November 23, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden's pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, "was known for his unimpeachable ethics," according to The American Prospect's prior report. That may be true, but how he's spent his time since the end of the Obama administration has left some critics bristling at his selection.

In a July report, TAP put a spotlight on the strategic consultancy firm WestExec Advisers, of which Blinken and Michèle Fourney, the favorite to lead the Pentagon in the Biden administration, were founding partners. The firm has ties to an array of industries, including: tech, financial services, aerospace, defense, and pharmaceuticals. But it's not exactly clear who the individual clients are since the firm, which is not registered to lobby, doesn't have to disclose them. The lack of transparency is a cause for concern among some observers, who are worried about people in the Biden, or any, administration getting too wrapped up in the interests of global corporations, TAP reported.

Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group, told The New York Times that "those kinds of consulting shops," like WestExec, "take advantage of current laws, so there is no transparency in their clients and how they are trying to influence public policy for them. That's exactly the kind of people who should not be in an administration."

There likely will be some clarity, however, since Blinken, as a political appointee, will have to disclose clients who paid $5,000 or more for his services in the past year. Read more about WestExec Advisers at The American Prospect. Tim O'Donnell

11:10 a.m.

President Trump departed Washington, D.C., before President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration ceremony, but three of the other four living presidents and first ladies have gathered on stage to support their latest successor. Bill and Hillary Clinton, George W. and Laura Bush, and Barack and Michelle Obama were all introduced ahead of the ceremony.

It's customary for former presidents to attend the inauguration — the Clintons, Bushes, and Obamas were all at Trump's ceremony in 2017 — though Biden's event comes amid a pandemic and security concerns following the Jan. 6 Capitol siege. Still, they were all on board.

Former President Jimmy Carter, meanwhile, decided not to attend, marking the first time he's missed a ceremony since he was sworn in in 1977. Of course, it's quite safe to assume the 96-year-old Carter is not snubbing Biden, but rather staying home for health and safety reasons, as he has through much of the pandemic, per ABC News. Tim O'Donnell

10:58 a.m.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris had a fitting escort to walk her up the stairs of the Capitol on Wednesday: Eugene Goodman, the lone, Black police officer who bravely lured rioters away from the Senate chamber during the invasion of the Capitol building earlier this month.

Goodman is the new acting deputy House Sergeant at Arms, and a candidate for the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the highest honors a civilian can receive. "I've always said, if bullets start ripping through, I'm finding Goodman," a friend of Goodman's told The Washington Post. "He's been in hostile firefights [in Iraq], so he knows how to keep his head."

Goodman will also accompany Harris on the presidential platform on Wednesday, where she will be sworn in as vice president of the United States. Jeva Lange

10:44 a.m.

President-elect Joe Biden is revamping outgoing President Trump's coronavirus approach before he even takes office.

On Wednesday morning, Biden asked Surgeon General Jerome Adams, whom Trump nominated for a four-year term back in 2017, to step down from his post. Biden has already announced his intention to nominate former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to the post, but will install an acting surgeon general in the meantime, The Washington Post reports.

The nation's top doctor is appointed for four-year terms; Adams took office in Sept. 2017, allowing him to stay on through this September. But amid the Trump administration's bungling of the COVID-19 crisis, it seems Biden wants a fresh start. He'll even bypass Deputy Surgeon General Erica Schwartz, a career civil servant, in naming an acting top doctor to take Adams' spot, the Post reports.

Adams acknowledged his forced resignation in a statement, which focused more on smoking cessation and other health crises than on COVID-19. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:03 a.m.

Ivermectin, a cheap and "generic" antiparasitic drug "used all over the world," may significantly reduce the risk of death in patients suffering from moderate to severe cases of COVID-19, researchers have found.

The University of Liverpool's Andrew Hill and others carried out a meta-analytical breakdown of 18 studies that showed the drug — which is off-patent and commonly used to treat lice and scabies, as well as some more serious parasites — appears to reduce inflammation and eliminate the coronavirus swiftly, the Financial Times reports. In six of those trials, the mortality risk was cut by 75 percent in patients with more serious COVID-19 infections. The research team has also theorized the drug could also make it harder for infected people to transmit the virus.

Hill said he's encouraged by the findings, but further studies are needed, especially since several of those in the analysis were not peer-reviewed. FT also notes that meta-analyses, which look at many studies at once, can be prone to errors. Read more at the Financial Times. Tim O'Donnell

10:00 a.m.

Melania Trump was reportedly "emotionally checked out" long before boarding Air Force One to leave D.C. on Wednesday, going as far as to outsource writing her "thank you" notes to the White House residence staff, The New York Times and CNN report.

Traditionally, the first family of the United States will write short cards to their household staff, thanking them for taking care of them over the past four to eight years. The cards tend to be intimate and "much of the correspondence includes personal anecdotes and the letters become 'cherished keepsakes' for the residence staff," such as the butlers, cooks, and housekeepers, who do not tend to turn-over between administrations, CNN writes.

Melania Trump, however, reportedly did not personally write the cards for the approximately 80 staff members charged with caring for her, her husband, and her teenage son, Barron, while they lived in the White House. Instead, she is said to have instructed a "lower-level East Wing staffer" to write the type-written notes "in her voice," and then signed her name.

"I think she was a reluctant first lady and she did it for her husband," society publicist R. Couri Hay, who knows Trump from New York, told The New York Times. He added that after she departs Washington, "I think that you will find that she will be even less visible, and less available." Jeva Lange

9:41 a.m.

President Trump never really acknowledged President-elect Joe Biden's victory — or even mentioned his name after the election. But the president did leave a note for his successor before his Wednesday morning departure, outgoing White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere told NPR.

Trump left the White House for the final time Wednesday morning, to the tune of some very fitting songs. Outgoing presidents and their staffs typically leave notes on their desks for their successors to aid in the transition and wish them well. But given Trump's history of not exactly following norms or accepting election results, it's a surprise that he followed that tradition.

It's unclear just what was in the note Trump left for Biden. In his farewell address, he did wish the next administration "great luck and great success," without mentioning their names. Outgoing Vice President Mike Pence, who reportedly did eventually offer his congratulations in a call to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, also left behind a note for her. Kathryn Krawczyk

9:39 a.m.

President Trump offered his final goodbye before leaving office, vowing that "we will be back in some form" before concluding his term with the "YMCA" and wishing everyone a "good life."

Trump spoke at a farewell ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Wednesday before leaving for Florida instead of sticking around to attend President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. He described serving as president as "my greatest honor and privilege," thanking supporters while offering one assessment both supporters and critics will likely agree with: "We were not a regular administration."

As in previously released farewell remarks, Trump never mentioned Biden's name during his address, though he wished "the new administration great luck and great success." He also promised he will be "watching" and listening."

"Goodbye," Trump said. "We love you. We will be back in some form."

He concluded the very last speech of his presidency with, "Have a good life. We will see you soon." From there, the 45th president exited the stage a final time to a staple of his rallies: the "YMCA." Minutes later, Air Force One departed as Frank Sinatra's "My Way" played Trump off. Brendan Morrow

See More Speed Reads