Trump tentatively agrees to transition | First Thing

President says he will cooperate with transition after GSA declares Biden win, but insists he will continue to contest result. Plus, Biden announces cabinet

Good morning.

Donald Trump has finally agreed to begin the transition to a Joe Biden presidency, three weeks after the election. It followed a declaration from the General Services Administration (GSA) yesterday that Biden was the apparent winner of the US election, enabling the transition of power to officially begin. But, for the president at least, it’s not over yet: while Trump tweeted that he had instructed his team to cooperate with the transition, he vowed to keep fighting the election results.

There was more good news yesterday for Biden in Michigan, where officials certified a Democratic win. Allies of the president, and the losing Republican Senate candidate, John James, had attempted to get officials to delay certification for two weeks to audit votes, and even invited the state’s legislative leaders to the White House last week, but to no avail.

  • What does the GSA’s decision mean? Read our explainer on the GSA, why the announcement was delayed, and why it’s so important.

  • Carl Bernstein has named 21 Republican senators who privately expressed contempt for Trump, saying the information came from “colleagues, staff members, lobbyists [and] White House aides”. The veteran investigative reporter named Republican heavyweights including Marco Rubio and John Thune.

Establishment politicians take the reins in Biden’s historic cabinet

Joe Biden participating in a virtual meeting with the US Conference of Mayors at the Queen in Wilmington, Delaware, on Monday.
Joe Biden participating in a virtual meeting with the US Conference of Mayors at the Queen in Wilmington, Delaware, on Monday. Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

Biden hasn’t been waiting for Trump’s cue to begin his transition. The president-elect announced his cabinet on Monday and, as expected, Antony Blinken has been nominated as secretary of state. Blinken’s internationalist views will mark a “dramatic shift” from the Trump administration, writes Julian Borger.

Biden has also started to make good on his promise of diversity in the cabinet. If confirmed, Alejandro Mayorkas would become the first Latino and migrant to take on the role of homeland security secretary, and Avril Haines would be the first female director of national intelligence, while Janet Yellen is expected to become the first female treasury secretary.

John Kerry played a prominent role in creating the Paris climate accord, which the US left under Trump. Biden has promised to re-enter the agreement as a matter of urgency.
John Kerry played a prominent role in creating the Paris climate accord, which the US left under Trump. Biden has promised to re-enter the agreement as a matter of urgency. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

The appointment of heavyweight John Kerry as a special envoy on the climate crisis has been welcomed by environmental activists, with one describing the move as “an encouraging signal that the US will make the climate emergency a matter of national security”.

  • Dianne Feinstein will step down as the top Democrat on the Senate judiciary panel, she announced on Monday. The California senator has held the position for four years, but said she won’t seek to retain it, instead wanting to turn her attention to the “two existential threats” facing her state – wildfires and drought.

Covid hospitalisations reach record highs, but ‘antibody cocktail’ is coming

On Friday, there were 1,448 recorded deaths – the equivalent of one every minute.
On Friday, there were 1,448 recorded deaths – the equivalent of one every minute. Photograph: Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

More people are being hospitalised in the US with coronavirus than ever before, with the latest figures showing a record 83,870 people in hospital on Sunday. The surge in coronavirus cases could not come at a much worse time, with Thanksgiving just around the corner. Millions are expected to defy restrictions on gatherings, and there are fears that students going home for the holiday could take coronavirus with them.

In better news, the federal government is beginning to distribute the antibody cocktail that the president was treated with during his admission to hospital with coronavirus. The health and human services secretary, Alex Azar, said the government expected to distribute 30,000 doses of the Regeneron product on Tuesday, and more over the coming weeks.

  • Los Angeles has banned restaurant dining for at least three weeks, and is planning to introduce a new stay-at-home order, amid a surge in coronavirus cases and fears of hospital bed shortages. LA officials urged residents not to travel or gather in groups for Thanksgiving this week.

  • The New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, has cancelled his Thanksgiving plan to visit his 89-year-old mother following a backlash. Cuomo had announced his holiday plans on Monday, despite urging his constituents not to gather for the celebration. Later in the day, his office said his plans had changed and that he would be working through Thanksgiving.

Support the Guardian’s journalism as we prepare for 2021

The Guardian this week launched a campaign to raise $1.25m to fund our journalism in the new year. While Trump’s presidency is ending, America’s systemic challenges remain. From a broken healthcare system to corrosive racial inequality, from rapacious corporations to a climate crisis, the need for robust, fact-based reporting that highlights injustice and offers solutions is as great as ever. Give a year-end gift today.

In other news …

The pope said some governments had ‘mortgaged their people’ by putting the economy before public health.
The pope said some governments had ‘mortgaged their people’ by putting the economy before public health. Photograph: Gregorio Borgia/AP
  • Pope Francis said anti-maskers were “stuck in their own little world of interests”, and contrasted protests against coronavirus restrictions with the “healthy indignation” at anti-racism demonstrations after the death of George Floyd, in a new book. He also praised a visiting delegation of NBA players as “champions” for their work on racial equality.

  • Elon Musk has topped Bill Gates as the second richest person in the world, just a week after he passed Mark Zuckerberg as the third richest. Musk’s net worth soared to more than $100bn this year as Tesla’s share price rose, but he still falls well behind the Amazon boss, Jeff Bezos.

Stat of the day: Trump plans to allow mine on 11 sq miles of sacred land

The plan for Arizona oak flat is the latest in a series of environmentally destructive policies which benefit corporate interests in the last weeks of Trump’s term.
The plan for Arizona oak flat is the latest in a series of environmentally destructive policies which benefit corporate interests in the last weeks of Trump’s term. Photograph: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce.

The Trump administration is attempting to transfer ownership of Arizona’s oak flat to a mining company. A dozen south-western Native American tribes have strong ties to the flat, and it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If the mine goes forward as planned, it will consume 11 sq miles, covering Apache burial grounds and sacred sites. Once all the ore is removed, the area will be left with a crater around 1,000 feet deep and almost 2 miles across.

Don’t miss this: will Ivanka and Jared be welcomed back to New York?

As Trump’s reign comes to an end, so too does the status enjoyed by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The couple are expected to return to their former city of New York, but may receive a brutal reception.

I don’t see any indication they are coming back or would be welcome back here,” investigative reporter Andrew Bernstein said. “The investigations are a symbol of the problems the family could face back in New York, while the article in Vanity Fair was interesting not for what it said, but that the author said it so publicly.”

Last Thing: UFO in Utah?

There is some speculation the metal monolith might be the work of a fan of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
There is some speculation the metal monolith might be the work of a fan of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Photograph: DPS Utah

No, it isn’t a scene from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. This monolith is what met a helicopter crew in a remote part of Utah while they were out counting bighorn sheep. The structure is estimated to be about 3 metres high and planted in the ground, but other than that, little is known about its origins. The helicopter pilot, Bret Hutchings, told local news channel KSLTV: “That’s been about the strangest thing that I’ve come across out there in all my years of flying.”

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Molly Blackall

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