Friday's politics & policy stories

Emergency Fed lending programs to expire under Mnuchin

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Photo: Caroline Brehman-Pool via Getty

The Treasury Department will not extend several Federal Reserve lending programs set to expire by year's end that were put in place at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: There is concern that pulling the plug on these loan programs will negatively impact the still-fragile economy. Eliminating the programs could hobble the Fed and make it harder to revive similar assistance under a new Congress.

Donald Trump Jr. tests positive for coronavirus

Donald Trump Jr. speaking at CPAC in February 2020. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Donald Trump Jr. tested positive for the coronavirus at the beginning of this week and has been in quarantine, though he is not experiencing any symptoms, according to a spokesperson for the president's son.

Why it matters: His diagnosis adds to the list of people associated with President Trump who have been infected by the virus, including the president himself.

Nov 20, 2020 - Health

Trump announces rules aimed at lowering prescription drug prices

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump on Friday announced new regulations aimed at lowering the prices Americans pay for many prescription drugs.

Between the lines: It is unclear whether the rules can overcome expected legal challenges from the pharmaceutical industry, or if the incoming Biden administration will accept the regulations.

Updated Nov 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Georgia certifies election results

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Georgia election officials and Gov. Brian Kemp (R) certified the state's election results on Friday, AP reports.

Why it matters: President-elect Biden now officially wins the state by a little more than 12,600 votes, though the Trump campaign has until Tuesday to request a recount since the margin is within 0.5%.

Nov 20, 2020 - Health

Pentagon to tighten restrictions after civilian leaders test positive for COVID-19

Aerial view of the Pentagon building. Photo: Bill Clark / Getty Images

The Pentagon plans to add health restrictions for its workforce in light of a possible coronavirus outbreak among its civilian leaders, Politico reported Friday.

Why it matters: The added layers of security come on the heels of a spike in COVID-19 cases in the Washington, D.C. area, which has led to infections among top officials including temporary Pentagon Policy Chief Anthony Tata, Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard Adm. Charles Ray and Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Gary Thomas.

Scoop: Trump lawyers to avoid Michigan lawmaker meeting after COVID exposure

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Rudy Giuliani and other key members of President Trump's outside legal team won't be attending today's meeting with two Michigan lawmakers because they've been exposed to the coronavirus, two sources familiar with the internal discussions tell Axios.

Why it matters: This added turmoil inside the president's legal operation comes at a time when the president is urging Republican state lawmakers to interfere with the electoral process and reverse Joe Biden's victory to a Trump win.

Nov 20, 2020 - Economy & Business

U.S. lays groundwork for self-driving car standards

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

U.S. auto safety regulators began a regulatory process on Thursday to solicit public input on how to ensure the safety of future self-driving vehicles.

Why it matters: The proposed rulemaking is a step toward the adoption of new safety standards for autonomous vehicles, but it could be years before any rules are final.

Nov 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden lawyer: "No chance" that Trump's Electoral College effort works

President-elect Joe Biden's legal adviser Bob Bauer called President Trump's efforts to get Republican lawmakers to intervene in the Electoral College "an abuse of office," "appalling" and "pathetic" — and said there is "no chance" it will work.

Driving the news: Bauer spoke with reporters ahead of Trump's expected meeting today at the White House with GOP leaders in the Michigan Legislature and Georgia's expected certification of Biden's win in that state.

Biden announces another wave of key White House hires

Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President-elect Biden's transition team on Friday named four new top administration hires, including Cathy Russell as director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel.

Why it matters: Biden and incoming First Lady Jill Biden are turning to more of their own tested allies to guide both policy and outreach.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Nov 20, 2020 - Technology

Microsoft's next phase of climate lobbying

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Microsoft has brought on the government affairs firm Lot Sixteen to lobby on sustainability and climate change, a newly public filing shows.

Why it matters: While Microsoft has lots of in-house and outside lobbyists working on all sorts of things, it's the first time an outside firm will be lobbying only on climate and environmental topics, Microsoft confirmed.

Sen. Rick Scott tests positive for COVID-19

Photo: Megan Varner/Getty Images

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) tweeted Friday that he tested positive for the coronavirus and is experiencing mild symptoms.

The state of play: Scott is the second Republican senator to test positive this week, following Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley. Scott has already been in quarantine and says he'll now continue working from home until it's safe for him to return to Washington, D.C.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Nov 20, 2020 - Energy & Environment

How Biden's win could juice electric vehicle growth

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President-elect Biden's win could juice electric vehicle sales in the U.S. by a lot, per an analysis from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The big picture: Biden, who talks a lot about electric vehicles, is expected to try to scuttle Trump administration regulations that weakened the Obama-era auto mileage and emissions rule. And go even further.

The brewing stimulus battle between the Fed and Treasury

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A battle over stimulus escalated in Washington on Thursday night: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin put emergency lending programs it set up alongside the Fed chair Jerome Powell on the chopping block.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic is worse than when these facilities were established in the spring — and economists worry about a resulting steep economic backslide.

Nov 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Romney: Trump's efforts to overturn election result are "undemocratic"

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) tweeted Thursday that President Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election result make it "difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American president."

Why it matters: It's Romney's sharpest, most focused criticism of Trump yet. While the Utah senator has publicly needled the president over his actions during the last few months — especially regarding Trump's embrace of conspiracy theories like QAnon — he often has couched his criticism by targeting people across the political spectrum.

Blunt 2020 lessons for media, America

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

All of us — and the media, in particular — need some clear-eyed, humble self-reflection as the dust settles on the 2020 election results. 

  • Here are a few preliminary Axios learnings.
Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Nov 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Steven Mnuchin acts to hobble the Fed

Photo: Toni L. Sandys/Pool/Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was one of the heroes of the coronavirus crisis, working hand-in-glove with Fed chair Jay Powell to give the central bank all the ammunition it needed to fight the virus and the associated economic recession. Now, he's trying to take that ammunition away.

Why it matters: If he's successful, Mnuchin will effectively disarm the Fed, creating a lot more economic downside once President-elect Biden takes office.

Trump is on an island

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Most of President Trump's closest advisers have completely distanced themselves from his legal effort and are avoiding his lawyers to avoid being swept into their courtroom dramas.

Why it matters: Some of the president's advisers act like they think he can still overturn the election results — because they remain on the payroll and don't have another choice. But talk to them privately, and many say Rudy Giuliani and his team are on a dead-end path.

First look: GSA warned transition delays hurt communities of color

Navajo elder Emerson Gorman sits with his daughter Naiyahnikai, wife Beverly and grandchild Nizhoni near Steamboat, Arizona. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

A coalition of more than 40 racial justice groups is asking GSA Administrator Emily Murphy to begin the transfer of power to Joe Biden, saying the delays disproportionately hurt people of color and "playing politics with the ascertainment process is playing politics with our lives."

Driving the news: In a draft of a letter to Murphy dated Friday and reviewed by Axios, the group, Just Democracy, urges the General Services Administration official to formally ascertain that Biden likely won the Nov. 3 election so his transition team can gain access to virus mitigation and vaccine distribution plans.

Updated Nov 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Joe Biden wins Georgia, AP projects

Expand chart
Data: AP; Chart: Naema Ahmed, Andrew Witherspoon, Danielle Alberti/Axios

President-elect Biden has won Georgia, AP reported Thursday evening.

Why it matters: His win, the first by a Democrat there since 1992, sets the state up as a new battleground — giving Georgia a chance to test that status in January when the runoffs for two Senate seats determine control of the chamber.

Joe Biden maintains lead in Georgia after hand recount

Gwinnett County election workers handling ballots as part of the recount on Nov. 16. Photo: Megan Varner/Getty Images

Georgia election officials released the results of the state's hand ballot recount of the 5 million votes cast in the presidential election on Thursday.

Why it matters: The report concludes that President-elect Joe Biden is ahead of President Trump by 12,284 votes, slightly narrowing Biden's lead of around 14,000 before the risk-limiting audit.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Nov 20, 2020 - World

Trump's last-minute foreign policy whirlwind

Trump visits Afghanistan in 2019. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration is working quickly to shift U.S. policies and, where possible, bind the incoming Biden administration to them.

Why it matters: All of these steps are being taken without any coordination with Biden's team, which still lacks access to the intelligence and resources typically made available during a transition. In many cases, the Trump administration is trying to proactively thwart Biden's agenda.