We often compare Biden and Trumpâ€™s victories from 2016 and 2020 because they both won, according to a preliminary count based on statesâ€™ results, 306 electoral college votes. But according to the electoral college, which is the official count, Trump won just 304 electoral votes.
When the electoral college met in December 2016, Trump lost two â€œfaithless electorsâ€ â€“ an elector who does not support the candidate whom he or she pledged to vote for based on the results in their state. That year, two Texas electors cast their ballots for former Ohio Governor John Kasich and former Texas congressman Ron Paul, and not Trump, who won the state. Hillary Clinton lost five faithless electors.
For what itâ€™s worth, Trump still touts a 306-electoral vote victory and considers it a â€œlandslideâ€ even as he continues to deny the reality of Bidenâ€™s 306-electoral vote victory.
Someone has been busyâ€¦
And thatâ€™s it from me, Martin Belam in London, today. Indeed, thatâ€™s it from me this year, as Iâ€™m going on holiday now and will be back in January. Lauren Gambino will be here shortly to take you through the rest of the day. Thank you so much for reading, take care, stay safe, and have a wonderful Christmas. Iâ€™ll see you in 2021â€¦
Hereâ€™s a bit of a tee-up of what we can expect from Joe Bidenâ€™s visit to Georgia today:
A Biden campaign official said that, while in Georgia, â€œthe President-elect will underscore whatâ€™s at stake for the country in the midst of a still worsening pandemic.â€
â€œHe will speak directly to Georgiansâ€™ ability to vote for change and lawmakers dedicated to getting help immediately to those who are suffering when they cast their ballots for Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock,â€ the official continued. â€œThe President-elect will also echo his message of unity and a battle for the soul of the nation that led to him getting 81 million votes across the country â€“ more than any presidential candidate in history â€“ and becoming the first Democrat in decades to win the state of Georgia during a presidential election.â€
The Hill report that polls show a tight race between candidates in each of the two runoff elections. According to an average of polls by FiveThirtyEight, Rev. Raphael Warnock leads Kelly Loeffler by less than 2 percentage points and Jon Ossoff leads David Perdue by a single percentage point. Thatâ€™s very much within margins of polling error and therefore makes the races too close to call.
Jeremy W. Peters at the New York Times has spent some time inside the right-wing media bubble, where the myth of a Trump win lives on. He writes:
Six weeks after his defeat, the aggressive campaign by Trump and his media boosters to insist with each new setback that the election is far from settled isnâ€™t letting up. Inside this bubble, the presidentâ€™s allies present virtually impossible outcomes as completely plausible. And then when they donâ€™t meet the bar they set, they move it.
This is what the presidentâ€™s senior adviser, Stephen Miller, demonstrated on Monday when he insisted in an interview on Fox & Friends that the electoral college vote was largely irrelevant because all that truly mattered was Inauguration Day, 20 January.
â€œSo we have more than enough time to right the wrong of this fraudulent election result and certify Donald Trump as the winner,â€ Mr. Miller said, resetting the calendar to another scheme to invalidate the votes of millions of Americans, because the previous one had flopped.
Some allies of Trump had hoped the Electoral College vote would end with a different outcome: that Republican legislators in six battleground states would name slates of electors favorable to Mr. Trump. The upheaval failed to materialize and the electors cast their votes on Monday without incident. The few instances of resistance by Republicans were muted and entirely symbolic
All along, Trump-friendly media personalities like Mark Levin, who hosts one of the most popular talk radio shows in the country, have led their audiences to believe that it was possible to pressure state lawmakers to reject Mr. Bidenâ€™s victory. They have often based their confidence on the wild accusations of people with political motives and diminished credibility.
Levin was one of the first to give a national platform to the conspiracy theories of the lawyers Lin Wood and Sidney Powell, whose various claims of fraud involve a multinational network of saboteurs and domestic enemies of the president both dead (Hugo ChÃ¡vez of Venezuela) and alive (â€œNever Trumpâ€ Republican officials).
Secretary of state Mike Pomeo has tweeted to support the decision of some European governments to withdraw co-operation with Iran over the execution of journalist Ruhollah Zam. Pompeo says â€œThe Iranian people deserve a free and diverse media, not censorship, arrests, and the execution of journalists.â€
For its part, Iran has also been criticising the US today. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif condemned US sanctions against Turkey over Ankaraâ€™s acquisition of Russian S-400 air defence systems as â€œcontempt for international lawâ€.
â€œUS addiction to sanctions and contempt for international law at full display again. We strongly condemn recent U.S. sanctions against Turkey and stand with its people and government,â€ Zarif tweeted.
Iranâ€™s parliament has also passed a measure ban dual nationals and holders of foreign residency from running in presidential elections, after speculation that some officials may hold Green Cards from the United States.
The measure, passed in a session carried live on state radio, still needs to be approved by a high clerical council before it takes effect.
Hardline figures and media outlets have long speculated that some senior officials, such as US-educated foreign minister Zarif, hold dual nationalities or US residency and that this posed a security risk. Zarif has denied even applying for a Green Card.
US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) staff members did not raise new concerns over data on Modernaâ€™s coronavirus vaccine in documents made public on Tuesday, preparing the way for the US authorization of a second, easier-to-handle vaccine.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine currently being rolled out has to be stored at ultra-low temperatures.
The FDA staff said the Moderna vaccine was effective without any specific safety issues in adults over the age of 18 in the documents prepared for Thursdayâ€™s meeting of outside experts, who will discuss whether to endorse a US emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Moderna shot.
The companyâ€™s earlier assessment said that its vaccine had an efficacy rate of 94.1 percent in a trial of 30,000 people. Side effects, which can include fever, headache and fatigue, were unpleasant but not dangerous, the agency found.
If the FDA were to approve it on Friday, after the meeting, distribution of about six million doses could then potentially begin next week.
Congress has still not managed to agree some kind of coronavirus relief or stimulus bill, and the Associated Press is reporting this morning that rank-and-file Democrats appear increasingly resigned to having to drop, for now, a scaled-back demand for fiscal relief for states and local governments whose budgets have been thrown out of balance by the pandemic.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke with Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin by phone last night and continues to press for help for struggling states and localities. But top Democratic allies of president-elect Joe Biden came out in support of a $748 billion plan offered by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and hinted they wonâ€™t insist on a pitched battle for state and local aid now.
â€œWe cannot afford to wait any longer to act. This should not be Congressâ€™ last Covid relief bill, but it is a strong compromise that deserves support from both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate,â€ said Sen. Chris Coons. â€œWe cannot leave for the holidays without getting relief to those Americans who need it.â€
The message from Coons, and a similar message from Senate majority whip Dick Durbin, came as a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a detailed Covid-19 aid proposal in hopes it would serve as a model for their battling leaders to follow as they try to negotiate a final agreement.
But the group was unable to forge a compromise on GOP-sought provisions shielding businesses from COVID-19-related lawsuits, a key priority of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. The Kentucky Republican is pressing a lowest-common-denominator approach that would drop the lawsuit shield idea for now if Democrats agree to drop a $160 billion state and local aid package.
Top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci says president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris should be vaccinated for Covid-19 as soon as possible.
Speaking to ABCâ€™s Good Morning America, Fauci said, â€œFor security reasons, I really feel strongly that we should get them vaccinated as soon as we possibly can.â€
He added that heâ€™d like to see Biden â€œfully protected as he enters into the presidency in January.â€
Earlier this week president Trump unexpectedly countermanded in public a plan to have senior White House officials vaccinated. Fauci says that while President Donald Trump probably still has antibodies to the virus that will protect him for at least several months, he should get the vaccine as well to be â€œdoubly sure.â€
Fauci says vice president Mike Pence should get vaccinated, too. He says, â€œYou still want to protect people who are very important to our country right now.â€
CNN are reporting this morning that another slow tentative step in the handover of power from the outgoing Trump administration to Joe Bidenâ€™s team will happen this week when secretary of state Mike Pompeo briefly meets the man nominated to follow him, Antony Blinken.
The meeting will mark the first formal recognition by Trumpâ€™s top diplomat that he is preparing to hand over the reins of American foreign policy to his successor. The meeting is scheduled to last for only 15 minutes, but State Department officials view it as a positive step, a source told CNN.
The meeting will be one of the first high-level face-to-face meetings between a Biden team nominee and a member of Trumpâ€™s Cabinet. In the immediate aftermath of the election, Pompeo refused to acknowledge Bidenâ€™s victory and ignited a furor among diplomats by stating that â€œthere will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.â€
But Pompeo has also said â€œweâ€™ll make this workâ€ when speaking about the transition at the department, and last week CNN reported that he was willing to meet with members of Bidenâ€™s team.
â€œIt is a good thing that the Pompeo meeting is expected to happen this week, but Blinken was not waiting around. He couldnâ€™t. The Biden team didnâ€™t know if Pompeo would even agree to meet Blinken, and they thought he may do it in the eleventh hour if he did it at all,â€ said a source familiar with the transition.
Alvin Chang and Sam Levine bring us this in-depth look today at how, while Biden was winning the presidency, Republicans cemented their grip on power for the next decadeâ€¦
State lawmakers have the authority to redraw electoral districts in most US states every 10 years. In 2010, Republicans undertook an unprecedented effort â€“ called Project Redmap â€“ to win control of state legislatures across the country and drew congressional and state legislative districts that gave them a significant advantage for the next decade. In 2020, Democrats sought to avoid a repeat of 2010 and poured millions of dollars and other resources into winning key races.
It didnâ€™t go well.
Democrats failed to flip any of the legislative chambers they targeted and Republicans came out of election night in nearly the best possible position for drawing districts. They will have the opportunity to draw 188 congressional seats, 43% of the House of Representatives. Democrats will have a chance to draw at most just 73 seats. Republicans will probably also be able to draw districts that will make it more difficult for Democrats to hold their majority in the US House in 2022.
â€œIt was really bad. It was devastating to the project of building long-term power,â€ said Amanda Litman, the co-founder and executive director of Run for Something, a group focused on local races.
Republicans have two additional advantages this year. In 2019, the US supreme court said that federal courts could not strike down districts on the grounds that they were too partisan, giving lawmakers a green light to virtually guarantee their own re-election. 2021 will also be the first time that places with a history of voting discrimination will also be able to draw districts without first submitting them to the justice department for approval because of a 2013 supreme court decision, Shelby County v Holder, that struck down a pre-clearance provision at the heart of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
As mentioned earlier, Joe Biden will be in Georgia today campaigning for Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock in their Senate run-off races.
Thereâ€™s a couple of other things in the diary that we can expect to see. Vice president Mike Pence will be touring a vaccine production facility and leading a coronavirus response roundtable discussion in Bloomington, Indiana at 1.45pm.
In what could be a little bit spicy, the secretaries of state for Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin â€“ the four states that Texas attempted to take to the supreme court â€“ will talk about the 2020 elections with the Bipartisan Policy Center at 11.45am.
First lady Melania Trump will be visiting the Childrenâ€™s National Hospital at 12 noon, where she will be reading to children. Sheâ€™ll no doubt be thrilled, given her recorded position of â€œwho gives a fuck about the Christmas stuff and decorations?â€
The president has no public events scheduled.
The Los Angeles editorial board have called time on Trump and the Republicanâ€™s efforts to undermine the election result this morning, saying: â€œThe presidential election is over. Republicans must admit that Biden wonâ€
Theyâ€™ve done enough damage already with the wild allegations and conspiracy theories theyâ€™ve been peddling relentlessly for weeks. A recent Fox News poll found that almost 70% of Republicans believe that the election was â€œstolenâ€ from Trump, evidently buying his claim that he couldnâ€™t possibly lose in a fair contest.
If Trump cared about the welfare of the nation, he would congratulate Biden and (if that is his choice) prepare to seek the presidency again in 2024. But itâ€™s unrealistic to expect that a narcissist like Trump would acknowledge reality after the electoral college vote, any more than he did after a string of losses in the courts. As electors started to meet around the country, White House advisor Stephen Miller told Fox News that â€œalternateâ€ slates that backed Trump in the contested states would submit their votes to Congress too. It wouldnâ€™t surprise us if Trump continued to cry â€œfraudâ€ up to the moment Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20 â€” and perhaps even after that.
Republican members of Congress are in a different position. If they want to be taken seriously â€” including by the new president â€” they need to stop giving aid and comfort to Trumpâ€™s delusions about a rigged election.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has taken refuge in anodyne statements about the need to count every legal vote, while deflecting the question of whether Biden is the president-elect. Itâ€™s time for McConnell to accept that Trump lost in a free and fair election and to respond positively to any overtures from Biden for bipartisan cooperation.
House minority ;eader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield has even more to repent for. McCarthy disgraced himself and California by joining more than 120 House Republicans in endorsing a preposterous and anti-democratic lawsuit by the state of Texas challenging the election results in four states carried by Biden.
Amber Phillips at the Washington Post writes that Joe Biden keeps giving Republicans who ignore his win the benefit of the doubt, but that heâ€™s not necessarily getting the same in return:
What Biden sees, according to a victory speech he delivered Monday after the electoral college voted him president, is not a democracy in distress, but one that successfully resisted all this pressure.
A glass-half-full look at what happened is at odds with good-government expertsâ€™ warnings that President Trump sliced a deep cut on American democracy by claiming fraud because he lost. Polls show a majority of Republican voters believe the election was rigged or stolen. Republican lawmakers have largely acquiesced in silence.
But Biden has seemed to go out of his way to give Republicans the benefit of the doubt that theyâ€™re just stuck in a bad political situation while Trumpâ€™s still in office. â€œThey will,â€ he replied when reporters asked him shortly after the election how he could work with congressional Republicans who wonâ€™t even acknowledge he won. â€œThere have been more than several sitting Republican senators privately called and congratulated,â€ Biden told CNN more recently. â€œI understand the situation they find themselves in.â€
Thatâ€™s not how other top Democrats desire to write one of the last pages of the extraordinary past five weeks in American electoral history. They want to make sure Republicans get blamed in the history books for their actions.
â€œIn almost any other year, both major parties would have fully and publicly accepted the will of the American people by now,â€ Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor Monday as the electoral college voted. â€œJust how many times does President Trump have to lose before rank-and-file Republicans, before most senators, acknowledge that Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States?â€
I know we are all a little bit more sceptical of polling numbers than we were a few weeks ago, but Axios this morning are reporting some findings from their rolling weekly coronavirus survey that are encouraging for the roll-out of the vaccine in the US. They appear to show a big uptick in the willingness to get vaccinated since September. Margaret Talev writes:
The share of Americans who say theyâ€™ll get the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as itâ€™s available has doubled since September, with more than one in four now putting their hands up, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.
This increased comfort with or appetite for getting the vaccine is happening as the first Americans get vaccinated. Itâ€™s being driven by people 65 and older, but itâ€™s happening across all age, party ID and racial and ethnic groups.
Trust in pharmaceutical companies rose to 43%, up from 35% in September.
The survey also offers some early evidence that as President Trumpâ€™s voice recedes, Republicans may grow more willing to listen to institutions and science.
Read more here: Axios â€“ New enthusiasm for the shot
President-elect Joe Biden will be in Georgia today, to campaign for the two Democratic US Senate candidates whose 5 January runoff elections could make or break his domestic policy agenda.
Bidenâ€™s narrow win in the Southern state in Novemberâ€™s presidential election completed its transformation from Republican stronghold to one of the countryâ€™s most competitive political battlegrounds.
Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are facing Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, respectively, in twin races that will determine which party controls the US Senate. If the Republicans win either contest, they would maintain power in the Senate, allowing them to thwart many of Bidenâ€™s ambitious legislative goals on issues such as the coronavirus, the economy and climate change. A Democratic sweep would give the party control of the White House and Congress, where it also has a majority in the US House of Representatives.
Bidenâ€™s trip to Atlanta comes nine days after President Donald Trump traveled to Georgia in support of Perdue and Loeffler. The president-electâ€™s visit also coincides with early in-person voting, which began on Monday as hundreds of Georgians braved rainy weather to stand in line.
As in November, many voters are expected to cast ballots by mail amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Thus far, more than 1.2 million residents have requested absentee ballots, and more than 260,000 have already sent them in, according to the US Elections Project at the University of Florida.
Jospeh Ax for Reuters notes that Bidenâ€™s win has boosted Democratic hopes of capturing both seats, along with aggressive efforts to register voters and changing demographics that have pushed the electorate away from Republicans.
Perdue got a higher percentage of the vote than Trump in the 3 November election, finishing ahead of Ossoff but just shy of the 50% required to avoid a runoff under state law. A third-party candidate received about 2% of the vote.
The other race had a large field of candidates in November due to its status as a special election because Loeffler was appointed to her seat to fill a vacancy. Warnock and Loeffler finished in the top two positions, each well short of 50%.
Both sides face turnout challenges in the midst of the pandemic and without the polarizing Trump at the top of the ballot to turn out votes from his deeply loyal supporters and also from detractors with deep animosity toward him.
Some Republicans in the state have expressed concern that Trumpâ€™s repeated insistence, without evidence, that the November results were fraudulent may drive down turnout among his most ardent supporters.
Evan McMullin is in the New York Times pondering if, in the wake of Trumpâ€™s electoral defeat and the way that senior Republican figures coddled up to his widespread voter fraud delusions, what he calls â€œprincipled NeverTrump Republicansâ€ like himself should strike out on their own:
So whatâ€™s next for Republicans who reject their partyâ€™s attempts to incinerate the Constitution in the service of one manâ€™s authoritarian power grabs? Where is our home now?
The answer is that we must further develop an intellectual and political home, for now, outside of any party. From there, we can continue working with other Americans to defeat Trumpâ€™s heirs, help offer unifying leadership to the country and, if the GOP continues on its current path, launch a party to challenge it directly.
Although we hoped that defeating Trump would start to right the Republican ship, our efforts over the last four years have not been in vain. We defeated and removed immoral and dishonorable Republicans like Roy Moore, Dana Rohrabacher, Steve King and Martha McSally. We turned out to ensure that Democrats nominated a unifying leader who a majority of voters could support. And we were a key part of the coalition that defeated Trump himself.
But the NeverTrump movement has mostly been inward looking thus far. It emerged to defeat Mr. Trump and defend foundational principles such as self-government, liberty and justice, sovereignty, pluralistic society, the sanctity of all life, decency and objective truth.
But to turn back Trumpâ€™s dangerous ideology, which has survived his defeat, and move America forward, we must build on these ideals and look beyond ourselves.
On a somewhat lighter note, the national guard in Alaska has managed to carry out their Operation Santa Claus tradition despite a pandemic being on.
The tradition was born out of hard times in 1956, when residents in the village of St. Maryâ€™s faced a tough choice: food or gifts for the children after flooding, then drought, devastated subsistence activities. They chose food.
The Alaska Air National Guard then stepped in, delivering donated gifts and supplies to the community,
Since then, the program has grown, and in 1969, The Salvation Army became a partner in providing toys and other items to children across rural Alaska.
Each year, Operation Santa Claus attempts to deliver gifts to two or three villages that are selected for varying reasons, such as having a particular hardship in the last year or high poverty levels.
â€œFor 65 years we have not missed a beat,â€ said Chief Master Sgt. Winfield Hinkley, Jr., command senior enlisted leader of the Alaska National Guard. â€œAnd I will tell you, Covid is rough,â€ he said, â€œbut it will not stop us from carrying out this tradition. It is an honor to do it.â€
This year, report the Associated Press, volunteers packed toys, stocking stuffers, backpacks, knit hats, toothbrushes and toothpaste and books for 127 children.
In a normal year, the arrival of Operation Santa Claus is a community event, with locals driving Santa and Mrs. Claus and helpers in the back of pickups or on sleds pulled by snowmobiles to the local school for a party. All village residents are invited to have their photos taken with Santa and eat an ice cream sundae, and children get a gift.
But during the pandemic, Coivd-19 protocols dictated the gifts be delivered to airstrips, where locals picked up and distributed them.
Stevens Village First Chief David Kriska said having the National Guard call and see if they would be interested was reassuring.
â€œIt was great because just being so locked down and with travel, you know, so out of touch with the outside world,â€ he said. â€œHaving someone that even reached out and wanted to do something like that was like, â€˜Whoa, hey, awesome!â€â€™
However, he wishes it could have been the full experience, including having his children sit on Santaâ€™s lap.
â€œIt would have been great for my kids to interact with them because theyâ€™re needing that social interaction,â€ he said. â€œI would have loved to have that picture with my daughters.â€
Away from coronavirus for a moment, the Georgia Senate runoff races on 5 January will decide whether Joe Biden comes to power with a Senate that backs him, or in the teeth of a Republican-controlled Senate set to obstruct his every move. Peter Stone reports for us this morning on how Wall Street is putting its money firmly behind the Republicans:
Billionaire Republicans on Wall Street have been opening their wallets to try and protect David Perdue and Kelly Loefflerâ€™s Senate seats. Two super Pacs are planning to spend about $80m on ads and other efforts backing the Republicans.
Among donors are top finance CEOs Stephen Schwarzman, of Blackstone Group, and Kenneth Griffin, of Citadel LLC, who have donated millions to the Senate Leadership Fund super Pac which is supporting Perdue, according to campaign finance records.
Last month, Schwarzman, who briefly was the chair of Donald Trumpâ€™s strategic and policy forum, contributed $15m and Griffin donated $10m to the Pac; while earlier in the year, the Pac received $20m from Schwarzman and $25m from Griffin.
Separately, a fundraising committee backing both Republican senators that launched last month has surpassed its goal of raising $35m to oppose Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. This committee is also being helped by fundraising on Wall Street including Schwarzman, Griffin and others, say two GOP sources.