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Hello. The Trump administration has begun the transition to the presidency from Joe Biden.
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 has always been the same: it is not up to him.
As long as other parts of government – like Congress, the courts, and the military – insisted it respect the election results, it should. He could do it quickly and cleanly, as all of his predecessors did. Or he could make it messy, discrediting American democracy along the way. But he would eventually have to leave the White House.
Last night he took a big step forward.
Emily Murphy, a Trump-appointed person who heads the agency in charge of presidential transitions, has officially named Joe Biden as the apparent winner of the election. Murphy’s decision provides Biden with federal funds for his transition and allows Biden aides to begin working with officials in the Trump administration.
On Twitter, Trump reported that He accepted the decision, but he did not concede. He also said he would continue his legal efforts to overturn the election result, but they showed no signs of success. (Election officials in Michigan and several counties in Pennsylvania certified their election results yesterday.) In all respects, the Trump presidency is now comes to an end.
All of this is a reminder of the influence our system of government gives to people other than the president.
Sometimes a president can seem all-powerful, and Trump’s presidency had a particularly consuming quality, both to his supporters and to his detractors. Even members of Congress, especially Republicans, have liked to claim over the past four years that they are powerless to change Trump’s behavior.
But that’s not the way the US government really works. As Georgetown University political scientist Matt Glassman told me, “Presidents compete with many actors – Congress, courts, interest groups, policy makers in departments and agencies. and career civil servants – for their influence on public policy. The president must rely on his informal ability to convince other political actors that it is in their interest to accompany him, or at least not to stand in his way.
When a president fails to do so, he often ends up being powerless to act. And that’s what happened to Trump. Hundreds of local election officials refused to fold to him. Over the past few days, several Republicans in Congress have told him publicly that he needs to face reality. (Many other Republicans in Congress supported him only lightly, giving credence to his lies but not doing anything concrete to support his efforts to change the outcome.) Business groups – traditional Republican allies – also told him to start the transition.
In the end, Trump did what they told him to do.
For more: Matt Flegenheimer and Maggie Haberman of The Times write about what Trump loved to be president. One thing he seemed to really enjoy: forgiving the turkeys.
THE LAST NEWS
The presidential transition
A mass shooting at a party in Brooklyn this weekend killed a woman and injured six, amid a surge in shootings in New York City.
David Dinkins, the son of a barber who became New York’s first black mayor, has died aged 93 (for more, listen to this interview with Dinkins on The Times’s The Last Word.)
Senator Dianne Feinstein, 87, will step down as Democrat at the top of the Senate Judiciary Committee next year. She angered some progressives when she praised the way Republicans had handled Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
General Motors has dropped its support for a Trump administration lawsuit challenging California’s stricter fuel economy rules. The company also said it will work with Biden to reduce global warming emissions from cars and trucks.
Five NBA players met with Pope Francis in the Vatican to discuss social justice efforts. 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 following the death of Alex Trebek.
Modern AI: After analyzing nearly a trillion words of human language, an artificial intelligence system called GPT-3 can write its own poetry and more. He even wrote a few “Modern Love” columns.
From the review: The withdrawal of US troops from the Middle East recognizes what the military has long struggled with: We failed, writes Timothy Kudo, a former Navy captain. And Bret Stephens and Jamelle Bouie have columns.
Lives lived: Lady Elizabeth Anson, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, was a party planner for rock stars and the royal family. Among the many events she oversaw: Margaret Thatcher’s 80th birthday and Sting’s second wedding. She died at 79.
Subscribers make our reporting possible, so we can help you figure it out right now. If you are not a subscriber, consider becoming one today.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Beware of “ Covid huts ”
During a recent stroll through a business district near my home, I was delighted to see several restaurants building heated tents – tents that seemed to offer the promise of an occasional restaurant meal this winter. When I got home, I told my wife about it. She replied, “How is it different from interior to eat?”
A lot of people seem to be asking this question this week. James Hamblin, a doctor who writes for The Atlantic, posted this tweet:
Patrick LaForge, editor of The Times, responded by calling them “Covid cabins.”
To figure this out, I asked Apoorva Mandavilli, a science journalist for The Times, for advice. His response: “The exterior is safe, as moving air would instantly dilute any exhaled virus. But as soon as you start adding “walls” to the outdoor space, you cut off the airflow and increase the chances of the virus building up in that space. “
Apoorva added: “A tent with heaters and with open sides can be safe enough, and maybe even a space with only one ‘wall’. But those fully zipped tents? Shudder. They are like incubators for viruses if someone infected walks into space with you. “
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook
Try making this buttery stuffing full of garlic, leeks and celery. You can find more Thanksgiving recipes here.
What to read
The Times Book Review published its list of the top 10 books of the year. It includes novels by Ayad Akhtar, Brit Bennett, James McBride, Lydia Millet and Maggie O’Farrell, as well as non-fiction by Robert Kolker, Margaret MacMillan, Barack Obama, James Shapiro, and Anna Wiener.
What to watch
A campy holiday musical with original songs by Dolly Parton, who plays a homeless angel with lessons for the town of Scrooge, performed by Christine Baranski. Yes, such a movie does exist: “Dolly Parton’s Christmas in the Square.”
Read an in-depth conversation with cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Late at night
The late night hosts had a lot to say about Trump’s legal team.