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At a press conference Tuesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany repeatedly defended President Trump tweeting baseless conspiracy theories about the 2001 death of congressional aide Lori Klausutis, 28, who worked for then-Congressman Joe Scarborough.

Why it matters: Klausutis' widower has written to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey pleading with him to delete the president's tweets, stating that his "wife deserves better." But McEnany suggested at the press conference that Scarborough, now an MSNBC host, should be held accountable for answers on Klausutis' passing — despite there being no evidence to support Trump's allegations.

  • Authorities at the time determined that Klausutis passed after losing consciousness from an abnormal heart rhythm, causing her to collapse and strike her head. No foul play was suspected.

What she's saying: McEnany repeatedly declined to deem Trump accountable for giving the unfounded theories a platform, stating: "The president said this morning that this is not an original Trump thought, and it is not."

  • She also referred to a 2003 clip of Scarborough on radio personality Don Imus' show, in which Scarborough appears to laugh at a distasteful joke Imus makes about the congressman killing a former intern.
  • "That was, I'm sure, pretty hurtful to Lori's family, and Joe Scarborough himself brought this up with Don Imus and Joe Scarborough himself can answer it," McEnany said.

Scarborough's wife and co-host Mika Brzezinski tweeted following the press conference that "the press secretary is lying."

  • "IMUS made the callous joke in 2003 during a break and then repeated it on air. Joe was embarrassed and said, “What are you going to do?” trying to move on to talk about the show. No lies can cover up the hatefulness of Donald Trump," Brzezinski wrote.

Between the lines: Trump has a longstanding feud with Scarborough and Brzezinski, who are frequently critical of the president and his administration on their morning show.

  • "Joe Scarborough — if we want to start talking about false accusations — we have quite a few we can go through ... This morning or yesterday Mika accused the president of being responsible for 100,000 deaths in this country. That's incredibly irresponsible," McEnany said.
  • "They should be held to account for their falsehoods ... It's Joe Scarborough that has to answer these questions," she added.

Go deeper

Biden's Day 1 challenges: Systemic racism

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor (PA Images)/Getty Images

Advocates are pushing President-elect Biden to tackle systemic racism with a Day 1 agenda that includes ending the detention of migrant children and expanding DACA, announcing a Justice Department investigation of rogue police departments and returning some public lands to Indigenous tribes.

Why it matters: Biden has said the fight against systemic racism will be one of the top goals of his presidency — but the expectations may be so high that he won't be able to meet them.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

Most Americans are still vulnerable to the coronavirus

Adapted from Bajema, et al., 2020, "Estimated SARS-CoV-2 Seroprevalence in the US as of September 2020"; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

As of September, the vast majority of Americans did not have coronavirus antibodies, according to a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Why it matters: As the coronavirus spreads rapidly throughout most of the country, most people remain vulnerable to it.

Trump set to appear at Pennsylvania GOP hearing on voter fraud claims

President Trumpat the White House on Tuesday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump is due to join his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Wednesday at a Republican-led state Senate Majority Policy Committee hearing to discuss alleged election irregularities.

Why it matters: This would be his first trip outside of the DMV since Election Day and comes shortly after GSA ascertained the results, formally signing off on a transition to President-elect Biden.