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Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes defended President Trump's family after they broke Cleveland Clinic rules by declining to wear masks at last week's presidential debate, saying on "Fox News Sunday" that "we believe in masks, but we also believe in some element of individual choice."

The backdrop: First lady Melania Trump, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and several guests entered the debate hall with masks on but took them off after being seated — a violation of the rules that both campaigns had agreed to. An official from the Cleveland Clinic offered the family masks but was waved away.

The big picture: Since the debate on Tuesday night, President Trump, Melania Trump and dozens of their possible contacts have tested positive for the coronavirus. While Cortes argued that everyone who attended the debate was required to have a negative test, the rapid antigen tests often used by the White House are not always accurate.

What he's saying: After insisting that the Trump family were adequately distanced and had been tested, Cortes pivoted to attacking Fox News' Chris Wallace — who moderated the debate — over allegations that he was unfair to the president.

  • "The way you are starting to harangue me now actually reminds me of what you did to the president during that debate on Tuesday night," Cortez said.
  • "He had to debate not just Joe Biden, but you as well. You were not a neutral moderator then."

Wallace shot back: "Steve, let me simply say the president interrupted me and the vice president 145 times, so I object to saying I harangued the president. I know it's the talking point."

Go deeper: Trumpworld coronavirus tracker

Go deeper

Trump targets Liz Cheney and other Republicans as "weak" in new escalation of GOP civil war

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Addressing a huge crowd of loyal supporters south of the White House, President Trump declared that he will never concede to Joe Biden and attacked "weak Republicans" — calling out "the Liz Cheneys of the world" — for failing to support his efforts to overturn the results of the election.

Why it matters: It's a new escalation in Trump's war against the GOP, which has pitted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other mainstream Republicans against the most popular figure in the party. Cheney is a member of House Republican leadership, meaning that Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will likely be forced to respond.

Jan 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Congress certifies Joe Biden's Electoral College win

The House reconvenes Wednesday night for the joint session after pro-Trump mobs stormed the Capitol. Photo: Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Images

A joint session of Congress ended a day of siege by officially certifying on Thursday President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College win in the November election, the final step ahead of his Jan. 20 inauguration.

The bottom line: The final votes in Congress confirm that Biden will be the 46th president of the United States—despite some Republican lawmakers' challenges and the rampage through the Capitol by supporters of President Trump.

Your guide to Congress' certification of Biden's win

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

There's no doubt about the outcome — Congress will ratify Joe Biden's election win and he'll be sworn in on Jan. 20 — but that won't stop today's political theater that may drag late into the night.

  • Here's our guide to watching the certification debate, with input from legislative aides, historians, election experts and Axios' Ursula Perano.