Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Anna Salvatore, Tia Sewell
Thursday, November 12, 2020, 2:51 PM

The U.S. set a single-day record for coronavirus cases yesterday with more than 144,000 reported infections, reports the Wall Street Journal. States with all-time high infection numbers included Indiana, Illinois, North Carolina and Colorado. “As the weather turns cooler and more activity turns inside, we may have a real problem on our hands,” said Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, who announced during a Monday press conference that he will tighten restrictions in high-risk areas.

President-elect Joe Biden named long-time aide Ron Klain as his chief of staff, writes the New York Times. A trusted advisor to Biden since the late 1980s, Klain served as Biden’s chief of staff while he was vice president and recently served as one of his senior campaign advisors. The Times predicts that Biden will announce his cabinet picks after Thanksgiving.

In a move that has sparked outrage from the Pentagon, President Trump has fired several high-level Defense Department officials and replaced them with political allies. For example, on Monday replaced Defense Secretary Mark Esper, with whom he sparred on deploying federal troops to protests, with counterterrorism official Christopher Miller. The Times observes that if Trump next fires CIA Director Gina Haspel, as he reportedly wants to do, then he will likely pressure her replacement to declassify documents on Russian intelligence sources in order to clear his name.

Republican Senators Chuck Grassley, Lindsey Graham and John Thune have said that President-elect Biden should have access to classified briefings, as is custom for incoming presidents. CNN writes that despite these statements from top Republicans, the president still hasn’t conceded the election and will not allow the transition process to begin. If Biden doesn’t receive briefings by Friday, “I will step in,” said GOP Senator James Lankford.

Several people were wounded yesterday in an explosion at an Armistice Day celebration hosted by the French consulate in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jiddah, reports the Washington Post. The explosion comes a month after a Saudi man attacked a guard with a knife outside the French consulate in Jiddah, following French President Emmanuel Macron’s defense of a teacher who was beheaded for showing caricatures of the prophet Muhammad.

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition staged a protest today against the national legislature, writes Deutsche Welle. Four of its members were expelled from the legislature on Wednesday on baseless national security charges. In response, the fifteen remaining opposition politicians handed in their resignation letters, and one of them unfurled a banner accusing Chief Executive Carrie Lam of “corrupting Hong Kong and hurting its people.”

Christopher Krebs, the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, has told associates that he expects to be fired by the White House, according to Reuters.

TikTok and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, have asked a U.S. federal appeals court to extend a deadline to comply with the White House’s order to restructure or shut down TikTok, reports the Wall Street Journal. The move comes amid signs that ByteDance is preparing to protract its legal battle over TikTok divestiture with the U.S. government.

Since Pfizer announced Monday that its vaccine candidate was proven to be more than 90 percent effective in an early analysis, officials have begun mobilizing to address the challenge of distributing doses to the public, according to the Times. If Pfizer receives clearance from the Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks, the company could vaccinate millions of Americans by the end of the year, with the caveat that such success will hinge on a number of untested networks developed largely over the past few months.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Benjamin Wittes wrote about why President Trump can’t overturn the results of the presidential election—and why his attempts are dangerous anyway.

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of Rational Security entitled “‘The Peaceful(ish) Transfer of Power’ Edition.” Benjamin Wittes, Tamara Cofman Wittes, Shane Harris and Susan Hennessey discussed trouble at the Justice Department and the rocky transition to a Biden administration.

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