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Sen. Mitch McConnell Recognizes Joe Biden as President Elect

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  • On Tuesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged President-Elect Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election while speaking on the Senate floor. He said that while many hoped for other results,The Electoral College has spokenI want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.” 
  • This comes one day after the Electoral College certified Biden’s win. This moment prompted other key Republicans, including Sen. John Thune and Sen. Roy Blunt, to also recognize Biden’s victory.
  • Biden delivered remarks about his win and praised the strength of the United States, saying: “The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame.”
  • For his part, President Trump is continuing to deny the results of the election and is making baseless claims of fraud on Twitter. 

Republicans Acknowledge Biden’s Win

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) acknowledged and congratulated President-Elect Joe Biden on his win Tuesday morning following the Electoral College certifying the victory. 

“Many millions of us had hoped the presidential election would yield a different result, but our system of government has a process to determine who will be sworn in on January the 20th,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “The Electoral College has spoken, so today, I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.” 

The election was called for Biden 38 days ago but many key Republicans either avoided acknowledging President Donald Trump’s defeat or outright denied it. The Electoral College’s certification marked a change in tune for many leaders in the party who are now finally coming to terms with the results. 

“At some point you have to face the music,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-Sd.) said on Monday. “Once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it’s time for everybody to move on.

“We’ve now gone through the constitutional process, and the electors have voted, so there’s a president-elect,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the chairman of the inaugural committee, told reporters. Blunt had repeatedly avoided calling Biden the president-elect in the past. 

“I will, as chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, work with President-elect Biden and his presidential inaugural committee to plan for the swearing-in ceremony on January 20,” he later added in an interview with the Kansas City Star.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-Sc.) still refused to directly recognize Biden’s win but did imply that Trump’s odds of overturning the election’s results are looking increasingly worse. 

“It’s a very, very narrow path for the president,” he told reporters, “but having said that, I think we’ll let those legal challenges play out.”

Even Russian President Vladamir Putin has now congratulated Biden on his win. 

“Vladimir Putin wished the President-elect every success and expressed confidence that Russia and the United States, which bear special responsibility for global security and stability, can, despite their differences, effectively contribute to solving many problems and meeting challenges that the world is facing today,” the Kremlin said in a Tuesday statement.

Electoral College Certifies Biden’s Win

Now that the Electoral College has certified Biden’s win, with 306 votes to Trump’s 232, Biden delivered remarks celebrating the victory. He praised the strength of the country’s democracy and thanked those who worked hard to uphold it. 

“In America, politicians don’t take power, people grant power to them,” Biden said. “The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. And we now know that nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame.” 

Biden gave a special thanks to election workers who not only worked through a pandemic, but stood their ground as Trump tried to lodge baseless claim after baseless claim of fraud, leading to threats against them. 

“[The election] was honest, it was free, and it was fair,” Biden said. “They saw it with their own eyes, and they wouldn’t be bullied into saying anything differently.” 

 The Electoral College results will be sent to Congress to be counted on Jan. 6.

Barr Resigns

For his part, Trump is still sending out endless tweets making unfounded claims of voter fraud. Dozens of lawsuits challenging the election have been tossed out across the country, but that has not stopped the president from pulling at straws, even as he is set to leave the White House in five weeks. 

Even with that limited time in office, he is continuing to wage a war against those who go against him. On Monday, Attorney General William Barr announced his resignation. Barr was among Trump’s closest allies until early December when he released a statement saying that the Department of Justice had found no evidence of widespread fraud in the election. He then fell out of the President’s favor. The president slammed him for Barr for this, and continued criticisms of him over the weekend, lashing out at Barr for not publicly disclosing information related to an investigation into Hunter Biden.

He then announced Barr’s departure in a tweet. Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen will take his place for the remaining month of Trump’s term. 

Barr also made comments about his departure, releasing a letter that showered Trump with praise. 

“I am greatly honored that you called on me to serve your Administration and the American people once again as Attorney General,” he wrote. “I am proud to have played a role in the many successes and unprecedented achievements you have delivered for the American people.”

See what others are saying: (Politico) (Associated Press) (NPR)

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New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns

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  • The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
  • The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
  • The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.

CDC Issues Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus. 

The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.

Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.

Mitigating Spread of Variant

“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”

The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.

“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.

“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)

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Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)

  • Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
  • By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
  • Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

Rick Snyder Charges

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.

The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.

He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.

The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.

Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.

His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.

8 Others Charged

Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.

Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:

  • Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
  • Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
  • Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.

Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.

At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)

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Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack

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  • At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 
  • Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
  • Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive

At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 

Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus. 

On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one. 

Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested. 

More Cases Follow

Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions. 

Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote. 

“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added. 

“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown. 

“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.

Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks. 

Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (NBC Chicago)

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