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‘Compromise Is Within Reach,’ McConnell Says of Stimulus Talks

Senator Mitch McConnell said negotiations on a new round of coronavirus relief were closer to agreement, but did not endorse a $908 billion compromise measure embraced by Democratic leaders.

“It has always been about policy differences. We have two sides with two different visions for the best way to support our nation through what we hope will be the last chapter of the pandemic. Now that isn’t new. We have disagreements all the time. Our system can handle disagreements. But both sides have to be willing to compile their commonalities and make law here. Our people are hurting. But they’re ready to finish this fight. Congress should not keep them waiting for reinforcements that should have arrived, literally, months ago. So compromise is within reach. We know where we agree, we can do this. Let me say it again, we can do this and we need to do this. So let’s be about actually making a law.” “Speaker Pelosi and I made a new offer to Leader McConnell and Leader McCarthy on Monday in hopes of jumpstarting serious negotiations, and Leader McConnell responded by circulating another version of a partisan Republican-only draft. So in the spirit of compromise, Speaker Pelosi and I believe the bipartisan framework introduced by a group of eight senators on Tuesday should be used as the basis, the framework, for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations. The need to act is urgent, and we believe that with good faith negotiations we could very well come to an agreement. We are already much closer to an agreement because of the bipartisan talks these eight senators have done — have created. And we can build off their momentum.”

Senator Mitch McConnell said negotiations on a new round of coronavirus relief were closer to agreement, but did not endorse a $908 billion compromise measure embraced by Democratic leaders.CreditCredit…Al Drago for The New York Times

Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, and Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, talked Thursday about must-pass government funding legislation and a new coronavirus relief package amid pressure from rank-and-file members for a bipartisan compromise.

A spokesman for the Democratic speaker, Drew Hammill, said the conversation early Thursday afternoon focused on “their shared commitment to completing an omnibus and Covid relief as soon as possible.”

Mr. McConnell, a Republican, had been largely removed from discussions with Ms. Pelosi over a new stimulus bill since the two chambers enacted a sweeping $2.2 trillion package in March. Instead, as he worked to wrangle Republican support behind a series of targeted bills, Trump administration officials led discussions with Ms. Pelosi over a possible deal.

The phone call between the two congressional leaders came after Mr. McConnell left the door open to reaching a deal on a new round of stimulus to address the pandemic, but stopped short of endorsing a $908 billion compromise plan Democrats embraced on Wednesday, saying it did not represent a genuine concession.

Mr. McConnell said it had been “heartening to see a few hopeful signs” this week in stimulus relief negotiations.

“Compromise is within reach,” Mr. McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor. “We know where we agree. We can do this. Let me say it again: We can do this, and we need to do this. So let’s be about actually making a law.”

Some Republican senators signaled openness to embracing the $908 billion framework that Democratic leaders had endorsed as a baseline for restarting negotiations.

“I’ve never been more hopeful that we’ll get a bill,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

President-elect Joe Biden with his mask at an appearance in Wilmington, Del., last month.
Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on Thursday that on his first day as president, he would ask Americans to wear masks for 100 days.

“Just 100 days to mask,” Mr. Biden said in an interview on CNN on Thursday. “Not forever. 100 days. And I think we’ll see a significant reduction.”

The president-elect also said he had asked Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, to play a central role in his administration.

“I asked him to stay on in the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents, and I asked him to be a chief medical adviser for me as well, and be part of the Covid team,” Mr. Biden said in the interview, adding that he had spoken with Dr. Fauci earlier in the day.

His remarks come as many experts expect that the United States is headed into an especially brutal stage of the coronavirus pandemic, even as hopeful signs for a vaccine emerge.

Representatives for Mr. Biden did not immediately respond to a question about whether Dr. Fauci had accepted the offer.

President Trump has been overtly critical of Dr. Fauci and frequently ignored the advice of health experts throughout the pandemic, despite testing positive for the coronavirus weeks before Election Day.

Mr. Biden also expressed concern about the prospect of Mr. Trump weighing pre-emptive pardons including of Mr. Trump’s children.

“It concerns me in terms of what kind of precedent it sets, and how the rest of the world looks at us as a nation of laws and justice,” he said.

But Mr. Biden stressed, as he has before, that he will defer to his Justice Department for any possible response on such matter, emphasizing the importance of an independent department.

“I’m not going to be telling them what they have to do and don’t have to do,” he said. “I’m not going to be saying, ‘Go prosecute A, B or C,’ I’m not going to be telling them. That’s not the role. It’s not my Justice Department. It’s the people’s Justice Department.”

Election workers work with ballots on Election Day in Milwaukee.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the Trump campaign’s lawsuit that aimed to invalidate more than 200,000 votes cast in two of the state’s Democratic bastions, closing off yet another legal avenue by which the outgoing president has tried to overturn the results of the general election.

The conservative court’s 4-to-3 vote to decline to take the case puts a stop to one part of a multipronged attempt by President Trump and his supporters to upend the legality of Wisconsin’s entire system of absentee voting, which the Trump campaign had sought to cast as violating state law.

The court’s majority of three liberal justices and one conservative justice wrote that the Wisconsin Supreme Court was not the proper venue for the Trump campaign’s lawsuit and suggested it refile in a lower state court.

Late Thursday the Trump campaign’s Wisconsin lawyer, James Troupis, filed new, separate, lawsuits in Dane County and Milwaukee County, aiming to invalidate votes in the two Democratic bastions covered by the case the Supreme Court declined to hear.

But Mr. Troupis and the Trump campaign are running short on time for any legal action to change the reality of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s 20,000-vote victory in Wisconsin. The deadline to exhaust legal challenges to state certifications is Tuesday and the Electoral College is set to meet to formally vote to make Mr. Biden the next president on Dec. 14.

The Trump campaign late Wednesday filed a similar lawsuit in federal court in Milwaukee seeking to undo the result of the election entirely and have Wisconsin’s 10 Electoral College votes be determined by its Republican-controlled state legislature. Two other suits — one in the federal courts and another pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court — are also seeking to challenge the state’s election.

Unlike their claims of electoral malfeasance elsewhere, the Trump campaign and its Republican allies in the state have not argued the presidential election in Wisconsin was marred by fraud.

“I’ve yet to see a credible claim of fraudulent activity during this election,” Dean Knudson, a Republican member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said during the body’s meeting on Tuesday. “The Trump campaign has not made any claims of fraud in this election. These are disputes in matters of law.”

Mr. Troupis, has for the last two weeks argued that the acceptance of in-person absentee ballots by municipal clerks before Election Day violated state law — even though local elections officials were doing so at the direction of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, a bipartisan body that oversees the state’s elections.

The Trump lawsuit also argued that municipal clerks should not have been allowed to complete address forms for witnesses to absentee ballots, which the elections commission gave them permission to do. State law requires absentee voters to have witnesses sign their ballot envelopes. It also asked the court to invalidate ballots that were collected by the Madison municipal clerk at October gatherings in city parks, though those events were also blessed by the elections commission.

The Trump campaign only challenged ballots in Milwaukee County and Dane County, which includes Madison, the state capital and home of the flagship University of Wisconsin campus. The two counties are the largest and most Democratic in the state.

The Trump campaign’s lawsuit, if it had been successful, would not necessarily have invalidated ballots cast through the manner it claims were illegal. It simply would have reduced the number of votes from the state’s two most Democratic counties without addressing ballots cast in an identical manner in the state’s other 70 counties.

Alan Feuer contributed reporting.

President Trump in the Oval Office on Thursday.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Even in defeat, President Trump continued to raise money at some of the fastest rates of the year, pulling in $207.5 million in the month since Election Day with the Republican National Committee as he has stoked unfounded fears of election fraud and made baseless claims to undermine the legitimacy of the election.

Mr. Trump’s campaign apparatus has continued to aggressively solicit donations under the guise of supporting his various legal challenges to the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr., but as of now 75 percent of donations go to to a new political action committee that Mr. Trump formed in mid-November and 25 percent to the Republican Party. Only if a donor gives more than $6,000 do those funds go to Mr. Trump’s formal “recount” account.

His campaign did not release a breakdown of how the $207.5 million was divided, with funds split between the new PAC, paying off his campaign debts, the R.N.C. and two committees operated jointly by the party and the campaign.

“These tremendous fund-raising numbers show President Trump remains the leader and source of energy for the Republican Party,” Bill Stepien, Mr. Trump’s campaign manager, said in a statement.

Mr. Trump, who has not formally conceded the 2020 race but has begun talking about running again in 2024, has repeatedly challenged the results in court with virtually no success.

In his statement, Mr. Stepien added that the money “also positions President Trump to continue leading the fight to clean up our corrupt elections process in so many areas around the country, and to build on gains from the 2020 elections so we can take back the House and build on our Senate majority in 2022.”

The Thursday announcement came on a final filing deadline of the 2020 race with the Federal Election Commission, which covers the period from Oct. 15 to Nov. 23. During that period, the R.N.C., Mr. Trump’s campaign and their shared committees raised a combined $495 million, campaign officials announced.

As of early evening, only the R.N.C. had filed its report, which showed it ended the period with $58.8 million cash on hand. As Mr. Trump has contested the results in multiple venues, the party had spent more than $6 million on legal bills, with $1.4 million going to the Jones Day law firm, $1.3 million to King and Spalding and more than $920,000 to Consovoy McCarthy.

Tina Flournoy, a top aide to former President Bill Clinton with three decades of political, governmental and union experience, will serve as chief of staff to Vice President Kamala Harris, transition officials announced on Thursday, a move that underscores the influence of veteran officials with deep ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Ms. Harris has also tapped Nancy McEldowney, a former United States ambassador to Bulgaria who served as a National Security Council aide under Mr. Clinton in the 1990s, as her national security adviser.

And Rohini Kosoglu, who served as chief of staff to Ms. Harris in the Senate and played a central role on her presidential campaign, will be the vice president’s domestic policy adviser. Ms. Kosoglu is one of the few people who worked for Ms. Harris before she was chosen as Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s running mate to be given a top job in the new administration.

Earlier this week, Ms. Harris appointed Symone Sanders and Ashley Etienne, two Black women, to head her communications team. Thursday’s selection of Ms. Flournoy, who is of Jamaican and Indian descent, and Ms. Kosoglu, who is of South Asian descent, filled out a roster of top aides who are almost all women of color, in keeping with the campaign’s pledge to make the Biden White House the most diverse and representative in history.

Some Black Democrats are pressing Mr. Biden to do more when it comes to hiring in the West Wing and in cabinet positions. “From all I hear, Black people have been given fair consideration,” Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina and a close Biden ally, told The Hill last week. “I want to see where the process leads to, what it produces. But so far it’s not good.”

Ms. Flournoy is a well-known Democratic operative who is close to Minyon Moore, the veteran Clinton aide whom Ms. Harris has tapped to help guide her transition planning.

She has deep roots in organized labor, having served as a top official at the American Federation of Teachers before joining the former president’s staff in 2013.

Her career in government dates back to the early 1990s, when she served as general counsel for the 1992 Democratic convention, as a Democratic National Committee official, and as an aide in the White House personnel office during the Clinton administration.

Ms. Kosoglu, who helped hammer out the details of the Affordable Care Act as a Senate Democratic staffer a decade ago, is expected to serve as a bridge to the upper chamber. Before joining Ms. Harris’s staff in the Senate, she served as a policy adviser to Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, and as a legislative aide to Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan.

Alyssa Farah wrote in her resignation letter that she was leaving “to pursue new opportunities.”
Credit…Oliver Contreras for The New York Times

Alyssa Farah resigned on Thursday from her post as the White House communications director, adding to the growing pile of evidence that President Trump’s staff is acknowledging his loss despite his refusal to do so.

Ms. Farah, who was previously the press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence and the Defense Department, did not mention the election in her resignation letter, saying only that she was leaving “to pursue new opportunities.”

She praised Mr. Trump’s Middle East policy, tax cuts and judicial nominations, as well as the administration’s Operation Warp Speed program to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

“I am deeply proud of the incredible things we were able to accomplish to make our country stronger, safer and more secure,” she wrote.

Mr. Trump has been insisting falsely that the outcome of the election was unclear, even though all of the swing states whose results he was challenging have certified President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s win. But the presidential transition is well underway.

Ms. Farah’s resignation comes less than a week after Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris announced the communications team for their incoming administration. When Mr. Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20, his deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, will become the White House communications director.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, according to an A.P. article Wednesday, had been offered and turned down the position of Interior secretary.
Credit…Eddie Moore/The Albuquerque Journal, via Associated Press

Senator-elect Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico used a private meeting on Thursday with top advisers to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to criticize the incoming administration’s treatment of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, a Democrat thought to be in line for a cabinet post.

One day after reports surfaced that Ms. Lujan Grisham had been offered, and turned down, the position of Interior secretary, Mr. Luján rebuked the incoming White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, and other senior Biden officials for the leak, according to a Democrat familiar with the discussion. The Democrat requested anonymity to discuss the virtual meeting between members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Mr. Klain and the Biden transition co-chairmen Jeffrey Zients and Ted Kaufman.

Hispanic lawmakers have been promoting Ms. Lujan Grisham to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Mr. Klain expressed regret and said such leaks were deeply frustrating.

The offer of a position Ms. Lujan Grisham was not seeking and the subsequent revelation that she declined the post infuriated members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a group that she was a member of before being elected governor in 2018. The group has believed she was a far better fit for health secretary given her earlier service as New Mexico’s health secretary.

But the frustration revealed a broader concern that Latinos have been chosen for few high-ranking positions in the Biden administration. Homeland Security-nominee Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban-American, is the only Hispanic tapped so far for a cabinet job. Mr. Luján and other Hispanic lawmakers on Thursday pressed for a pair of Latinos thought to be contenders for attorney general: Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

Democratic members of Congress are becoming more outspoken about their preferences for the cabinet. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Representative James E. Clyburn, the highest ranking Black lawmaker, want more African-Americans named to senior positions.

A number of lawmakers want Representative Deb Haaland of New Mexico, a Native American, to be named Interior secretary, making the offer to Ms. Lujan Grisham, another New Mexican, that much more awkward.

It remains unclear whether Ms. Lujan Grisham may still be offered the Department of Health and Human Services. On Thursday, a would-be rival for the post, Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, told reporters she would not become Mr. Biden’s health secretary.

Counted ballots stored behind a secure fence in November at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.
Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

Pennsylvania Republicans asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to block a ruling from the state’s highest court that had rejected a challenge to the statewide use of mail ballots. The request faced substantial legal hurdles, as it was filed long after the enactment of the challenged statute that allowed mailed ballots and concerned questions of state rather than federal law.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled against the plaintiffs, led by Representative Mike Kelly, a Republican, on the first ground, saying they could have challenged a 2019 law allowing vote by mail for any reason more than a year ago. “The want of due diligence demonstrated in this matter is unmistakable,” the court said.

The plaintiffs had asked the state court to nullify mailed ballots after the fact or to direct the State Legislature to pick Pennsylvania’s electors.

The filing in the U.S. Supreme Court sought an order telling state officials not to take further actions to certify the vote in Pennsylvania while the plaintiffs pursued an appeal. The request was directed to Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the member of the court responsible for emergency applications concerning rulings in the state.

Justice Alito would ordinarily refer such requests to the full court, but that is not certain in this case, which takes issue with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s interpretation of state law. The U.S. Supreme Court does not ordinarily second-guess such rulings.

It is possible, then, that Justice Alito will deny the application on his own.

Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state, spoke with the news media at the State Capitol in Atlanta on Wednesday.
Credit…Erik S. Lesser/EPA, via Shutterstock

ATLANTA — Georgia, perhaps more than any other state in the nation, continues to be haunted by a sort of zombie campaign to produce a Trump victory, one month after Election Day.

Even though Gov. Brian Kemp has already certified President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory in the state, his fellow Republicans plan to hold a pair of State Senate committee hearings Thursday that are likely to dig into the question of whether the state’s election was, as President Trump falsely puts it, “rigged.”

Mr. Trump will be making his case in person on Saturday at a rally on behalf of the state’s incumbent Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, in Valdosta ahead of a double January runoff that will determine the balance of power in the upper chamber.

On Thursday, Democrats announced that former President Barack Obama would host a virtual rally on Friday for the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, Ms. Loeffler and Mr. Perdue’s Democratic challengers. Mr. Obama will be joined by Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia legislator and candidate for governor who has championed voting rights in the state.

Many of the state’s Republicans continue to expend significant effort — and contort themselves into political pretzels — to navigate the president’s outrage over the fact that he lost the state, in the hope of demonstrating to his supporters that they are doing all they can to root out any trace of fraud to back Mr. Trump’s baseless claims.

For some Republicans, the most urgent concern is that the president’s ongoing effort to undermine faith in the election process will depress conservative turnout in the Jan. 5 runoff.

Gabriel Sterling, a Georgia elections official, called on President Trump to condemn threats and violence during a news conference in Atlanta.
Credit…Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Associated Press

In his urgent demand on Monday that President Trump condemn his angry supporters who are threatening workers and officials overseeing the 2020 vote, a Georgia elections official focused on an animated image of a hanging noose that had been sent to a young voting-machine technician.

“It’s just wrong,” the official, Gabriel Sterling, a Republican, said at a news conference. “I can’t begin to explain the level of anger I have over this.”

But the technician in Georgia is not alone. Far from it.

Across the nation, election officials and their staff have been bombarded with emails, telephone calls and letters brimming with menace and threats of violence, the poisonous fallout of an election in which Mr. Trump has stoked baseless claims of election fraud on a daily basis.

Mr. Trump on Thursday dismissed Attorney General William P. Barr’s recent determination that no widespread fraud existed in the election, calling Mr. Barr’s failure to corroborate his claims “a disappointment, to be honest.”

Asked if he still had confidence in Mr. Barr, Mr. Trump replied, “ask me that in a number of weeks from now” — even though he has less than two months left in office.

Amber McReynolds, the head of the National Vote at Home Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes voting by mail, said she had experienced a spike in online threats since Election Day.Officials in battleground states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada and Arizona also have been threatened, as well as election officers in less contested states like Virginia and Kentucky, according to published reports and interviews with some of the targets.

 Many of the president’s allies believe his talk of another run in 2024, when he will be 78 years old, is more about maintaining relevance.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

With President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. rolling out a steady list of picks for top jobs and Congress working to pass a compromise stimulus plan, much of Washington appears to be moving on from the election theatrics that unfolded over much of last month.

Even President Trump, while still challenging the results through the narrowing channels that remain, also appears to at least be considering next moves.

He made clear that he remained deeply committed to fighting the election outcome, releasing a 46-minute videotaped screed on Wednesday in which he spoke angrily and complained of a “rigged” vote. It came the day after his own attorney general, William P. Barr, said that despite inquiries from the Justice Department and the F.B.I., “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”

Still, Mr. Trump has been signaling that he may set his sights on becoming only the second president in American history to win another term after being defeated. He has also discussed steps he might take to insulate himself before the 2024 presidential election, such as pre-emptively pardoning members of his family before leaving office.

How serious he is remains to be seen. Many allies believe the president’s talk of another run in 2024, when he will be 78 years old, is more about maintaining relevance, enabling him to raise funds, soothe his wounded pride and try to shed the label of loser.

But even if it is only for show, Mr. Trump’s talk of a 2024 campaign has already frozen the Republican field and could delay the emergence of a new generation of leaders while keeping the party tethered to a politically polarizing figure for months or years.