The Trump administration has cleared the way for President-elect Joe Biden’s transition, after 16 days of delay that threatened to derail the incoming administration’s preparations for reviving the economy and battling the coronavirus pandemic. Emily Murphy, the Trump-appointed head of the General Services Administration, had refused to declare Joe Biden the “apparent” victor of the November 3 election despite overwhelming evidence. Murphy finally made that determination on Monday, as House Democrats demanded she appear on Capitol Hill and as President Trump tweeted his support for her. Trump did not concede his election loss but tweeted that he would allow the transition to begin “in the best interest of our country.” The move will free up more than $7 million in funding for Biden’s transition team, which will now receive office space and government briefings.
On Monday, Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers certified Joe Biden’s win by a margin of more than 154,000 votes. Also Monday, more than 160 corporate CEOs wrote to Trump urging he begin the transition. The letter was organized in part by New York State Attorney General Letitia James, who wrote in a separate statement, “Without the rule of law and an orderly transfer of power, everything from commerce to health care delivery to national security is in peril, and our business leaders can see that as clearly as the rest of us.”
President-elect Biden’s Cabinet is beginning to take more shape. Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is expected to be nominated as treasury secretary. She would become the first woman to hold the post, as will Avril Haines, Biden’s pick to be director of national intelligence. Haines is a former deputy director of the CIA who played a key role in Obama’s drone wars. Haines has also been criticized for her role absolving the CIA officers who hacked into Senate Intelligence Committee computers in an attempt to thwart and undermine the Senate’s torture probe.
Biden has named Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban immigrant, to head the Department of Homeland Security. He will become the first Latino and first immigrant to hold the post. While working in the Obama administration, Mayorkas helped develop and implement the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Biden has also named former Secretary of State John Kerry to be his special envoy on climate — a newly formed position. Kerry, who helped negotiate the Paris climate accord, will sit on the National Security Council.
Meanwhile, Biden is facing pressure from progressives not to select former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to a Cabinet post. On Monday, New York Democratic Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Rahm Emanuel helped cover up the murder of Laquan McDonald. Covering up a murder is disqualifying for public leadership. … It is shameful and concerning that he is even being considered.”
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases among members of President Trump’s inner circle continues to rise. Donald Trump Jr. announced Friday he tested positive for coronavirus the previous Monday. Don Jr. was among some 250 people who packed the East Room of the White House on election night — almost none of them wearing masks.
Ben Carson, the secretary of housing and urban development, said Friday he’d been “desperately ill” with COVID-19 but was recovering. Carson said his condition improved at Walter Reed Medical Center after President Trump intervened on his behalf. Carson wrote on Facebook, “President Trump was following my condition and cleared me for the monoclonal antibody therapy that he had previously received, which I am convinced saved my life.”
Carson is just one of a handful of people able to access Regeneron’s therapeutic before the FDA granted the drug emergency use authorization last Saturday. The treatment continues to remain in short supply, with Regeneron saying it will ship doses for 80,000 patients by the end of November.
In Hong Kong, pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong and two fellow campaigners face up to three years in prison after pleading guilty to charges related to inciting and organizing a massive protest last year against a proposed extradition bill with China. Opposition to the bill triggered months of ongoing protests across Hong Kong. This is Joshua Wong speaking to the press Monday.
Joshua Wong: “I’m persuaded neither prison bars nor election bans, nor any other arbitrary power, will stop us from activism. What we are doing now is to explain the value of freedom to the world.”
In Somalia, at least four people are dead after Tropical Cyclone Gati made landfall Sunday. The storm was poised to drop two years’ worth of rain in just two days. Gati is the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded in the northern Indian Ocean and to hit Somalia. Gati rapidly intensified as it approached eastern Africa. This comes as scientists say this is happening more frequently as storms are given a boost by the rising ocean temperatures fueled by the climate crisis.
New details have emerged about why U.S. prosecutors dropped narcotrafficking and money laundering charges against Mexico’s former defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos. Reuters reports Attorney General William Barr agreed to drop the charges after Mexican officials privately promised him they would arrest a senior cartel leader involved with trafficking large quantities of the synthetic opioid fentanyl. The Drug Enforcement Administration had accused General Cienfuegos of protecting the violent H-2 drug cartel while directing Mexico’s Army against its rivals.
Authorities in Florida have opened an investigation into the recent police killing of two Black teenagers who were shot at least eight times while driving a car in Cocoa, Florida, at around 10:30 a.m. on November 13. One passenger in the car survived. Attorney Benjamin Crump is now representing the families of 16-year-old Angelo Crooms and 18-year-old Sincere Pierce. Crump said the teenagers were terrified and tried to drive around the officers, who were aiming guns at the car. The officers were following the car because they thought it had been stolen, but in fact the car belonged to the girlfriend of one of the teenagers.
In Omaha, Nebraska, protests continued over the weekend after two Omaha police officers shot dead Kenneth Jones, a 35-year-old Black man, during a routine traffic stop on Thursday. Police smashed in the passenger window where Jones was sitting, and attempted to drag Jones out of the car before opening fire. According to a police press release, the officers continued to yell at Jones to show his hands even after they had shot him.
In California, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin has filed homicide charges against a police officer who shot dead an unarmed Black man in 2017. The officer, Christopher Samayoa, shot Keita O’Neil from inside his patrol car after a chase. Boudin is believed to be the first San Francisco district attorney to ever file homicide charges against an officer.
In Kentucky, a leader of the movement demanding justice for Breonna Taylor has been fatally shot. Twenty-one-year-old Hamza “Travis” Nagdy was reportedly struck by multiple bullets during a suspected carjacking early Monday near the University of Louisville campus. Police have released few details and have not named a suspect. Nagdy was well known for leading chants over his bullhorn at Black Lives Matter events demanding that the officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor in her own home last March be charged with murder. Nagdy voted for the first time just three weeks ago, in the November 3 election.
In Tacoma, Washington, the immigration rights group La Resistencia is reporting at least seven prisoners at Northwest Detention Center have gone on hunger strike following the alleged assault earlier this week of a 19-year-old prisoner, when a guard reportedly put their knee on the teen’s neck. At least four others were placed in solitary confinement in retaliation for speaking up against the attack, according to the group, including a 62-year-old prisoner who has cancer and other serious health problems. This comes as prisoners continue to fight for their release during the pandemic. This is Gaby Parra Perez, one of the hunger strikers, speaking from Northwest Detention Center, where she’s been imprisoned for nearly one year.
Gabriela Parra Perez: “I want to be released, to be able to deal with this with my family. At 26 years old, I should not be having high cholesterol. I should not be having half of these medical issues that I have only because I have been in here. … It is not mandatory for us to be in here. Half of the people that are still here don’t have a single thing on their criminal record. Others, they’ve lived in the United States for more than 20, 25 years. And so, I know that it’s not — independently of what a judge has said, ICE has a decision to let us all go.”
In more immigration news, nine immigrants being held at the Bergen County Jail in New Jersey have been on hunger strike for nearly two weeks. The prisoners are demanding their release amid growing concerns over the spread of COVID-19 in the crowded and squalid facility. Several of them have health problems, including kidney disease, making them more vulnerable to worsening COVID symptoms.
General Motors is recalling some 7 million pickup trucks and SUVs worldwide to replace potentially dangerous air bags. This comes after the U.S. government ordered GM to recall the vehicles, which GM maintains are safe to drive.
Meanwhile, the automaker has withdrawn support for the Trump administration’s years-long efforts to block California from establishing its own fuel efficiency standards. The New York Times reports GM’s move signals the company is ready to work with President-elect Joe Biden in reducing climate-warming emissions from cars and trucks.
Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins has died at the age of 93. Dinkins was elected New York’s 106th mayor in 1989, defeating Republican challenger Rudy Giuliani to become the only African American ever to hold the position. During his four years in office, Dinkins expanded the size of New York’s police force to record levels. He also backed the movement against apartheid in South Africa, ordering the city to divest its pension fund from companies doing business there.