President-elect Joe Biden’s Transition: Live Updates

Demonstrators participated in a “Stop the Steal” outside of the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to overturn the state’s election results. The justices said they would not block a ruling from Pennsylvania’s highest court that had rejected a challenge to the use of mail ballots in the state. The Supreme Court’s order was all of one sentence, and there were no noted dissents.

The request that the Supreme Court intercede had faced substantial legal hurdles, as it was filed long after the enactment of the challenged statute that allowed mailed ballots and was based on questions of state rather than federal law.

In late November, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against the plaintiffs, led by Representative Mike Kelly, a Republican, on the first ground, saying they could have challenged a 2019 law allowing vote by mail for any reason more than a year ago.

“At the time this action was filed on Nov. 21, 2020, millions of Pennsylvania voters had already expressed their will in both the June 2020 primary election and the November 2020 general election,” the court said. “Petitioners failed to act with due diligence in presenting the instant claim. Equally clear is the substantial prejudice arising from petitioners’ failure to institute promptly a facial challenge to the mail-in voting statutory scheme, as such inaction would result in the disenfranchisement of millions of Pennsylvania voters.”


Video player loading
On Tuesday, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. announced his nominees for his health team, which will play a defining role in curbing the spread of coronavirus.CreditCredit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., setting ambitious goals to change the course of the coronavirus pandemic, vowed on Tuesday to get “at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people” during his first 100 days in office. He also said he would make it a “national priority” to get children back to school during that time.

Appearing in Wilmington, Del., to introduce members of his health team, Mr. Biden pledged to run “the most efficient mass vaccination plan in U.S. history” but did not say how and through what companies his administration would purchase vaccine shots. Mr. Biden also implored Americans to wear masks during his first 100 days in office and said he would make doing so a requirement in federal buildings and on planes, trains and buses that cross state lines.

“My first 100 days won’t end the Covid-19 virus — I can’t promise that,” Mr. Biden said. But he added, “I’m absolutely convinced we can change course.”

Mr. Biden’s announcement offered a telling split-screen counterpoint to an event being held at the same time at the White House: a vaccine summit where President Trump boasted about what he called a “monumental national achievement” by drug companies to develop a vaccine for the virus in about nine months. He did not address the growing death toll or the devastation across the country, but he used the occasion to suggest, yet again and without evidence, that people had tried to “steal” the election.

“Well, we’ll have to see who the next administration is,” the president said, “because we won.”

In Delaware, the next administration was clearly taking shape. The senior officials Mr. Biden will appoint — including Xavier Becerra, a former congressman who is now the California attorney general, as his nominee for secretary of health and human services — will face the immediate challenge of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, which has already killed more than 285,000 people in the United States and has taken a particularly devastating toll on people of color.

The event was the first time that Mr. Becerra and other cabinet candidates have spoken out in public. Some appeared in person and others appeared virtually, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who will be Mr. Biden’s chief medical adviser in addition to continuing in his role as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Fauci said he could not be present in person because he was attending a ceremony for a close friend and colleague at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Harvey J. Alter, who had won the Nobel Prize in Medicine — “a reminder,” Dr. Fauci said, “of America’s place as a pioneer in science and medicine.”

Other members of the team — including Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who will lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former and now incoming surgeon general — focused largely on their personal stories.

Dr. Murthy, who like Mr. Becerra is a son of immigrants, volunteered greetings from his grandmother. Dr. Walensky, the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, has never served in government; she spoke about her early days in medicine working to fight the H.I.V. epidemic.

“Every doctor knows that when the patient is coding, your plans don’t matter — you answer the code,” she said. “And when the nation is coding, if you are called to serve, you serve.”

Other health officials included in the event were Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who will lead a Covid-19 equity task force, and Jeffrey D. Zients, the incoming coordinator of the Covid-19 response. Mr. Biden has yet to name his candidates for other health posts, including the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and the director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. in Wilmington, Del., on Monday. He will announce members of his health team on Tuesday.
Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

The presidential election was more than a month ago. But as this year’s seemingly never-ending election season trundles on, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is moving one step closer to the White House.

By the end of today, the nation will reach the so-called safe-harbor deadline, which is generally accepted as the date by which all state-level election challenges — such as recounts and audits — are supposed to be completed.

Broadly, this means that President Trump’s efforts to overturn the presidential election are nearing the end of the line. After today, state courts would most likely have to throw out any new lawsuit challenging the election.

Currently, there are only a few state-level lawsuits left unresolved, including some in Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

There is also a petition before the United States Supreme Court involving an appeal of a state lawsuit in Pennsylvania addressing whether election officials can accept ballots up to three days after Election Day if they were postmarked by Nov. 3. There were about 10,000 ballots in the state meeting that criterion, which is not enough to have an impact on the presidential election in the state (Mr. Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 81,000 votes).

One open question is whether federal lawsuits can continue after the safe harbor deadline, though it is likely that they can — and will. Even so, there are now only three federal lawsuits remaining — two in Wisconsin and one in Arizona — and they will almost certainly wrap up soon.

But in this extraordinary election year, where it seems anything can happen, the safe harbor deadline feels especially notable, as the possibility that the Trump campaign would be granted a hearing diminishes after today.

Nearly every state has already certified its results, and after California’s certification on Friday, Mr. Biden has officially secured more than the 270 Electoral College votes needed to become president. And on Dec. 14, the Electoral College will cast its votes.

Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III during a Senate hearing on military operations to counter the Islamic State in 2015.
Credit…Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected to nominate Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the retired former commander of the United States military effort in Iraq, to be the next secretary of defense, according to two people with knowledge of the selection.

If confirmed by the Senate, General Austin would make history as the first African-American to lead the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops and the enormous bureaucracy that backs them up.

General Austin, 67, was a formidable figure at the Pentagon for years and is the only African-American to have headed U.S. Central Command, the military’s marquee combat command, with responsibility for Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen — most of the places where the United States is at war.

General Austin is known as a strong battlefield commander but less for his political instincts. He has sometimes stumbled in congressional hearings, including a session in 2015 when he acknowledged, under testy questioning, that the Defense Department’s $500 million program to raise an army of Syrian fighters had gone nowhere.

Still, General Austin, who retired in 2016 as a four-star general after 41 years in the military, is respected in the Army, especially among African-American officers and enlisted soldiers, as one of the rare Black men to crack the glass ceiling that has kept the upper ranks of the military largely the domain of white men.

Supporters of General Austin say he broke through that barrier because of his intellect, his command experience and the mentorship of a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, who chose him to run the staff of the Joint Chiefs’ office.

In choosing General Austin, Mr. Biden bypassed Michèle A. Flournoy, a well-respected military policymaker who is now believed to have been a contender for the role three times. She would have been the first woman in the job.

Ms. Flournoy was known for seamlessly moving between the civilian and active-duty sides of the Pentagon, bridging the often impenetrable gap between those in uniform and those in suits — a skill that some fear may be lost with a retired general in the role. She did so, her supporters said, by translating the political imperatives of civilians to the active-duty military world and carefully helping the civilian side understand the military’s practical needs and limitations in seeing through the policy goals of elected officials.

Like Jim Mattis, who was President Trump’s first defense secretary, General Austin would have to get a congressional waiver to serve, since he has been out of the military for four years, and American law requires a seven-year period between active duty and becoming Pentagon chief.

General Austin is a graduate of the United States Military Academy. He and his wife, Charlene, have been married for 40 years.

“What I recommend is we set aside liability, and set aside state and local, and pass those things that we agree on,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said on Tuesday.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, signaled on Tuesday that he would be willing to drop his demand for a sweeping liability shield as part of a pandemic stimulus package, provided that Democrats abandoned their insistence on including billions of dollars for cash-strapped state, local and tribal governments.

Democrats immediately dismissed Mr. McConnell’s suggestion as a nonstarter, but it was the first offer of a major concession since congressional leaders agreed last week to renew their efforts to reach a deal on another round of coronavirus relief before they conclude this year’s session. Mr. McConnell has previously called the liability provision a “red line,” refusing to consider any stimulus package that lacked one.

“We know the new administration is going to be asking for another package,” Mr. McConnell said on Tuesday, offering a tacit acknowledgment of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. “What I recommend is we set aside liability, and set aside state and local, and pass those things that we agree on, knowing full well we’ll be back at this after the first of the year.”

Democrats panned the idea, after months of insisting that any stimulus agreement include funds to bolster state and local governments that have lost hundreds of billion of dollars during the pandemic and are facing devastating budget cuts. Republicans have branded the provision as a “blue-state bailout,” though state officials in both parties have lobbied for additional relief.

“He’s sabotaging good-faith bipartisan negotiations because his partisan ideological effort is not getting a good reception,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, charging that “Senator McConnell is trying to pull the rug out from beneath” lawmakers working to hash out an agreement.

Mr. Schumer said Democrats’ proposals for funding state and local governments had “broad bipartisan support,” unlike Mr. McConnell’s liability proposal. But a version of the legal shield was included in a $908 billion stimulus compromise put forth by a bipartisan group of moderate senators last week, which Democratic leaders said should be a starting point for negotiations.

Mr. McConnell’s liability proposal would provide five years of legal protection from coronavirus-related lawsuits for businesses, schools, hospitals and nonprofit organizations that make “reasonable efforts” to comply with government standards. But many Democrats have rejected what Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, derided as “a get-out-of-jail free card to companies that put the lives of their workers and customers at risk.”

Leaders of both parties have agreed that some form of relief needs to be approved before Congress departs at the end of the year, and to work toward attaching it to a catch-all government spending package. Both chambers are expected to approve a one-week stopgap bill to avert a government shutdown on Friday and buy additional time for negotiators .

As moderates work to cement their compromise, Democrats are also mounting a renewed push to include an additional round of stimulus checks in any deal. Mr. McConnell has omitted it from his stimulus proposals because of conservative concerns that it is too costly.

Texas asked the justices to put its case on an exceptionally fast track, but the court has acted with measured deliberation in considering similar requests.
Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

The state of Texas filed an audacious lawsuit in the Supreme Court on Tuesday against four other states, asking the justices to extend the Dec. 14 deadline for certification of presidential electors.

The suit, filed by the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, said Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin had engaged in election irregularities that require investigation, and it asked the court to “enjoin the use of unlawful election results without review and ratification by the defendant states’ legislatures.”

Legal experts called the suit outlandish, and it comes at a time when Mr. Paxton is battling a scandal in his own state over whistle-blower allegations that he engaged in bribery and other wrongdoing to illegally help a wealthy Austin real estate developer and political donor.

“It looks like we have a new leader in the ‘craziest lawsuit filed to purportedly challenge the election’ category,” Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, wrote on Twitter.

The Constitution gives the Supreme Court “original jurisdiction” to hear disputes “in which a state shall be party.” In such cases, the Supreme Court acts much like a trial court, appointing a special master to hear evidence and issue recommendations. Though the Constitution seems to require the court to hear cases brought by states, the court has ruled that it has discretion to turn them down and often does.

When the court does exercise its original jurisdiction, it is usually to adjudicate disputes between two states over issues like water rights. In 2016, the justices turned down a request from Nebraska and Oklahoma to file a challenge to Colorado’s legalization of recreational marijuana. The states said the Colorado law had spillover effects, taxing neighboring states’ criminal justice systems and hurting the health of their residents.

Texas asked the justices to put its case on an exceptionally fast track, but the court has acted with measured deliberation in considering similar requests and may defer consideration of whether to hear the suit until it can have no practical impact. Indeed, the Dec. 8 safe harbor deadline, which largely insulates states that have certified their election results from legal challenges, is about to pass.

In a blog post, Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, called the Texas filing a “press release masquerading as a lawsuit.”

He listed what he said were its shortcomings: “Texas doesn’t have standing to raise these claims as it has no say over how other states choose electors; it could raise these issues in other cases and does not need to go straight to the Supreme Court; it waited too late to sue; the remedy Texas suggests of disenfranchising tens of millions of voters after the fact is unconstitutional; there’s no reason to believe the voting conducted in any of the states was done unconstitutionally; it’s too late for the Supreme Court to grant a remedy even if the claims were meritorious (they are not).”

David Montgomery contributed reporting.

Christopher Krebs speaking at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on national security concerns in May, during his tenure as director of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency.
Credit…Amr Alfiky for The New York Times

In late November, one day after Christopher Krebs, the former head of the government’s cybersecurity agency, went on “60 Minutes” to dispute President Trump’s claims of fraud in the election, one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers threatened him on television.

“He should be drawn and quartered,” the lawyer, Joseph diGenova, said of Mr. Krebs on the conservative TV outlet Newsmax. “Taken out at dawn and shot.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Krebs, who was fired by Mr. Trump last month, filed a lawsuit against Mr. diGenova accusing him and the Trump campaign of defamation and the infliction of emotional distress.

The lawsuit, which seeks monetary damages and the removal of the threatening video from the Newsmax archives, also made a far more extraordinary claim: that Mr. Trump, members of his legal team and Newsmax have been engaging in “a calculated and pernicious conspiracy” to defame and injure not just Mr. Krebs but other members of the Republican Party who have stood up against the president’s baseless claims of fraud.

“Newsmax, the campaign, and diGenova have a symbiotic relationship,” the lawsuit says. “Newsmax disseminates and amplifies the campaign’s and diGenova’s attacks on perceived political threats and allegations of election stealing, which pleases viewers, prompts endorsements from President Trump, increases ratings, supports the political goals of the campaign, and helps raise more money from duped supporters.”

Mr. diGenova, the Trump campaign and Newsmax did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

Mr. Krebs’s lawsuit was filed by the law firm Walden, Macht & Haran in Maryland, Mr. diGenova’s home state, at a moment when Mr. Trump and his allies have brought increasing pressure to bear on Republican officials around the country who have resisted the president’s efforts to tar the elections as compromised by fraud.

The suit notes, for example, that the president has attacked Governors Doug Ducey of Arizona and Brian Kemp of Georgia for failing to assist him in his attempts to overturn the vote counts in their states. It also points out that Mr. Trump and his legal team sought to persuade Republican leaders in states like Pennsylvania to go along with their scheme to “ignore certified election results” and instead have state lawmakers appoint delegates to the Electoral College.

Mr. Krebs, a lifelong Republican, said in a brief interview that he had filed the suit to encourage others from his party not to be “intimidated into silence.”

“We need to make it clear that these behaviors are not acceptable in a civil society,” he said.

Newsmax, which was accused in the suit of aiding and abetting by amplifying Mr. diGenova’s threat, has recently capitalized on Mr. Trump’s displeasure with Fox News and devoted itself to carrying the president’s unsupported claims of massive fraud in the elections. Its prime-time ratings have soared in the process. “People want something that tends to affirm their views and opinions,” Christopher Ruddy, its chief executive, told The New York Times last month.

In his suit, Mr. Krebs said that after Mr. diGenova attacked him on Newsmax, he received death threats in tweets and emails that labeled him a traitor. Because of the threats, Mr. Krebs said, he and his family were forced to leave their home and Mr. Krebs’s children were terrified.

President Trump named Elaine Chao, the transportation secretary, to the board of trustees for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, one of more than two dozen appointments that he made on Tuesday.
Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

President Trump may not think he lost the election, but he’s acting like a man on his way out, doling out plum spots on premier boards and commissions to his friends and supporters.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump appointed Elaine Chao, the secretary of transportation and the wife of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, to be a member of the board of trustees for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. Trustees serve six-year terms.

Kellyanne Conway, his onetime campaign manager and White House counselor, will help oversee the Air Force Academy as a member of the institution’s board of visitors. Ms. Conway will serve a three-year term.

And Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the American Conservative Union and the husband of Mercedes Schlapp, who served as the president’s director of communications, will sit on the trust fund board for the Library of Congress. He will be one of two presidential appointees, with a five-year term.

Will Ruger, a conservative scholar whom Mr. Trump nominated to be ambassador to Afghanistan, will be a member of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, joining Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former White House press secretary. Board members serve three-year terms.

Together, they are among the more than two dozen appointments that the president made on Tuesday, filling the coveted spots with supporters who will serve fixed terms even after Mr. Trump leaves office next month.

Making such appointments is a president’s prerogative. In 2019, Mr. Trump appointed Lee Greenwood, who sings “God Bless the U.S.A.,” the signature song of the president’s re-election campaign, to the Kennedy Center board.

Associates of previous presidents still sit on boards and commissions. Former President Barack Obama appointed Valerie Jarrett, a close friend and adviser, to the Kennedy Center board, a position she still holds. So does Alyssa Mastromonaco, who was one of Mr. Obama’s deputy chiefs of staff.

President Trump in the Oval Office on Monday.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Trump administration officials passed when Pfizer offered months ago to sell the U.S. government additional doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, according to people familiar with the matter.

Now Pfizer may not be able to provide more of its vaccine to the United States until next June because of its commitments to other countries, those people said.

As the administration scrambles to try to purchase more doses of the vaccine, President Trump plans today to sign an executive order “to ensure that United States government prioritizes getting the vaccine to American citizens before sending it to other nations,” according to a draft statement and a White House official. It was not immediately clear what force the president’s executive order would carry, including whether it would expand the U.S. supply of doses beyond what is detailed in existing federal contracts.

The vaccine being produced by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, is a two-dose treatment: 100 million doses is enough to vaccinate only 50 million Americans. The vaccine is expected to receive authorization for emergency use in the U.S. as soon as this weekend, with another vaccine, developed by Moderna, also likely to be approved for emergency use soon.

On Nov. 11 — two days after Pfizer announced early results indicating that its vaccine was more than 90 percent effective — the European Union announced that it had finalized a deal with Pfizer and BioNTech for 200 million doses, a deal they began negotiating months earlier. Shipments could begin by the end of the year, and the contract includes an option for 100 million more doses.

Asked if the Trump administration had missed a crucial chance to snap up more doses for Americans, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said, “We are confident that we will have 100 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine as agreed to in our contract, and beyond that, we have five other vaccine candidates.”

Patrick Gaspard has emerged as the leading candidate to be nominated as labor secretary under President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Credit…Ernesto Distefano/Getty Images

Patrick Gaspard, a former aide to President Barack Obama, U.S. ambassador to South Africa and executive director of the Democratic National Committee, has emerged as the leading candidate to be nominated as labor secretary under President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

Mr. Gaspard announced last week that he would step down as the head of the Open Society Foundations, founded by the liberal megadonor George Soros, at the end of the year, fueling speculation in Washington that he was poised to join the incoming administration. He has a background in labor organizing, including a senior leadership position for the Service Employees International Union, which he held before joining the Obama administration.

His potential nomination would give Mr. Biden, who calls himself a “union guy,” a labor secretary with union roots. He would also add to the list of Black cabinet appointees, a key goal of Mr. Biden’s transition team as it seeks to fulfill Mr. Biden’s campaign promise of diversity in the top leadership of his administration.

Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Haitian parents, Mr. Gaspard immigrated to the United States in early childhood, grew up in New York and attended Columbia University before leaving to work on Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign. He worked for years in New York City politics and on Howard Dean’s 2004 Democratic presidential bid, and he was an aide to former Mayor David Dinkins. After Mr. Dinkins died last month, Mr. Gaspard wrote on Twitter, “He taught me that you don’t need to be loud to be strong.”

Mr. Gaspard worked for years as an organizer and rose through the Service Employees International Union to become its national political director before joining Mr. Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. In the Obama White House, Mr. Gaspard served as director of political affairs, before helming the Democratic National Committee and being confirmed as Mr. Obama’s ambassador to South Africa.

Two other possible nominees appear to remain in contention for Labor secretary. One is Julie Su, a labor lawyer and MacArthur “genius” grant recipient who is the secretary of California’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency. The other is Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who has won support from some key labor unions.

Allies of Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont and Mr. Biden’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination this year, had pushed hard for Mr. Sanders to be selected as labor secretary. But Mr. Biden’s short list for the job does not appear to include Mr. Sanders.

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking Republican, at a news conference on Capitol Hill in September.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Trump urged Republican lawmakers on Tuesday to oppose the annual defense bill and renewed his threat to veto the legislation hours before the House was expected to overwhelmingly pass the measure, setting up what could become the first veto showdown of his presidency.

Mr. Trump has been threatening since the summer to reject the legislation that authorizes troops’ annual pay raise. His first objection was over the inclusion of a bipartisan provision to strip the names of Confederate leaders from military bases. More recently, he shifted the focus of his veto threat to demand that the measure include a repeal of a legal shield for social media companies, a complex issue unrelated to the defense legislation that lawmakers in both parties have said has no place in the bill.

“Must include a termination of Section 230 (for National Security purposes), preserve our National Monuments, & allow for 5G & troop reductions in foreign lands!” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday morning, calling the military policy bill “very weak.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill, in a rare refusal to defer to Mr. Trump’s demands, have indicated that they intend to support the legislation, which also includes measures to constrain the president’s ability to withdraw troops from Germany and Afghanistan. And some, like Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking Republican, have even signaled they are prepared to override Mr. Trump’s veto.

But it was unclear on Tuesday whether enough Republicans would defect and vote for the bill to give it the two-thirds margin of support required to override an eventual veto. Members of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, who regularly oppose the annual military measure, announced that they would not support the legislation. And Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, said while he planned to vote for it on Tuesday, he would not ultimately vote to override a veto by Mr. Trump.

“Section 230 needs to get done,” Mr. McCarthy said, referencing the repeal the president has demanded of the legal liability shield for social media companies. And he indicated that he did not believe that Republicans should challenge their own president on a veto.

Lawmakers have never overridden one of Mr. Trump’s vetoes, but the defense bill is a broadly popular measure that has not failed to pass in 60 years.

Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico has been trying to reform the filibuster almost since he arrived in the Senate in 2009.
Credit…Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Calling the Senate a “graveyard for progress,” Senator Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, used his farewell address on Tuesday to urge his colleagues to fix a broken institution by gutting the legislative filibuster and changing a culture that he said values partisanship over the country’s best interests.

“I’m not the first to say this in a farewell address, and I won’t be the last, but the Senate is broken,” said Mr. Udall, who is retiring after 12 years. “The Senate is broken,” he repeated for emphasis.

A former attorney general and a member of a storied political family from the West, Mr. Udall has been trying to reform the filibuster almost since he arrived in the Senate in 2009 after five terms in the House. In an interview with The New York Times last week, he laid out why he saw the 60-vote threshold to advancing bills as an impediment to coming up with answers for the existential problems of the moment, such as climate change.

“The filibuster came to be through historical accident,” he said on the Senate floor on Tuesday. “The reality of the filibuster is paralysis — a deep paralysis.”

Mr. Udall also lamented the state of American politics, calling the country’s campaign finance system “out of control.”

“Secret money floods campaigns to buy influence, instead of letting the voters speak,” he said. “Voting rights are under attack. We can do our best to be good people in a system like that, but it’s no surprise that America’s faith in government is declining. These structures are antidemocratic. They reward extremism. They punish compromise.”

Mr. Udall is the second senator in as many weeks to use his farewell speech to lament the current state of the chamber under the leadership of Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky. Mr. McConnell’s friend, Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, who is retiring after 18 years, described the Senate last week as “like joining the Grand Ole Opry and not being able to sing,” concluding, “It’s a real waste of talent.”

But Mr. Alexander — who is a former governor, cabinet secretary, presidential candidate and university president — concluded that senators would be making a fatal mistake if they eliminated the filibuster.

It would basically destroy the Senate,” Mr. Alexander said. Instead, he argued that senators should rediscover the lost art of allowing debate on a variety of legislative changes rather than blocking them outright, to allow the chamber to return to a more bipartisan process.

Jenna Ellis and Rudolph W. Giuliani, members of President Trump’s legal team, appearing before the Michigan House Oversight Committee in Lansing, Mich., last week.
Credit…Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Jenna Ellis, a senior legal adviser to President Trump, has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a White House official familiar with the situation. She is the latest in a string of officials connected to Mr. Trump who have tested positive.

Ms. Ellis has appeared in recent weeks alongside Rudolph W. Giuliani and other Trump lawyers — a group Ms. Ellis has described as an “elite strike-force team” — at public hearings where she amplified the president’s false claims of widespread voter fraud.

Mr. Giuliani, the lead lawyer for the president’s efforts to overthrow the results of the election, confirmed over the weekend that he had tested positive for the virus, and a person who was aware of his condition but not authorized to speak publicly said then that he had been hospitalized at Georgetown University Medical. At age 76, Mr. Giuliani is in a high-risk category. Mr. Trump said on Monday that he had spoken to Mr. Giuliani and he was doing “very well.”

Ms. Ellis was photographed last week, on Wednesday, sitting next to Mr. Giuliani during a hearing before the Michigan House Oversight Committee. It was not immediately clear whether she had any symptoms, or what kind of test she had taken. Ms. Ellis continued to post to Twitter throughout the day on Tuesday, including sharing a statement attributed to her and Mr. Giuliani about their legal efforts. She did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Ms. Ellis has been a frequent guest on cable news, where she aggressively defended Mr. Trump as he faced investigation and impeachment. She presents herself as a constitutional law attorney, but has never appeared in federal district or circuit court, where most constitutional matters are considered, according to national databases of federal cases. She does not appear to have played a major role in any cases beyond criminal and civil work in Colorado.

Ms. Ellis’s most recent work appears to have been largely in a public-relations capacity. The Trump campaign and its supporters have so far filed about 50 election-related lawsuits. She has not signed her name or appeared in court to argue a single one.

More than 40 members of Mr. Trump’s administration, campaign and inner circle have contracted the virus since late September. In early October, Mr. Trump was hospitalized for a few days after testing positive and developing symptoms of Covid-19.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *