those types of rhetoric, then it leaves an opening for Republicans,” Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), said during a post-election virtual press conference in November.
Hispanic grassroots operatives and campaign officials told NBC News the campaign and party lacked a firm effort to combat attacks and misinformation spreading about Biden.
Advisers also saw Biden fall victim to a trend they believe has badly served Democrats for some time: Assuming Latino voters would support them because of Trump and Republicans’ anti-immigrant rhetoric.
While Trump’s attacks on illegal immigration and his effort to build a border wall with Mexico may have alienated many Hispanic voters, others were attracted to his economic record and warnings that Democrats would slow the economy. Trump’s messages were quickly and repeatedly disseminated through established conservative Spanish language T.V., radio and social media channels, as well as messaging platforms like WhatsApp.
Multiple aides said they pushed Biden to forcefully disassociate himself from socialism, which he did often when pressed in interviews. But he mentioned his record of taking on dictators in Central America just once in a speech in Miami — a missed opportunity, they say, since he gave nine speeches in Florida ahead of Election Day.
Former campaign officials, Hispanic operatives and state party leaders also said Biden needed to convey a much stronger economic message to voters who liked Trump’s record. And Biden’s support for strict regulations to control the pandemic, including the temporary closures of some businesses, left many voters fearing that they would lose their jobs if he were president, strategists said.
“I think it’s deeper than saying Biden needed to do more. It’s that the Democratic Party needs to assess how we can more effectively communicate our answers to misinformation,” Baretto said. “So let’s find that message and have other Latino Democrats communicating and sending the leaders of your party to do that. They should be echoing it.”
Biden cuts ad with Warnock and Ossoff for Georgia Senate runoffs
WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Democratic Senate hopefuls Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are out with a new ad featuring none other than President-Elect Joe Biden as they look to give Democrats their second statewide win in a span of a few short months.
The minute-long ad opens with Biden speaking straight to camera, telling Georgians that while "things are tough right now," that “help is on the way,” outlining his plan to combat COVID, get folks vaccinated, and help business.
But Biden pivots to the Senate race, connecting Democratic success next month to his agenda.
“Let me be clear, I need Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the United States Senate to get this done," he says, adding: “There are folks in Congress threatening to do everything in their power to block our efforts,” and implorign Georgians to vote for the Democrats in their respective races. Ossoff is running against GOP Sen. David Perdue and Warnock against GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
While former President Barack Obama narrated an ad in support of both candidates, this is Biden's first, and it comes days after the president-elect joined the pair for a rally in Georgia.
Inauguration committee announces limited attendance amid Covid-19 pandemic
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration will look more like a State of the Union, with the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announcing Tuesday that they'll limit tickets and guests for lawmakers.
In a statement released Wednesday, Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt noted that the JCCIC has concluded alongside public health and medical experts that they will strictly “limit attendance at the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies to a live audience that resembles a State of the Union” address.
While the JCCIC traditionally gives out 200,000 tickets for members of Congress to distribute to constituents, the committee will now only distribute tickets to members of the 117th Congress and one guest to see the ceremonies on the Capitol’s West Front. Constituents, however, can still request memorabilia tickets and program packets, but they will not allow for access to the Capitol grounds.
The latest safety protocols follows the Presidential Inaugural Committee announcement Tuesday that they are also planning a largely virtual inauguration and parade to encourage supporters celebrate at home rather than gather in Washington, D.C.
State Department to receive first Covid vaccines this week
WASHINGTON — The State Department will be receiving its first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine this week, according to internal agency communications obtained by NBC News.
The “very limited number,” of the vaccines received by the department in the first tranche will be administered to a small prioritized group of staff undertaking “mission critical” work, according to an email sent to employees Tuesday by Under Secretary of State Brian Bulatao. He did not say how many doses would be immediately available to diplomats, but noted more would arrive “incrementally over the next several months.”
Frontline medical personnel are among those first to receive the vaccine as well as State Department employees serving on the frontlines in Kabul, Afghanistan; Baghdad, Iraq and Mogadishu, Somalia, where poor healthcare systems put them even more at risk. Diplomatic Security agents in Washington, D.C. performing critical operations and coming into close contact with the Secretary of State will also be a priority for vaccinations.
“While we would have preferred to vaccinate our entire Department workforce at once, we will have to do so incrementally based on vaccine availability,” Bulatao said in the State Department-wide email. In the meantime, Bulatao advised employees “to continue to wear face coverings, physically distance, and follow [Department] guidance.”
Bulatao noted the State Department is working closely with Operation Warp Speed, as well as the Department of Health and Human Services, and will “deploy the Covid-19 vaccine to the broader workforce as soon as it is made available.”
A State Department spokesperson declined to expand on the timing or logistics of agency’s plan due to “operational sensitivity,” but said vaccine distribution “will allow the Department to advance U.S. national security interests and ensure America’s essential diplomacy continues unimpeded.”
The State Department prioritization comes as officials across the U.S. government, in particular at national security agencies, are working to decide how and when to dole out the vaccine to critical staffers while avoiding the perception that government workers are skipping the line.
President Donald Trump has said White House staffers should get it “somewhat later in the program” and that he isn’t currently scheduled to do so until “the appropriate time.” Two sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday that Vice President Mike Pence will get the vaccine by week’s end. Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller received the Covid-19 vaccine on camera on Monday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Nina Turner announces bid for potential Ohio House special election
WASHINGTON — Former Ohio state senator Nina Turner announced her campaign for Rep. Marcia Fudge's, D-Ohio, seat on Tuesday. Turner was the co-chair of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign.
Fudge's seat will become vacant if she is confirmed as President-elect Joe Biden's Housing and Urban Development secretary. Biden announced Fudge as his choice to lead HUD on Dec. 8.
Turner touched on her Cleveland roots — a large part of Ohio's 11th district — in her announcement video.
"I am a daughter of Cleveland. I was raised in this community by parents who worked very hard. My mother was a nurse's aid, my father a truck driver. I can relate to people who live in the 11th Congressional District from all walks of life," Turner said.
The district has been represented by just two representatives since 2000: Fudge and former Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones. Turner, like Fudge and Jones, is also a woman of color.
Turner served as a state senator from 2008 to 2014 in the Cleveland area, and was on the Cleveland city council prior to that. She has already amassed support from Sanders campaign alums like California Rep. Ro Khanna and the progressive group, Our Revolution, that was created after Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign.
Gov. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, will call a special election if and when Fudge formally leaves her seat to lead HUD.
GOP holds spending edge five weeks into Senate runoffs
WASHINGTON — Republicans hold a narrow TV and radio spending edge in the Georgia Senate runoffs, an edge powered by a big boost from outside groups.
There's already been about $220 million spent on the airwaves in both races combined, according to the ad-tracking firm AdImpact, with more than $400 million in total already slated to be spent over the two-month runoff period.
That type of spending, in such a small period, means that Georgians have already been inundated with TV ads — AdImpact estimates that as of last Thursday, every Georgian adult (aged 35 or above) had seen about 328 Senate runoff ads already.
Republicans overall have a larger spending advantage in the special runoff, which pits GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler against Democratic Rev. Raphael Warnock. Republicans have spent $60.9 million through Monday to the Democrats' $50.4 million.
The GOP spending edge in the race between GOP Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff is smaller — $55.7 million to $53 million.
Under the hood, both races are following similar trends, with the Democratic candidates the largest individual TV ad spenders in their races, but with Republican outside groups filling the gap, and then some.
Warnock leads the pack in his race with $37.3 million spent on TV and radio ads, with Loeffler at $25 million. But the GOP-aligned American Crossroads is right behind her at $24.8 million, with the top Democratic outside group Georgia Honor at $11.8 million.
Ossoff similarly is outpacing Perdue, spending $41.1 million to the Republican's $22.7 million. Senate Leadership Fund, the GOP-aligned group, spent $22.5 million, with the Democrat-aligned Georgia Way spending $10.6 million.
In-person early voting in Georgia Senate runoffs begins Monday
WASHINGTON — Voters are voting in person in Georgia's Senate runoff.
Georgians could already vote absentee to choose between Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democratic Rev. Raphael Warnock, as well as GOP Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff. But Monday marked the first day when voters could cast their ballots for the pivotal elections in person.
Early, in-person voting made up 54 percent of total votes in the Senate races’ first round, so it’s going to be important for the candidates to bank these votes (you can see more of the breakdown at the Secretary of State’s website, they refer to it as “advanced voting”).
For what it’s worth, GOP Sen. David Perdue won those advanced votes in his race by a margin of about 54 percent to 46 percent. In a massive field (reminder: the special election held a jungle primary), GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler and GOP Rep. Doug Collins, the two top GOP candidates, won a combined 49 percent, per the Secretary of State’s website, while Warnock, far-and-away the top Democrat in the crowded field, winning 30 percent (the second-place Democrat, Deborah Jackson, had another 7 percent of the early votes).
Cobb County, the state's most populous county, announced last week it would add two more locations for early voting in response to "concerns" that its initial plan of more limited locations could hamper the ability of minority voters to make have access to the polls.
Biden to share staff, financial resources with Warnock and Ossoff
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden is sharing both staff and financial resources from his presidential campaign with Georgia’s Democratic Senate candidates ahead of their closely-watched runoff elections on Jan. 5.
The Biden campaign — in conjunction with the Democratic National Committee — has spent roughly $5 million in the runoff races so far and has raised nearly $10 million for Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, two Democratic officials confirmed to NBC News.
Biden won Georgia by less than a point in the November presidential election, and the runoff races will decide which party controls the Senate.
The Biden campaign is paying for about 50 staffers to continue working in Georgia and has shifted another dozen data analytics and technology staffers to help the Ossoff and Warnock campaigns. The staffers will be led by two senior members of Biden's Georgia effort, and their focus will be on the ground game: organizing Democrats and outreach to critical constituencies and voter contact.
And Biden isn't just lending his team to help Ossoff and Warnock. The president-elect will visit Atlanta on Tuesday to campaign for the candidates.
Lamar Alexander criticizes GOP lawsuit aimed at overturning election
WASHINGTON — In an interview with "Meet the Press," retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., dismissed the attempt by a handful of Republican state attorneys general to get the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate the election results in four pivotal states that helped President-elect Joe Biden win November's election.
Alexander, in an excerpted part of the interview released Friday, argued the lawsuit would infringe on states' rights.
"That doesn't sound like a very Republican argument to me," he said of the challenge led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican.
"I mean, our position, my position, Republicans believe that states are in charge of elections. And Texas is a big state, but I don't know exactly why it has a right to tell four other states how to run their elections. So I'm having a hard time figuring out the basis for that lawsuit."
Paxton's lawsuit, filed this week against Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin, argues that the Court should allow state legislators to pick the slate of presidential electors because of what he claims was widespread fraud.
But a bipartisan group of top election officials in those four states pushed back on allegations of fraud, the president and his allies have lost dozens of lawsuits claiming fraud, legal experts have raised serious questions about the lawsuit, and Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse called the case a "PR stunt" in an interview with the Washington Examiner.
Tune in to Meet the Press on Sunday for more of the interview with Sen. Alexander, including his response to the president’s attempts to overturn the election results, and his thoughts on the future of the Republican party as he prepares to retire after decades in politics.
Outgoing Rep. Max Rose files paperwork for potential NYC mayor run
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Rep. Max Rose, D-N.Y., filed paperwork on Thursday for a possible run for New York City mayor.
Rose, who lost his House seat to incoming Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., in November, represented New York's 11th district.
Rose previewed the news in a tweet on Thursday night, after filing the paperwork that will allow him to raise money for a potential run. He hasn't formally announced his candidacy.
Before losing his re-election bid, Rose said he wouldn't run for mayor if he lost his congressional seat.
"You think that a short, bald Jewish guy from Brooklyn is gonna get elected mayor? I'm running for reelection and that's the position I want," Rose said at the time.
But Rose also made criticizing the current mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, a central point in his campaign. Rose cut an ad in September saying, "Bill de Blasio is the worst mayor in the history of New York City." He then added, "That’s it guys. Seriously. That’s the whole ad.”
Rose won New York's 11th District in 2018, ousting Republican Rep. Dan Donovan, and was the first Democrat to win the seat in eight years. Malliotakis will now be New York City's only Republican congressperson.
And another name from 2020 could follow Rose's lead into the mayoral race. Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang has reportedly told some New York City leaders that he's considering a run.
Doug Emhoff to join Georgetown Law faculty in 2021
WASHINGTON — Georgetown University Law Center announced Thursday that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' husband, Doug Emhoff, will join their faculty in January 2021.
Emhoff will join as a "distinguished visitor from practice" and fellow. Prior to President-elect Joe Biden and Harris' electoral win, Emhoff worked as a media and entertainment attorney in California. Emhoff will teach a two-credit course at Georgetown entitled “Entertainment Law Disputes.”
Emhoff and Biden's wife, Jill Biden, both plan to work during their spouses' term. Biden plans to continue teaching after inauguration, making her the first first lady to hold a job outside of the White House.
“I’ve long wanted to teach and serve the next generation of young lawyers,” Emhoff said in a statement. “I couldn’t be more excited to join the Georgetown community.”
Emhoff has not yet announced what kind, if any, work he'll do as the vice president's husband.
“This role at Georgetown will be separate and apart from his official role as Second Gentleman, and Mr. Emhoff continues to work with the Biden-Harris transition team to develop the portfolio he will focus on to support the work of the Administration,” a transition spokesperson said.
During the general election, Emhoff repeatedly mentioned interest in working on “access to justice” in his role as second gentleman. And during a stop in Washington D.C. before Thanksgiving with Harris, he mentioned an interest in food insecurity.
Arizona gov elected chair of Republican Governors Association amid Trump's criticism
WASHINGTON — Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has been elected the chair of the Republican Governors Association despite President Donald Trump's repeated attacks on him for certifying the state's electoral results.
The association announced Ducey's election in a statement Wednesday confirming Ducey would lead the group and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds would serve as vice chair. Both will serve one-year terms effective immediately.
Trump publicly turned on Ducey in the last two weeks, tweeting that Ducey has betrayed Arizonans and suggesting that “Republicans will long remember” that Ducey did not fight the state's narrow election results.
Over the weekend, Trump followed in a tweet: “Between Governor @DougDucey of Arizona and Governor @BrianKempGA of Georgia, the Democrat Party could not be happier. They fight harder against us than do the Radical Left Dems. If they were with us, we would have already won both Arizona and Georgia…”
But despite the push from Trump and his legal team to discredit the state's leaders and its election results, top Republicans in the state, including Ducey, have defended their state's count.
"I’ve been pretty outspoken about Arizona’s election system, and bragged about it quite a bit, including in the Oval Office. And for good reason," Ducey tweeted last month.
"In Arizona, we have some of the strongest election laws in the country, laws that prioritize accountability and clearly lay out procedures for conducting, canvassing, and even contesting the results of an election."
Biden's Cabinet picks leave House Democrats with a narrow majority
WASHINGTON — President-elect Biden's decision to select Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, to be his Housing and Urban Development secretary could have a major impact on the Democrats' House majority.
As of right now, the 2020 elections reduced the Democratic majority to 222 seats. That majority will get even slimmer with Fudge and Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., departing for jobs in the Biden administration. With the majority, assuming Fudge is confirmed, down to 220, Democrats will hold just two seats more than a majority of a full House (218).
Special elections will be held for Fudge and Richmonds' seats, but it could take months for those elections to determine a winner in these heavily Democratic districts.
And narrow majority could be worrisome for Democrats.
If Biden picks more House Democrats to serve in his administration, or if other Democrats in the House resign or pass away, the party could potentially lose its majority.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., told reporters that he was concerned about the slimming majority and indicated as much to the Biden team.
"I’m certainly concerned by the slimming of the majority. I indicated to the administration very early on that I wanted them to be very careful in terms of the members that they appointed from Congress," Hoyer said.
That means it doesn’t look good for any other House Democrats to get a Cabinet nod — like New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, who’s a contender for Interior Secretary.
But even if Democrats do retain the House majority, it won't be an effective governable majority. Democrats are bound to need Republican help to pass big-ticket items, because it's likely they'll see defections from either progressives or moderates on any legislation.
Terry McAuliffe to announce Virginia governor's bid Wednesday
Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe will announce Wednesday morning that he will run again for his former seat, according to aides involved in his emerging campaign.
McAuliffe, who entertained a run for president in 2020, is up against three other Democrats, all of whom are Black: current Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax, state senator Jennifer McClellan and former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy. Either McCllellan or Foy, if elected, would be the nation’s first Black woman governor.
McAulliffe will announce his candidacy at an elementary school in Richmond to focus on his education plan.
“[McAuliffe’s] plan will call for the largest ever investment in education in the Commonwealth, and will include raising teacher salaries above the national average for the first time in Virginia history,” the campaign says.
Since McAuliffe’s term as governor ended in 2018, he’s stayed heavily involved in engaging and fundraising for Virginia Democrats, particularly in the aftermath of the controversy that engulfed current Gov. Ralph Northam over a picture of him in blackface was found in a medical school yearbook.
McAuliffe’s PAC “Common Good” has raised more than $1.7 million as of July.
McAulliffe will also announce his campaign co-chairs tomorrow, all of whom all Black leaders in the commonwealth, including Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.
Virginia’s gubernatorial race has long been an early bellwether test for both parties ahead of the next midterm elections since it takes place in an otherwise off-year for elective politics.
Joe Biden won Virginia by more than 10 points, but with more progressive candidates in the primary like Jennifer Caroll Foy, the conversation could shift left.
McAuliffe is also jumping in the race at a moment when Republicans in Virginia have been battling over how to hold their own party’s primary, and on Saturday decided to hold a convention versus a primary vote to choose their nominee. State senator Amanda Chase, who is running on a far right agenda, initially announced her gubernatorial run as a Republican, but now said she would seek the nominee as an independent.
Clyburn: Expect Marcia Fudge to be nominated to Biden's Cabinet
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration committee chair, South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, said he expects Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge to be nominated for a position in Biden's Cabinet.
Fudge, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, would be the second Black woman to be nominated to Biden's Cabinet. Biden nominated Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be the Ambassador to the United Nations in late November.
"Marcia Fudge, I look for her to be in the Cabinet. I spoke with her last night, I have been talking with other people, I don't know that she will be the Secretary of Agriculture, that may not be. But she will be a member of the Cabinet. At least to be nominated for a Cabinet position," Clyburn said Tuesday on "Morning Joe".
Clyburn, whose influential endorsement helped Biden secure his win in South Carolina, he had been disappointed in the lack of Black Cabinet nominees ahead of of Biden decision to nominate Rt. Gen. Lloyd Austin to head the Department of Defense.
“From all I hear, Black people have been given fair consideration," Clyburn told a columnist in November. "But there is only one Black woman so far."
On Monday, NBC News confirmed that Biden would nominate Austin, who if confirmed, will be the first Black man to lead the Defense Department.
And Clyburn applauded the pick on Tuesday.
"I look for this to be a pretty smooth hearing and confirmation and I like him very much. I think he is going to be a good fit for us," Clyburn said.
Talking policy with Benjy: Big fat beautiful checks edition
WASHINGTON — The big bipartisan deal on COVID relief continues to chug along, but there’s some prominent dissent from the left and right — and, unusually, they both have the same complaint.
On Monday, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., urged President Donald Trump to veto any bill that doesn’t include direct payments to Americans along the lines of the $1,200 checks that went out at the start of the pandemic. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. has also said he opposes the emerging deal on those lines. While not yet threatening to vote against a bill, big names on the left in the House are also pushing for more payments, led by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and D-N.Y., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.
Trump is also on record calling for more COVID payments in October — his name went out on the previous round of payments — though he has not done much to push for them in the current round of negotiations. Hawley and Sanders also have other concerns, with the former upset over aid to state and local budgets and the latter worried about protections for business against COVID-related lawsuits.
While the coronavirus is the cause of the current debate over payments, it’s part of a broader trend in both parties towards promoting direct cash benefits to families rather than more complicated benefits tied to specific needs. Andrew Yang was the most prominent evangelist with his push for basic income, but Vice President-elect Kamala Harris also made big refundable tax credits her signature domestic policy.
On the GOP side, some Republicans see it as a way to compete with Democrats on populist grounds. Even before the pandemic, Sens. Mitt Romney and Mike Lee were rolling out a bill to expand child tax credits — and notably pay for it by raising taxes on wealthy heirs, a rare break from conservative orthodoxy.
All of this could present a President-elect Joe Biden with some bipartisan opportunities once he takes office. On paper, Hawley and Sanders could easily work out a bipartisan bill on stimulus and maybe even get Trump to endorse it on Twitter. But in practice, Biden knows from experience that it’s hard getting Republicans to back even tax cuts when it means a victory for a Democratic president. This could be an early test of how much has changed since then.
Mike Pompeo set to deliver speech in Georgia ahead of runoff elections
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will appear in Atlanta on Wednesday for an official speech ahead of next month's Georgia Senate runoff elections, which will determine control of the Senate.
Pompeo’s speech at the Georgia Institute of Technology entitled, “the China challenge to U.S. national security and academic freedom,” will highlight the Trump administration’s tough on China approach including the closing of their consulate in Houston, travel restrictions for communist party officials, and a series of financial sanctions on those responsible for cracking down on Hong Kong.
But Pompeo's appearance in Georgia could reignite the debate over the traditional non-partisan role of a secretary of state. Pompeo is currently facing two investigations from the Office of the Special Counsel for potentially politicizing his position.
In September, Pompeo flew to Wisconsin to address Republican lawmakers in a speech to the Madison Senate chamber and to Plano, Texas to address an evangelical church. In October he virtually addressed a conservative Christian organization in Florida.
Pompeo's address to the Republican National Convention from Jerusalem prompted an investigation by the anti-corruption Office of the Special Counsel. The office said it was investigating a possible violation of the Hatch Act which restricts U.S. officials from mixing electioneering with official government business.
While Pompeo has said that he was making the speech in his "personal capacity", he had flown to Israel for an official visit as secretary of state.
In October, House Appropriations Committee Chair, Rep. Nita Lower, D-N.Y., and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. released a statement criticizing Pompeo's "brazen" misuse of taxpayer dollars to fund "vehicles for the Administration's, and his own, political ambitions."
The Office of the Special Counsel opened a second investigation following Pompeo’s pledge to release more of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's emails ahead of the presidential election.
In 2019, amid talk that Pompeo was considering running for Senate in his home state of Kansas, Pompeo traveled to Kansas on a three-state domestic tour. The secretary of state has also hosted private dinners with potential GOP donors, conservative media hosts and entertainers in the historic Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the State Department.
But as Pompeo is slated to speak in Georgia, all political eyes are on the state's two Senate runoffs. President Trump and Vice President Pence have both recently visited Georgia to campaign for Republican Sens. Kelly Loefller and David Perdue.
Since the November election, Pompeo has yet to formally recognize that Joe Biden won the election, or publicly confirm if he's had contact with his likely successor Anthony Blinken, but Pompeo has acknowledged that the transition process at the State Department has begun.
Clyburn to lead Biden inaugural committee alongside new co-chairs
WASHINGTON — Longtime South Carolina Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, whose key endorsement of now President-elect Joe Biden helped turn the tide in his Democratic primary race, will chair Biden's inaugural committee.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee made the announcement Monday morning, also unveiling the group's co-chairs: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond and Delaware Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester.
Clyburn has been a stalwart ally of Biden's who helped him whip support in the pivotal South Carolina Democratic primary. The lawmaker also serves as the House Majority Whip.
Whitmer also served as a key endorser for Biden in the swing-state of Michigan, which he won by about 3 percentage points, and was on his vice-presidential shortlist.
Richmond and Rochester are close allies of Biden's who also served as co-chairs of the Biden campaign, along with Whitmer and Garcetti. Richmond is heading to serve in the White House, and Blunt Rochester has long been a friend of the Biden family.
"These leaders reflect the strength, spirit, and diversity of America and have always held a steadfast commitment to restoring the soul of the nation, building back the middle class, and unifying the country," Biden said in a statement.
"We are proud of their support and know they will help plan an inauguration that will reflect our nation’s shared values."
—Mike Memoli contributed
Top Georgia Republican officials buck Trump's call to push legislators to overturn Biden victory
WASHINGTON — Georgia’s Republican leaders poured cold water on any hopes of convening a special session of the General Assembly to override the state’s election results and select presidential electors in favor of President Trump.
In a Sunday night statement, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) & Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R-GA) said such a move is “not an option that is allowed under state or federal law.”
"The judicial system remains the only viable - and quickest - option in disputing the results of the November 3rd election in Georgia,” their statement added.
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr tweeted his support of the governor’s office.
“The election of presidential electors has already taken place in the manner directed by Georgia’s legislature at the time set by Congress,” he wrote Monday morning. “There is no applicable legal avenue for replacing the choice of electors after the election.”
Lt. Gov. Duncan expanded on their statement in an interview with CNN.
“To think I would wake up one day and decide that 2.5 million people’s vote didn’t count just because it wasn’t the way I wanted the election to turn out, that’s certainly not democracy,” he said. “So I personally think it’s a bad idea and oh, by the way, I’ve got the benefit of the law supporting that decision.”
The Georgia officials’ rejection of GOP calls to convene a special session comes two days after President Trump called Kemp, a call in which Trump tried to pressure Kemp into leaning on the legislature to make the extraordinary decision to overrule the voters and elect pro-Trump delegates to the Electoral College.
On Sunday night, Trump tweeted that both Kemp and Duncan could "easily solve this mess" by re-checking signatures on ballot envelopes and with a "special session," an allusion to the plan he and some allies have floated, which would require state legislatures in key swing states to dismiss the election results.
Trump campaign pushes challenges in Georgia ahead of president's visit
SAVANNAH, Ga. — With just one month until the two runoffs here that will determine control of the U.S. Senate for the next two years, President Donald Trump's campaign and the chairman of the state Republican Party filed a lawsuit Friday to block last month’s recertification even as Vice President Mike Pence and other Georgia Republicans are pleading for voters to turn out despite “doubts about the last election.”
The Trump campaign’s latest litigation, filed Friday night in Fulton County superior court, calls for the decertification of the state’s election results, a new presidential election, and injunction and allowing the state legislature to appoint electors.
The lawsuit — filed against GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and multiple county election directors — alleges that, “due to significant systemic misconduct, fraud, and other irregularities occurring during the election process, many thousands of illegal votes were cast, counted, and included in the tabulations.”
The Georgia Secretary of State’s office has yet to recertify the election results based on the recount requested by the Trump campaign, which shows President-elect Joe Biden with a margin of victory of 11,769 votes.
As Trump continues to sow distrust in Georgia’s election system, Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are trying to harness a Republican electorate whose president explicitly said the runoffs should be “called off” because they will not be fairly administered.
Pence joined in on that message Friday, arguing that a Republican Senate majority could be the party’s “last line of defense” against Democrats in the House and White House.
“I know we've all got our doubts about the last election,” Pence told the crowd of supporters in Savannah as he rallied for the GOP incumbents. “I actually hear some people saying, just don't vote. My fellow Americans. If you don't vote they win.”
Former Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the state's last federal runoff winner and signatory on a recent letter from 18 Republican leaders in the state calling for the GOP to unify and focus on the Senate runoffs, is concerned about Trump’s arguments when he visits Georgia Saturday.
“I do worry about the president coming down and being focused on something other than and his total unabashed support of the election of Kelly and David on January 5,” he told NBC News.
“Clearly, Trump has the opportunity to put to rest any theory of ‘this election was stolen from us, and therefore you ought not to get out and vote again because it's already done.’ If he comes down and says, ‘Look, I want everybody here to vote I don't care whether you vote by mail early voting, or voting on January 5, every Republican needs to turn out and vote,’ then I think he puts to rest that undercurrent that's out there. And I hope that's what he does.”
Trump will be addressing his base days after Rudy Giuliani appeared at a state senate committee meeting to share debunked conspiracy theories about the Dominion voting system and “connection” to Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.
“This is not a machine, you want counting your votes,” he said Thursday at the state capitol. “It does cast doubt on the entire legitimacy of the vote.”
Such rhetoric — echoed by Trump in his White House video statement this week — is what worries Republicans like Chambliss.
“I think you can look at the vote on November 3, and it's pretty easy to reach a conclusion that from a presidential standpoint, that was a referendum on Trump,” Chambliss told NBC News of the tens of thousands of Biden-Perdue voters.
“I think that we won't have that scenario this time around, it's going to be just people coming up to vote for David, and that gives me confidence. If we can get the turnout, then we're going to be successful on January 5. But if you have these continued distractions, then you just wonder if those folks who did cross over are going to come back again.”
New campaign filings show Trump's fundraising haul off claims of voter fraud
WASHINGTON — President Trump's full campaign effort raised $495 million between Oct. 15 and Nov. 23, according to new FEC filings, a total that includes the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and other affiliated committees.
Nearly half of that — $207.5 million — was raised since Election Day (between Nov. 3 and Nov. 23). Much of this haul has come from fundraising appeals that include unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, and it's an enormous amount for the GOP effort to be able to raise after losing an election. The Trump fundraising effort has sent more than 500 fundraising emails since Nov. 4, plus hundreds of text messages soliciting donations.
Much of the money being raised to help fund election challenges, like donations being solicited through requests to challenge the election outcome, isn't being funneled to a specific group. The campaign is allocating some money for recount efforts, and the same "election defense" rhetoric is being used to direct money to Trump's new political action committee, “Save America”.
Trump started "Save America" in mid-November to fuel his post-presidency plans. It will allow the president to raise money for potential future travel, rallies or pay political consultants. But this money can't be used for any future campaign, should Trump decide to run for president again in 2024. The group raised about $570,000 through Nov. 23.
The campaign filings also show more than $4.7 million in legal fees between Oct. 15 and Nov. 23. Legal adviser Jenna Ellis was paid $30,000 in consulting fees over that timeline, and overall the campaign has spent about $8.8 million on fees related to the recount effort in the same timeframe.
Tweet the Press: A look into Michael Flynn's firing, and eventual pardon, with Carol E. Lee
WASHINGTON — In case you missed Thursday's Tweet the Press, we spoke with NBC News Correspondent Carol E. Lee about the events that led up to President Trump firing, and then pardoning, his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Lee reported on the timeline from when Flynn was first contacted by the FBI about his phone calls with Russia’s ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, to the moment he was fired, his guilty plea and the once wavering, but now full-throated support, from the White House.
Click the link here to read the full conversation.
Kamala Harris adds to V.P. team with a majority of women of color
WASHINGTON — Vice President-elect Kamala Harris announced on Thursday she hired three more women to be on her senior staff. Harris’ chief of staff, domestic policy adviser and national security adviser will all be women, two of whom are women of color.
Harris has a long history of hiring and elevating women of color in her senate office and primary campaign and in the general election, as well.
“Together with the rest of my team, today’s appointees will work to get this virus under control, open our economy responsibly and make sure it lifts up all Americans, and restore and advance our country's leadership around the world,” Harris said in a press release.
Tina Flournoy, who currently serves as former President Bill Clinton's chief of staff, will become Harris' chief of staff. Flournoy is a member of "The Colored Girls", a group of Black women who work in public service. Other members include Donna Brazile and Minyon Moore. Harris pointed to Flournoy's "deep experience, public policy expertise and accomplished career in public service" as her reasons for the pick.
Harris' domestic policy adviser will be Rohini Kosoglu. Kosoglu was a senior adviser on Harris' presidential campaign and worked in Harris' office. She previously held positions with Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
Nancy McEldowney, who most recently worked as the director of the school of foreign service at Georgetown University, will serve as Harris’ national security adviser. McEldowney worked in the U.S. foreign service for 30 years and is a former ambassador to Bulgaria.
Harris' announced staff is so far a majority women of color. Symone Sanders, who will serve as Harris' senior adviser and chief spokesperson, and Ashley Etienne, who will be Harris' communications director, are also both Black women.
Georgia Secretary of State: Trump's rhetoric causes 'growing threat' to election workers
WASHINGTON — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger doubled down on his condemnation of President Trump's repeated false claims of voter fraud on Wednesday.
“Even after this office requests that President Trump try and quell the violent rhetoric, being born out of his continuing claims of winning the states where he obviously lost, he tweeted out, ‘expose the massive voter fraud in Georgia’ — this is exactly the kind of language that is at the base of a growing threat environment for election workers who are simply doing their jobs,” Raffensperger said.
In a passionate speech at the state capitol on Tuesday, Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling said the rhetoric “has gone too far,” citing violent threats against ex-Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency director Chris Krebs, Raffensperger and his wife and a young local contractor for a voting system company in Gwinnett County, Ga.
“Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language,” Sterling said. “Senators, you've not condemned this language or these actions. This has to stop. We need you to step up and if you're going to take a position of leadership, show some."
He added, "This is elections. This is the backbone of democracy and all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this.”
Raffensperger also tried to lower the temperature on Wednesday.
“I want to extend grace to those that seemingly have hate in their heart,” Raffensperger said. “We've all been through an awful lot. As many of us have said, we wish that our guy would have won the election, but it doesn't look like our guy has won the election, and it looks like Vice President Biden will be carrying Georgia, and he is our president-elect.”
President Trump is set to visit Georgia this Saturday to campaign for both of the state's Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, ahead of their respective runoff elections on Jan. 5.
Iowa congressional race likely to be one of closest in modern history
WASHINGTON — When Iowa's State Canvassing Board certified its 2020 election results on Monday, Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks edged out Democrat Rita Hart in the state's Second Congressional District by just six votes, making it one of the closest U.S. House races in modern history.
Hart had requested a recount after the Secretary of State's unofficial results found her 47 votes behind the Republican. But while the margin narrowed during the recount, Miller-Meeks remained on top.
NBC's Decision Desk has not yet projected a winner, and it's possible that the contest may move to the courtroom.
Such narrow margins were more common in the 18th and 19th Centuries, when the electorate was far smaller than it is today. But over the last half-century, there have still been some House nail-biters almost as close, or in some cases, closer.
Here's a non-exhaustive look at some of the closest U.S. House races in recent memory:
2014: Arizona Republican Martha McSally defeats Democrat Ron Barber by 161 votes
After then-Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords resigned months after she was shot, her district director, Barber, won both the 2012 special election and the general election later that year. McSally lost the GOP special election primary, but was the party's nominee that fall and fell short to Barber by just a few thousand votes.
The 2014 rematch made that tight race look like a breeze — McSally ultimately defeated Barber by 161 votes after a long recount that stretched into December.
2006: Connecticut Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney defeats Republican Rep Rob Simmons by 83 votes
The 2006 midterms were good for Democrats in the House — the party took back the body's majority for the first time in more than a decade. But Courtney, then a state representative running against Simmons for the second time, eked out a victory after a mandatory recount.
2002: Colorado Republican Bob Beauprez defeats Democrat Mike Feeley by 121 votes
Long before his gubernatorial bids, Beauprez (then the state GOP chairman) entered the House after the first-ever election in Colorado's 7th District, which was newly created after redistricting. The tight race forced a recount with Beauprez narrowly ahead, but according to reporting from UPI, the Republican lost a net of just one vote during that recount and was declared the winner.
1994: Connecticut Democratic Rep. Samuel Gejdenson defeats Republican Edward Munster by 21 votes
There must be something about Connecticut's 2nd Congressional District, which appears on this list twice. Twelve years before Courtney's narrow victory, Gejednson won a nailbiter of his own. Two years prior, the incumbent edged out Munster by a few thousand votes, and the 1994 race was one of the closest in recent history, needing a 98-page state Supreme Court decision to settle.
1986: North Carolina Republican Rep. Howard Coble defeats Democrat Robin Britt
Long before the 2000 election came down to "hanging chads," the ballots played a key role in the controversy surrounding this House race. According to the Greensboro News and Record, the Democrat pushed for a full recount after a partial count of ballots accidentally left at two precincts ended up in her picking up a few votes, but that request was denied by the GOP-led county and state election boards.
1984: Democratic Rep. Frank McCloskey defeats Republican Rick McIntyre by 4 votes
One of the most infamous House elections in modern American history can best be described by two of NBC's biggest election junkies — Steve Kornacki and Chuck Todd.
Perdue, Ossoff race slated to be most expensive Senate race in ad spending
WASHINGTON — There's been an enormous amount of money pouring into Georgia ahead of the two pivotal Senate runoffs in the state, with one of the races already slated to shatter Senate advertising spending records.
More than $293 million has already been spent and booked on TV and radio ads for both runoffs combined, according to Advertising Analytics, just between Nov. 4 and the Jan. 5 election.
The special runoff, pitting Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democratic Rev. Raphael Warnock, already has $159 million devoted to it ($95 million from Republicans and $64 million from Democrats). The runoff between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff has drawn $135 million in spending and bookings ($81 million from Republicans and $54 million from Republicans).
And if all that spending and booked spending is combined with what was already spent in the general elections, both elections begin pushing into the most expensive Senate races in history. In total, there's been $271 million booked and spent on TV and radio ads in the general election matchup between Perdue and Ossoff so far, with $208 million booked and spent on the Loeffler seat.
That puts the Perdue v. Ossoff race in a position to break the record for most advertising spending across a Senate race, a record set by the North Carolina Senate race this cycle, which drew $251 million in total TV/radio spending and $265 million with digital spending included.
The totals for these races aren't set in stone, as groups can shuffle around money that's only been booked but not spent. But there's likely to only be more money flooding into the state as both parties dig deep into the piggybank for two races that will decide control of the Senate for the next two years.
Biden meets, outpaces Trump and Obama's Cabinet nomination timelines
WASHINGTON — Even though President-elect Joe Biden's 2020 victory took a few days longer than usual to determine, that lag time hasn't stopped Biden from outpacing or matching President Trump and former President Obama's timelines for nominating cabinet members.
Biden has so far announced his picks for Secretary of State, Treasury, Department of Homeland Security, Ambassador to the United Nationals, National Security Adviser, Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. For the nominees that will have to go through the Senate confirmation process, his nominees for State, DHS and DNI were all announced earlier than Obama's first term picks and Trump's picks.
The president-elect rolled out his national security team first: Announcing Antony Blinken as his Secretary of State nominee on Nov. 23 — 21 days after Election Day. Trump announced Rex Tillerson as his nominee 36 days after Election Day, and Obama named Hillary Clinton 28 days after Election Day.
Similarly, Biden announced Alejandro Mayorkas would be his pick to lead DHS three weeks after Nov. 3. Trump issued his first DHS pick, Gen. John Kelly, 35 days after Election Day 2016. Obama named Janet Napolitano 28 days after his election in 2008.
Biden outpaced his two most recent predecessors by over a month when it came to picking a Director of National Intelligence. Biden nominated Avril Haines on Nov. 23 — 21 days after Election Day — while Trump and Obama took 59 and 67 days, respectively.
So far the one office that Trump filled before Biden was the spot for U.N. Ambassador. Trump nominated Nikki Haley just 16 days after the 2016 election, while Biden announced his pick three weeks after Nov. 3. Obama nominated Susan Rice 28 days after the 2008 election.
Obama outpaced both Trump and Biden when it came to naming who would lead the OMB. Obama announced Peter Orszag 22 days after Election Day, while Trump and Biden took 39 and 27 days to announce their nominees, respectively.
NBC News confirmed that Janet Yellen would be Biden's Treasury nominee on Nov. 23, however the official announcement from the Biden camp didn't come until Nov. 30. The official call was 28 days after Election Day — Trump nominated Steven Mnuchin 23 days after Election Day 2016, and Obama named Timothy Geithner to the post 21 days after the election in 2008.
Bipartisan group of senators seek compromise on a Covid-19 relief package
WASHINGTON — As the stalemate over Covid-19 relief continues between Republican and Democratic leadership in Congress, a bipartisan group of senators have been holding informal discussions about compromise legislation, two sources tell NBC News.
The discussions, which have been taking place over the Thanksgiving recess, could evolve into a new “gang", like the team that put together immigration reform legislation that failed in 2013. But sources warn that the current environment is difficult for success: Covid-19 has kept in-person meetings from happening and leadership has shown little willingness to compromise even if this group does succeed in creating a legislative package.
The lawmakers include Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., Joe Manchin, D-W.V., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Chris Coons, D-Del., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Susan Collins, R-Maine., Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, according to two sources.
On Monday, Warner told MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" that “people of good faith are working together to see if we can get a meaningful package.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have yet to discuss another round of Covid-19 relief with each other, and talks between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin haven't resumed since Election Day. However, there have been preliminary discussions to include some Covid-19 relief provisions to a must-pass government funding bill. Government funding runs out on December 11.
Up to 14 million people are set to lose their unemployment benefits right after Christmas because of expiring provisions from the CARES Act. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provides unemployment benefits for freelancers and gig workers, as well as the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which extended insurance benefits an additional 13 weeks beyond states’ allowance of 26 weeks, are both set to expire.
In addition, the rent eviction moratorium and student loan deferment programs are set to expire at the end of the year, putting new pressure on Congress to act soon.
The bipartisan group of senators agree that the small business paycheck protection program, unemployment insurance and money for vaccine distribution should be central to any deal, one Senate aide said. But the major sticking points are the same ones that have plagued earlier leadership negotiations: State and local funding, which Democratic leadership is demanding, and liability protection, which Republican leadership insists upon.
What's at stake if Congress doesn't pass restaurant stimulus
PHILADELPHIA — With the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on the nation’s economy, Congress will face increasing pressure to pass a new stimulus bill when members return to Washington this week — one that includes targeted relief for the restaurant industry.
Eating establishments across the country have hemorrhaged business since last spring, when the virus forced them to offer limited service or to close outright. With winter coming and the new wave of illness likely to force even tighter restrictions, owners increasingly worry that they’ll have to shut their doors for good.
Advocates say the RESTAURANTS Act, short for the “Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Need to Survive” Act, could be key to the industry’s survival. The legislation, which boasts bipartisan support, was introduced in the Senate by Republican Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and in the House by Democrat Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Republican Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.
The legislation proposes a $120 billion dollar grant program focused on independent operators, especially targeting women and minority-owned businesses. The grant would cover a wide range of expenses, including supplies, payroll, rent and personal protective equipment for employees.
There are some 500,000 independently owned restaurants across the United States, employing millions of people, according to a study by CHD Expert, which analyzes food service and hospitality data. The average restaurant is still seeing about a 35 percent loss from last year, every day, according to Rally for Restaurants data.
Without aid, the Independent Restaurant Coalition — a new organization founded to save small restaurants and bars affected by COVID-19 — estimates that 85 percent of independent restaurants, which annually contribute $760 billion sales to the U.S. economy, could close permanently.
“I have lived through working during the 1987 stock market crash. I worked through 9/11. I’ve worked through the 2008 recession. I’ve never seen what happened to us in our industry starting March 17 when we were asked to close with about 24 hours notice,” Bobby Stuckey, cofounder of Colorado’s Frasca Hospitality, told NBC News.
The legislation faces an uncertain future — it’s unlikely to pass on its own without being part of a larger deal, and discussions on Capitol Hill over a new broad-based relief package have been at a standstill for weeks.
President Donald Trump on Friday urged Congress to act, tweeting:
Money granted through the so-called Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) last spring was in the form of a loan, rather than a grant, and for many restaurants it was just a small down payment on a larger crisis.
“The PPP loans were an eight-week fix to what’s probably an 18-month problem,” Stuckey said. “The restaurant business works on very, very small margins. To make these businesses take on loans to survive this 18 months is punitive; it’s not going to help the survival rate.”
There were additional frustrations around the paycheck protection loans as restaurant chains like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse cashed in on benefits meant for small businesses. Ruth’s Chris ultimately returned the $20 million loan following public pressure.
The RESTAURANTS act stipulates that the businesses not be publicly traded or part of a chain with 20 or more businesses of the same name. Plus, money awarded through the act would come in the form of a direct grant, rather than a loan. Owners say that’s essential as establishments across the country face closure through the cold winter months.
“The reality is restaurants do not need more short-term loans right now — restaurants need grants that would help us get through a tough-looking winter,” Leigh Habegger, Executive Director of the Seafood Harvesters of America told NBC News.
Some Senate Democrats question Durbin's bid to helm Judiciary Committee
WASHINGTON — With a Democratic opening at the top of the Judiciary Committee now that Sen. Dianne Feinstein has stepped aside, some Senate Democrats are questioning whether the heir apparent, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., should ascend to the post and also keep his Senate leadership position, according to two sources familiar with the situation.
The debate among Democrats is a rare internal personnel dispute that could be resolved by an even rarer vote among the caucus in December if not settled before then. The vote, if necessary, would be to determine if Durbin can both be the party's top member on the committee and also be the second-ranking Democratic leader in the Senate as party whip, according to the two sources who were granted anonymity to speak freely about internal dynamics.
Feinstein stepped aside from the top post on the committee — which oversees judicial nominations to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department and immigration authorities — after progressive groups and some Senate Democrats questioned if she was equipped to handle the partisan nature in the current state of politics. Feinstein's hug with Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at the end of Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings drew ire from Democrats and helped seal her fate.
Durbin announced his intention to seek the top spot Monday night, pointing to his experience on the committee.
“I intend to seek the top Democratic position on the Judiciary Committee in the 117th Congress. I have served on the Committee for 22 years, and I am its most senior member who does not currently serve atop another Senate Committee,” Durbin wrote in a statement. “We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work on undoing the damage of the last four years and protecting fundamental civil and human rights."
But some Senate Democrats are concerned that Durbin's other big job, as chief vote counter, will be a critical and time consuming position in a narrowly divided House and Senate. Durbin is also the top Democrat on the Senate Defense Appropriations subcommittee, which is also adds to the Democrats’ discontent.
His office argues that holding multiple senior positions is not without precedent, noting that Senate Democratic rules that allow it, and that three previous Democratic whips — Alan Cranston, Wendell Ford and Harry Reid — did the same.
Senate Republican and House Democratic party rules do not allow a top member of leadership to also hold a committee chair.
One of the last times the Democratic caucus held a vote on a committee leadership issue was in 2008 when the Democratic caucus voted to allow then-Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., to remain chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee after he campaigned for Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.
After Durbin, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., would be next in line for the Judiciary spot. He has not publicly announced that he’d like the position but progressive groups would likely not be opposed.
“In the wake of Ranking Member Feinstein’s announcement, I look forward to the question of succession on the Senate Judiciary Committee being decided by the caucus. I will abide by the caucus’s decision,” Whitehouse says in a statement Tuesday night.
Sahil Kapur contributed.
What House races are still left to call?
WASHINGTON — Election Day may be three weeks in the past, but there are still a handful of competitive House races still left to be called by NBC'S Decision Desk.
The vast majority are in California and New York, two states that take a while to count ballots. And there's one race in Iowa that appears to be headed to a recount.
Here's a look at the uncalled races and where they stand (the incumbent or the candidate representing the incumbent party is listed first):
California-21: Democratic Rep. TJ Cox v. former Republican Rep. David Valadao
Valadao, who Cox defeated in the 2018 midterm elections, leads Cox by less than 2,000 votes (1 percentage point) in the Decision Desk's count, as final results keep trickling in.
California-25: Republican Rep. Mike Garcia v. Democrat Christy Smith
Garcia v. Smith is a rematch of the spring special election, one of the first general elections run in the coronavirus era, when Garcia won by a comfortable margin. Garcia has declared victory, a decision Smith has criticized, with the margin sitting at just 400 votes.
Iowa-02: Democrat Rita Hart v. Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks
The race to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack could turn out to be the closest House race of the cycle. The two candidates were separated by just a few dozen votes, with Hart requesting a recount that's prompted a dust-up between the two candidates.
New York-02: Republican Andrew Garbarino v. Democrat Jackie Gordon
These two candidates are running to replace Republican Rep. Peter King, who is retiring at the end of the year. While the election has still not been called yet, the Democrat conceded last week.
New York-11: Democratic Rep. Max Rose v. Republican Nicole Malliotakis
This is another race that hasn't been called yet, but where one candidate, Rose, has conceded.
New York-22: Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi v. former GOP Rep. Claudia Tenney
This rematch of 2018 is extremely tight, with the election ending up in court.
New York-24: Republican Rep. John Katko v. Democrat Dana Balter
In another 2018 rematch, Balter has conceded to Katko.