November 20, 2020

Members of President Trump's outside legal team, including Rudy Giuliani, have reportedly been sidelined from a meeting with Michigan lawmakers due to a case of COVID-19.

Giuliani and other Trump lawyers won't be able to attend a White House meeting scheduled for Friday with two Michigan lawmakers because they were recently exposed to the coronavirus, Axios reports. This meeting with lawmakers from the state where President-elect Joe Biden was projected to win, according to the Times, "appears to be a part of the president's campaign to interfere with the state's certification process."

But Andrew Giuliani, Rudy's son who is a staffer at the White House, on Friday announced he tested positive for COVID-19, and the Times reports he attended the Thursday news conference in which Rudy Giuliani pushed baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud. On a conference call with Trump officials on Friday, when the subject arose of which member of Trump's outside legal team would attend the White House meeting, Axios reports this planning quickly "fell apart" when it was revealed that Giuliani's son tested positive and it subsequently became clear that "the entire Giuliani-affiliated legal team was probably exposed."

Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs summed up the chaos by noting that Giuliani being forced to skip this meeting due to COVID-19 comes after White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Trump adviser David Bossie were both sidelined because they tested positive for the coronavirus.

Indeed, Axios wrote that this was just more "turmoil" thrown into Trump's legal efforts, with a campaign adviser saying, "It's just a s--tshow, it's a joke." Read more at Axios. Brendan Morrow

11:47 p.m.

As recently as this summer, the Department of Justice investigated the roles of Elliott Broidy, a Republican fundraiser, and Abbe Lowell, a lawyer for President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, in an alleged scheme to pay a bribe in exchange for a pardon, two people familiar with the matter told The New York Times.

On Tuesday, redacted court documents were unsealed that showed the existence of the investigation into possible unregistered lobbying and bribery. People familiar with the case told the Times that Sanford Diller, a billionaire real estate developer from the San Francisco area, solicited help from Broidy and Lowell in an attempt to get clemency for Hugh Baras, a psychologist from Berkeley who received a 30-month prison sentence after being convicted of tax evasion and improperly claiming Social Security benefits.

The Times reports that Diller was set to make "a substantial political contribution" to an unspecified recipient in order for the pardon to be made, and the court documents state that as part of the effort, the White House Counsel's Office was approached by someone who wanted to make sure the "clemency petition reached the targeted officials." Diller died in February 2018, and the Times says there is no evidence that the plan moved ahead following his death.

No one has been charged in this inquiry, and a Justice Department official said no member of the government is "currently a subject or target of the investigation disclosed in this filing." Reid Weingarten, a lawyer for Lowell, confirmed to the Times that his client did represent Baras, who never received clemency. Broidy's attorney, William Burck, told the Times his client was asked by Diller to assist on a clemency petition, and it was not a lobbying effort. Both Weingarten and Burck downplayed the investigation, with Weingarten saying it was "much ado about precious little."

Broidy was a top fundraising official for Trump's inauguration and later became the deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee. In October, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act in connection with another case involving an attempt to influence the Trump administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests. Catherine Garcia

10:12 p.m.

Alyssa Farah, the White House communications director, resigned on Thursday.

Farah, a former spokeswoman for the conservative House Freedom Caucus, was part of the Trump administration for more than three years, starting as press secretary under Vice President Mike Pence before moving over to the same role at the Defense Department. She became White House communications director in April.

Farah, 31, submitted her resignation letter on Thursday, The Washington Post reports, and wrote that being able to work in the White House was "the honor of a lifetime." Farah also said she is "deeply proud of the incredible things we were able to accomplish to make our country stronger, safer, and more secure." Farah, whose last day is Friday, plans on launching a consulting firm. Catherine Garcia

9:38 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden said when it comes to the Department of Justice, he is "not going to be telling them what they have to do and don't have to do."

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were interviewed by CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday, and the discussion turned to reports that President Trump is contemplating preemptively pardoning his adult children, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Biden said this "concerns me in terms of what kind of precedent it sets and how the rest of the world looks [at] us as a nation of laws and justice."

Biden promised that he is "not going to be saying, 'Go prosecute A, B, or C,' I'm not going to be telling them. That's not the role, it's not my Justice Department, it's the people's Justice Department. So the persons or person I pick to run that department are going to be people who are going to have the independent capacity to decide who gets prosecuted, who doesn't."

Harris, who once served as California's attorney general, added that the administration will assume that "any decision coming out of the Justice Department ... should be based on the law, it should not be influence by politics, period." Catherine Garcia

8:22 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden is going to make a request to the American people on his first day in office.

During an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday, Biden said he will ask Americans to wear masks during his first 100 days, in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus. "Just 100 days to mask, not forever," Biden said. "100 days. And I think we'll see a significant reduction." While many states do have statewide mask mandates, several others, including Alaska, Arizona, and Florida, do not.

Biden told Tapper that he will impose a standing order making masks mandatory in places where he has authority, like federal buildings, and shared that he has asked Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, to also serve as a chief medical adviser and member of Biden's COVID-19 response team once his administration begins.

Over the last day, former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have all pledged to publicly receive the coronavirus vaccine in order to show it is safe, and Biden said he will be "happy" to do the same thing, adding that this is "important to communicate to the American people." Catherine Garcia

7:06 p.m.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced on Thursday he is imposing a regional stay-at-home order, which will kick in when a county sees its hospital intensive care units fill to more than 85 percent of capacity.

"The bottom line is, if we don't act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed," Newsom said during a press conference. "If we don't act now, we'll continue to see our death rate climb, more lives lost."

Based on current projections, 23 counties in Southern and Central California — including Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego, Ventura, and Imperial — could be required to implement the new restrictions as early as Friday, the Los Angeles Times reports. Under the order, nail and hair salons, playgrounds, and family entertainment centers must close and restaurants will only be able to serve take-out food. Retail businesses will only be allowed to have 20 percent of customer capacity inside.

The rules are designed to stay in place for at least 21 days, and state health officials said after those three weeks, the decision to reopen any closed services and restart activities will be based on four-week projections of a region's ICU capacity, the Times reports. Newsom said the new order is "fundamentally predicated on the need to stop gathering with people outside of your household [and] to do what you can to keep most of your activities outside."

California has averaged nearly 15,000 new coronavirus cases a day over the last week, triple the rate in the last month, and COVID-19 hospitalizations have also tripled over the same time period, the Times reports. Over the last week, the daily death rate has also jumped up 60 percent from mid-November. Catherine Garcia

5:39 p.m.

The Trump administration is taking one final shot at two of its pet issues: big tech and immigration.

The Justice Department announced Thursday that it would sue Facebook over its hiring practices, alleging it offered spots to foreign workers without properly considering Americans. The suit is reflective of the Trump administration's efforts to reduce foreign hiring over the past four years, building contention with tech companies along the way.

The DOJ conducted a two-year investigation into Facebook's hiring and recruiting practices, finding that Facebook was "setting aside positions for temporary visa holders instead of considering interested and qualified U.S. workers," Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division said in a statement. U.S. law mandates American companies only sponsor foreign workers if other suitable American candidates can't fill a job. More than 2,600 Facebook jobs, with salaries of around $156,000, could've gone to Americans instead of green card holders, the DOJ alleges. The lawsuit is clearly a message to other big tech companies, with Dreiband telling "all employers" that "you cannot illegally prefer to recruit, consider, or hire temporary visa holders over U.S. workers."

The Trump administration has launched numerous attacks on immigration over the past four years, instituting policies that make it harder to get visas to work in or visit the U.S. and cutting down on immigration altogether. That goal has only expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic as the administration used the resulting economic crisis as reasoning to curb the hiring of foreign workers. Big tech companies have often opposed Trump's foreign hiring crackdowns.

A Facebook spokesperson told The Washington Post that the company disputes the allegations. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:24 p.m.

There appears to be growing support among Senate Republicans for a bipartisan coronavirus relief bill introduced earlier this week, reports The Washington Post.

The $908 billion package — championed by moderate Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Susan Collins (D-Maine), and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) — is in between what Democratic leadership is pushing for and what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has suggested. The moderates suggested an unemployment boost and money for state governments, but no stimulus checks.

While McConnell on Thursday continued to resist the bipartisan bill, pushing instead for his version, which the White House has endorsed, other Republican senators got on board with the package. Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) signaled they were open to the bipartisan bill.

Democratic leaders said they believed the $908 billion package should be the basis for negotiations. Several Republicans echoed that, saying it wasn't exactly what they wanted but it made for a good starting point.

McConnell didn't comment directly on the bipartisan proposal, but instead urged lawmakers to pull the trigger on his version, which he called "a serious and highly targeted relief proposal including elements which we know the president is ready and willing to sign into law." Summer Meza

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