Biden: Democracy wins
The Electoral College on Monday gave President-elect Joe Biden what he earned at the ballot box — affirmation that he defeated President Donald Trump. Healing the nation wasn't all Biden wanted to talk about in a prime-time speech. He roasted Trump and those behind his baseless and inflammatory drive to destroy faith in the results and intimidate those who wouldn't go along with it.
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris each received 306 electoral votes to 232 each for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence — the same margin that Trump won in 2016. "At the time, President Trump called his Electoral College tally a landslide," Biden said Monday night from Wilmington, Delaware. "By his own standards, these numbers represented a clear victory then, and I respectfully suggest they do so now."
The president-elect praised the efforts of local election officials and others from both parties who, as he put it, "were subject to so much — enormous political pressure, verbal abuse and even threats of physical violence" for rejecting Trump's claims of a "rigged" election.
"They did their duty in the face of a pandemic, and then they could not, and would not, give credence to what was not true," said Biden. "They know this election was overseen. It was overseen by them. It was honest, it was free and it was fair. They saw it with their own eyes, and they wouldn’t be bullied into saying anything different."
Tensions surrounded the Electoral College vote too. In Michigan, state legislative offices were closed while electors got security escorts to the state Capitol because of "credible threats of violence," and a GOP state lawmaker who refused to denounce potential violence was swiftly disciplined by his party's legislative leaders.
Biden called the Supreme Court lawsuit filed by 17 state's Republican attorneys general and 126 Republican members of Congress an "unprecedented assault on our democracy" for asking the nation's highest court to toss out election results in multiple states. He called some Republicans’ efforts to undermine lawful results a "position so extreme we’ve never seen it before."
Biden renewed his campaign promise to be a president for all Americans, whether they voted for him or not, and said the country has hard work ahead on the coronavirus and the economy. "In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed," he said. "We the People voted. Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact. And now it is time to turn the page, as we’ve done throughout our history. To unite. To heal." (See a transcript and a full video of the speech.)
New York adds to Biden's score
Former President Bill Clinton and former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton led off New York State's formal casting of its 29 Electoral College votes for Biden on Monday, depositing old-fashioned paper ballots in a wooden box, reports Newsday's Yancey Roy.
In a ceremony shortened by COVID-19 concerns, the New York electors gathered in a socially distanced manner in the state Assembly chamber in Albany, with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo presiding. Biden won the popular vote in New York with 5.23 million votes, a margin of almost 2 million over Trump's 3.24 million.
Trump was among those tracking the state-by-state Electoral College meetings on TV, and he complained that cable networks were treating it like a mini-election night while not giving his unsupported fraud allegations any airtime, The Associated Press reported.
More GOP senators reach acceptance stage
Politico reported that more Senate Republicans are finally starting to recognize Biden as the next president. "In the end at some point you have to face the music," said Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.). "And I think that once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it’s time for everybody to move on."
"There’s clearly a constitutional president-elect," added Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the No. 4 GOP leader. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said "the Electoral College vote today makes clear that Joe Biden is now president-elect."
Some House Republican dead-enders are still planning to wage a long-shot challenge on Trump’s behalf when Congress counts electoral votes on Jan. 6, but there's no sign of interest from the GOP-led Senate. That would be a "bad mistake," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Last call for Barr
The only surprise from Trump's tweet that Attorney General William Barr is resigning is that both men tried to present the breakup as amicable.
In recent weeks, Trump raged bitterly at Barr for saying he found no evidence to back up the president's claim of a "stolen" election and for keeping the wraps on investigations of Biden's son Hunter that began long before the election. Barr was described by a CNN source as regarding Trump's attacks as a "deposed king ranting."
Yet on Monday, they chose to remember their good times. "Our relationship has been a very good one, he has done an outstanding job!" Trump said in his tweet. Barr's resignation letter played into Trump's sense of victimization, praising his "unprecedented achievements" despite a "partisan onslaught" that was "abusive and deceitful," including "frenzied and baseless accusations of collusion with Russia." Barr's last day will be Dec. 23, with less than a month to go in Trump's term.
Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen will become acting attorney general, Trump tweeted.
White House's worst COVID case
For the most part, those who came down with the coronavirus during its White House outbreaks recovered, including Trump, though he required a hospital stay.
Not so Crede Bailey, the director of the White House security office, Bloomberg News reports. He lost his right foot and lower leg and spent three months in the hospital, a friend told Bloomberg News. Bailey is now in a rehab center.
Bailey’s office handles credentialing for access to the White House complex and works closely with the Secret Service. His friends have raised more than $30,000 for his rehabilitation through a GoFundMe account. The White House declined to say whether Trump has contributed.
Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Monday offered revised information on who in the White House will be in a VIP line for the COVID-19 vaccine. "Key officials like Situation Room staff, among others, will have access to this vaccine." Also: "certain members of Congress." Trump on Sunday night scaled back a plan for wider distribution among White House officials during the initial wave of inoculations, for which supply is limited.
The exact number and role of officials set to receive the vaccine under continuity-of-government plans is classified, senior administration officials told The Associated Press.
Virus toll passes 300,000
The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 topped 300,000 on Monday. The historic scale of the horror — more than five times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War — passed that milestone as the biggest vaccination campaign the nation has ever seen got underway.
Some public health experts project that 100,000 more Americans could die of the coronavirus before the end of January.
An ABC News poll suggested public acceptance of the vaccine is growing, but with an undercurrent of caution. More than 8 in 10 Americans say they would take it, but slightly less than half of those would do so as soon as it's available. The rest said they would wait a bit.
After a stumbling start caused nearly two months of delay, the Trump administration is rushing to roll out a $250 million public-education campaign to encourage Americans to take the coronavirus vaccine, The New York Times reported.
More coronavirus news
See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Bart Jones and Robert Brodsky. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.
What else is happening:
- What was all that throat-clearing about during Biden's speech? Biden has gastroesophageal reflux, which his doctor said in a December 2019 medical report causes "having to clear his throat more often," a CBS News reporter noted. But Biden told supporters in a post-speech conference call: "I have a little bit of a cold."
- Transition lawyers are drafting ethics rules for the Biden administration, and it could be complicated because of potential conflicts of interest regarding family members, The Washington Post reports. Aside from Biden's son Hunter, who is under a federal tax investigation, there are the business interests of Biden's brother James and a brother-in-law.
- A Biden transition official said the president-elect plans to take the coronavirus vaccine when Dr. Anthony Fauci recommends he do so, ABC News reported. He plans to take the shot in public. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Monday that Biden can have the vaccine whenever he wants it.
- Rep. Paul Mitchell of Michigan, who is retiring, said Monday he is quitting the Republican Party out of disgust with those in the party who backed Trump's attempts to overturn the election. Mitchell, a conservative who voted for Trump, told CNN: "This party has to stand up for democracy first, for our Constitution first and not political considerations, not simply for raw political power. That’s what I feel that’s going on and I’ve had enough."
- Unauthorized migrant crossings are swelling in defiance of the pandemic-era lockdown Trump imposed at the Mexican border, The New York Times reported. The surge in entries could present a challenge to Biden's pledge to adopt a more compassionate policy toward the migrants.
- Trump wants people to think he's planning to run again in 2024, even though he's also leaving the door open to bowing out in 2022 if his prospects don't look good, Politico reports. The point is to stay part of the conversation and get the attention he wants. He's also raising a lot of money.
- Cuomo reiterated Monday that he's not interested in a job in the Biden administration, reports Newsday's Michael Gormley. The governor's name was floated over the weekend as a possible pick for U.S. attorney general.