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Presidential Transition Live Updates: Lawmakers Unveil Stimulus Package

Attorney General William P. Barr’s statements undercut President Trump’s claim of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Attorney General William P. Barr’s statements undercut President Trump’s claim of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

Attorney General William P. Barr said Tuesday that the Justice Department has not uncovered voting fraud at a scale that could have affected the results of the presidential election, reaffirming Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s win despite President Trump’s groundless claims that he was defrauded.

Mr. Barr’s comments, in an interview with The Associated Press, were a prominent repudiation of Mr. Trump’s baseless assertions and came days after the president implied that the Justice Department and the F.B.I. may have played a role in an election fraud.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” Mr. Barr said.

Mr. Barr’s comments came as another Trump ally signaled he was ready to move on after a surreal month of lawsuits, conspiracy theories and denials by the president of a loss that has proved durable and decisive.

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, who has refused to recognize Mr. Trump’s election loss, on Tuesday moved closer to overtly accepting the reality that Mr. Biden would be in the White House next year, while discussing the prospects for more pandemic stimulus in 2021.

“After the first of the year, there is likely to be a discussion about some additional package of some size next year, depending upon what the new administration wants to pursue,” Mr. McConnell said at a news conference.

Taken together, Mr. Barr’s direct declaration and Mr. McConnell’s indirect reference to Mr. Biden’s new administration represent a major, if not unexpected, blow to the president’s postelection effort to change the results from two men whom he has often relied on for political cover.

Moments after Mr. Barr’s comments were made public, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, emailed a statement on campaign letterhead, claiming — again without evidence — that he had found “ample” proof of national voter fraud sufficient to swing the election to Mr. Biden.

“With the greatest respect to the Attorney General, his opinion appears to be without any knowledge or investigation of the substantial irregularities and evidence of systemic fraud,” wrote Mr. Giuliani late Tuesday.

Mr. Barr was seen entering the White House grounds Tuesday afternoon. A department spokesman said he was there for previously scheduled appointments that did not include a meeting with the president.

Amid the fallout from Mr. Barr’s statements about the election, the Justice Department also announced that he had given extra protection to the federal prosecutor examining the origins of the investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Mr. Barr appointed the prosecutor, John H. Durham, as a special counsel, a move that makes it more difficult for the Biden administration to fire him.

Mr. Durham has been conducting the investigation for a year and a half, and Mr. Trump and his allies had been banking on him uncovering wrongdoing by Obama-era F.B.I. officials to help the president’s political fortunes in the lead up to last month’s election. But Mr. Durham has charged only one person, an F.B.I. lawyer who pleaded guilty to doctoring an email.

Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager for the Georgia secretary of state’s office, urged President Trump to condemn the violent threats and harassment directed at people working on election issues.
Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager for the Georgia secretary of state’s office, urged President Trump to condemn the violent threats and harassment directed at people working on election issues.Credit…Megan Varner/Getty Images

Gabriel Sterling, a high-ranking Georgia elections official, walked to a lectern in the State Capitol in Atlanta on Tuesday and angrily denounced the violent threats and harassment directed at people working on elections issues, urging President Trump to condemn it.

“It has to stop,” said Mr. Sterling, a Republican. “Mr. President, you have not condemned this language or these actions. This has to stop. We need you to step up, and if you’re going to take a position of leadership, show some.”

Mr. Sterling, a wonkish former city councilman in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs, has taken on a starring role as Georgia’s voting system implementation manager while the president continues to call the election “rigged” and urge for the results to be nullified.

“Mr. President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia,” Mr. Sterling said on Tuesday. “We’re investigating. There’s always a possibility, I get it, you have the right to go to the courts. What you don’t have is the ability to — and you need to step up and say this — is stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed.”

Mr. Sterling’s boss, the Republican secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, has come under fire from Trump allies, particularly Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue of Georgia, Republicans who criticized Mr. Raffensperger’s handling of the election and called for him to step down.

A number of lawsuits have been filed seeking to halt the certification of the results in Georgia. A second of two recounts, requested by the Trump campaign, is being conducted. The internet and right-wing news media have flooded the state with baseless conspiracy theories.

Mr. Sterling, who seems to know the ins and outs of the election and recount process in more detail than Mr. Raffensperger, has had the shared duty of explaining and defending these processes, which the secretary of state’s office oversees. The two officials have said that their office is investigating reports of irregularities in the state. But both have maintained that the election results are trustworthy, and that President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. narrowly defeated Mr. Trump.

Speaking loudly, emotionally and deliberately, Mr. Sterling said that Mr. Raffensperger had intruders on his personal property. He said that Mr. Raffensperger’s wife was “getting sexualized threats through her cellphone.” Mr. Sterling said he had police protection outside his own house.

He mentioned reports that Joe diGenova, a lawyer for the Trump campaign, said that Christopher Krebs — a federal cybersecurity official who was fired shortly after saying that the election was fair — should be shot.

But Mr. Sterling said that “the straw that broke the camel’s back” had to do with a contractor for a voting system company in Gwinnett County who was targeted by someone who hung a noose and said he should be “hung for treason” simply for doing a routine element of his job.

“This is elections,” Mr. Sterling said. “This is the backbone of democracy, and all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this. It’s too much. Yes, fight for every legal vote. Go through your due process. We encourage you, use your First Amendment, that’s fine. Death threats, physical threats, intimidation — it’s too much, it’s not right. They’ve lost the moral high ground to claim that it is.”

He continued: “I can’t begin to explain the level of anger I have right now over this. And every American, every Georgian, Republican and Democrat alike, should have that same level of anger.”

A pardon for Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer, is certain to prompt accusations that Mr. Trump has used his power to obstruct investigations and insulate himself and his allies.
A pardon for Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer, is certain to prompt accusations that Mr. Trump has used his power to obstruct investigations and insulate himself and his allies. Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer who has led the most extensive efforts to damage his client’s political rivals and undermine the election results, discussed with the president as recently as last week the possibility of receiving a pre-emptive pardon before Mr. Trump leaves office, according to two people told of the discussion.

It was not clear who raised the topic. The men have also talked previously about a pardon for Mr. Giuliani, according to the people. Mr. Trump has not indicated what he will do, one of the people said.

Mr. Giuliani’s potential criminal exposure is unclear. He was under investigation as recently as last summer by federal prosecutors in Manhattan for his business dealings in Ukraine and his role in ousting the American ambassador there, a plot that was at the heart of the impeachment of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Giuliani did not respond to a message seeking comment. Christianne Allen, his spokeswoman, said, “Mayor Giuliani cannot comment on any discussions that he has with his client.”

Mr. Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello, said, “He’s not concerned about this investigation, because he didn’t do anything wrong and that’s been our position from Day 1.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Such a broad pardon pre-empting any charge or conviction is highly unusual but does have precedent. George Washington pardoned plotters of the Whiskey Rebellion, shielding them from treason prosecutions. In the most famous example, Gerald R. Ford pardoned Richard M. Nixon for all of his actions as president. Jimmy Carter pardoned thousands of American men who illegally avoided the draft for the Vietnam War.

Mr. Trump has wielded his clemency powers liberally in cases that resonate with him personally or for people who have a direct line to him through friends or family, while thousands of other cases await his review.

Last week he pardoned his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn broadly for potential legal troubles beyond the charge he had faced of lying to federal investigators. The move raised expectations that Mr. Trump will bestow clemency on other associates in his final weeks in office.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced members of his economic team during an event in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced members of his economic team during an event in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday.Credit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York Times

The country’s economy, like the nation’s politics, is queasily suspended between the Trump and Biden administrations — at a moment when the rampaging pandemic has prompted deep concerns over the strength, timing and even likelihood of a possible recovery next year.

On Tuesday, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will try to inject a sense of urgency — and stability — into a chaotic postelection environment by formally introducing his economic team, whose governing philosophy marks a stark departure from President Trump’s low-tax, low-regulation approach.

“Let’s begin the work to heal, to unite, to rebuild an economy for all Americans,” Mr. Biden said at an event in Wilmington, Del.

The new team, led by Mr. Biden’s pick for Treasury Secretary, Janet L. Yellen, the former Fed chair, will emphasize the need to immediately help households and businesses stay afloat amid the pandemic through the use of emergency appropriations and other forms of federal assistance, Biden aides have said.

During his remarks, Mr. Biden directly appealed to senators who will vote on the confirmations of his cabinet members and who are likely to oppose some of his picks.

“To the United States Senate, I hope those outstanding, these outstanding nominees receive a prompt hearing and that we will be able to work across the aisle in good faith and move forward as one country,” said Mr. Biden as he introduced his nominees including Neera Tanden, the combative head of a liberal think tank who is one choice likely to face some opposition.

Earlier in the day, current Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell backed that approach, warning Congress that “the outlook for the economy is extraordinarily uncertain” without an effort to bridge the dangerous transition by limiting the spread of the virus and supporting the economy.

Mr. Trump’s outgoing Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, offered a much less dire assessment of the economy in his prepared remarks before the Senate Banking Committee.

But there were signs that the two sides were attempting to bridge the gap. Mr. Mnuchin told reporters he was planning to reach out to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to discuss negotiations over another virus relief package.

A bipartisan group of senators, led by Susan Collins, a Republican of Maine, and Joe Manchin III, a Democrat from West Virginia, unveiled the blueprint for a $900 billion stopgap stimulus package later in the day.

The plan would provide $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits for 18 weeks, half of what Democrats have sought, and it includes $160 billion in funding for state and local governments, much less than the $500 billion Democrats had previously proposed, which congressional Republicans and the White House had firmly rejected.

In his testimony, Mr. Mnuchin proposed spending an additional $300 billion on relief — a move that was instantly attacked as insufficient by Democratic members of the panel.

“I continue to believe that a targeted fiscal package is the most appropriate federal response,” Mr. Mnuchin said on Tuesday. “The administration is standing ready to support Congress in this effort to help American workers and small businesses.”

Yet even as most congressional Republicans refuse to publicly acknowledge Mr. Biden’s victory, many in the party are starting to privately adjust to negotiating with a Biden team whose coordinated activity represents a sharp break from Mr. Mnuchin’s approach that had often involved back-room diplomacy with Democrats beyond the reach of his volatile boss.

In addition to Ms. Yellen, Mr. Biden has tapped Jared Bernstein, a longtime economic adviser in the Obama administration who worked on the massive 2009 stimulus effort, and Heather Boushey, who has studied the impact of income inequality, as part of his team. Cecilia Rouse, another progressive adviser, will be formally announced as the nominee to head Mr. Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Cecilia Rouse, a Princeton economist, is President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s pick to lead the Council of Economic Advisers.
Cecilia Rouse, a Princeton economist, is President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s pick to lead the Council of Economic Advisers.Credit…Jay Mallin/Bloomberg, via Getty Images

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. introduced key members of his economic team on Tuesday, as he prepares to assume the White House at a moment when the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic is slowing and millions remain out of work.

Mr. Biden, speaking at an event in Delaware, said he was building “a first-rate team that’s going to get us through this ongoing economic crisis.”

The president-elect called on Congress to pass a “robust” rescue package to help households, businesses and state and local governments, saying many communities are “teetering on the edge.”

Mr. Biden is poised to enter the White House at a time of national crisis amid the worsening virus outbreak. The Department of Labor and Department of Commerce have reported an increase in applications for state jobless benefits and a decrease in personal income. Coronavirus cases have soared in recent weeks, a development that Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell called “concerning” in testimony before lawmakers on Tuesday, saying it “could prove challenging in the next few months.”

In a sign of how critical a role economic policy will play in the Biden administration, the President-elect said he was returning the chair of the Council of Economic Advisers to a cabinet-level position. President Trump had demoted the C.E.A. chair during his administration.

Mr. Biden has chosen Cecilia Rouse to lead the Council of Economic Advisers; she would be the first Black woman in the role. Ms. Rouse is a Princeton economist who worked on the Council of Economic Advisers during part of the Obama era and on the White House’s National Economic Council during the Clinton administration.

Mr. Biden has warned of a “very dark winter” ahead and called on Congress to pass relief to help workers, businesses, and state and local governments. Mr. Biden’s advisers are preparing for what could be another economic downturn in early 2021. But another economic stimulus package has languished in Congress, where Democrats and Republicans have been unable to reach a deal, though leaders of both parties have called for compromise in recent days.

A bipartisan group of senators rolled out a potential compromise plan on Tuesday morning that appeared to fit the contours of what Mr. Biden, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, have said must frame any stimulus deal in Washington. They include additional aid to the unemployed and small businesses, along with money to help state and local governments patch budget holes that have been ripped open during the pandemic.

Tuesday’s slate of nominees and appointees includes several women in top economic roles. The selections, markedly different from Mr. Trump’s cabinet, which has been overwhelmingly white and male, follow Mr. Biden’s campaign promise to build an administration that looks like America.

His pick for the Office of Management and Budget — Neera Tanden, the chief executive of the Center for American Progress — would be the first Indian-American to lead the office if confirmed. Mr. Biden also selected Janet L. Yellen, a former Federal Reserve chair, to be his Treasury Secretary. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to fill the position.

Ms. Tanden has met immediate resistance from Republican senators who have criticized her for attacking Republicans publicly, including on her Twitter feed. She previewed the group’s likely emphasis on personal stories in a Twitter post on Monday, after her nomination was announced: “After my parents were divorced when I was young, my mother relied on public food and housing programs to get by,” she wrote. “Now, I’m being nominated to help ensure those programs are secure, and ensure families like mine can live with dignity.”

Mr. Biden also announced his picks for deputy treasury secretary, Adewale Adeyemo, and members of the Council of Economic Advisers, Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey.

Mr. Adeyemo served as a senior international economic adviser under former President Barack Obama, and Mr. Bernstein was Mr. Biden’s first chief economist when he was vice president. Ms. Boushey, a top policy adviser to Hillary Clinton in 2016, leads the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a liberal think tank focused on inequality.

The introductions follow a similar event last week, when Mr. Biden publicly introduced members of his foreign policy and national security team.

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Bipartisan Group of Senators Unveil Stimulus Proposal

A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday unveiled a $900 billion compromise stimulus measure to last until March. It would restore federal unemployment benefits that lapsed over the summer, delivering additional economic relief to Americans as coronavirus cases surge.

“As we deal with the second wave or third wave of this pandemic, it is absolutely essential that we pass emergency relief.” “In this package we have allocated $11 billion for investments in C.D.F.I.s, M.D.I.s and other institutions that will lend to these underserved communities, and that will have a good short-term and long term effect. So while this perhaps will offend some folks on both sides, we think it is a good framework, and we are all committed to doing what it takes to get it done.” “Covid has created a crisis, and in a crisis the people expect Congress to act. And this group has come together to propose action that could respond to this crisis. We’ve got people unemployed. We’ve got businesses shutting down. We’ve got states and localities getting ready for layoffs of large numbers of people. It’s simply unacceptable for us not to respond to help in this circumstance.” “We’re not putting blame anywhere. Basically, we know that they all have — there’s much need out there and needs been identified by so many different organizations, from all economists to every organizations, put something out there. We’ve hit a spot where we know that can give us emergency relief. That’s all this is about — emergency relief going through the first quarter, which ends on April 1. President-elect Biden will be coming in. He’ll be able to determine if there’s more that needs to be done. This is an emergency that gets us through from this holiday season. People that are losing in December. And we just can’t leave without that being addressed.”

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A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday unveiled a $900 billion compromise stimulus measure to last until March. It would restore federal unemployment benefits that lapsed over the summer, delivering additional economic relief to Americans as coronavirus cases surge.CreditCredit…Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday unveiled a $900 billion compromise stimulus proposal meant to break the stalemate in Congress over delivering additional economic relief to Americans suffering from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposal, spearheaded by centrist Senators Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, and Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has not been endorsed by either Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, or Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader.

Designed as a stopgap measure to last until March, it would restore federal unemployment benefits that lapsed over the summer, but at half the rate, providing $300 a week for 18 weeks, and does not include another round of checks for every American. The measure would provide $160 billion to help state, local and tribal governments facing fiscal ruin — a fraction of what Democrats had sought. Also included was $288 billion to help small businesses and a short-term federal liability shield from coronavirus-related lawsuits.

The bill is an attempt to find a middle ground between the dueling stimulus proposals that Democrats and Republicans have haggled over for months. Its cost is less than half of what Democratic leaders had pushed for in the weeks leading up to the election, but nearly double the latest proposal from Republican leaders.

“It’s inexcusable for us to leave town and not have an agreement,” Mr. Manchin said at a news conference on Capitol Hill to present the plan, which was developed with Democratic Senators Mark Warner of Virginia, and Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, both of New Hampshire; independent Senator Angus King of Maine; and Republican Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah.

Joining them to announce the outline were leaders of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group that announced a similar compromise proposal earlier this year that House leaders quickly dismissed.

The fresh attempt at a bipartisan compromise came as Ms. Pelosi and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, were set to discuss government funding legislation, a conversation that Mr. Mnuchin told reporters he also expected would touch on coronavirus relief. It marks the pair’s first discussion on a bill since late October, when they had a flurry of pre-election conversations about coronavirus relief.

Though the framework unveiled on Tuesday was endorsed by moderate members of both parties, any deal would need support from leaders in both chambers to become law, and aides and senators conceded that the first step toward a final deal would require that endorsement.

But in an effort to pressure their leaders, more rank and file lawmakers have begun to call for a smaller, compromise package that could avert the impending lapse at the end of the year of a series of relief programs established in the $2.2 trillion stimulus law enacted in March.

Lawmakers are facing a tight time frame: Government funding is set to lapse on Dec. 11, and with coronavirus cases spiking across the country, they are rushing to approve a must-pass spending bill to avert a shutdown and leave Washington for the remainder of the year.

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Mnuchin and Powell Go Head-to-Head on Economic Outlook

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin and Jerome H. Powell, the Fed Chair, offered senators starkly different assessments of the state of the U.S. economy and the challenges that lie ahead.

“The unemployment rate decreased to 6.9 percent, a rate not expected to be achieved until the fourth quarter of 2021. The historic bipartisan CARES Act provided the economic relief critical to supporting our robust economy. Additional economic shutdowns, however, continue to impair this remarkable progress, and cause great harm to American business and workers. Based upon the recent economic data, I continue to believe that a targeted fiscal package is the most appropriate federal response. I strongly encourage Congress to use the $455 billion in unused funds from the CARES Act to pass an additional bill with bipartisan support.” “As we’ve emphasized throughout the pandemic, the outlook for the economy is extraordinarily uncertain and will depend in large part on the success of efforts to keep the virus in check. The rise in new Covid-19 cases, both here and abroad, is concerning and could prove challenging in the next few months. A full economic recovery is unlikely until people are confident that it’s safe to re-engage in a broad range of activities. Recent news on the vaccine front is very positive for the medium term. The Fed’s response has been guided by our mandate to promote maximum employment and stable prices for the American people along with our responsibilities to promote the stability of the financial system. We’ve been taking broad and forceful actions to more directly support the flow of credit in the economy. Our actions, taken together, have helped unlock almost $2 trillion of funding to support businesses, large and small, non-profits and state and local governments, since April.”

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Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin and Jerome H. Powell, the Fed Chair, offered senators starkly different assessments of the state of the U.S. economy and the challenges that lie ahead.CreditCredit…Al Drago for The New York Times

The chair of the Federal Reserve and the secretary of the Treasury painted starkly different visions of the challenges facing the United States economy in the months ahead on Tuesday, further exposing a rift that began to show last month.

While Jerome H. Powell, the Fed Chair, pointed to ongoing uncertainty over vaccine speed and distribution, the economic dangers of a surge in virus cases and the grim reality that many remain out of work while testifying before the Senate Banking Committee, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin painted a sunnier image of the economic recovery, emphasizing state and local lockdowns as the main threat to growth.

The contrast underlines the divide between two economic policymakers who, earlier in the crisis, worked closely as partners to usher in a sweeping economic response.

That cooperation has cracked. Mr. Mnuchin announced in November that he would end several Fed emergency loan programs, which are meant to keep credit flowing to state and local governments and medium-sized businesses alike. Now, the pair are voicing starkly different economic diagnoses.

Mr. Mnuchin touted the strength of the economic recovery and blamed continuing economic shutdowns in some parts of the country for impairing progress, saying those are causing “great harm” to American businesses and workers.

The Treasury secretary pointed to fact that many jobs have come back and said the unemployment rate had dropped far faster than many had expected. While he agreed that some industries, like restaurants, need support, he reiterated that any additional fiscal spending should be “targeted.”

Mr. Powell warned that ”the outlook for the economy is extraordinarily uncertain” given the ongoing surge in virus cases. He said the winter could be a “tough few months” and small firms might go out of business, even though the economy might rebound strongly in the medium-term as a vaccine becomes available.

“We do have a long way to go,” Mr. Powell said, noting that 10 million people remain out of work and that it is possible to both acknowledge the progress and pay attention to the remaining gap. “We’ll use our tools until the danger is well and truly past, and it may require help from other parts of government as well, including Congress.”

The Fed Chair reiterated that positive clinical trial results for several vaccine candidates spell good news for the medium term, but warned that there are still big risks on the horizon, including related to the vaccine.

“For now, significant challenges and uncertainties remain, including timing, production and distribution, and efficacy across different groups,” Mr. Powell said.

Their testimony came as a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a $900 billion rescue package that Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, called the “best effort” to reach a framework that both Democrats and Republicans can agree upon.

Asked by Mr. Warner if they believed this type of package was needed, both Mr. Powell and Mr. Mnuchin agreed some form of additional support was needed.

“It sounds like you’re hitting a lot of the areas that could definitely benefit,” Mr. Powell said.

“We all believe that there should be targeted, fiscal response,” Mr. Mnuchin said, adding that he would be speaking to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Tuesday afternoon.

Members of the Islamic State drove through Syria in 2014. Until this week, Christopher Maier’s office was responsible for overseeing policy and strategy development regarding the fight against ISIS.
Members of the Islamic State drove through Syria in 2014. Until this week, Christopher Maier’s office was responsible for overseeing policy and strategy development regarding the fight against ISIS.Credit…Associated Press

The Pentagon policy official overseeing the military’s efforts to combat the Islamic State was fired on Monday after a White House appointee told him the United States had won that war and that his office had been disbanded, according to three people briefed on the matter.

The official, Christopher P. Maier, was the head of the Pentagon’s Defeat ISIS Task Force since March 2017, and his ouster came just three weeks after President Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and three other Pentagon officials, replacing them with loyalists.

In a statement late Monday, the Pentagon said that the acting defense secretary, Christopher C. Miller, had accepted Mr. Maier’s resignation and that his duties would be folded into two other offices that deal with special operations and regional policies. Those offices are led by Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Anthony J. Tata, two of the Trump appointees who have been promoted in the recent purge.

When Mr. Maier’s team was disbanded, they were in the midst of answering dozens of questions from the incoming Biden administration about the status of terrorist threats, relations with allies and counterterrorism missions. Now team members will be scattered across the vast Pentagon bureaucracy or returned to their home agencies.

Whether deliberate or not, the move by the newly promoted Pentagon leadership to eliminate that central hub will almost certainly slow the flow of counterterrorism information to Biden transition aides in the coming weeks, several officials said.

Mr. Maier’s supporters say he was summarily forced out of an important but low-profile job that required navigating the shoals of Washington’s counterterrorism bureaucracy as well as flying off to combat zones, including northeast Syria and Iraq, to work with precarious partners on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State.

“Chris is a straight-up pro,” Nicholas J. Rasmussen, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said of Mr. Maier. “The idea this is justified because we’ve won the war against ISIS strains credulity.”

Mr. Maier, 44, an Air National Guard intelligence officer who has worked in counterterrorism jobs in Republican and Democratic administrations for two decades, declined to comment. His firing was reported earlier by CNN.

Some counterterrorism officials estimate that the Islamic State, despite having lost its territorial control in Iraq and Syria, still has as many as 10,000 guerrilla fighters there, and maintains resilient affiliates across East and West Africa and Afghanistan.

Jeffrey D. Zients, second from left, in 2014 while director of the National Economic Council. A powerful figure on the Biden transition team, he worries some progressives because of his business experience.
Jeffrey D. Zients, second from left, in 2014 while director of the National Economic Council. A powerful figure on the Biden transition team, he worries some progressives because of his business experience.Credit…Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Jeffrey D. Zients, the former head of the Obama administration’s National Economic Council, has emerged as an important power center as a co-chairman of the Biden transition team and is currently a top candidate to be the coronavirus czar, a role in which he would steer the government’s response to the pandemic that has wrought financial hardship across the country.

Progressives are concerned that his recent role leading an investment fund, Cranemere, and his two years sitting on the board of Facebook, would make him sympathetic to corporate America. His role as a bridge to business during the Obama administration has raised some eyebrows as well since he was one of the administration’s chief liaisons to executives and lobbyists when anger at Wall Street over the 2007-8 financial crisis was still at its peak. Top lobbyists such as the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have praised Mr. Zients as someone who heard them out.

In a sign of the pushback to come, the advocacy group Revolving Door Project has been urging Mr. Biden to keep corporate influence out of his administration and has compiled a 13-page document about Mr. Zients. The file highlights his wealth, his appetite for deficit reduction during the Obama years and his recent work as chief executive of Cranemere.

Early in his career, Mr. Zients worked as a consultant at Bain & Company before joining the Advisory Board Company, a health care research and consulting firm, where he rose to chief executive.

Jeff Hauser, the director of the Revolving Door Project, said that while he sees Mr. Zients’s experience in the health care industry as useful for managing the pandemic response, he was concerned that Mr. Zients could be too accommodating to business as vaccines are rolled out next year.

The pre-emptive resistance to Mr. Zients (pronounced ZYE-ents) from the left is the latest indication of how the Democratic Party has shifted in the dozen years since former President Barack Obama took office amid a financial crisis. Now, business and finance experience can turn otherwise qualified White House candidates into pariahs for progressives.

The White House Christmas decorations are themed “America the beautiful.” The holiday season is one area where the norm-breaking president appears intent on savoring tradition.
The White House Christmas decorations are themed “America the beautiful.” The holiday season is one area where the norm-breaking president appears intent on savoring tradition.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The red and gold party invitations make no mention of the coronavirus, nor do they acknowledge the holiday message that public health officials have been trying to emphasize to Americans: stay home.

Instead, the invitations are the latest example of how President Trump is spending his final weeks in office operating in an alternative universe, denying the realities of life during the pandemic.

“The president and Mrs. Trump request the pleasure of your company at a holiday reception to be held at the White House,” reads the cursive text, displayed under a presidential seal.

Invitations to at least 20 White House parties, beginning Monday at 7 p.m., have been sent out so far. The guest lists include current and former officials and allies, some from out of state; Republican National Committee officials; campaign staff members; and some Republicans on Capitol Hill.

But in more than half a dozen interviews on Tuesday, many invitees said they did not plan to attend because of the personal risk that attendance would require. Others joked that since so many people in the president’s orbit had already tested positive for the virus, the White House had achieved herd immunity and was now a safe space for a quick stop to view the Christmas decorations.

The holiday party season, canceled across most of Washington, will be a rare time when the White House will feel busy. Inside the West Wing in recent weeks, there has been noticeably less foot traffic in and out of the Oval Office, as staff members pondering their career moves give a president who refuses to concede some space. Mr. Trump has made few public appearances since the election was called for Joseph R. Biden Jr.

But the holiday season at the White House — complete with a gingerbread house made with 25 pounds of chocolate and 25 pounds of royal icing by the in-house pastry team — is one area where the norm-breaking president appears intent on savoring tradition.

On the afternoon of Dec. 11, Mr. Trump is hosting a party for the West Wing staff and their families. There are also receptions planned for the evenings of Dec. 14 and Dec. 16, according to guests and copies of invitations. Officials said there were at least 20 holiday events on the calendar through December.

Stephanie Grisham, the chief of staff to Melania Trump, the first lady, said guests would be strongly encouraged to wear masks when they were not eating and the guest lists were smaller than usual. She did not say how many people were invited to each event.

Other restrictions were being put in place that were not instituted when the president hosted a large crowd for an indoor party on election night.

“Guests will enjoy food individually plated by chefs at plexiglass-protected food stations,” Ms. Grisham said in a statement. “All passed beverages will be covered. All service staff will wear masks and gloves to comply with food safety guidelines. Attending the parties will be a very personal choice. It is a longstanding tradition for people to visit and enjoy the cheer and iconic décor of the annual White House Christmas celebrations.”

The latest guidance from Mayor Muriel E. Bowser of Washington, a Democrat, limits indoor gatherings in the city to no more than 10 people. Beginning Dec. 14, restaurants in Washington are allowed to operate indoors only at 25 percent capacity.

The White House is exempt from the city’s restrictions because it is on federal property.

The Inaugural reviewing stand on Pennsylvania Avenue under construction for President-elect Biden’s inauguration.
The Inaugural reviewing stand on Pennsylvania Avenue under construction for President-elect Biden’s inauguration.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The stage being built on the West Front of the Capitol can hold 1,600 spectators for a close-up view of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. as he takes the oath of office. The reviewing stand under construction in front of the White House will be ready for the inaugural parade and thousands of cheering onlookers as the marchers pass by. And the National Mall is prepared to accommodate many more.

But the traditional pomp and circumstance of America’s quadrennial version of a coronation is colliding with the grim reality of a pandemic that is likely to still be raging on Jan. 20. For that reason, Mr. Biden’s team is signaling that he wants a very different kind of inauguration.

If he had won re-election, President Trump was expected to shrug off the health threats in favor of huge crowds for his inauguration. But Mr. Biden has already indicated that his will not be business as usual. In a statement on Monday, the newly appointed chief executive of Mr. Biden’s inaugural committee hinted at the looming balancing act between health and politics.

“We will honor the American inaugural traditions and engage Americans across the country while keeping everybody healthy and safe,” said Tony Allen, the president of Delaware State University and the committee’s chief executive.

What could that look like?

Aides to the president-elect are being coy. But Mr. Biden’s approach to campaigning during the pandemic — which included drive-in rallies, socially distanced news conferences and a largely virtual national convention — provides a blueprint for how events might be reshaped for the Covid-19 era.

On Capitol Hill, where the official inaugural ceremonies are arranged by a bipartisan congressional committee, lawmakers and aides have quietly been at work since long before the election trying to reimagine what a transfer of power during a pandemic might look like.

The short answer is: quite a bit less crowded.

The organizers are determined that Mr. Biden take the oath of office and deliver an address to the nation outside the West Front of the Capitol, preserving an iconic tableau that has often set the tone for a new presidency. But to make it happen, they are expected to slash the number of officials flanking Mr. Biden.

Those who do make the cut — Supreme Court justices, former presidents, top House and Senate leaders and the Joint Chiefs of Staff among them — will be required to socially distance and wear masks. Some may be asked to take coronavirus tests.

Election workers counted absentee ballots in Milwaukee last month.
Election workers counted absentee ballots in Milwaukee last month.Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

President Trump’s campaign on Tuesday sued the Wisconsin Elections Commission and Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, aiming to throw out hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots cast in the Democratic bastions of Dane County and Milwaukee County.

The Trump campaign lawsuit does not claim specific cases of fraud, but rather aims to overturn Wisconsin’s entire system of early voting, and aims to undo Mr. Evers’s certification on Monday of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the state.

The suit claims that all in-person absentee ballots in Dane and Milwaukee counties be invalidated because it says, incorrectly, they were cast without voters submitting a written application requesting the ballot. Voters across Wisconsin who voted early at in-person locations cast ballots using the same application, but the Trump campaign has only contested ballots cast in Dane and Milwaukee counties, which cast the most number of votes for Mr. Biden in the state.

Mr. Trump’s lawsuit also seeks to throw out 17,000 ballots cast in Madison, which is in Dane County, at weekend events called “Democracy in the Park.” Before in-person absentee voting began Oct. 20, Madison municipal officials dispatched poll workers to collect absentee ballots in city parks. Though the event was cleared in advance by the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the Trump campaign has argued the votes were cast illegally.

And the Trump campaign wants the court to discard ballots in which municipal clerks aided voters by finishing absentee ballot applications that voters left incomplete — guidance provided to them by the elections commission that follows how elections in the state have been conducted in the past.

The Trump campaign filed the lawsuit in the Wisconsin Supreme Court, where conservatives hold a 4-to-3 majority. The court has given Mr. Evers and other defendants, which include Dane and Milwaukee Counties and the Wisconsin Elections Commission, until 9:30 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday to respond to the Trump campaign’s lawsuit.

During a meeting of the Wisconsin Elections Commission on Tuesday morning, Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee (not Madison, as an earlier version of this post said) said the Trump campaign was trying to undo the state’s established system of voting.

“The claims raised through the recount by the Trump campaign and by President Trump himself are not challenging the accuracy or legitimacy of the results, rather they challenge the entire election system in Wisconsin, claiming entire groups of absentee in-person and absentee by-mail votes were not legitimate,” Mr. Barrett said. “They are doing so only in select counties. These claims are obviously an egregious and floundering attempt to discredit this fair election.”

The new suit in Wisconsin is only the latest last ditch effort by the Trump campaign and its Republican supporters to overturn the certification of the voting process in several key swing states.

In the past week alone, Republican-led lawsuits challenging certification have also been filed in state courts in Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia. Two federal lawsuits — in Atlanta and Detroit — contesting the certification of election results are moving through the courts as well.

On Tuesday afternoon, Representative Mike Kelly, Republican of Pennsylvania, filed an emergency request to the Supreme Court asking it to freeze in place the certification of the state’s voting results pending an appeal of a lawsuit he had filed that the state Supreme Court dismissed over the weekend. Pennsylvania has already certified its results, but Mr. Kelly wanted no further steps taken until the Supreme Court heard his appeal.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Saturday tossed Mr. Kelly’s suit, which had sought to declare unconstitutional a 2019 state law authorizing mail-in ballots and to retroactively nullify their use in the election last month — a move that, if successful, would have tipped the state to Mr. Trump.

Alan Feuer contributed reporting.

President Trump’s campaign has told supporters that it needs donations for an “Election Defense Fund,” but much of the money could be used to seed his next political steps.
President Trump’s campaign has told supporters that it needs donations for an “Election Defense Fund,” but much of the money could be used to seed his next political steps.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

President Trump has raised about $170 million since Election Day as his campaign operation has continued to aggressively solicit donations with hyped-up appeals that have funded his fruitless attempts to overturn the election and that have seeded his post-presidential political ambitions, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The money, much of which was raised in the first week after the election, according to the person, has arrived as Mr. Trump has made false claims about fraud and sought to undermine public confidence in the legitimacy of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory.

Instead of slowing down after the election, Mr. Trump’s campaign has ratcheted up its volume of email solicitations for cash, telling supporters that money was needed for an “Election Defense Fund.”

In reality, the fine print shows that the first 75 percent of every contribution currently goes to a new political action committee that Mr. Trump set up in mid-November, Save America, which can be used to fund his political activities going forward, including staff and travel. The other 25 percent of each donation is directed to the Republican National Committee.

A donor has to give $5,000 to Mr. Trump’s new PAC before any funds go to his recount account.

Still, the Trump campaign continues to urgently ask for cash. On Monday, Mr. Trump signed a campaign email that breathlessly told supporters that the end of November — nearly four weeks after Election Day — represented “our most IMPORTANT deadline EVER.”

Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Mr. Trump’s campaign, declined to comment on the fund-raising.

The $170 million figure, raised in less than four weeks, is an enormous sum that rivals the amounts of money brought in at the peak of the campaign. While a breakdown of the money was not immediately available, the deluge of donations would appear to have paid off any remaining Trump campaign debt (in the first days after the election, the fine print showed that contributions were earmarked for that purpose). The money is also likely to provide Mr. Trump with a sizable financial head start in paying for his post-presidency political activities.

Despite the influx of cash, both the Trump campaign and the R.N.C. have reduced the size of their staffs since the election.

Progressive groups are supporting Jon Ossoff in his runoff race against Senator David Perdue of Georgia.
Progressive groups are supporting Jon Ossoff in his runoff race against Senator David Perdue of Georgia.Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

With just weeks until the two Georgia runoff elections that will determine the balance of the Senate, progressive groups are pouring resources into the state — on behalf of two candidates who do not share their most ambitious policy goals.

Though the candidates, Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, have not endorsed the Green New Deal, the Sunrise Movement, the activist climate group that champions the sweeping climate change plan, is aiming to help register 10,000 to 20,000 Georgians who will turn 18 by Jan. 5, the day of the elections. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has already raised $386,000 for the two Democratic candidates. MoveOn, a progressive group, hopes to mobilize many of its 250,000 members in Georgia, and more nationwide, to canvass and phone bank in the state.

The furious efforts reflect the urgency that is consuming the Democratic Party’s left flank. Two victories in Georgia would produce a 50-50 tie in the Senate, giving Democrats control of the chamber because Kamala Harris would cast tiebreaking votes as vice president.

“We are moving heaven and earth and pointing all of our resources as much as we can to help us win those two seats in Georgia,” said Jamaal Bowman, a New York Democrat who will join the House in the next term.

Mr. Bowman said he spoke recently with Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost the Georgia governor’s race in 2018 and is widely credited with voter turnout initiatives that helped flip Georgia blue this year, to see how he could support her efforts. And he said that he and other progressives in the House — including those known as the squad, a now-growing group that began with four congresswomen of color — were strategizing about how to help in Georgia.

But progressives also understand that for decades Georgia has been a Republican stronghold with a large number of conservative voters, and that their efforts there need to be modulated. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. won the state, many Democrats point out, with a moderate agenda that tempered the rhetoric and policy goals of the left.

Amid deepening ideological fault lines among Democrats over messaging and electoral strategy — divisions that have burst into the open as the party takes stock of its painful losses down the ballot — the two Senate runoff elections will also be a test case for whether progressives can balance their broad calls for change with the realities of campaigning in a once reliably Republican state.

Eric Johnson, center, a campaign adviser to Senator Kelly Loeffler, wants President Trump to stop saying the election was rigged and to focus on getting Republican candidates elected in Georgia.
Eric Johnson, center, a campaign adviser to Senator Kelly Loeffler, wants President Trump to stop saying the election was rigged and to focus on getting Republican candidates elected in Georgia.Credit…Stephen Morton/Associated Press

President Trump’s sustained assault on his own party in Georgia, and his repeated claims of election fraud in the state, have intensified worries among Republicans that he could be hurting their ability to win two crucial Senate runoff races next month.

The president has continued to claim without evidence that his loss in the new battleground state was fraudulent, directing his ire in particular at Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both conservative Republicans, whom he has accused of not doing enough to help him overturn the result.

Over the weekend, he escalated his attacks on Mr. Kemp, saying he was “ashamed” to have endorsed him in 2018, and on Monday he called Mr. Kemp “hapless” on Twitter as he urged him to “overrule his obstinate Republican Secretary of state.’’

Mr. Trump’s broadsides have quietly rattled some Republicans in the state, who fear that concerns about the fairness of the presidential election could depress turnout for the Senate races, which will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the chamber.

After resisting entreaties to appear in Georgia, the president plans to travel there this weekend, though even some of his own aides remain uncertain whether his anger toward state officials will overshadow any support he may lend the party’s two candidates.

“You can’t say the system is rigged but elect these two senators,” said Eric Johnson, a former Republican leader of the Georgia Senate who is a campaign adviser to Kelly Loeffler, one of the Republican candidates. “At some point he either drops it or he says I want everybody to vote and get their friends to vote so that the margins are so large that they can’t steal it.”

The split signifies both an extraordinary dispute over election integrity within the Republican Party and a preview of the control the president may continue to exert over the conservative base even after he leaves office. As Mr. Trump talks seriously about the possibility of mounting another bid for the White House in 2024, his personal goals may not always align with those of his party — no matter the political stakes.

“I had someone message me just last week saying: ‘Nope, I’m done. Can’t trust the election. Never voting again,’” said Buzz Brockway, a former Republican state representative. “The president has a very dedicated group of supporters who don’t really support the broader Republican Party — they support him.”

Dr. Scott W. Atlas during a press briefing at the White House in September. His support for allowing the virus to spread in order to achieve herd immunity was widely criticized.
Dr. Scott W. Atlas during a press briefing at the White House in September. His support for allowing the virus to spread in order to achieve herd immunity was widely criticized.Credit…Erin Scott for The New York Times

President Trump’s coronavirus czar, Dr. Scott W. Atlas, who has had a leading role in the White House’s efforts to play down the virus and politicize efforts to curb its spread, resigned on Monday from a position that was set to expire this week.

Dr. Atlas, a radiologist, was heavily criticized by many health experts as his guidance on key issues — including the wearing of masksconflicted with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He has also been widely criticized for his support for allowing the virus to spread in order to achieve herd immunity — a point when transmission of the virus stalls because so many people have either previously had it or have been vaccinated for it.

Allowing the virus to spread unchecked in an effort to achieve herd immunity could lead to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of additional deaths.

Currently, more than 13 million Americans — 4 percent of the population — have been confirmed to have had the virus. Experts say 70 percent of the population would need to either have had the virus or have been vaccinated for it to achieve herd immunity status.

The relentless spread of the virus across the country is expected to worsen during the winter months.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has said he would work on urging governors to mandate masks in public once he is in the Oval Office, but there is little he can do to stem the spread of the virus before his inauguration on Jan. 20. Some epidemiologists predict the national death toll from the virus could surpass 470,000 by March 1.

“His actions have undermined and threatened public health, even as countless lives have been lost to Covid-19,” wrote a group of Stanford doctors in a joint statement on Monday, according to The San Francisco Chronicle. Dr. Atlas is a senior fellow at the university’s conservative Hoover Institution, and that same group of doctors in September denounced many of his statements regarding virus response.

Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota led the country with the most new virus cases per capita in the past week. And hospitals are filling up in some states, raising concerns that they could soon be overwhelmed. In California, state officials are bracing for intensive care units to become overloaded in a matter of weeks.

Rep. Mark Walker greets supporters at a President Trump campaign event in Greensboro, N.C., in October. He had been mulling a Senate run for months.
Rep. Mark Walker greets supporters at a President Trump campaign event in Greensboro, N.C., in October. He had been mulling a Senate run for months.Credit…Khadejeh Nikouyeh/News & Record, via Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Representative Mark Walker announced on Tuesday that he would run for North Carolina’s open Senate seat in 2022, kicking off what is likely to be a fierce Republican primary that could pit him against President Trump’s daughter-in-law in a key swing state.

In an interview, Mr. Walker, a former Baptist pastor from Greensboro, sought to frame himself as a “bridge builder” between Republicans and groups that the party had struggled to reach in recent years, particularly Black voters.

“I am trying to make the case you might want to select somebody who has the ability, or the history to work with people from all different communities,” he said. “I have a track record of going to places and accomplishing things that Republicans have not been able to do.”

Mr. Walker, 51, announced last year that he would not seek re-election after a court ordered North Carolina to redraw its congressional map, making his district much more Democratic.

He had been mulling a Senate run for months after Senator Richard M. Burr, a fellow Republican, decided to retire. By entering the race just days after North Carolina certified its November elections, Mr. Walker was aiming to potentially box out other Republicans contemplating getting into the race.

Other Republicans who are eyeing Mr. Burr’s seat include Lara Trump, the wife of the president’s son Eric Trump; Pat McCrory, the former governor; Representative George Holding, who is also retiring; and Dan Forest, the state’s lieutenant governor who ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor this year.

Ms. Trump has told associates that she is considering entering the contest, and her campaign could be a test of the family’s political staying power once Mr. Trump leaves the White House.

Despite stylistic differences, Mr. Walker has been a close ally of Mr. Trump in the House and would welcome his support in the Senate contest. Still, he offered a subtle dig on Tuesday at the president’s daughter-in-law, who resides in Westchester County but has North Carolina roots.

“If somebody wants to move to the state, legally they can do that, but it doesn’t deter me,” Mr. Walker said. “I have nothing to say but good things about their family.”

At least one potential contender has already passed on the race. Mark Meadows, another North Carolina conservative and Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, said last month he would not run for the seat as some expected.

Democrats see the seat as one of their best pickup opportunities in 2022. Erica D. Smith, a state senator has already indicated she will run again, after losing the Democratic primary this year to Cal Cunningham, who fell short in his bid to unseat Senator Thom Tillis. Other possible candidates include Josh Stein, the state’s attorney general, and Jeff Jackson, another state senator.

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