Today's D Brief: Transition on hold; Biden’s natsec priorities; COVID accelerates; Promising vaccine results; And a bit more.

Leaders from around the worldwith notable exceptions in Russia, China, Mexico, and Brazil — congratulated U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris after the Associated Press reported on Saturday that Biden was “the winner of his native Pennsylvania...and by extension of the tightly contested U.S. presidential race.” 

How AP explains the call: “Trump jumped out to an early Election Day lead of 675,000 votes and prematurely declared he had won the state.” But by Friday, “as local elections officials tabulated more ballots, Trump’s lead dropped sharply, with Biden winning roughly 75 percent of the mail-in vote between Wednesday and Friday, according to an analysis by the AP.” Then the decisive update happened Saturday afternoon when “Biden’s lead in the state had climbed to over 34,000 votes, an edge over Trump of 0.51 percentage points that placed him outside the margin for a mandatory recount.”

Here’s who leads vote counts in the swing states, as of 10:39 a.m. ET Monday, per the New York Times

  • Georgia: 10,498 vote lead for Biden, but that one's headed for a recount;
  • Arizona: 16,985 lead to Biden;
  • Nevada: 34,283 votes ahead for Biden again;
  • North Carolina: 75,407 lead for Trump;
  • Pennsylvania: 45,673 vote lead for Biden.

However, all formal transition business is going to have to wait until the General Services Administration says it can begin. And that now puts the spotlight on GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, whom the Washington Post reported Sunday “has no immediate sign paperwork officially turning over millions of dollars, as well as give access to government officials, office space in agencies and equipment authorized for the taxpayer-funded transition teams of the winner.”

So no one is actively working a transition at the Pentagon or any defense agency, Inside Defense’s Tony Bertuca reports this morning. “DOD is following statutory direction for supporting a potential presidential transition directly in accordance with the President Transition Act,” a nameless Pentagon official told Bertuca. “The Act requires ascertainment of the candidate to receive transition assistance by the administrator of GSA. That has not occurred and is not a DOD responsibility.” Bit more, here.

All this is because current President Donald Trump has refused to concede the race. And no public official is keen on getting ahead of the sitting POTUS, who spent most of the weekend making and amplifying, but offering no evidence for, apparently baseless assertions about electoral fraud (here, here, and here, e.g.) in between Saturday and Sunday rounds of golf.

  • By the way: Like AP, Fox projects Biden/Harris defeated Trump/Pence. But much of the network’s coverage on Monday is focusing on Trump’s various challenges to the election results.

Today at the White House, “THE PRESIDENT has no public events scheduled,” his press secretary announced Sunday evening. That extends Trump’s streak with no public events to a fifth day.

SecDef Esper isn’t going anywhere for the moment, despite reporting last week from NBC News and Politico, Politico reported on Saturday.

Flournoy inbound? Many expect Biden to replace Esper, and Pentagon watchers have speculated for months that Biden will pick Michèle Flournoy as his Pentagon chief. Flournoy served as defense undersecretary for policy in the Obama administration.

A SecDef Flournoy’s policy priorities? She laid them out in a July oped in Defense One with co-author Kathleen Hicks, starting with the threats: “The coronavirus pandemic lays bare the fragility of our health security. Climate change threatens generations of Americans. And authoritarian states are developing sophisticated weaponry, flouting other nations’ sovereignty, killing, jailing, and interning their own people, and leveraging modern technology to undermine our democracy.” 

Her three-part solution: “First, we must secure America’s edge in the global economy by investing more substantially in the drivers of U.S. competitiveness: science and technology, research and development, STEM education, access to higher education, 21st century infrastructure like 5G-capable networks, clean energy, and a robust public health system. We also need a smart immigration policy. The United States should once again welcome foreign-born talent that pose no risks to our national security and encourage them to stay and build enterprises here in America. Second, we must repair the damage to our alliances...Third, we need a national security enterprise that is matched to future challenges…” Read the piece here

First up in a Biden presidency? “[T]o quickly sign a series of executive orders” on matters as wide-ranging as climate change, rejoining the World Health Organization, repealing the so-called “Muslim ban,” and more, according to the Washington Post, reporting Saturday evening. 

Next up for the Trump team? “[T]hree to six weeks of legal challenges,” with POTUS45 planning “to hold rallies focused on the litigation, and brandish obituaries of people who were recorded as voting but are dead,” according to Axios

Worth noting: “[M]any Republican lawmakers are sticking with Mr. Trump for now and declining to call the Democratic winner the president-elect,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Meantime, “Some close to Mr. Trump said they believe he will ultimately concede the election once he has time to absorb his loss, but those people also note that the president is difficult to predict.” More here.

From Defense One

Joe Biden Elected 46th Commander in Chief // Katie Bo Williams: Trump has lost reelection after a vitriolic, misinformation-laden presidency, networks project. President declines to concede as vote count continues.

Foreign Leaders Congratulate Biden, Ignore Trump’s Claim to Reelection // Patrick Tucker: NATO allies France, Germany, and UK quickly recognized the president-elect’s win. Turkey and Russia remain quiet.

America Still Thinks It’s the Election Police // Timothy McLaughlin, The Atlantic: After the 2020 election, who would bother to listen to the U.S. about how to run a vote?

QAnon Is Winning // Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic: Conspiracy thinking in America had a huge night on Tuesday.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 2013, America’s newest carrier — the USS Gerald R. Ford — was christened in Newport News, Va. Today, CVN-78 is in the middle of its 18-month post-delivery tests and trials, according to U.S. Naval Institute News

Markets are soaring today on encouraging COVID-19 vaccine news: Pfizer-BioNTech team announced its first clinical trial showed its “Vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19” in patients who were not believed to have contracted the disease previously.
What this means: “If the results hold up, that level of protection would put it on par with highly effective childhood vaccines for diseases such as measles,” the New York Times reports today.
Next moves: “Pfizer plans to ask the Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization of the two-dose vaccine later this month, after it has collected the recommended two months of safety data. By the end of the year it will have manufactured enough doses to immunize 15 to 20 million people, company executives have said.” Read on, here.
FWIW: VP Mike Pence tried to take credit on Twitter this morning, citing the White House’s Operation Warp Speed “public-private partnership.” One big problem with that boast?
“We were never part of the Warp Speed,” Pfizer’s head of vaccine development Dr. Kathrin Jansen told the New York Times. “We have never taken any money from the U.S. government, or from anyone.”
Meanwhile in Russia: The Sputnik V vaccine has hit a roadblock, because its producers are reportedly “struggl[ing] to scale up the production and it's unlikely the country will be able to produce more than several hundred thousand doses a month by the end of the year,” according to CNN’s Mary Ilyushina. That bad news is a motivator behind Russia’s newest state-run Twitter account, which Politico reported on this morning, here.

Twenty-three states set new single-day records for new COVID-19 infections, Axios reports today. And that means “More states across the country are handling record-high caseloads than this summer.”
During election week, new infections rose by 59 percent “from the average two weeks earlier,” according to the New York Times’s coronavirus data tracker. “As of Monday morning, more than 10,060,700 people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 238,000 have died.”

Lastly today: Inside the 215-day odyssey of USS Stout. Business Insider has an interesting report on the guided missile destroyer USS Stout, forced by COVID and the needs of the Navy to stay deployed a record eight months. The ship left its Norfolk homeport in January with the Eisenhower strike group. But when the carrier returned home after its own record-setting deployment, “Stout stayed in the Middle East, where it protected merchant ships and completed other security operations” and fought rust and ennui. The deployment finally ended last month. Read on, here.