First Thing election special: 'Ebola tsar' becomes Biden's chief of staff

Joe Biden names his long-time ally and vocal Trump critic Ron Klain as White House chief of staff. Plus, Texas politician offers $1m for evidence of voter fraud

Klain, left, and Biden
Klain, left, and Biden. Klain led the Obama administration’s response to Ebola, and served as Biden’s chief of staff during his vice-presidency. Photograph: Larry Downing/Reuters

Good morning.

Joe Biden has named Ron Klain, who led the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak, as his chief of staff. Klain, who has been an outspoken critic of Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, is a White House veteran and long-time Biden ally. The pair first worked together in the 1980s, and Klain went on to work on Biden’s 1988 and 2008 presidential campaigns before serving as his chief of staff in the early days of the Biden vice-presidency.

Announcing his appointment, Biden said Klain had been “invaluable to me over the many years that we have worked together” and praised his experience in tackling the 2008 financial crash and the Ebola outbreak – both useful additions to a resumé in the current public health and economic crisis.

His deep, varied experience and capacity to work with people all across the political spectrum is precisely what I need in a White House chief of staff as we confront this moment of crisis and bring our country together again,” Biden said.

  • The political response to coronavirus must combine economic recovery with virus control, public health researchers and economists have said. Gregg Gonsalves, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Yale School of Medicine, said that throughout the pandemic “economists were saying the same thing as public health – that you have to stop the virus”.

The pressure on Trump is reaching boiling point

Thousands celebrate after news organisations called the 2020 presidential election for Joe Biden at Black Lives Matter plaza in Washington last week
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Thousands celebrate after news organisations called the 2020 presidential election for Joe Biden at Black Lives Matter plaza in Washington last week. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

Biden’s popular vote lead has grown to more than 5 million votes, adding to mounting pressure for Donald Trump to finally concede the election. Instead, Trump has blocked Biden’s access to intelligence briefings and federal funding, the latter of which prevents background investigations and security clearances for prospective staff.

Senior Republicans are becoming increasingly alarmed by his actions, with the former US senator and former defence secretary William Cohen calling Trump’s behavior “more akin to a dictatorship than a democracy”. Senator Bernie Sanders said yesterday that Republican senators were “afraid to stand up” to Trump, despite knowing he had lost. “One of the other things we should all be nervous about and fearful about is the degree to which Trump intimidates and scares the hell out of Republican members of Congress,” he said.

Bernie Sanders says Republicans are afraid to stand up to Trump following election loss – video

Experts have said there is no constitutional path for Trump to remain in power. In this piece, they answer questions about whether the president can actually stage a coup.

There’s a strange fascination with various imagined dark scenarios, perhaps involving renegade state legislatures, but this is more dystopian fiction than anything likely to happen,” said Richard Pildes, a law professor at New York University.

  • What’s next for Pence? As he waves goodbye to the White House, the former governor of Indiana might return to conservative talk radio, or even start planning his own presidential bid.

  • The Trump defeat is a blow to rightwing populists around the world, some of whom are yet to acknowledge Biden’s victory. Is the “populist wave” of recent years beginning to subside?

A Texas politician has offered $1m for proof of voter fraud

Texas, where Dan Patrick (pictured) is lieutenant govenor, became the first US state to surpass 1m infections on Wednesday.
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Texas, where Dan Patrick is lieutenant governor, became the first US state to surpass 1m infections on Wednesday. Photograph: Ricardo Brazziell/AP

An ultra-conservative Texas politician has offered $1m for citizens to provide evidence of voter fraud. The lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, said the money was there to “incentivise, encourage and reward” citizens, and would be paid in $25,000 chunks to every person who provided information that led to a conviction. This isn’t Patrick’s first foray into the political limelight – he made headlines earlier this year when he said that seniors would rather die than let the pandemic harm the economy.

  • Twitter has flagged another Trump conspiracy theory that pushed claims of ballot fraud as ‘misleading’ – but not before it was shared more than 70,000 times. The platform has flagged more than 40 tweets and retweets on Trump’s profile for misinformation in the days since the election.

In other election news

Trump marks Veterans Day in first official appearance since Biden win – video
  • Trump made his first public appearance since the election result was announced yesterday, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to mark Veterans Day. It was the president’s first outing since his loss to Biden, other than to play golf.

  • Pfizer’s CEO sold $5.6m worth of shares after an interim analysis found its coronavirus vaccine was more than 90% effective. The company did not participate in Trump’s Operation Warp Speed drug development programme and used $2bn of its own money to develop the vaccine.

  • US allies have welcomed Biden’s presidency as a crucial opportunity to tackle the climate crisis, with both Boris Johnson and France’s Emmanuel Macron making green action their top priority for cooperation with the president-elect.

Stat of the day

As of Wednesday, judges in six states had thrown out at least 13 lawsuits brought by the Trump campaign to challenge the election result. Meanwhile, the proportion of Biden’s win in the popular vote rose to 50.8% on Wednesday, the highest percentage for a challenger since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932.

Don’t miss this

Georgia flipped to the Democrats for the first time in 28 years this election, and the shift has drawn attention to the organisational power of Black women, whose large-scale campaigning efforts appear to have led to a massive turnout among people of colour.

Last Thing: congresswomen head to the thrift shops

Cori Bush dances with supporters during her election night watch party at campaign headquarters in St Louis, Missouri
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Cori Bush dances with supporters during her election night watch party at campaign headquarters in St Louis, Missouri. Photograph: Michael B Thomas/Getty Images

Cori Bush, who made history this year when she became the first Black woman to be elected to Congress in Missouri, reminded us all of the realities of life in the limelight last night, tweeting that she was going thrift shopping to buy new clothes for her role and offering to do a “fashion show”.

Bush, a single mother to two children, left full-time work as an ordained pastor and nurse to run for office. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has been open about going thrift shopping and borrowing clothes after leaving her job as a waitress to go to Congress, offered to go shopping with her, while Ayanna Pressley offered makeup tips.

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