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Electoral College Monday was the Trump presidency in a nutshell

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
Dr Yves Duroseau is inoculated with the Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. on Dec. 14, 2020.Brendan Mcdermid / Reuters

WASHINGTON — Not only was Monday a historic day in this country — with the start of Americans getting coronavirus vaccinations, as well as with the Electoral College making the results of the 2020 presidential election official.

It also epitomized a day in the Trump presidency as it begins to come to an end.

It included President Donald Trump celebrating good news about the first coronavirus vaccinations. “First Vaccine Administered. Congratulations USA! Congratulations WORLD!” he tweeted.

The day also had him ignoring a grim coronavirus milestone — with the number of Covid-19 fatalities crossing 300,000 on Monday.

It featured him continuing to deny defeat in the 2020 election, continuing to move the goalposts (after losses at the ballot box, in the recounts, in the courts and in the Electoral College counts) and continuing to be unable to pull off what he wanted to do (overturn the election results).

It had him firing/dismissing/replacing another Cabinet secretary — this time Attorney General Bill Barr.

And it had news of a Russian cyberattack on the United States, with Trump not saying a word about it.

So yesterday had it all — celebration, tragedy, denying electoral reality, more Cabinet musical chairs, and Russia.

As NBC’s Benjy Sarlin observed, it was a big day in American history.

It also felt like a season finale to a TV show — where so many different storylines come together, but also where so many challenges remain, especially when it comes to the coronavirus and our democracy’s fragility.

Biden pushes back

In Joe Biden’s address to the public last night after the Electoral College made his 2020 victory official, we expected him to talk about democracy’s importance and bringing the country together after the election — which he did.

But we didn’t expect the forceful pushback he made to Trump and other Republicans.

“One of the extraordinary things we saw this year was that every day Americans, our friends and our neighbors, often volunteers, Democrats and Republican, independents demonstrating absolute courage,” Biden said of state elections administrators and workers, per NBC’s Gary Grumbach.

“It is my sincere hope we never again see anyone subjected to the kind of threats and abuse we saw in this election. It's simply unconscionable.”

Biden added this on the Texas lawsuit intended to overturn the election results: “Even more stunning, 17 Republican attorneys general and 126 Republican members of the Congress, actually -- they actually signed onto a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas. That lawsuit asking the United States Supreme Court to reject the certified vote counts in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”

“It's a position so extreme we have never seen it before. A position that refused to respect the rule of the people.”

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

16,597,729: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 268,472 more than yesterday morning.)

301,438: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,841 more than yesterday morning.)

221.10 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

110,549: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus

21: The number of days until the January 5 Senate runoffs.

36: The number of days until Inauguration Day.

Tweet of the day

More Senate Republicans admit the reality that Biden won

Before Monday’s Electoral College vote, just six Senate Republicans referred to Joe Biden as the president-elect, according to NBC’s Hill team — Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Ben Sasse, Pat Toomey and Bill Cassidy.

But another seven said it for the first time on Monday — Rob Portman said the vote “makes clear that Joe Biden is now the president-elect.” Roy Blunt said “the electors have voted so there’s a president-elect.” And Mike Braun, Shelley Moore Capito, John Thune, Mike Rounds and Lamar Alexander echoed those thoughts.

But others added caveats. Lindsey Graham said he’d “let those legal challenges play out,” and John Cornyn said Biden’s “the president-elect subject to whatever additional litigation is ongoing.”

Biden Cabinet/Transition Watch

State: Tony Blinken (announced)

Treasury: Janet Yellen (announced)

Defense: Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin (announced)

Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas (announced)

HHS: Xavier Becerra (announced)

UN Ambassador: Linda Thomas-Greenfield (announced)

Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines (announced)

Agriculture: Tom Vilsack (announced)

HUD: Marcia Fudge (announced)

Veterans Affairs: Denis McDonough (announced)

OMB Director: Neera Tanden (announced)

U.S. Trade Representative: Katherine Tai (announced)

Attorney General: Doug Jones, Sally Yates, Merrick Garland

Interior: Deb Haaland

Labor: Andy Levin, Bernie Sanders, Marty Walsh

Education: Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Randi Weingarten. Sonja Santelises, Linda Darling Hammond

CIA: Michael Morell

Small Business Administration: Keisha Lance Bottoms

Chief of Staff: Ron Klain (announced)

National Security Adviser: Jake Sullivan (announced)

Climate Envoy: John Kerry (announced)

Domestic Policy Council Director: Susan Rice (announced)

National Economic Council Director: Brian Deese (announced)

Surgeon General: Dr. Vivek Murthy (announced)

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Dr. Rochelle Walensky (announced)

Covid-19 Czar: Jeff Zients (announced)

White House Communications Director: Kate Bedingfield (announced)

White House Press Secretary: Jen Psaki (announced)

VP Communications Director: Ashley Etienne (announced)

VP Chief Spokesperson: Symone Sanders (announced)

Georgia Runoff Watch by Ben Kamisar

Today’s Runoff Watch focuses on President-elect Joe Biden’s visit to Georgia today.

Thanks to NBC’s Mike Memoli, we know that today’s drive-in rally in Atlanta with Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock will also include former 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, as well as Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, per a campaign official.

Just like Team Trump has been lending a hand in Georgia, Team Biden is too — the president-elect’s team has invested $5 million into the runoff effort, Memoli reports, with 50 campaign staffers deployed for efforts like organizing, outreach and voter-contact. That’s because Biden’s life would be a lot easier if Democrats can sweep the races, and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, is the one breaking the ties in a 50-50 Senate.

The Lid: The number of the week is… 54

Don’t miss a special deep dive pod from yesterday, when we looked back at the women who have served in presidential Cabinets.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Bill Barr is out. Here’s what we know.

Over at Newsmax and OANN, the coverage of the Electoral College vote is pretty awkward.

Retiring Rep. Paul Mitchell of Michigan says he’s leaving the GOP.

Trump’s fundraising in Georgia is annoying Republicans who want as much cash as possible to flow to the Senate candidates themselves.

The scope of the latest Russian cyberattack is starting to become clearer.

Obamacare should be a key pandemic safety net, but some fear it’s not reaching the right people.

Anthony Fauci says that “herd immunity” could be possible in the U.S. by late spring or early summer, depending on the efficacy of the vaccine rollout.

A generation of kids are going to need a lot of support to recover from the educational and emotional toll of Covid.

Black and Latino families are at disproportionate risk for yet another Covid-linked trauma: Eviction.

Poor countries may have a long wait for vaccines.

The Supreme Court is punting on a case concerning whether undocumented immigrants will be counted in congressional apportionment data.