USA TODAY’s coverage of the 2020 election and President-elect Joe Biden’s transition continues this week as he rolls out more of his picks for top jobs in his administration. Meanwhile, the remaining final states certify their vote counts before the Electoral College ballots are officially cast Monday.

President Donald Trump has cleared the way for Biden’s team to use federal resources and get briefings during the transition, although Trump has yet to formally concede the race.

Be sure to refresh this page often to get the latest information on the election and the transition.

Progressives criticize Biden appointing Fudge to HUD instead of Agriculture

A progressive climate group issued a blistering statement against President-elect Joe Biden for selecting Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development rather than the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Sunrise Movement Executive Director Varshini Prakash said in a statement Thursday that it is “frustrating” that Fudge was “sidestepped to head the USDA” in favor of former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as civil rights and Black women’s groups, initially had advocated for Fudge to be selected to lead USDA. Fudge is head of the House Subcommittee on Nutrition and Oversight as part of her service on the House Agriculture Committee.

“While we believe Rep. Fudge can excel at any leadership position, we share the confusion of many about this move and are left to believe this choice stems from shallow racial stereotypes about the office,” Prakash said in the statement.

Prakash went on to criticize Vilsack, whom Biden is expected to nominate as Agriculture secretary. She said that under his tenure during the Obama administration, Vilsack “was particularly disgraceful for Black farmers.”

“If Biden appoints Vilsack to lead the USDA, it would be a slap in the face to Black Americans who delivered the election to Joe Biden,” she said. “Vilsack failed Black farmers before – it’s not necessary to give him another shot when other candidates are well qualified for the role.”

Other progressive activist organizations have also criticized Biden’s decision to choose Vilsack to lead USDA.

“It is a huge mistake by President-elect Biden’s transition team to completely dismiss the swift, strong, and clear reaction against Tom Vilsack from the Black voters who delivered Biden his victory and the rural voters he most needs to win over,” said Shawn Sebastian, a senior strategist at People’s Action, a grassroots organizing network.

Asked during a Thursday Congressional Progressive Caucus conference call with reporters whether Vilsack’s appointment was a “missed opportunity,” Rep.-elect Cori Bush said it was not, but noted it was an “opportunity for other people to shine.”

On Thursday, Fudge attempted to tamp down concerns about Biden’s decision to choose Vilsack over her.

During an interview with the 19th News, she said that some issues she would have addressed as Agriculture secretary, like hunger, she can do leading HUD.

“Everybody knows how passionate I am about feeding hungry children and school lunches and the kinds of things we do with food and nutrition. It is my passion. I can do so much of the same things with HUD,” Fudge said during an interview with 19th News.

She noted that she has also spoken to Vilsack “about the opportunities to work together.” She also said that she stands with Biden’s decision to choose Vilsack to head USDA.

“I know that he’s going to be somewhat controversial, but I believe that the President-elect has made a decision, and that he is putting together a team that he feels comfortable with and that can carry on his agenda,” she said. “And I’m just going to believe that he knows exactly what he’s doing. And I’m on the team.”

– Rebecca Morin

Doug Emhoff, Kamala Harris’ husband, joins faculty at Georgetown Law

Doug Emhoff, the incoming second gentleman, is joining the faculty at Georgetown Law, where he will be teaching a class focused on media and entertainment.

Emhoff, husband to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, will serve as a “distinguished visitor from practice” and as a distinguished fellow of the Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy.

“I’ve long wanted to teach and serve the next generation of young lawyers,” Emhoff said in a statement. “I couldn’t be more excited to join the Georgetown community.”

Emhoff, an entertainment lawyer, was a partner at law firm DLA Piper, but took a leave of absence after Harris was named President-elect Joe Biden’s running mate. Emhoff would permanently leave his position at DLA Piper by Inauguration Day, the Biden-Harris campaign said last month.

Emhoff’s first class will be “Entertainment Law Disputes” for the school’s upcoming spring semester.

Jill Biden, the incoming first lady, previously said she plans to teach while she and her husband are in the White House. She was a full-time community college professor when Biden was vice president in the Obama Administration. Second lady Karen Pence teaches art part-time at an elementary school.

– Rebecca Morin

Trump plots anti-Biden legal strategy in White House meeting with state attorneys general

President Donald Trump sat down with a group of Republican attorneys general Thursday as they plotted a legal strategy in a long-shot bid to overturn Joe Biden’s election.

The president’s lunch meeting guests included Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who filed a lawsuit this week asking the Supreme Court to invalidate the Electoral College votes of four pivotal states Biden won: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Few if any legal analysts expect the Supreme Court to take up the Texas case. But Trump has filed a legal brief seeking to join the lawsuit, and at least 17 GOP attorneys general have expressed support as well.

“The Supreme Court has a chance to save our Country from the greatest Election abuse in the history of the United States,” Trump tweeted a few hours before seeing about a dozen Republican attorneys general at the White House.

President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Monday.

Supreme Court filings have included Trump’s baseless allegations of election fraud and chicanery over mail-in balloting, claims that have been rejected by judges and bipartisan election officials across the country.

The Texas claim before the Supreme Court is likely to meet a similar fate, analysts said. Some noted that Paxton, the attorney general in Texas, has been indicted on securities fraud allegations, and may be seeking to curry favor with Trump. Paxton has denied the charges.

“Paxton’s filing is both legally and factually weak, a document aimed more at appeasing the President (and perhaps a way to win a pardon) than to gain a victory at the Supreme Court,” said Rick Hasen, a professor specializing in election law at University of California at Irvine School of Law.

In addition to Paxton, Trump met at the White House with Republican AGs from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina and Utah.

In a statement, the White House did not mention the Supreme Court case, saying only that Trump planned to “discuss issues important to their citizens and the country, and ways to continue to advance the shared federal-state partnership.”

– David Jackson

Biden formally announces positions for Fudge, Vilsack, Rice and Tai

President-elect Joe Biden officially named four members of his incoming administration Thursday, including appointing Susan Rice as director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

Biden also confirmed that he chose former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as secretary of Agriculture, Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio as secretary of Housing and Urban Development and House staffer Katherine Tai as U.S. Trade Representative.

“The roles they will take on are where the rubber meets the road — where competent and crisis-tested governance can make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, enhancing the dignity, equity, security, and prosperity of the day-to-day lives of Americans,” Biden said in a statement.

Rice, a former national security adviser and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during the Obama administration, had been considered as Biden’s vice president and as secretary of State. But she faced the prospect of a contentious Senate confirmation hearing because of disputes about the deaths of U.S. officials in Libya.

Biden’s choice of Rice illustrates, as with his choice of retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of Defense, how the former vice president wants domestic advisers experienced in foreign affairs.

Vilsack has already served as secretary of agriculture and has been supported by farm-state lawmakers of both parties. Key advisers including Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., and the Congressional Black Caucus had advocated a Cabinet post for Fudge. And Tai is well-respected in Congress after serving as chief lawyer for trade on the House Ways and Means Committee and as chief counsel for China trade enforcement in the trade representative’s office.

– Bart Jansen

Biden to campaign in Georgia for Senate Democrats

President-elect Joe Biden is heading to Georgia on Tuesday to campaign for Democratic candidates in two runoff elections that will determine control of the Senate.

Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are trying to defend their seats against Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, respectively. Early voting starts Monday and ends Jan. 5.

The Senate now has 50 Republicans and 48 members who caucus with Democrats. If both challengers won, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris could break ties in favor of Biden’s priorities.

Georgia has favored Republicans statewide reliably for decades. But Biden beat President Donald Trump after making two campaign stops in the campaign’s final week and having former President Barack Obama visit, too.

Biden’s transition announced Thursday he would campaign in Atlanta for the Democratic candidates.

Vice President Mike Pence will hold a rally for Loeffler and Perdue on Thursday.

– Bart Jansen

Senate fails to block Trump administration’s controversial arms deal with the UAE

A push to block the Trump administration from selling billions of dollars in weapons to the United Arab Emirates failed in the Senate on Wednesday, despite bipartisan opposition to the transfer of high-tech military drones and stealth F-35 fighter jets to the Arab nation.

Those items were part of a broader $23 billion weapons deal, which the administration is trying to finalize before President Donald Trump leaves office.

The push to halt the weapons deal highlights an ongoing rift between Congress and the White House over the Trump administration’s aggressive push to sell U.S.-made arms to its allies in the Middle East. Last year, the House and Senate passed a similar measure aimed at blocking an $8 billion weapons sale to Saudi Arabia and its neighbors, but Trump vetoed it.

– Deirdre Shesgreen

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Politics updates: Progressives criticize Biden for USDA nomination



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