Fauci warns of a surge “superimposed” on the one we’re already in, while Biden’s foreign policy team faces a test on ethics. It’s Monday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.
Where things stand
Joe Biden plans to formally name his choices this week to fill the administration’s top economic policy positions. News of his picks has been trickling out, and it appears he is hoping to assemble a diverse, liberal-leaning team of longtime Democratic figures to guide the country out of the recession.
Neera Tanden, a longtime political operative and currently the chief executive at the Center for American Progress, is expected to be chosen to lead the Office of Management and Budget. Cecilia Rouse, a Princeton labor economist, is believed to be Biden’s pick to lead the Council of Economic Advisers, according to people familiar with the matter.
In addition to Rouse, the economic council is expected to include Heather Boushey and Jared Bernstein, economists whose work focuses on reducing inequality, and both of whom served as economic advisers on the Biden campaign.
Adewale Adeyemo, who served as a senior international economics adviser under President Barack Obama, is expected to be named as deputy Treasury secretary under Janet Yellen. Biden could make the announcements official as early as Wednesday.
Separately, Biden yesterday unveiled an all-female White House communications staff led by Jennifer Psaki, a veteran of the Obama administration and member of the Biden transition team, who will serve as White House press secretary.
Symone Sanders, a senior Biden campaign adviser, will be Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s chief spokeswoman and senior adviser.
Recounts in Wisconsin’s two biggest counties that were paid for by the Trump campaign wrapped up yesterday, and the results only widened Biden’s lead.
In Milwaukee and Dane Counties, home of the state’s two largest cities, the victories were predictably lopsided for Biden. Both recounts were broadcast live on streaming platforms.
The Trump campaign, however, has insisted without evidence that its poll watchers have been barred from observing the recount, and has vowed to press on with its challenge to the election results.
With the coronavirus surging and the country bracing for what is expected to be a brutal winter, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, said yesterday that he was worried that in the weeks ahead, Americans’ visits with loved ones over the Thanksgiving holiday might lead to an additional spike in cases “superimposed upon that surge that we’re already in.”
Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Fauci added that people could help prevent the disease from spreading by wearing masks and practicing social distancing. “I don’t want to frighten people,” he said, but rather remind them that “it is not too late at all for us to do something about this.”
He added that states could flatten their inflection curves “when you mitigate with masks, with distance, with not having crowds or congregate settings.” Asked by Chuck Todd whether President Trump should instruct Americans to take safety precautions, Fauci said, “I don’t think I have any power in that regard.”
The Trump administration’s efforts to hastily wipe away more environmental regulations on its way out the door are running into resistance from within.
Newly emboldened by Biden’s election victory, some longtime Environmental Protection Agency scientists are attaching official objections to moves made by the agency’s top brass that undermine the role of science in the E.P.A.’s work. The filing of a “dissenting scientific opinion” can make it easier for Biden’s campaign to roll back rule changes.
Some senior E.P.A. staff members have also engaged in back-channel conversations with Biden’s transition team while waiting for Trump to allow the presidential transition to officially proceed.
Here’s one nonpolitical White House tradition that Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, will restore in January: presidential pets. While Trump had no pets in office, the Bidens arrive with two German shepherds, Champ and Major.
And a cat will soon join the family, according to a report on Friday from Jane Pauley of “CBS Sunday Morning.” The incoming first lady had indicated during a local news interview this month that she was considering getting a cat.
“I love having animals around the house,” she said at the time. Trump had been the first president in over a century not to have a pet in the White House.
Of course, the joys of pet ownership come with perils: Biden twisted his ankle yesterday while playing with Major, and his doctor said the president-elect had hairline fractures that would require him to wear a walking boot for several weeks.
Photo of the day
Trump on the South Lawn of the White House with his grandchildren yesterday.
Biden faces an ethics test over some of his top foreign policy choices.
Biden’s newly unveiled foreign policy team represents an attempt to restore a pre-Trump world order, after four years of an administration that has flouted ethics protocols while undermining American allegiances abroad.
But as our reporters Eric Lipton and Kenneth P. Vogel write in a new investigation, it also presents the incoming president with an early test of his own on the ethics and transparency front.
A number of his choices for top government positions have served at two major private companies, a consulting firm and an investment fund, creating the potential for a revolving door between public and private work, and setting the table for demands that incoming officials reveal the identities of past clients.
The founders of the consulting company, WestExec Advisors, include Antony Blinken, Biden’s choice for secretary of state, and Michèle Flournoy, who is considered a top contender to be his defense secretary. A number of other officials slated to become part of the Biden administration did work for WestExec, including Psaki and Avril Haines, whom Biden has named as his pick for director of national intelligence.
People familiar with the matter told Eric and Ken that WestExec’s clients have included Shield AI, a company that makes surveillance drones and recently signed a multimillion-dollar contract with the Air Force.
Blinken and Flournoy have also served as advisers to Pine Island Capital Partners, which invests hundreds of millions of dollars in military and aerospace companies, among other targets in the defense industry.
Flournoy has also made over $400,000 in the past two years as a board member for the firm Booz Allen Hamilton, which has billions of dollars in federal contracts, including a deal signed in 2018 for cybersecurity services to six federal agencies. Flournoy has been a particular target of criticism from progressives for her ties to the defense industry.
Another person said to be under consideration for the defense secretary position, the retired Army general Lloyd Austin, has also worked with Pine Island.
Republicans are already indicating that they plan to focus on WestExec in confirmation hearings for Blinken and other nominees.
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