October 26, 2020

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows seems to have developed a strong rapport with President Trump, who has mostly bestowed effusive praise on the former congressman. But those sentiments aren't shared by many Trump administration staffers and re-election campaign officials, The Washington Post reports.

Per the Post, Meadows' critics think he's been ineffective when it comes to executing his actual job requirements and instead serves more as a political adviser to and confidant of the president. One example of that apparent ineffectiveness occurred during Trump's hospitalization after he was diagnosed with COVID-19. Four anonymous administration officials told the Post Meadows failed to communicate anything to staff about the president's condition for several days.

He also reportedly failed to provide logistical details at the time, such as if the West Wing would partially close amid the outbreak and whether people should work from home, what precautions were in place to curb the spread, and even how many other staffers had contracted the virus themselves. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

10:16 a.m.

Essential workers — including people who work in meat-packing plants, waste management operations, and the transportation sectors, as well as police officers, firefighters, and teachers — are expected to have earlier access to coronavirus vaccines than any group save for health care workers, Stat News reports. That means those workers would move ahead of people 65 and older and those with high-risk medical conditions.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the group of experts tasked with making recommendations to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on vaccine use, has not yet had a formal vote on the matter, but members expressed support for the proposal, per Stat.

The intention is reportedly to ensure people of color, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and make up a high percentage of essential workers, are at the front of the priority line, should they choose to get vaccinated.

"These essential workers are out there putting themselves at risk to allow the rest of us to socially distance," said Beth Bell, a global health expert from the University of Washington who is on ACIP and chairs its Covid-19 work group. "And they come from disadvantaged situations, they come from disadvantaged communities." Read more at Stat News. Tim O'Donnell

9:29 a.m.

Taylor Swift is headed to Disney+ for the holidays.

Disney+ announced on Tuesday that an "intimate concert" of Swift's hit album Folklore will debut on the streaming service on Wednesday. The film will feature footage of the studio sessions for the pop star's surprise album, which dropped in July to critical acclaim.

"Folklore was an album that was made completely in isolation, which means that Aaron Dessner, Jack Antonoff and I never saw each other while were collaborating and creating the album," Swift explained on Good Morning America. "But we got together at Long Pond Studios, and for the very first time got to create this music together, play through it, talk through it, we were joined by Justin Vernon. And it was filmed by Disney+."

A trailer released by Disney+ shows Swift speaking about creating the album and singing her songs "Cardigan" and "August." Following its surprise release over the summer, Folklore went on to sell a million copies in the United States, the year's first album to do so. Now, similar to the way Disney+ debuted the original cast recording of Hamilton just in time for the Fourth of July earlier this year, the Folklore concert film will hit Disney+ just in time for the long Thanksgiving weekend. Brendan Morrow

8:21 a.m.

Apple's head of global security has been indicted after allegedly offering law enforcement officials iPads as bribes in exchange for concealed firearms licenses.

The Santa Clara County District Attorney's office on Monday said a grand jury has charged Apple Chief Security Officer Thomas Moyer with bribery. Santa Clara County Undersheriff Rick Sung and Captain James Jensen were also charged. Sung allegedly "held up the issuance of [concealed firearms] licenses, refusing to release them until the applicants gave something of value," while being "aided by Captain Jensen in one instance."

In Moyer's case, four concealed firearms licenses had been "withheld from Apple employees," and he allegedly promised Apple would donate 200 iPads "worth close to $70,000" to the Sheriff's Office in exchange for the licenses. This plan was "scuttled at the eleventh hour" after Moyer and Sung found out about a search warrant for the license records, the District Attorney's office said. A local business owner was also charged for allegedly offering tickets to a hockey game in exchange for a concealed firearms license.

"Undersheriff Sung and Captain Jensen treated CCW licenses as commodities and found willing buyers," Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen said. "Bribe seekers should be reported to the District Attorney's Office, not rewarded with compliance."

Moyer's attorney told The Washington Post he "did nothing wrong," saying his arrangement to donate iPads to an education center for the sheriff's office wasn't connected with the permit requests. The attorney added, "We have no doubt he will be acquitted at trial." An Apple spokesperson also said in a statement, "We expect all of our employees to conduct themselves with integrity. After learning of the allegations, we conducted a thorough internal investigation and found no wrongdoing." Brendan Morrow

8:04 a.m.

President-elect Joe Biden will start introducing his Cabinet picks Tuesday, and the consensus in Washington was perhaps best described by Brendan Buck, a former top aide to Republican House Speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner:

Most of the names Biden announced Monday — Antony Blinken as secretary of state, Jake Sullivan as national security adviser, Alejandro Mayorkas as Homeland Security secretary, Avril Haines as director of national intelligence, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.N. ambassador, and Ron Klein as White House chief of staff — are career professionals little known outside Washington policy and politics circles, but well regarded within them. "By design, they seem meant to project a dutiful competence," The Washington Post reports.

Biden has also chosen some boldface names: John Kerry as international climate envoy and former Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen as treasury secretary. What ties them all together is the prospect of a Biden administration "filled with people who have deep experience in government and in the agencies they will be running," Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer write at Politico.

You can expect fewer impulsive tweets and more of "a linear, plodding, purposeful, and standard policy process" run "by political professionals who aren't likely to try to burn down the White House over petty disagreements and jockeying to get in the good graces of the president," Sherman and Palmer add. "In other words, if the Trump White House was like downing a vat of Tabasco sauce over the past four years, the Biden White House will be like sipping unflavored almond milk."

The selection process hasn't been entirely without drama, but "the relatively uncontroversial nature of these picks has been by design," Politico's Ryan Lizza reports. "Internally, Biden officials have been instructed to emphasize to reporters how normal the picks are, how 'these are tested leaders.' It's seen as a success if the Biden staff and Cabinet announcements don't make much news." Peter Weber

6:23 a.m.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said Monday it's "in the final development phase" of a mobile "digital passport" app that would tell airlines if international travelers had been vaccinated against COVID-19. The app would help "get people traveling again safely," IATA's Nick Careen said in a statement, by "giving governments confidence that systematic COVID-19 testing can work as a replacement for quarantine requirements."

Australia's Qantas announced Monday that it's on board with requiring a "vaccination passport" for international travelers, starting next year. "We are looking at changing our terms and conditions to say for international travelers, that we will ask people to have the vaccination before they get on the aircraft," Qantas CEO Alan Joyce told Australia's Network 9. Korean Air and Air New Zealand also backed the idea but said any changes would have to be coordinated with their respective governments.

In the past few weeks, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Oxford University-AstraZeneca have announced that large trials showed their respective COVID-19 vaccines to be safe and hightly effective at preventing the disease. This encouraging news "has given airlines and nations hope they may soon be able to revive suspended flight routes and dust off lucrative tourism plans," The Associated Press reports. "But countries in Asia and the Pacific, in particular, are determined not to let their hard-won gains against the virus evaporate."

The IATA and International Airlines Group, the parent company of British Airways, have been working on a digital pass they hope to roll out in the first quarter of 2021. This app would use blockchain technology and wouldn't store user data, IATA said. Korean Air is among those in the airline industry looking at trying out CommonPass, an app endorsed by the World Economic Forum and created with the Commons Project Foundation, and International SOS's AOKpass is currently being used on flights between Abu Dhabi and Pakistan. Peter Weber

5:00 a.m.

"The president's slow-moving coup is not going that well," Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show. "This afternoon, the Michigan election board certified Joe Biden's win in that state, then tonight we just learned moments ago that the General Services Administration informed President-elect Joe Biden the administration is ready to begin the formal transition process." That makes it official, he said. "Our next commander in chief will be President Biden. Which means somewhere, right now, Rudy Giuliani is filing a last-ditch legal claim that our current president's name has always been Joe Biden."

"With so many people humiliated by the absolute incompetence of his legal team, the president did what had to be done and fired someone named Sidney Powell," Colbert said. "If you don't know who she is, congratulations, now you don't have to know. But I'm going to tell you anyway." And he did.

Powell "got kicked off Trump's legal team for being too crazy," Jimmy Fallon marveled at The Tonight show. "That's like getting kicked off of Real Housewives for being too crazy. Seriously, you know how nuts you have to be when Rudy Giuliani's head starts leaking and you're the one who gets fired?"

"Here's how big of an embarrassment she was to the Trump team," James Corden elaborated at The Late Late Show: "The guy who held a press conference next to a sex shop, and last week had hair dye running down his face, and who wears loafers that look like clown shoes — that guy, still on the team. But I saw this coming, I did. Any good conspiracy theorist will tell you if you rearrange the letters in Sidney Powell, you get Needy Pillows, which is obviously nod to the MyPillow CEO, who invented coronavirus to destabilize the neck-support industry. I gotta be honest, I spent a lot of time on the internet this weekend."

"Trump is concerned that his legal team is made up of fools that are making him look bad," Jimmy Kimmel laughed at Kimmel Live. "They said the same thing about you." Meanwhile, "we still haven't seen the president concede — we've barely even seen the president," thanks largely to golf, he shrugged. "I've never seen a guy try so hard to keep a job he doesn't even do." Watch another one of Kimmel's "great ideas" to get Trump to leave office below. Peter Weber

2:44 a.m.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra threw President Trump under the electric car Monday, announcing in a letter to environmental groups that GM will no longer support the Trump administration's battle to strip California of its own clean-air standards and signaling the automaker is ready to work with President-elect Joe Biden on climate policy.

"President-elect Biden recently said, 'I believe that we can own the 21st century car market again by moving to electric vehicles.' We at General Motors couldn't agree more," Barra wrote. "We believe the ambitious electrification goals of the president-elect, California, and General Motors are aligned, to address climate change by drastically reducing automobile emissions." GM announced last week that it's testing a new battery chemistry that should bring its electric vehicles to the same price range as gas-powered ones within five years.

Barra urged Toyota, Fiat-Chrysler, and the 10 smaller automakers that had sided with Trump to flip sides, too, and Toyota said it is "assessing the situation" and mostly wants uniform fuel standards in all 50 states.

"GM's maneuvering was a public humiliation to Mr. Trump," The New York Times reports. "Barra gave no warning to the administration, but she did speak by telephone on Monday with Mary Nichols, California's top climate regulator and an architect of the Obama-era fuel economy rules." Two people familiar with Barra's thinking told the Times her actions were clearly prompted by the outcome of the presidential race, but "even so, the way she did it took analysts aback."

Trump reversed President Barack Obama's national fuel standards upon taking office, lowering the target to 40 miles per gallon by 2025 from 54.5 mpg. California then quietly reached a deal with Honda, Ford, Volkswagen, BMW, and Volvo to get to 51 mpg by 2026, enraging Trump, who then moved in September 2019 to revoke California's unique ability to set its own tailpipe emission standards. GM and its allied automakers sided with Trump when environmental groups sued to block that move. The 51 mpg compromise "is now seen as the likely model for a new, Biden-era fuel economy rule," the Times reports.

"This huge pivot, so closely following an election result, particularly from a firm like General Motors, is a big, big deal," said University of Michigan public policy professor Barry Rabe. "This is the first big industrial step toward the next president. Are other industries going to have epiphanies and pivot?" Peter Weber

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