First Thing: Trump’s science-skeptic advisor resigns as his election hopes narrow

Molly Blackall
·7 min read

Watch: Dr. Scott Atlas Resigns From Coronavirus Task Force

Good morning.

Donald Trump’s senior advisor on the pandemic has resigned after a controversial four months in office. Scott Atlas repeatedly shunned science-led public health measures including mask-wearing, stay-home orders and social distancing, and frequently clashed with members of the coronavirus taskforce.

As Atlas departs, a new Republican force is attempting to make its name. A group of incoming Republican congresspeople have created the so-called Freedom Force, to combat the “evil” of socialism. The group’s self-professed goal is to become the conservative equivalent of “the Squad”, a team of progressive congresswomen including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar. In a statement that sounded a little like the announcement of the next Marvel film, the Utah congressman-elect, Burgess Owens, told Fox News:

We have the Freedom Force versus Squad; we have a group of people who believe in our country, believe in God, family, respect for women and authority, and another group who hates everything I just mentioned.

<span>Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
  • The supreme court has questioned Trump’s attempt to ban undocumented immigrants from the census, but also seemed hesitant to stop the policy altogether. Census data has long been used to determine how many seats each area gets in Congress, and if successful, Trump’s policy would probably affect immigrant-rich places such as California and Texas, while benefiting whiter, more conservative areas.

Wisconsin and Arizona deal another blow to Trump’s election hopes

Wisconsin’s certification followed a partial recount which added votes to a 20,700 margin for Biden over Trump, but the president has pledged to undo the results in the courts and disqualify almost 240,000 ballots
Wisconsin’s certification followed a partial recount that added votes to a 20,700 margin for Biden over Trump, but the president has pledged to undo the results in the courts and disqualify almost 240,000 ballots Photograph: Nam Y Huh/AP

Wisconsin and Arizona officially recognised Biden’s victory on Monday, meaning that all six of Trump’s attempts to stop states certifying their results have ended in failure. Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, has said that election verification efforts in the state would enable Georgians to have more confidence in the result, and that his office would continue to protect voting rights.

But when Trump leaves the White House in January, the hallmarks of his presidency will remain, writes Richard Wolffe. The emphasis on conspiracy theories, scapegoating, and outright lies was born before the president and will live on long after him.

This is the narrative of the fascist story forever: you are not to blame for your suffering because it was contrived by others – immigrants and outsiders, wielding wealth and power in the shadows.

  • Trump’s claims about election fraud undermine democracy, the former election security chief Chris Krebs, who was fired by the president after challenging his claims, has said. In an interview with CBS 60 minutes, Krebs said he saw “an apparent attempt to undermine confidence in the election, to confuse people, to scare people”.

Joe Biden unveils his economic team as Congress races to prevent a funding shutdown

It is still unclear whether Trump will cooperate with the effort to agree on budgets and prevent a government shutdown.
It is still unclear whether Trump will cooperate with the effort to agree on budgets and prevent a government shutdown. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

The president-elect announced his economic team on Monday, which could include the first female secretary of the treasury in Obama veteran Janet Yellen. Biden was also granted access to the daily presidential briefings, which had been prevented due to Trump’s refusal to concede.

It came as Congress began a two-week race to stop a possible shutdown in federal government, for which funding expires on 11 December. It will be a major test for the cooperation of Republicans and Democrats, but one democratic aide said congressional negotiators were making progress.

Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine is 94% effective

Moderna has received $2.48bn in US federal funds and was a key part of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed.
Moderna has received $2.48bn in US federal funds and was a key part of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed. Photograph: Robin Utrecht/REX/Shutterstock

US company Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine has 94% efficacy, final results from a recent trial suggest. The firm said that nobody who received the vaccination developed a severe disease. Moderna is now submitting its data to regulators in order to obtain an emergency license, and expects the Food and Drug Administration to consider it at a meeting on 17 December.

The news can’t come soon enough, as the US continued to report more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases each day over the holiday weekend. In New York, this led the governor, Andrew Cuomo, to warn of a “serious situation” in hospitals, and appeal for retired physicians to return to work.

  • The San Francisco 49ers will play two home games 700 miles away in Arizona after coronavirus regulations forced the team to relocate temporarily. It is the latest turn in the NFL’s battle with Covid-19.

In other news…

  • Iran has accused Israel of using “electronic devices” to execute a remote assassination of the country’s top nuclear scientist. Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the country’s supreme national security council said that no one was present at the scene of the killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh on Friday, which has dramatically escalated tension in the Middle East.

  • California’s governor has blocked the parole of a Charles Manson follower for the fourth time. Leslie Van Houten has spent almost five decades in prison for helping Manson and others kill the Los Angeles grocer Leno LaBianca and his wife, Rosemary, in August 1969, when she was 19.

  • Laverne Cox has been targeted in a transphobic attack in Los Angeles. The Orange is the New Black star was out with her friend when a man began questioning the friend about their gender, before attacking them.

Stat of the day: Number of affordable homes vulnerable to flooding to triple by 2050

The amount of affordable housing in the US that is vulnerable to coastal flooding is set to triple in the next 30 years due to the impact of the climate crisis. According to research by Climate Central, a New Jersey-based science organisation, 7,668 affordable housing units across the country can be expected to flood in a typical year, but without drastic environmental action, this will rise to 24,519 units by 2050.

Don’t miss this: How the pandemic has impacted gun violence in California’s Bay area

California’s bay area had seen a decline in fatal shootings over the last decade, largely due to innovative community led schemes, but shootings have risen this year. Officials have pointed to changes in the criminal justice system as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, including zero-bail schemes and delayed court dates, or socio-economic changes such as job losses and school closures. Abené Clayton looks at the impact of the pandemic on gun violence.

Last Thing: Deck the halls with… more traditional attire

Healthcare workers were reportedly recognised in a Christmas tree with handmade ornaments.
Healthcare workers were reportedly recognised in a Christmas tree with handmade ornaments. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Melania Trump has unveiled this year’s White House Christmas decoration under the theme “America the Beautiful”, and it’s been described as “strikingly normal”. In previous years, the Trumps have opted for less traditional decorations, with blood red trees or sparse white branches. This year’s festive efforts were the work of 125 volunteers from around the country, who used 62 trees and more than 17,000 bows to pull off the spectacle.

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