November 19, 2020

The number of Americans filing new jobless claims has come in worse than expected, rising for the first time in several weeks.

The Labor Department on Thursday said 742,000 Americans filed first-time jobless claims last week, up 31,000 claims from the revised level for the previous week. This was the first time since the week of Oct. 10 that the number of new jobless claims increased, CNN reports.

The number was also more than experts forecasted, as economists were anticipating about 710,000 new claims for last week, CNBC reports. There were also 320,237 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims, an increase from the week prior, according to CNN.

This increase comes as COVID-19 cases rise around the country, prompting states to implement new restrictions. It also comes after a new analysis showed that roughly 12 million workers are set to lose unemployment benefits the day after Christmas, CBS News reports.

"The combination of record coronavirus cases and the post-holiday winter months will likely be a grim time for the labor market," Indeed Hiring Lab economist AnnElizabeth Konkel said, per NBC News. "To lose unemployment benefits right after the holidays will only ratchet up the economic pain already felt by millions." Brendan Morrow

4:00 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden is planning to spend his first 10 days in the Oval Office issuing dozens of executive orders, a memo circulated by incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain on Saturday and obtained by The New York Times revealed. The memo appears to back up earlier reporting about how Biden envisioned the early stages of his presidency.

On his first day alone, Biden will reportedly rescind President Trump's travel ban on several majority Muslim countries, rejoin the Paris climate change accord, extend pandemic-related limits on evictions and student loan payments, issue a mask mandate for federal property and interstate travel, and reunite children who were separated from their families while crossing the United States-Mexico border. He will also reportedly send Congress immigration legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million people.

Per the Times, the swift, expansive action is "meant to signal a turning point for a nation reeling from disease, economic turmoil, racial strife, and now the aftermath of the assault on the Capitol" and, advisers hope, "establish a sense of momentum" for Biden while the Senate likely begins President Trump's impeachment trial. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

3:24 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday officially introduced members of his administration's Office of Science and Technology Policy, headlined by his nominee to lead the team, Eric Lander, who will serve as a presidential science adviser, a position Biden is elevating to be a member of the Cabinet for the first time. "In a way ... this is the most exciting announcement that I've gotten to make in the entire Cabinet, raising this to a Cabinet-level position in one case," Biden said.

Lander, who is considered a pioneer in the field of genomic science, is the president and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and was an adviser in the Obama administration. He said Biden "knows that science and technology will be crucial" in meeting a moment that presents both "opportunities" and "challenges" that "are greater than ever before," adding that "no nation is better equipped to lead the search for solutions."

Biden also introduced Alondra Nelson, his pick to be the OSTP deputy director for science and society. Nelson, the president of the Social Science Research Council and a Harold F. Linder Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, spoke about how the social and scientific worlds often intersect, noting that "we have a responsibility to ... make sure that our science and technology reflects us." Read more about the rest of Biden's science nominees at CNN and CBS News. Tim O'Donnell

2:30 p.m.

You may have heard the tales of President Trump tearing up documents after reading them, leaving aides to try to glue them back together. Well, that flippant attitude toward recordkeeping has left historians frustrated, as Trump's papers begin their migration to the National Archives and Record Administrations, The Associated Press reports.

In addition to mishandling records, AP notes, Trump also showed a willingness to try to erase certain records, like when he confiscated an interpreter's notes after he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2017, driving speculation that the two talked about Russia's 2016 election interference in some capacity. Per AP, Trump's staff also had to be reminded not to use private email or text messaging systems to conduct official business and, if they did, to take screen shots of the exchanges and copy them into official email accounts, which are preserved. Still, it's unclear how closely that was followed.

"It's an open question to me about how serious or conscientious any of these people have been about moving them over," Tom Blanton, the director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, told AP.

The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations' Richard Immerman believes "historians are likely to suffer from far more holes than has been the norm" because of that potential gap. The situation could obviously be a problem for historians who rely on such records for their research, but Lee White, the director of the National Coalition for History, added that presidential records also "tell our nation's story from a unique perspective and are essential to an incoming administration in making informed decisions." Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

1:14 p.m.

President Trump is known for going off script, but his premature presidential election victory declaration in the early hours of the morning on Nov. 4 wasn't a completely spur-of-the-moment decision, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports.

In the first installment of a reported series on Trump's final two months in office, Swan writes that Trump began "choreographing election night in earnest" during the second week of October following a "toxic" debate with President-elect Joe Biden on Sept. 29 and a bout with COVID-19 that led to his hospitalization. At that point, Trump's internal poll numbers had reportedly taken a tumble, Swan notes.

With that in mind, he reportedly called his first White House chief of staff, a stunned Reince Priebus, and "acted out his script, including walking up to a podium and prematurely declaring victory on election night if it looked like he was ahead." Indeed, in the lead up to Election Day, Trump reportedly kept his focus on the so-called "red mirage," the early vote counts that would show many swing states leaning red because mail-in ballots had yet to be counted. Trump, Swan reports, intended to "weaponize it for his vast base of followers," who would go to bed thinking he had secured a second-term, likely planting the seeds of a stolen election. Read more at Axios. Tim O'Donnell

11:57 a.m.

Georgia and Arizona were two of the most crucial states in this election cycle, and it looks like they'll remain at the forefront of the coming battle within the Republican Party, The New York Times reports.

Things have grown tense in the Sun Belt states, where mainstream Republicans are hoping to fend off President Trump's allies. In Arizona, for instance, the state GOP is trying to censure Republican Gov. Doug Ducey — as well as former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Cindy McCain — in part because he has been "deemed insufficiently beholden to Trump," Politico reports. In Georgia, there's a faction on the right that wants to defeat Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who has faced Trump's wrath for not supporting his election conspiracy theories, in a gubernatorial primary in 2022.

Both situations reportedly have the more traditional half of the Republican Party concerned — privately, the Times reports, GOP officials are concerned some high-profile members of the House that are considered staunch Trump loyalists who have "propagated fringe conspiracy theories," like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), as well as Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), could launch campaigns for Senate seats and governorships in their states in 2022. So, even as, per USA Today, Republican senators ponder whether to vote to convict President Trump in his upcoming impeachment trial, and then potentially vote to bar him from future public office, their fight against him is seemingly far from over. Read more at The New York Times, Politico, and USA Today. Tim O'Donnell

11:11 a.m.

India on Saturday began what is likely the world's largest coronavirus vaccination rollout when the country's first dose was administered to a sanitation worker at the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. All told, more than 190,000 people received a shot on day one, which fell short of the initial target, but there were no reports of large-scale problems, The Washington Post reports.

The government of the world's second most populous nation, which the Post notes has a "long track record of mass-producing vaccines at affordable prices," is hoping to inoculate 300 million people against the coronavirus by the summer, beginning with 30 million frontline health care workers, followed by 270 million people who are either over 50 years old or have illnesses that make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

New Delhi has granted emergency approval to the vaccine produced by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, which also received a green light in the United Kingdom, as well as one developed by Bharat Biotech, an Indian pharmaceutical company. The latter has gone through early stage trials, but Bharat Biotech has yet to provide any data, which concerns medical experts in India, but some of the country's top doctors reportedly received it without hesitation. Read more at The Associated Press and The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

10:52 a.m.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is the latest Trump administration official revealed to have criticized the president's post-election actions.

Azar sent the White House a departure letter earlier this week, and while he clarified he'll continue in his role until Jan. 20, when President-elect Joe Biden assumes office, he had harsh words for President Trump, particularly concerning his role in the deadly riot at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6. "Unfortunately, these actions and rhetoric following the election, especially during the past week, threaten to tarnish these and other historic legacies of this administration," he wrote, referring to the rapid creation of two vaccines to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Azar said the riot was an "assault on our democracy and on the tradition of peaceful transitions of power" in the United States. Ultimately, though he stopped short of resigning. "With the pandemic raging, the continued need to deliver vaccines and therapeutics to the American people, and the imperative of ensuring a smooth transition to the Biden administration, I have determined that it is in the best interest of the people we serve to remain as secretary until the end of the term," he explained. Read more at The Hill. Tim O'Donnell

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