December 31, 2019

Joe Biden may have just fallen for a fatal argument from Hillary Clinton's 2016 run.

The former vice president held a rally in New Hampshire on Monday, where he pushed the idea of retraining coal miners as programmers by saying "Anybody who can go down 3,000 feet in a mine can sure as hell learn to program as well." And as The Washington Post's Dave Weigel noted in a tweet, "This sort of 'just transition' stuff was murder on Clinton in 2016."

In contrast to President Trump, Democratic presidential candidates have pushed the idea of phasing out coal production and dependence in the U.S. That requires ending coal mining jobs too, and tasks the candidates with proposing replacements. Biden gave one broad proposition on Monday, saying "Anybody who can throw coal into a furnace can learn how to program, for God's sake!" After all, Biden said, he'd been in charge of spotting "jobs of the future" under former President Barack Obama, and this apparently seemed to be the right path.

"What, exactly, these blue collar workers in the mining and coal-shoveling sectors should learn to code is unclear," Alec McGinnis writes for Gizmodo. Coal jobs may be shrinking, but the tech sector isn't seeing the unlimited growth it once was. While "anyone can learn to code" even if you're "not in your 20s," Massachusetts congressional candidate Brianna Wu says Biden's job advice is just "tone-deaf and unhelpful." And as Weigel continues to point out — and compare to a similarly "elitist" notion from Clinton's campaign — this is all "the sort of thing you hear from well-meaning rich people who don't live in Appalachia." Kathryn Krawczyk

4:40 p.m.

President Biden's team is reportedly worried the COVID-19 pandemic they're inheriting is worse than they anticipated, and some advisers say a new, more contagious variant of the virus — as opposed to vaccine distribution logistics — is the main reason why, Bloomberg reports.

Biden has promised to try to curb the virus' spread through a push to inoculate 100 million Americans in 100 days, encourage widespread mask usage, increase testing, and reopen schools. But the fear is that the new variant, which was initially discovered in the United Kingdom, but has made its way to the U.S. and elsewhere, will upend the entire plan and, subsequently, damage his prospects of achieving other legislative priorities like immigration reform and infrastructure development, Bloomberg notes.

While the mutation is seemingly at the center of the apprehension, Biden's aides also reportedly blame their predecessors for putting them in a bad spot. Some aides, per Bloomberg, privately allege the Trump administration "dragged its heels in showing them details of the federal response and its data." Ultimately, they reportedly opted against making those concerns public because they wanted to avoid publicly criticizing the Trump administration during the transition, potentially motivating them to cut them out of the loop completely.

A former senior Trump official told Bloomberg that description of the situation was just the Biden team's way of lowering expectations, adding that they were given unprecedented access to pandemic-related information. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

4:24 p.m.

Former President George W. Bush described House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) as "the savior" for helping President Biden make his way to the Oval Office, according to Clyburn himself.

The South Carolina Democrat revealed Wednesday he spoke with Bush ahead of the inauguration ceremony and that the former president called him the "savior" because of his key endorsement of Biden's campaign, The Associated Press reports.

"George Bush said to me today, he said, 'You know, you're the savior," Clyburn explained. "Because if you had not nominated Joe Biden, we would not be having this transfer of power today.'"

Clyburn backed Biden prior to the 2020 South Carolina Democratic primary, which Biden went on to win in what was widely seen as the major turning point in his presidential campaign; former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) subsequently dropped out of the race and endorsed him.

Bush, according to Clyburn, also described Biden as "the only one who could have defeated the incumbent president." Brendan Morrow

3:59 p.m.

A new White House means a new www.whitehouse.gov. But most people who browse the spiffy website won't know that there's a secret message hidden right under their eyes.

Snuck into the HTML code is a "neat little Easter egg," Protocol reports — a message that says "If you're reading this, we need your help building back better," followed by a link to the U.S. Digital Service, the executive branch's elite technology unit.

Another hidden message on the page points anyone creeping on the HTML toward the White House's analytics website, which allows viewers to see how many people are on government websites at any given time, as well as what pages are the most viewed (if all this tech talk is Greek to you, you can snoop the page the easier way, by clicking here; turns out a lot of people try to track their USPS packages!):

President Biden's tough tech agenda in office will indeed need all the help it can get — read more about what he wants to accomplish in office on the cyber front here. Jeva Lange

3:54 p.m.

The numbers are in.

Former President Donald Trump racked up an astonishing 30,573 false claims throughout the four years of his presidency, according to The Washington Post's fact checker. They include repeated inflations like Trump's insistence that more of his border wall was built than actually had been, flat-out lies about just how many votes he received in the 2020 election, and everything in between.

Trump's false claims increased most dramatically in the months leading up to the 2020 election. They plateaued again afterward as Trump stayed out of the public eye, even as he falsely insisted he won the election and that fraud had cost him votes.

Trump most often repeated his claim of building "the greatest economy in the history of the world," saying it 493 times, the Post counts. False claims about his political opponents wanting fully open borders and the actual size of his tax cuts also topped the most repeated list, which you can explore at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:18 p.m.

Amazon has extended an offer to help President Biden meet his goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans against COVID-19 in his first 100 days in office.

Dave Clark, the CEO of Amazon's consumer business, sent a letter to Biden on Wednesday, congratulating him and Vice President Kamala Harris on their inauguration before detailing how the tech giant plans to expedite the vaccine campaign.

The strategy would include on-site inoculations for any of the company's 800,000 employees who don't have the luxury of working from home during the pandemic. And looking beyond Amazon, Clark added that "we are prepared to leverage our operations, information technology, and communications capabilities and expertise to assist" the Biden administration.

Biden has promised to ramp up the vaccine effort, which has been slower-than-expected, though it's unclear if he'll sign off on Amazon's requests and offer. Tim O'Donnell

2:20 p.m.

In the wake of the deadly riot in the U.S. Capitol building earlier this month, the FBI had warned that armed protests were being planned in every state capital. But though it was still early in much of America as President Biden was sworn in just before noon Eastern time, the handful of pro-Trump demonstrators who actually showed up were largely disappointed by the turnout, to say the least:

In other states, nobody showed up at all:

Meanwhile, in Montana, the only protester to show up ... was a counterprotester. Jeva Lange

1:31 p.m.

President Biden has officially begun his White House tenure, but the Trump administration is still very much in the news.

Shortly after Biden was sworn in Wednesday, China's ministry of foreign affairs announced that dozens of former Trump administration officials and allies have been sanctioned and barred, along with their immediate family members, from entering mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao. The list includes former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, former Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger, former trade adviser Peter Navarro, and former Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. O'Brien's predecessor, John Bolton, and former White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon will also face sanctions, among others.

The decision is seemingly related to the tensions, which were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, between Beijing and Washington during the final year of former President Donald Trump's term.

"Over the past few years, some anti-China politicians in the United States, out of their selfish political interests and prejudice and hatred against China and showing no regard for the interests of the Chinese and American people, have planned, promoted, and executed a series of crazy moves which have gravely interfered in China's internal affairs, undermined China's interests, offended the Chinese people, and seriously disrupted China-U.S. relations," a statement from Beijing's foreign ministry reads. Tim O'Donnell

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