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Pompeo refuses to say Biden has won election

Asked by a reporter Tuesday if the State Department is preparing to engage with President-elect Biden's transition team, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded: "There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration."

Why it matters: Pompeo, the country's top diplomat, is standing by President Trump and his allies' claims that the election is not over, and that the president has the right to pursue legal challenges.


What he's saying: "We're ready. The world is watching what's taking place here. We're going to count all the votes. When the process is complete, there will be electors selected," Pompeo said.

  • "There's a process, the Constitution lays it out pretty clearly. The world should have every confidence that the transition necessary to make sure that the State Department is functional today, successful today, and successful with the president who's in office on Jan. 20th, a minute after noon, will also be successful."
  • "I'm very confident that we will do all the things that are necessary to make sure that the government, the United States government, continues to perform its national security function as we go forward."

Asked by a reporter whether Trump's refusal to concede undermines the State Department's commitment to free and fair elections around the world, Pompeo responded: "That's a ridiculous question and you're ridiculous for asking it."

Of note: Pompeo emphasized the normality of a winner being announced after Election Day — a point that Trump has contested — by pointing to the 2000 legal battle that ended in former Vice President Al Gore's concession.

  • "It took us 37 plus days in an election back in 2000, conducted a successful transition then.

Yes, but: Pompeo appeared to repeat Trump's call to count "legal votes," instead of "illegal votes" — terms the president has used to advance his baseless allegations that Democrats stole the election from him.

  • "I'm very confident that we will count, and we must, count every legal vote. We must make sure that any vote that wasn't lawful will not be counted, that dilutes your vote if it's done improperly. Gotta get that right. When we get it right, we'll get it right. We're in good shape," Pompeo said.

Expert says COVID vaccine likely won't be available in Africa until Q2 of 2021

Africa may have to wait until the second quarter of 2021 to roll out vaccines, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: “I have seen how Africa is neglected when drugs are available,” Nkengasong said.

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The winners and losers of the COVID holiday season

The pandemic has upended Thanksgiving and the shopping season that the holiday kicks off, creating a new crop of economic winners and losers.

The big picture: Just as it has exacerbated inequality in every other facet of American life, the coronavirus pandemic is deepening inequities in the business world, with the biggest and most powerful companies rapidly outpacing the smaller players.

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Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

The daily rate of new coronavirus infections rose by about 10 percent in the final week before Thanksgiving, continuing a dismal trend that may get even worse in the weeks to come.

Why it matters: Travel and large holiday celebrations are most dangerous in places where the virus is spreading widely — and right now, that includes the entire U.S.

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Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment, per Bloomberg.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds one of the first significant actions by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Trump agency head who often skips mask tests positive for coronavirus

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of top administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

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COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

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Beware a Thanksgiving mirage

Don't be surprised if COVID metrics plunge over the next few days, only to spike next week.

Why it matters: The COVID Tracking Project warns of a "double-weekend pattern" on Thanksgiving — where the usual weekend backlog of data is tacked on to a holiday.

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Trump pardons Michael Flynn

President Trump on Wednesday pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts.

Why it matters: It is the first of multiple pardons expected in the coming weeks, as Axios scooped last night.

This is a breaking story and will be updated with more details.

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