US election news summary for Wednesday 9 December 2020

US election live updates

News Summary:

Electoral college votes (270 needed to win) 

Joe Biden: 306
Donald Trump: 232

- Mnuchin tables new covid package to include a round of $600 stimulus checks

US Attorney's Office in Delaware to investigate Hunter Biden's tax affairs

- Canada becomes third country to approve Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine

- Biden will repeal 'Muslim ban' within first 100 days in office

- Further details emerge on $908bn bipartisan covid relief bill

- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton seeking to block election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin

- WH source: Melania Trump "just wants to go home"

- President-elect names health team picks, nominating Xavier Becerra as secretary of health 

- Georgia recertifies Biden win, Sidney Powell lawsuit thrown out

- Rudy Guliani tests positive for coronavirus

Nevada Supreme Court rejects Trump’s election case

Browse some of our latest related stories:

italia

A passenger arriving from New York on an Alitalia flight undergoes a rapid antigen swab test for covid-19 at a Rapid Test Area set up at Rome's Fiumicino airport. Italy launched Europe's first coronavirus-free corridor with the United States for passengers who have tested negative for covid-19, scrapping the obligation for new arrivals to quarantine, after Rome's Fiumicino airport sealed a deal with Italian airline Alitalia and Delta Air Lines of the United States for the special flights between selected North American cities and the Italian capital. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP)

J&J to cut enrollment for vaccine trial by 20,000 as cases rise

Johnson & Johnson said on Wednesday it has cut enrollment for its pivotal covid-19 vaccine trial to 40,000 volunteers from its original plan for 60,000, as higher rates of covid-19 infections amid a worsening pandemic should generate the data it needs with fewer study subjects.

The move could speed up the time frame for US regulatory clearance, because they will need two months of follow-up safety data from 10,000 fewer people in order to meet US Food and Drug Administration guidelines.

A top US official said on a Wednesday press call that the lower target means the trial could be fully enrolled this week. J&J said it continues to expect an interim data readout in late January and could apply for US emergency use authorization (EUA) in February.

"Given the high incidence of covid-19 among the general population, we expect that approximately 40,000 participants will generate the data needed to determine the safety and efficacy of our investigational covid-19 vaccine candidate," J&J said in a statement.

Regulators clarify there's no known link between vaccine and Bell's palsy

Four people fell ill during a clinical trial for Pfizer but we also know that the frequency is in line with the trend in a normal population.

Trump uses White House Hanukkah party to spread falsehoods

According to those in attendance, the president today spent a large part of his address at the government's Hanukkah celebration falsely claiming he won the election and talking about the Paxton lawsuit, as well as making jokes that there weren't many Christians in attendance.

Four days last week among deadliest eight in American history

In this shocking breakdown figures show that each of four days last week - Tuesday to Friday - were all more deadly than Pearl Harbour and each day only slightly less deadly than 9/11.

Trump asks Cruz to lead legal battle in Texas

Earlier today the last of the 50 states certified their election results, giving President-elect Joe Biden a clear victory in both the Electral College and the popular vote. But Trump continues to publically rally against the outcome, now roping in Republican Senator Ted Cruz to help his flailing legal strategy. 

A report in the NYT details a conversation Trump had with Cruz in which he asked the Senator to argue the case of Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas as he attempts to challenge the election result in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia. For an AG to contest the result in another state is unprecedented, and attempting to involve Cruz would appear to be another desperate move by Trump.

SpaceX test flight ends with explosion on landing

The latest prototype rocket Serial Number 8 (SN8) from SpaceX has had an eventful trial flight from Boca Chica, Texas today. It reached about 40,000 feet altitude and hit several of the development objectives, including testing its aerodynamics and a flip to prepare itself for landing in a six minute flight. It was brought crashing back down to earth with an explosion on landing. 

However this did not deter SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who tweeted his optimism on the overall results of the flight test: “Successful ascent, switchover to header tanks & precise flap control to landing point!”

New White House-backed relief bill includes another round of stimulus checks

Steven Mnuchin has spoken to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about a new covid-19 relief package which would provide another round of direct payments, but would see millions of Americans go without additional unemployment support. With 12 million Americans set to lose unemployment benefits on 26 December lawmakers will have to weigh up their priorities in the final few days in session. 

Final election results confirmed nationwide

The results are in, and it's looking good for Biden. Over a month after Election Day and all 50 states and the District of Columbia have now certified their election results after West Virginia became the last to do so. Trump has vowed to continue the legal fight, but as Biden's inauguration platform is erected in front of the White House reality must now be setting in. 

The next step in the procedure comes on December 14 when the Electoral College meets to submit their votes, before they are transmitted to officials and counted in a joint session of Congress on 6 January.

Hunder Biden's tax affairs under investigation in Delaware

President-elect Joe Biden's son, Hunter, has released a statement confirming that he is currently being investigated by the tax authorities in Delaware. Few details are known at this stage but Hunter Biden was the subject of repeated attacks from Trump during the election campaign, making accusations of financial links to Russia. 

He insists that he "handled my affairs legally and appropriately". A statement released by the Biden-Harris transition team today reads: "President-elect Biden is deeply proud of his son, who has fought through difficult challenges, including the vicious personal attacks of recent months, only to emerge stronger."

Covid-19 vaccine to arrive in Canada next week

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has confirmed that the first doses of Pfizer/BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine will start arriving in the country from Monday. Earlier today Canada became the third country in the world to approve the vaccine, after the United Kingdom and Bahrain. Nearly a quarter of a million doses should be made available before the year end while other vaccines, such as one produced by Moderna, are also under review by Canadian health authorities.

In the US the Food and Drug Administration have affirmed the vaccine's safety and its 95% effectiveness at preventing the coronavirus, and an FDA advisory panel meeting on Thursday is expected to grant permission for emergency use. 

Latest figures shows hospitals close to breaking point across the US

As the number of covid-19 cases continues to surge across the US figures released by the Department of Health and Human Services show that many hospitals are close to capacity. Hospitals that serve over 100 million Americans reported last week that they have fewer than 15% of their intensive care beds still available. This came before the Thanksgiving surge of cases and before what is expected to be a dangerous festive period. 

Beth Blauer, director of the Centers for Civic Impact at Johns Hopkins University, said of the ongoing public health emergency: “There’s only so much our frontline care can offer, particularly when you get to these really rural counties which are being hit hard by the pandemic right now."

 

Biden confirms General Austin as Pentagon nominee

President-elect Joe Biden has confirmed another of his key cabinet picks today: General Lloyd Austin as Secretary of Defence.  Austin served as the 33rd vice chief of staff of the United States Army from January 2012 to March 2013, and was the last commanding general of United States Forces in Operation New Dawn (Iraq). He retired from the armed services in 2016

On announcing the nominee, Biden said of Austin: “Throughout his lifetime of dedicated service — and in the many hours we’ve spent together in the White House Situation Room and with our troops overseas — Gen. Austin has demonstrated exemplary leadership, character and command.” 

Spurs coach Popovich blasts Donald Trump and anti-maskers

‘It’s just beyond my comprehension how somebody can talk about not wearing a mask shows that you’re for freedom’ stated the San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich. Speaking to the media in a virtual press conference ahead of pre-season, Popovich aimed his anger at the 'fibre of the populus'.

New details revealed about $908bn covid relief package

After much speculation further details have emerged about the bipartisan coronavirus relief bill, which has been gaining traction in Congress in recent weeks. The package is hoped to form the basis of a new agreement between the Republican-held Senate and the Democrat-led House of Representatives. 

A summary document that was made public today suggests that the following provisions will be included:

- Unemployment insurance programs set to expire at the end of the month will be extended for 16 weeks, providing an additional $300 per week from the end of December into April

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a loan program for small businesses, is to be extended with a simplified loan forgiveness procedure

- Eviction moratorium will be extended to the end of January, while student loan forbearance provisions will last to the end of April

- There is also provision for extra funds for health-care and education providers, vaccine development and distribution, testing and tracing and food assistance

YouTube says Biden win is historical fact 

YouTube will remove any new videos alleging that President Donald Trump lost the US 2020 election to Joseph Biden because of fraud or errors. Google's massive video site said Wednesday on its YouTube blog. Essentially, YouTube now categorizes Biden's victory and Trump's loss as historical fact, and so it will crack down on new misleading videos alleging otherwise.

The Sun is waking up 

After a lengthy slumber, the sun is waking up, crackling with activity and hurling blistering pulses of energy into space. Solar physicists are expecting an uptick in stormy “space weather,” with implications that affect us here on Earth. As soon as Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting that a solar outburst could generate northern lights or aurora as far south as Oregon to Pennsylvania. 

A Level 3 (out of 5) or “strong” storm could occur on Earth on Thursday. Earth-directed solar storms have damaged power grids and disrupted satellite communications in the past. There are concerns that a particularly intense geomagnetic storm could cause serious damage to these systems.

County Commission in Florida to receive First Amendment training 

When Dayna Lazarus a social justice activist tried to read a statement opposing a transportation project at a transportation town hall meeting in 2017 she was escorted out, with the argument that she was off-topic for a meeting about transportation. Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White and the rest of the commission will have to undergo First Amendment training under a settlement agreement and Lazarus will be allowed to present her testimony to the full county commission.

Trump puts his mark on religious liberty 

The Trump administration has issued new guidance on religious exemptions for federal contractors that critics say grants them carte blanche to discriminate against LGBTQ workers, women, religious minorities and others. The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs released Monday its final rule on exemptions to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a related 1965 executive order instituting anti-discrimination requirements for federal contractors. The U.S. government is the single largest customer in the world, awarding hundreds of billions of dollars in federal contracts each year to companies covering every facet of life, from military hardware to social services.

Senator Udall says drop the filibuster 

For months, Americans have watched in anger as Congress remained mired in partisan paralysis over more pandemic relief, allowing unemployment benefits to lapse as many suffer from joblessness. Fewer people approve of the job lawmakers are doing in Washington than at almost any time in recent history. And the government watchdog group Common Cause ranked the current Congress the “least productive in history,” noting that only about 1 percent of bills introduced became law. 

Senator Tom Udall in his farewell speech to colleagues urged Senators to kill the legislative filibuster. He said that it had helped turn the Senate into a “graveyard for progress.”

Kamala lays out administration’s immigration policy 

Vice President-elect Harris tells National Immigrant Integration Conference what she and President-elect Biden will do in the first 100 days and beyond with regards to immigration policy.
 

Allergy warning for covid-19 vaccine 

People with a history of significant allergic reactions should not receive the Pfizer covid-19 vaccine. The warning came after two NHS workers experienced symptoms on Wednesday.

The patient information leaflet with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine says it should not be given to people allergic to any substance in the vaccine, raising questions about the wisdom of NHS trusts selecting those staff members to be vaccinated. Both of the NHS staff carry adrenaline autoinjectors suggesting they have suffered reactions in the past.

Federal judge accepts Flynn pardon, slams DOJ 

US District Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed the criminal case against Michael Flynn, the disgraced former and first National Security Advisor to Trump. Flynn received a pardon from the president last month. The judge pointedly noted that the pardon does not mean he is innocent. Flynn pled guilty twice for lying to the FBI during the Russia investigation. 

The judge also called into question the Justice Department’s stated rationales for seeking to drop the case, a request that was still pending when the pardon was granted. Sullivan acknowledged the president’s broad pardon powers obligated dismissal of the case. But he noted that the decision to pardon Flynn is political, rather than legal pointing out the president’s own personal interest in this case.

Defense spending passed with veto-proof majority 

The House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved National Defense Authorization Act with a veto-proof majority. The $740 billion bill funds the military including covering healthcare and pay raises for US troops and upgrading equipment. 

President Trump had threatened to veto the sweeping defense bill because it doesn't include a repeal of Section 230, a law shielding internet companies from being liable for what is posted on their websites by them or third parties, because they keep flagging the content of his posts. It would also restrict the money that Trump can money around for the border wall and require the renaming of military bases with the names of Confederate Generals. 

The vote is a major rebuke to the President, which was passed 335-78. It is expected to pass the Senate with a bipartisan veto-proof majority.

Nevada's top court rejects Trump campaign's appeal to overturn election results

Reuters -  The Supreme Court of Nevada has rejected an appeal late on Tuesday from President Donald Trump’s campaign to overturn the election results in the state, affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s win in one of the battleground states that gave him overall victory.

It was the latest court failure for Trump and his allies, who have lost dozens of cases in state and federal courts in an unsuccessful attempt to nullify the result of the November 3 election. Trump says the result was fraudulent, but no court has found evidence to support his assertions.

Last week, a district court in Nevada ruled that the Trump campaign had not proven a claim that there had been a malfunction in voting devices and the contest between Trump and Biden had been manipulated.

“We also are not convinced that the district court erred in applying a burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence, as supported by the cases cited in the district court’s order,” Nevada’s Supreme Court said in its judgement.

Nevada’s Republican Party said it was “extremely disappointed” by the decision.

"We were not afforded an opportunity to write our brief or argue the case in front of the Court," Nevada's GOP said in a statement. "Full denial of legitimate due process and appellate rights is truly unprecedented, shocking and extraordinary."

Nevada Supreme Court rejects Trump’s election case

The Supreme Court of Nevada rejected an appeal late on Tuesday from President Donald Trump’s campaign to overturn the election results in the state, affirming President-elect Joe Biden’s win in one of the battleground states that gave him overall victory.

Trump campaign files 40-page response to Nevada Supreme Court

The Trump campaign used databases to identify suspected double, dead and out-of-state voters. Experts expect the Nevada Supreme Court to reject the Trump campaign’s case.

Supreme court denies Republican bid to overturn Biden's Pennsylvania win

The US supreme court on Tuesday turned away a bid by Republicans to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania, where Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in the 2020 election race.

The suit took issue with a 2019 state law that adopted no-excuse absentee voting and argued that the expansion of mail-in voting was illegal.

Several courts, including the Pennsylvania supreme court, had already denied the request, noting that Mike Kelly, a Republican congressman, waited until after the 2020 election to file his suit when the law was in place well before the election.

The Supreme Court's action is a crushing loss for Trump, who has frequently touted the high court's potential to overturn his election loss.

Just hours before the court's order was released, Trump made a direct appeal to state officials and members of the Supreme Court to assist him in his efforts to subvert the will of voters, as he continually and falsely suggested there was massive voter fraud during the election.

Pelosi backs putting $1,200 checks for people in next covid-19 bill

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday she supported including another round of $1,200 direct payments for Americans in a fresh package of coronavirus relief under discussion in Congress.

A proposal for $908 billion in relief - put forward by a bipartisan group of lawmakers last week and endorsed by Pelosi, a Democrat, as a basis for negotiations - does not include funding for another round of $1,200 stimulus checks like the ones included in a previous covid-19 aid package last spring.

But trying to add such payments now could complicate negotiations between lawmakers, who are already spinning their wheels over provisions to help state and local governments, which Democrats want, and protect businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits, a top Republican priority. 

Pelosi, in a quick hallway conversation with reporters, said she hoped $1,200 checks could be included. "I hope so. But that's really more up to the president (Donald Trump) if he would be agreeable to do that, but we're all for it," she said.

Both parties are under mounting pressure to deliver a fresh infusion of coronavirus aid to families and businesses reeling from a pandemic that has killed over 283,000 people in the United States and thrown millions out of work. 

Biden expected to ride Amtrak to the inauguration 

CNN confirms reporting that President-elect Joe Biden could arrive on an Amtrak train from Wilmington, Delaware, to Washington, DC for his inauguration ceremony. The same way he long bridged his life at home and his job in politics. It would be a fitting moment for the man who took roughly 8,000 round trips on that same route during his time as Senator and Vice-President earning him the nickname "Amtrak Joe."  

Biden's deep ties to Amtrak and rail travel hark back to his earliest days in the US SenateAfter losing his wife and daughter in a car accident in 1972, Biden rode the rails to and from Washington nearly every day to help raise his sons, Hunter and Beau. Biden became one of the rail system's biggest proponents on Capitol Hill. 

Krebs sues Trump campaign and lawyer for defamation 

Christopher Krebs the former top US cybersecurity official responsible for securing November’s presidential election filed a lawsuit accusing the Trump campaign and its lawyer Joe diGenova of defamation and “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” DiGenova said on a talk radio show broadcast by Newsmax that Krebs “He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot.” 

The lawsuit also names Newsmax an aider and abettor. Krebs seeks a jury trial, money and punitive damages and an injunction ordering Newsmax to remove video of the incident. Krebs was fired 17 November by President Trump after he refuted the president’s claims of widespread election fraud.  

US will need to buy more vaccines to meet demand

The Trump administration locked in 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine last summer but may have trouble getting more as demand outstrips supply.

Read more:

Time has expired for Trump challenges 

8 December is the so-called “safe harbor” date for the presidential election, a milestone established in federal law for states to conclude any disputes over the results. The date was established in an 1887 statute intended to prevent uncertainty about the winner of the presidential election. 

Trump’s failure to gain traction in litigation, with his lawyers and allies failing to block crucial states from declaring Joe Biden the winner, means the safe harbor deadline stands as another potentially insurmountable reason for the courts to decline to intervene. During the 2000 dispute between George W. Bush and Al Gore, as the court’s majority essentially awarded the presidency to Bush, the justices cited the looming deadline as a reason Florida could not initiate a new manual recount.

Biden wins Georgia again 

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recertified Georgia’s presidential election results on Monday, again finding Joe Biden as the winner following three counts of ballots. The recertification is yet another blow to President Donald Trump, who has for weeks baselessly claimed a "rigged" election in the state and attacked election officials for not overturning the results in his favor. Monday's certification locks in the state's results for Biden before the December 14 Electoral College vote.  

"Today is an important day for election integrity in Georgia and across the country," Raffensperger said in a statement. "Georgians can now move forward knowing that their votes, and only their legal votes, were counted accurately, fairly, and reliably." Trump has continued to inveigh against Raffensperger, a Republican, and called for additional signature verification which is procedurally impossible at this point.

Hello and welcome

Hello and welcome as we begin our live blog this Wednesday morning, 9 December 2020. We'll be bringing you all of the news and reaction following the US elections as Joe Biden and his team prepare to enter office in January. 

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