President Trump’s senior campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski has tested positive for coronavirus, becoming the latest member of Trump’s inner circle to become infected after an election night superspreader event in the East Room of the White House.
Republican National Committee Chief of Staff Richard Walters has also tested positive. He was not at the election night White House event.
Alaska Republican Don Young, Congress’s oldest member at 87, announced on Thursday he has COVID-19. And 37-year-old Iowa Republican Congressmember-elect Ashley Hinson also reported a positive coronavirus test.
President Trump continues to insist he did not lose the November 3 election, even as election officials around the U.S. from both parties say there’s no sign of widespread voter fraud or other irregularities. On Thursday, Trump proposed a wild conspiracy theory about election software company Dominion Voting Systems, tweeting that hundreds of thousands of votes for Trump were switched to Biden. There’s no factual basis for Trump’s claim.
The Department of Homeland Security wrote in a statement, joined by election officials around the U.S., “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. … There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” Reuters reports that Christopher Krebs, the top cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security, has told associates that he expects to be fired for refusing to back Trump’s false conspiracy theories. Ahead of the election, he posted this YouTube video to a “rumor control” website set up by DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
Christopher Krebs: “The election experience is designed to ensure that technology is not a single point of failure. And there are measures in place to ensure that you can vote and your vote is counted correctly. You should have confidence in the integrity of the process, and don’t overreact to claims that exaggerate the importance of insignificant events.”
In Georgia, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has ordered a hand recount of more than 5 million ballots — the largest such recount in U.S. history — after Georgia’s two sitting Republican senators, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, called for his resignation, claiming he had “failed to deliver honest and transparent elections.” Raffensperger is now in quarantine after his wife tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday. Georgia Voting System Implementation Manager Gabriel Sterling dismissed charges by President Trump that votes for Trump were “flipped” to Biden.
Gabriel Sterling: “I know that there’s many other bits of misinformation out there talking about flipping votes and changing votes. … Anybody who’s claiming that things are being flipped by a super secret computer developed by the CIA is just not speaking — well, is speaking nonsense.”
On Thursday, Trump tweeted or retweeted over a dozen posts, blasting Fox News and urging his supporters to switch to the far-right cable channel One America News Network and the website Newsmax. Trump was reportedly furious after Fox News became the first U.S. news outlet to declare Joe Biden’s win in Arizona. This comes as Axios reports Trump plans to start a digital media company to rival Fox News. Under the plan, Trump would tap into his huge database of email and cellphone contacts with appeals to sign up for a monthly subscription for his new online channel.
CNN now projects Joe Biden has secured a win in Arizona, joining other news agencies that have already called the state for Biden. With Georgia and North Carolina’s races not yet called, Biden has secured 290 Electoral College votes, 20 more than needed to win the presidency. On Thursday, 150 former national security officials warned in a letter to Trump that delaying the transition to Joe Biden poses a “serious risk” to U.S. security.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis became the latest world leader to call Joe Biden to congratulate him on his victory. Biden will become the second Catholic U.S. president, following John F. Kennedy.
Three paid MSNBC contributors have left the cable news network to join President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team. Legal analyst Barbara McQuade has joined Biden’s legal review team. Health expert Ezekiel Emanuel has joined Biden’s coronavirus task force — he’s the brother of former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. And political analyst Richard Stengel will be on Biden’s U.S. Agency for Global Media. In 2018, Stengel told the Council on Foreign Relations about his work as the top communications specialist at the U.S. State Department.
Richard Stengel: “My old job at the State Department was what people used to joke as the chief propagandist job. … I’m not against propaganda. Every country does it, and they have to do it to their own population. And I don’t necessarily think it’s that awful.”
A fourth paid MSNBC analyst, historian Jon Meacham, was removed from his role after it was revealed he helped write Biden’s victory speech.
Joe Biden has named President Obama’s former top immigration adviser Cecilia Muñoz to his transition team. During her time in the White House, Muñoz often justified Obama’s harsh immigration enforcement policies, including the administration’s deportation of thousands of Central American children and its decision to kill an executive order that would have halted deportations. In 2011, Muñoz was interviewed by PBS’s Maria Hinojosa.
Cecilia Muñoz: “At the end of the day, when you have an immigration law that’s broken and you have a community of 10 million, 11 million people living and working in the United States illegally, some of these things are going to happen, even if the law is executed with perfection. There will be parents separated from their children. We don’t have to like it, but it is a result of having a broken system of laws. And the answer to that problem is reforming the law.”
A warning to our audience: The following story contains disturbing footage. In the Mediterranean Sea, at least 74 refugees have died in a shipwreck off the coast of Libya. A 6-month-old baby was among those who lost their lives. The baby died just hours after being rescued. This is at least the eighth shipwreck in the Mediterranean since early October. So far in 2020, about 575 refugees, mostly from Africa and the Middle East, have died in the Mediterranean while attempting to reach European soil; however, the real number is thought to be considerably higher.
In Ethiopia, Amnesty International has confirmed hundreds of people were likely stabbed or hacked to death in the region of Tigray Monday night. It hasn’t been confirmed who committed the mass killing, but at least three survivors of the massacre told Amnesty International they were attacked by members of Tigray Special Police Force and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. This comes as African officials are calling for a ceasefire in Tigray, where federal troops have been unleashed against local government forces that seized a military base last week. Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister is claiming the western Tigray region has been “liberated,” while the United Nations warns of a dire and worsening humanitarian crisis.
The Moroccan military broke into a no-go buffer zone early Friday morning in the non-self-governing territory of Western Sahara and exchanged fire with the Polisario Front, the Sahrawi liberation movement seeking independence. The violence broke a nearly three-decade-old ceasefire brokered by the United Nations in 1991.
For the past three weeks, Sahrawi civilian protesters had blocked a Morocco-built road in the area that Sahrawis consider to be illegal. The peaceful blockade backed up traffic for miles and cut off trade between Morocco and African countries to the south. The Moroccan military entered the buffer zone Friday morning to disperse the civilians, who were evacuated to safety by the Polisario Front.
The Sahrawi refugee camps are under a maximum alert, and the Polisario has declared the return to armed struggle to liberate Western Sahara, which is pending decolonization since 1975, when Morocco invaded the territory as Spain, the former colonial power, withdrew. The ceasefire agreement included a U.N.-sponsored plan for a referendum on self-determination, which Morocco has refused to hold.
In Armenia, protests erupted Thursday just minutes after Armenia’s prime minister signed a peace deal to end the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Protesters say the deal, which was signed by the president, does not represent the will of the Armenian people. This comes as the group Genocide Watch has issued a warning after identifying several early signs of a potential genocide they considered Azerbaijan was engaging in despite a ceasefire agreement with Armenia. It is estimated the conflict has killed at least 1,000 people and displaced over 100,000, though some say the death toll is much higher.
In Peru, protests continue following what opponents are calling a legislative coup against former President Martín Vizcarra earlier this week amid accusations of corruption that Vizcarra denies. Meanwhile, advocacy groups are denouncing the police use of tear gas and other violent tactics to suppress the protests. During his time as president, Vizcarra had pushed forward several anti-corruption initiatives that affected members of Congress, who themselves are under criminal investigation. Peru’s former head of Congress, Manuel Merino, was sworn in to replace Vizcarra Tuesday. Merino is a member of a center-right political party. A presidential election is scheduled for next April.
In Iran, human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has tested positive for COVID-19, after authorities temporarily released her from prison. Sotoudeh ended a weeks-long hunger strike in September, as she called for the release of political prisoners amid the pandemic. Sotoudeh is a recipient of this year’s Right Livelihood Awards. She was arrested in 2018 and sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes. She had been working on behalf of women protesting a law mandating the wearing of headscarves in public.
Two anti-nuclear activists were sentenced to over a year in prison Thursday for breaking into the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia. Carmen Trotta and Clare Grady are both members of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, which broke into the base in 2018 armed with hammers, crime scene tape, baby bottles containing their own blood, and an indictment charging the U.S. government with crimes against peace.
Lucille Bridges, mother of New Orleans civil rights activist Ruby Bridges, has died at the age of 86. Exactly 60 years ago, on November 14, 1960, Lucille Bridges dropped her daughter Ruby off for first grade at William Frantz Public School in New Orleans, which was under a federal court order to admit its first African American students. U.S. Marshals had to escort 6-year-old Ruby past angry white mobs and hostile local police officers. This is Lucille Bridges speaking in 2018, recalling that day six decades ago.
Lucille Bridges: “So many people just standing, screaming and hollering, 'Two, four, six, eight, we don't want to integrate. Two, four, six, eight, just tear that [bleep] away,’ and just every kind of thing they were saying, you know? But we just got out. … And they start pitching eggs and tomatoes and everything. But they didn’t hit us, because the marshals really took care. And when we walked to the step, when we got to the step, they had city policemen, and they says, 'You cannot come in.' And two of the marshals said, 'The United States, the president, said we can.'”
The incident was immortalized in a 1964 Norman Rockwell painting titled “The Problem We All Live With.” That image, in turn, was recently adopted by artist Bria Goeller, who painted Kamala Harris, the first African American woman elected as vice president, casting the shadow of 6-year-old Ruby Bridges. On her Instagram account, Lucille’s daughter Ruby Bridges, now 66 years old, said, “Today our country lost a hero. Brave, progressive, a champion for change. She helped alter the course of so many lives by setting me out on my path as a six year old little girl.”