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Biden's got boulders to push up a mountain

President-elect Joe Biden at his victory speech Saturday

President-elect Joe Biden at his victory speech Saturday night outside the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del. Credit: Pool / EPA / Andrew Harnik

Zero to 60 on Day 1

President-elect Joe Biden has no choice but to get ready to hit the ground running on Inauguration Day, with or without President Donald Trump's acquiescence. The crises that will hit the 46th president like a cold January blast can't wait.

Biden faces a litany of challenges, including a surge of coronavirus cases, a weakened economy and a deeply polarized country, write Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez and Tom Brune. In his victory speech Saturday night, Biden said it is time "to come together as a nation," but the honeymoon traditionally enjoyed by a new president likely will be short if there is one at all.

"The challenges of governance in 2021 will be enormous," said Meena Bose, director of the Hofstra University’s Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency.

Biden is expected on Monday to address the most pressing problem he faces — the novel coronavirus that is surging to a record-setting number of cases — by appointing a working group to tackle the pandemic with an emphasis on relying on the best science. He already has named a former surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, and a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Dr. David Kessler, as co-chairs. Managing distribution and winning public acceptance for an eventual coronavirus vaccine is one of the urgent tasks that await.

Unless Democrats pull off an upset and take both Senate elections in Georgia likely heading to Jan. 5 runoffs, Biden is expected to govern with a divided Congress, meaning slimmer chances of passing his signature legislation in the first 100 days in office, such as expanding the Affordable Care Act with a public option.

Biden is counting on finding areas of compromise with Republicans, which will trigger resistance from the Democratic Party's left. But one possible area to find common ground will be improvements to infrastructure, which Trump repeatedly promised but never seriously pursued. The plan would create jobs, and cities, suburbs and rural areas all could benefit.

The Biden administration must address heightened expectations that it will act on the racial reckoning fueled by police shootings of Black men and women, a crisis that set off nationwide protests and demands for changes in policing and criminal justice. It's an issue on which Trump could well lead a battle from the sidelines. "There’s going to be this ex-president with a megaphone in his constituency, and perhaps planning a rematch in 2024," said Mark Rozell, dean of the George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government.

Fast-tracking de-Trumpification

Biden is planning to quickly sign a series of executive orders after being sworn into office on Jan. 20 to reverse or shift priorities that were set by Trump and his administration, The Washington Post reports.

Biden will rejoin the Paris climate accords, according to those close to his campaign and commitments he has made in recent months, and he will reverse Trump’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization. He will repeal the ban on almost all travel from some Muslim-majority countries, and he will reinstate the program allowing "Dreamers," who were brought to the United States illegally as children, to remain in the country, according to people familiar with his plans.

There also has been a recognition by those around him that he may have to lean more on executive actions than he had once hoped if a divided Congress isn't behind him.

Transition team officials said Biden this week also will launch his agency review teams to prepare for the transfer of power. Hundreds of transition officials are preparing to get to work inside various federal agencies. But Emily Murphy, the Trump-appointed head of the General Services Administration, has yet to recognize Biden as the president-elect, a move that would free up federal money for the transition process.

Trump: L no!

Refusing to admit defeat, Trump and his campaign team over the weekend kept churning out allegations of voting fraud that aren't holding up and aggressively pushed donors for more money to fund legal battles. "I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!" Trump tweeted Saturday.

Even his family is reportedly divided on how long to keep the fight going. Politico reported that first lady Melania Trump is in the camp that favors looking for an exit strategy, while the president's sons Donald Jr. and Eric want to battle on. There are conflicting reports on where son-in-law Jared Kushner stands. Axios said almost everyone had by now accepted the reality that Trump lost, but some advisers, notably Rudy Giuliani, tell him not to give up.

The Associated Press reports that Trump aides and allies acknowledge privately the legal fights would — at best — forestall the inevitable, and some had deep reservations about the president’s attempts to undermine faith in the vote. But they said Trump and a core group of allies were aiming to keep his loyal base of supporters on his side even in defeat.

Republicans like Sens. Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham whose future ambitions would benefit from pleasing Trump's base lent their bullhorns to false cheating claims. For more on conflicting GOP voices from the Sunday talk shows, see Newsday's story by Rachelle Blidner and Scott Eidler.

Among Long Island voters, passions remained high on both sides on Sunday. A caravan of more than 1,000 Trump supporters drove from East Northport to Hauppauge to echo his claims of a stolen victory. A 100-vehicle caravan of Biden supporters drove from Huntington Station into Nassau County and back. Another 100 Biden backers gathered outside an Applebee’s in Shirley. See the story by Newsday's reporting staff, written by David M. Schwartz.

Garden-variety Giuliani

They're still talking in Philadelphia and beyond about Giuliani's Saturday news conference that had a location as strange as his conspiracy theories about the voting in Pennsylvania, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Reporters were given a heads-up to head for the Four Seasons, but it turned out not to be the luxury hotel. The venue, in a gritty industrial area, was Four Seasons Total Landscaping, nestled between a crematorium and Fantasy Island Adult Books and Novelties. (Here's a video clip of Giuliani.)

A PBS reporter said he was told by the landscaping company that Trump's campaign called out of the blue and asked to use the site because the location looked secure and it's close to an I-95 exit. The owners of the suddenly famous business said they would have welcomed any candidate's campaign and announced they will sell T-shirts on their website. Long after the news conference ended, an employee at the nearby sex-toy shop said the phone was ringing off the hook with callers asking: "Is Rudy Giuliani there?"

Giuliani on Sunday — tweeting a false claim that "hundreds of thousands" of Pennsylvania mail-in ballots were counted "without any Republican observer" — invited followers to "tweet me your guess" on why "while I go prove it in court."

World leaders count to 46

A number of world leaders who Trump counted as friends offered congratulations to Biden, suggesting they had no doubts about the election results. The leaders included Britain's Boris Johnson, India's Narendra Modi, Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu and the Saudi ruling family. France, Germany and Italy joined in.

Johnson said in a statement: "The U.S. is our most important ally, and I look forward to working closely together on our shared priorities from climate change to trade and security." Biden, unlike Trump, is no fan of Brexit, but Johnson emphasized areas of common ground.

"I think now with President Biden in the White House in Washington, we have the real prospect of American global leadership in tackling climate change," Johnson said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Other U.S. allies in Europe hoped to reset the trans-Atlantic relationship after ties frayed under Trump, The New York Times reported.

There was no word from Russia's Vladimir Putin or China's Xi Jinping. As for America's neighbors, Canada's Justin Trudeau congratulated Biden, but Mexico's Andrés Manuel López Obrador told reporters Saturday he wants to "wait until all the legal matters have been resolved."

Again, a White House COVID outbreak

Trump's election night party at the White House — with few masks and no social distancing — is now under additional scrutiny after the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, became the latest top White House official to contract COVID-19, The Associated Press reported.

Five other Trump aides reportedly received positive test results in the period around Election Day. Meadows tried to keep his diagnosis a secret.

The U.S. has recorded 10 million infections overall, NBC News reported on Sunday. More than 239,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S.

The latest numbers

To keep up with the latest election results, click here.

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond, by Newsday's Matthew Chayes. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • Kamala Harris will make history in January as the first woman and the first person with South Asian ancestry to be vice president, as well as the first Black vice president. She was on a walk in a park when the election was called. Here's a video of her sharing the news on her cellphone with Biden.
  • Biden is the second Catholic to be elected president. There was more controversy 60 years ago surrounding the religion of the first, John F. Kennedy. Biden went to church on Sunday, as he usually does.
  • Leading Black Democrats on Sunday's talk shows credited communities of color for helping to secure Biden's victory, reports Newsday's Eidler.
  • Among the Republicans congratulating Biden on Sunday: Former President George W. Bush, who said the 2020 race was "fundamentally fair" and "its outcome is clear." Also Gary Cohn, Trump's first top economic adviser, who tweeted of Biden and Harris: "I wish them great success in leading our country."
  • Biden is still weeks away from announcing Cabinet choices, Bloomberg News reports.
  • After four years of no pets in the Trump White House, get ready for two. Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, have two German shepherds, Major and Champ. Major, adopted in 2018, will make history as the first rescue dog to become a presidential canine. Champ, now 12, was with the Bidens in Washington during the vice-presidency. The dogs now have their own Twitter account: @FirstFamilyDogs.

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