Friday’s top stories

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.

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GM’s longer-term electric ambitions didn't hinge on the deal it had with Nikola.
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%.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Updated Nov 20, 2020 - Health

Pfizer applies for FDA emergency use authorization for coronavirus vaccine

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech said that they applied on Friday for an FDA emergency use authorization for their coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: This could set the stage for initial vaccine distribution in the U.S. by mid-to-late December. It also comes less than two weeks after Pfizer released efficacy data for its vaccine, and just days after releasing safety data — which suggests that fellow vaccine developer Moderna may apply for its emergency use authorization around Thanksgiving.

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

Touchless travel could threaten airport jobs

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Air travel is becoming a touchless, self-directed journey, which poses a threat to traditional airport customer service jobs.

Why it matters: Automation and artificial intelligence have long been viewed as a threat to jobs, but the unprecedented disruption that the coronavirus pandemic is posing to the travel industry could have lasting workforce implications.

Nov 20, 2020 - Economy & Business

Ezra Klein and Lauren Williams are leaving Vox

Photo: Vox Media

Ezra Klein, co-founder and editor-at-large of Vox.com, the political news website owned by Vox Media, and Lauren Williams, editor-in-chief and senior vice president of Vox.com, are leaving the company, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: They are the latest examples of high-profile media executives to leave management roles in pursuit of more hands-on, creative careers.

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.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Nov 20, 2020 - Economy & Business

DoorDash and Airbnb prove corporate giants can scale in small towns

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The race to scale isn't always won by the companies that dominate the largest markets.

Why it matters: DoorDash and Airbnb both filed to go public this week, ratifying the thesis that for real-world businesses, the road to multi-billion-dollar valuations does not need to go through major cities.

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

GM aims to take on Tesla with electric vehicle push

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

General Motors announced Thursday that it is increasing its investment in electric vehicles and autonomous tech to $27 billion through 2025 — $7 billion more than prior plans — as it seeks a top global position.

Why it matters: It's the clearest sign yet that GM is hoping to challenge Tesla, which dominates U.S. electric vehicle sales. It was already on, but now the competition for the electric vehicle market of the future is really on.

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.

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.

Nov 20, 2020 - Health

America's teachers are running on empty

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

School districts nationwide are facing a worsening teacher shortage because of the coronavirus, further complicating the tough decisions about whether to have in-person classes.

Why it matters: When teachers test positive, fall seriously ill or are self-isolating from potential exposure, many districts don't have enough substitutes to keep up.

Nov 20, 2020 - Technology

Biden's Day 1 challenges: Misinformation flood control

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

President-elect Joe Biden will enter office with no fast fixes at hand to stem a tide of online misinformation that has shaped election-year politics and, unchecked, could undermine his presidency.

Where it stands: Election and coronavirus misinformation spreading widely on digital platforms has already done serious damage to the U.S., and it's bound to go into overdrive as the Biden administration starts enacting its agenda.

Updated Nov 20, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Joe Biden wins Georgia, AP projects

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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.