Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: November 20, 2020

Harold Maass
Giuliani at a presser
Drew Angerer/Getty Images


Trump presses GOP lawmakers to block election-loss certification

President Trump and his legal team are shifting their focus from unsuccessful court challenges to trying to persuade Republican legislators to intervene in battleground states to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's election victory, Reuters reported Thursday, citing three people familiar with the push. Trump and his allies reportedly are trying to cast doubt on vote counts in heavily Democratic cities in Michigan and Pennsylvania, states that Biden won. Trump invited Michigan Republican legislators to the White House for talks as he steps up efforts to prevent key states from certifying their election results, apparently in the hope that Republican majorities in state legislatures will step in to name slates of electors who will back Trump, not Biden, in the Electoral College, overturning Biden's victory. [Reuters, The New York Times]


CDC urges Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday urged Americans not to travel for Thanksgiving due the risk of spreading the coronavirus. Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager, noted that the country was experiencing an "exponential increase" in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. "We're alarmed," Walke said. "One of our concerns is that as people over the holiday season get together, they may actually be bringing infections with them to that small gathering and not even know it." The CDC's warning came a day after seven governors — two Republicans and five Democrats — published an op-ed in The Washington Post calling for people to stay home this Thanksgiving. "This is going to be a tough couple of months," they wrote. [CNBC, The Washington Post]


Biden says he won't push national coronavirus shutdown

President-elect Joe Biden told reporters on Thursday he would not push a national business shutdown to fight the COVID-19 pandemic once he takes office in January. Because "every region ... can be different," Biden said, "there is no circumstances in which I can see we would require a total national shutdown." He said that community spread of the virus varies too much across the country for nationwide restrictions, but that each region should implement restrictions to curb the spread. In a video conference with leaders of the National Governors Association, Biden promised to help states fight the pandemic. He also expressed concern that President Trump's administration was withholding transition resources and hampering his ability to plan quick distribution of a coronavirus vaccine. [CBS News, The Associated Press]


Giuliani touts conspiracy theories in news conference

President Trump's lead attorney, Rudy Giuliani, on Thursday cited several conspiracy theories about voter fraud that he said would result in overturning President-elect Joe Biden's victory and tip the election to Trump. Giuliani said Trump had "multiple pathways to victory." He said Trump's rivals had orchestrated a fraud scheme "specifically focused on big cities" that are run by "Democrat bosses" and have a "long history of corruption." He falsely claimed that mail-in ballots, which Democrats advocated so voters could avoid the risk of coronavirus infection at polls, "are particularly prone to fraud," and that in some states votes could have been cast by "a dead person" or "Mickey Mouse." Giuliani and other Trump lawyers mentioned the Clinton Foundation, liberal megadonor George Soros, and the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez in connection with a string of baseless claims. [Politico]


Weekly unemployment claims rise as coronavirus surges

About 742,000 Americans filed new unemployment claims last week, exceeding expectations. The number increased by 31,000 from the previous week as surging coronavirus cases prompted state and local officials to impose new restrictions on businesses to fight the outbreak. Another 320,000 claims were filed under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for gig and self-employed workers. Weekly jobless claims had been trending down or remaining flat since early October, but have remained above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 for 35 weeks. Now that the virus is surging in colder weather, as long predicted, economists are concerned worse days are ahead. "This is the beginning of the darkest part," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton. "This could metastasize into a much more traditional recession." [The Washington Post]


Census officials say they can't finish key count before Trump term ends

Census Bureau officials reportedly have told the Commerce Department that they will not be able to complete tallies of state populations required to reallocate seats in the House of Representatives until after President Trump leaves office in January. The news suggested Trump might not be able to remove undocumented immigrants from the reapportionment figures. Trump said in July that he would exclude unauthorized immigrants for the first time in history, a change that would reduce the clout of heavily Democratic areas and probably give Republicans more House seats over the next decade. The director of the Census Bureau, Steven Dillingham, acknowledged the delay Thursday but didn't rule out providing the figures before Trump leaves office. [The New York Times]


Georgia election audit confirms Biden win

Georgia completed a hand audit of ballots cast in the Nov. 3 presidential election, confirming that President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Trump in the long-red state, the Georgia Secretary of State's office said Thursday in a news release. The audit found that Biden won by 12,284 votes, slightly fewer than the original tally showed. "Georgia's historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state's new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results," Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, said. State law requires Georgia to certify the results by Friday. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) then will have one day to officially sign off. The audit uncovered about 5,800 uncounted votes, providing a 1,400-vote gain for Trump, which he falsely called proof of fraud. [CNN]


Trump coronavirus task force calls for vigilance as vaccine approval nears

Trump administration coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx appeared Thursday in a White House briefing with other leading public health officials for the first time in months, appealing to Americans to "increase their vigilance" as potential vaccines get closer to approval. Birx made her remarks on a day when the U.S. recorded nearly 2,000 coronavirus deaths, bringing the national total to more than 252,000. Vice President Mike Pence appeared at the briefing and expressed optimism, saying that the nation "has never been more prepared to combat this virus than we are today." Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, sought to reassure the public about the safety of the two vaccines nearing approval. "We need to put to rest any concept that this was rushed in an inappropriate way," he said. [The New York Times]


Pompeo makes unprecedented visit to Israeli settlement

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited a West Bank winery Thursday in the first visit by a U.S. secretary of state to an Israeli settlement in Palestinian territory. The visit marked another step in the Trump administration's departure from longstanding U.S. policy that has included formally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, slashing aid to the Palestinian Authority, and proposing a peace plan that would let Israel annex nearly one-third of the West Bank. The moves have angered Palestinian leaders, and together could make it difficult for the incoming Biden administration to revert to a more traditional approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Pompeo emphasized the administration's support for Israel, calling the international movement to boycott the country "anti-Semitic." [The Washington Post, NPR]


U.S. executes 8th inmate this year after Supreme Court lifts stay

The U.S. government executed Orlando Hall on Thursday night for his role in the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a 16-year-old Texas girl, Lisa René, whose brothers had crossed Hall in a drug deal. He was pronounced dead at 11:47 p.m. after being given a lethal injection cocktail at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana. It was the eighth federal execution carried out this year, after Attorney General William Barr lifted a two-decade pause on federal capital punishment. Two more executions were scheduled for December, but one was put on hold until 2021. A federal judge had halted Hall's execution earlier Thursday, but the Supreme Court lifted it. The court's three liberal justices dissented. [The Associated Press]