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Good Morning. The Trump administration has begun the transition to Joe Biden’s presidency.
Many Americans have spent weeks, if not months, asking one version of this question: what if President Trump refuses to step down?
The main answer to the question was always the same: It’s not up to him.
As long as other parts of the government – such as Congress, the courts, and the military – insisted that he honor the election result, he would have to do so. He could do this quickly and neatly, as all his predecessors did. Or he could make it messy and discredit American democracy along the way. But he would eventually have to leave the White House.
Last night he took a big step in that direction.
Emily Murphy, a Trump agent who runs the agency responsible for presidential transitions, officially named Joe Biden the obvious election winner. Murphy’s move provides Biden with federal funding for his transition and empowers Biden’s aides to work with Trump administration officials.
Trump signaled on Twitter that he accepted the decision, but he did not admit it. He also stated that he would continue his legal efforts to dismiss the election result, but they have shown no signs of success. (Election officials in Michigan and several Pennsylvania counties confirmed their election results yesterday.) In every major way, the Trump presidency is now coming to an end.
All of this is a reminder of how much influence our system of government has on people other than the president.
Sometimes a president can seem all-powerful, and Trump’s presidency had a particularly consuming quality to both his supporters and critics. Even members of Congress, especially Republicans, have fondly claimed for the past four years that they are powerless to change Trump’s behavior.
But that’s not really how the US government works. Matt Glassman, a political scientist at Georgetown University, told me, “Presidents compete with a wide range of actors – Congress, the courts, interest groups, departmental political representatives and agencies, and officials – to influence public order. The president must rely on his informal ability to convince other political actors that it is in their best interest to follow him, or at least not to stand in his way. “
If a president does not do this, he is often powerless to act. And that’s exactly what happened to Trump. Hundreds of local election officials refused to bow to him. In the past few days, several Republican Congressmen have told him publicly that he must acknowledge the reality. (Many other Republicans in Congress gave him little support by believing his lies but did nothing concrete to support his efforts to change the outcome.) Business groups – traditional Republican allies – also urged him to begin the transition .
In the end, Trump did what they told him to.
For more: The Times’s Matt Flegenheimer and Maggie Haberman write about what Trump liked about being President. One thing he seemed to really enjoy: pardoning turkeys.
THE LATEST NEWS
The transition of the president
A woman was killed and six people injured in a mass shooting at a party in Brooklyn over the weekend in a surge in New York City shootings.
David Dinkins, a hairdresser’s son who became New York’s first black mayor, died at the age of 93. (For more information, see this interview with Dinkins in The Times’ The Last Word.)
Senator Dianne Feinstein, 87, will step down as top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee next year. She angered some progressives when she praised the Republicans’ handling of Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination.
General Motors dropped its support for a Trump administration lawsuit challenging California’s stricter fuel economy rules. The company also announced that it would work with Biden to reduce climate-warming emissions from cars and trucks.
Five NBA players met with Pope Francis in the Vatican to discuss social justice. They gave him team jerseys and a Black Lives Matter t-shirt.
Ken Jennings, a former “Jeopardy!” Champion, will be the game show’s first short-term guest host after the death of Alex Trebek.
Modern AI: After analyzing nearly a trillion words in human speech, an artificial intelligence system called GPT-3 can write its own poems and much more. Some “Modern Love” columns were even written.
From the opinion: The withdrawal of US troops in the Middle East confirms what military personnel have long struggled with: we have failed, writes Timothy Kudo, a former naval captain. And Bret Stephens and Jamelle Bouie have columns.
Lived life: Lady Elizabeth Anson, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, was a party planner for rock stars and royals. Among the many, many events she oversaw: Margaret Thatcher’s 80th birthday and Sting’s second wedding. She died at the age of 79.
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ART AND IDEAS
Beware of the ‘Covid Cabanas’
On a recent stroll through a business district near my home, I was excited to see several restaurants building heated tents – tents that seemed to hold the promise of an occasional restaurant meal this winter. When I got home I told my wife about it. She replied, “How is this different from indoor dining?”
A lot of people seem to be asking that question this week. James Hamblin, a doctor who writes for The Atlantic, posted this tweet:
Patrick LaForge, an editor for the Times, responded by calling them “Covid Cabanas”.
To understand this, I asked Apoorva Mandavilli, a science reporter for the Times, for guidance. Her answer: “It is safe to be outdoors because moving air would instantly dilute any exhaled virus. But once you start adding “walls” to the outside area, you’re cutting off air circulation and increasing the likelihood that the virus will build up in that area. “
Apoorva added, “A tent with heaters and open sides can be secure enough, and maybe even a room with a ‘wall’. But those zippered tents? Shudder. They are like virus incubators when someone who is infected walks in with you. “
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook
Try making this butter filling with garlic, leek, and celery. You can find more Thanksgiving recipes here.
What to read
The Times Book Review published their list of the 10 Best Books of the Year. It contains novels by Ayad Akhtar, Brit Bennett, James McBride, Lydia Millet and Maggie O’Farrell, as well as non-fiction books by Robert Kolker, Margaret MacMillan, Barack Obama, James Shapiro and Anna Wiener.
Something to see
A Campy Holiday Musical with original songs by Dolly Parton, who plays a homeless angel with lessons for the city of Scrooge, played by Christine Baranski. Yes, there is such a film: “Dolly Parton’s Christmas in the Square”.
Read an extensive conversation with cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
The late night hosts had a lot to say about Trump’s legal team.