The Latest: Female lawmakers want Flournoy as defense chief

Politics
John Ratcliffe

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe looks on as President Donald Trump presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former football coach Lou Holtz, in the Oval Office of the White House, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President-elect Joe Biden (all times local):

8:05 p.m.

More than a half dozen Democratic congresswomen have sent an open letter to President-elect Joe Biden urging him to make Michèle Flournoy the country’s first female defense secretary.

They say in the letter dated Thursday that the selection of Flournoy would be “a symbolic moment for the United States, and for all women who over the years have aspired to careers in national security.” They call Flournoy “eminently qualified to serve.”

Biden has been facing escalating pressure from competing factions within his own party over his defense pick. Black leaders have encouraged the incoming president to select an African American to diversify what has so far been a largely white prospective Cabinet, while others are pushing him to appoint a woman to lead the Pentagon for the first time.

Meanwhile, some progressive groups are opposing Flournoy, citing concerns about her record and private-sector associations.

Among the seven women who signed the letter pushing Flournoy are Reps. Jackie Speier of California, Lois Frankel of Florida and Veronica Escobar from Texas.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN’S TRANSITION TO THE WHITE HOUSE:

President-elect Joe Biden is adjusting the scope of his agenda to meet the challenges of governing with a narrowly divided Congress and the complications of legislating during a raging pandemic.

Read more:

— EXPLAINER: Trump’s failing, monthlong fight against election

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— Dangerously viral: How Trump, supporters spread false claims

— Optimism growing for coronavirus relief bill as pressure builds

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:

4:05 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden says keeping people safe is his first consideration for his Jan. 20 inauguration, making it “highly unlikely” that a million people will pack the National Mall for his swearing-in during the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden was asked about inauguration planning during a news conference Friday in Wilmington, Delaware. He suggested that the festivities could end up looking like the largely virtual convention Democrats held in August, with online activity in the states.

Biden says his team is talking with congressional leaders about their plans for the inauguration. The swearing-in ceremony and a lunch for the new president and vice president are held at the Capitol.

Biden says he wants people to be able to celebrate safely. He says, “There will probably not be a gigantic inaugural parade.” He says details are still being worked out.

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4 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden says the Trump administration has diminished confidence in science so much that it will take some time and effort to rebuild it across the board, including convincing people that the coronavirus vaccines are safe.

He said Friday that he’s bothered by what he said were “wild assertions” President Donald Trump has made about the virus going away on its own. He noted how Trump once suggested that perhaps scientists could come up with a way that injecting bleach would kill the coronavirus.

Biden says that a president’s words matter and that he hopes to especially convince hard-hit Black and Latino communities that the vaccines are safe.

Biden took questions about the pandemic in Wilmington, Delaware, after making comments on the virus’s impact on the U.S. economy.

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3:50 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden says the Trump administration’s plan for distributing an approved coronavirus vaccine to the public lacks important detail.

Biden said Friday that “there’s no detailed plan that we’ve seen” for how to get vaccines out of a container, into syringes and into people’s arms.

He says more equitable distribution is also needed to get the vaccine into underserved communities, not just to drugstores and large retailers. Biden noted that Black people and Latinos are more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people are.

Biden says the “equity side” is an important part of the process, too.

He says he’s working on an “overall plan” and adds that’s why he asked government infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci to be part of Biden’s COVID-19 team and to serve as his chief medical adviser.

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3:35 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden says that the most recent jobs report is “dire” and that there is no time to lose as millions of people have lost their jobs or have seen their incomes slashed.

With the pandemic accelerating across the country, America’s employers sharply scaled back their hiring last month, adding 245,000 jobs, the fewest since April and the fifth straight monthly slowdown. Biden called on Congress to urgently pass an economic stimulus to help turn the corner on the impact that the coronavirus has had on the U.S. economy.

Friday’s report provided the latest evidence that the job market and economy are faltering in the face of a virus that has been shattering daily records for confirmed infections. Economic activity is likely to slow further as the pandemic worsens during the winter months.

“It was grim,” Biden said. “It shows an economy that’s stalling,”

In the past three months, 2.3 million more people are long-term unemployed and deaths are rising.

Biden says, “Americans need help and they need it now.”

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8:15 a.m.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s chief infectious disease expert, says there was never a question that he would accept President-elect Joe Biden’s offer to serve as his chief medical officer and adviser on the coronavirus pandemic.

Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show on Friday, “I said yes right on the spot” after Biden asked him to serve during a conversation on Thursday.

As the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci has served several presidents, Republican and Democratic. But during President Donald Trump’s administration, he has been largely sidelined as Trump gave rosy assessments of the virus and insisted it would fade away.

Fauci has urged rigorous mask-wearing and social distancing, practices that have not often been followed at the White House.

On Thursday, Biden said he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president.

“I told him I thought that was a good idea,” Fauci told NBC.

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8 a.m.

National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe says foreign adversaries are using social media and other platforms to amplify allegations of voter fraud. But he won’t say which countries are using the issue to try to undermine public confidence in the U.S. democratic process.

President Donald Trump and his allies continue to mount new legal cases alleging voter fraud in battleground states since he lost the November presidential election to Joe Biden. But they have been losing in court. And Trump’s own attorney general has declared the Justice Department uncovered no widespread fraud.

Ratcliffe is a Trump loyalist. He says on CBS that U.S. intelligence agencies have no indication that any foreign adversary or criminal group had the ability to change vote results but that they are still analyzing all the information collected.

Ratcliffe told “CBS This Morning” on Friday that he plans to issue a report on foreign election interference in January.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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