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Trump is leaving Washington as he governed — chaotically

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: President Donald Trump returns from Camp David
President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House upon his return to Washington from Camp David, Nov. 29, 2020.Yuri Gripas / Reuters

WASHINGTON — A presidency that’s been full of chaos is seeing — and producing — even more of it with 49 days to go until President Donald Trump leaves the White House.

The potential for another government shutdown is looming, with government funding set to expire on Dec. 11, which is just nine days away.

Democratic and Republican congressional leaders still seem miles apart on passing additional relief to combat the coronavirus (even as a bipartisan relief effort has emerged).

Trump has threatened to veto a Defense authorization bill unless liability protections for technology companies are scrapped.

The president has discussed the possibility of issuing pardons for his family.

At the same time, we learned that the Justice Department is investigating a potential “bribery-for-pardon” scheme.

NBC News reports that Trump won’t attend Biden’s inauguration or even greet him at the White House, and that the outgoing president is thinking about announcing his 2024 bid on Biden’s Inauguration Day.

And to top it all off, a top Georgia elections official has pleaded that the president end his unfounded talk of voter fraud, because it has produced death threats. “This has to stop! We need you to step up and if you're going to take a position of leadership - show some," the elections official, Republican Gabriel Sterling, said. (More on that below.)

Of course, all of this chaos isn’t out of the ordinary during the Trump Era; he’s leaving Washington exactly the way he’s governed over the last four years.

But it is striking to compare it with the lack of chaos coming from Biden and his incoming government.

Tweet of the day

Inquiring minds would like to know

Did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell yesterday introduce a GOP-only COVID relief measure only to jam Democrats? Or make the bipartisan compromise effort more palatable?

And did Attorney General William Barr disclose that he had tapped John Durham as a special counsel to continue investigating the origins of the Russia probe – only to blunt both the news of that pardon/bribery investigation, as well as his comment that there was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election?

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

6,853,613: Joe Biden’s lead in the popular vote at the time of publication.

46.9 percent: Donald Trump’s share of the popular vote in the 2020 election (compared with Biden’s 51.3 percent).

$312: The average spending of Black Friday shoppers, down 14 percent from last year.

$908 billion: The price tag on a compromise virus relief bill being floated by a bipartisan working group in the Senate.

13,806,024:The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 181,400 more than yesterday morning.)

271,543:The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 2,553 more than yesterday morning.)

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

98,691:The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus.

34: The number of days until the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs.

49: The number of days until Inauguration Day.

Not unprecedented

NBC’s Carol Lee, Monica Alba and Kristen Welker report that Trump is discussing the possibility of announcing his 2024 presidential campaign on Inauguration Day and skipping Biden’s swearing-in. Regardless of a campaign announcement, Trump isn’t expected to attend Biden’s inauguration, nor does he plan to invite Biden to the White House or call him about his win.

While skipping a successor’s inauguration would be a rare breach of norms, the practice isn’t unprecedented. John Adams, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Johnson all skipped the event – Richard Nixon left the White House after his resignation and didn’t attend Gerald Ford’s swearing-in.

Biden Cabinet/Transition Watch

State: Tony Blinken (announced)

Treasury: Janet Yellen (announced)

Homeland Security: Alejandro Mayorkas (announced)

UN Ambassador: Linda Thomas-Greenfield (announced)

Director of National Intelligence: Avril Haines (announced)

Defense: Michèle Flournoy, Jeh Johnson, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth

Attorney General: Deval Patrick, Doug Jones, Xavier Becerra, Sally Yates

HHS: New Mexico Gov, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Calif. Rep. Raul Ruiz, Calif. Rep. Karen Bass, Dr. Vivek Murthy

Interior: Deb Haaland

Agriculture: Heidi Heitkamp

Labor: Andy Levin, Bernie Sanders, Marty Walsh

Education: Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Randi Weingarten

OMB Director: Neera Tanden (announced)

CIA: Michael Morell

Chief of Staff: Ron Klain (announced)

National Security Adviser: Jake Sullivan (announced)

Climate Envoy: John Kerry (announced)

National Economic Council Director: Brian Deese (confirmed)

WH Communications Director: Kate Bedingfield (announced)

WH 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 is a Rhetoric Watch.

Amid President Trump’s repeated attacks on the integrity of the Georgia election, Georgia state officials are warning that it all has serious consequences — not just to the faith in America’s institutions but to the wellbeing of election officials who are only doing their jobs.

Yesterday, Gabriel Sterling with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office detailed the “death threats, physical threats, intimidation” that he, the secretary of state and his family, and others involved in the vote-counting effort have received amid the president’s unfounded claims of widespread fraud. And he called on politicians to say: Enough is enough.

“It has to stop. Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language. 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.”

After Sterling’s remarks, both GOP senators and the Trump campaign put out statements condemning violence but defending what they called their quest for accountability.

How did the president respond? He retweeted the video of Sterling talking to double (triple, quadruple…) down on the idea of a “rigged election.”

The Lid: PAC-man

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at how Trump is using his voter fraud message to raise money for his new PAC.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Republicans in Georgia are urging voters to consider voting by mail. It’s not going great.

Legacy civil rights groups say they want more of a seat at the table for Biden’s Cabinet picks.

Biden formally introduced his economic team yesterday.

Biden is rushing to fill lower-lever agency jobs, anticipating backups in the confirmation process for top positions.

Chris Krebs has a new op-ed in the Washington Post.

The Post also looks at some of the history of not-so-cordial presidential transitions.

The president’s latest (un)friendly fire is for Arizona GOP Gov. Doug Ducey.

What is Ivanka Trump going to do next?

A big question: Prisons are a Covid hotspot, so when should inmates get the vaccine?