NEW … TEAM BIDEN is considering JEFF ZIENTS for a role managing the mechanics of the Covid crisis response. ZIENTS managed the fixing of healthcare.gov, and is a former director of OMB. We reported yesterday there was buzz that ZIENTS could return to OMB — and, indeed, there is a lot of it — but he is not in the running for an economic policy job.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, WHILE YOU WERE TURKEYING … Q: “If the Electoral College does elect President-elect Joe Biden, are you not going to leave this building?” TRUMP: “Certainly I will. Certainly I will, and you know that.” AP on how 2020 is turning into the zombie election that Trump won’t die
TRUMP is going to Camp David today around 3 p.m. VP MIKE PENCE has no public events scheduled. President-elect JOE BIDEN and VP-elect KAMALA HARRIS have nothing on their schedules.
WHAT AMERICA IS READING … THE NATION’S FRONTS: San Diego Union Tribune: “COVID CASES SOAR IN U.S. CITIES” … Washington Post: “Remote learning is leaving children sad and angry” … Charlotte Observer: “Businesses wary of enforcing NC’s new mask rules” … Providence Journal: “R.I. to release $100M in aid to businesses, unemployed”
Good Friday morning. SPOTTED: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser walking with her detail on Hains Point on Thursday. Pic
BIG NEWS … TYLER PAGER is returning to POLITICO from Bloomberg. PAGER covered the Biden campaign for Bloomberg — he was an intern for POLITICO. He’ll cover the Biden White House for us. Staff announcement from Carrie Budoff Brown and Blake Hounshell
MARKET WATCH — “Dow, S&P 500 on Track to End Week Near Record Highs,” by WSJ’s Anna Hirtenstein
TRACKING TRUMP’S PROMISE … WAPO: “The United States has closed at least 10 bases around Afghanistan. But drawdown details remain murky,” by Susannah George in Kabul and Dan Lamothe in D.C.: “The United States has closed at least 10 bases across Afghanistan since the signing of a deal with the Taliban in February, according to Afghan and U.S. officials, part of a drawdown process so murky that many here say they are uncertain of what’s to come despite a fast-approaching deadline.
“The base closures are part of the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan outlined in the deal. An Afghan official and a U.S. official confirmed the closure of the bases, several of which were previously unreported. The officials, like others in this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss base closures with the media.
“Little is known about what remains of those bases, many in Afghanistan’s most volatile provinces where U.S. support for Afghan operations has been critical in pushing back the Taliban. Some have been completely handed over to Afghan security forces. Others may have been vacated and left in place in a way in which they could be occupied again in the future if U.S. and Afghan officials consider it necessary. It is also unclear how much equipment — more difficult to move than people — is left at each of the closed installations.”
SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO with Fox News’ BRET BAIER on Thursday … BAIER: “When it comes to Afghanistan, where are you on zero troops in Afghanistan?” POMPEO: “Well, it’s the mission set.”
BAIER: “But I mean before January 20th?” POMPEO: “Well, the president will obviously make the decision on that. The president to date has said that we’re going to go from where we are today, something just over 4,000, to around 2,500. But Bret, don’t fall in the trap of thinking about America’s security related to the number of soldiers on the ground in any one place. The threat from terrorism around the world — from Islamic extremism, Islamic terrorism — is real. It doesn’t just emanate from Afghanistan.
“We have the force posture right today. We’re going to keep it right. We’ll get our troops home when we can, and we’ll do the things we need to do. If Qasem Soleimani is a problem, we’ll go crush them. If Hamza bin Laden presents a risk, we’ll take him out. President Trump has been very clear we’re going to protect and secure the homeland, but we’re not going to have our young men and women in harm’s way when it doesn’t deliver real security benefits for the United States and for our allies.”
TROUBLE ON THE HORIZON? … VICTORIA GUIDA: “Progressives praise Yellen but could soon clash with Biden’s Treasury pick”: “Activist groups are hopeful that their views will get a hearing from Yellen, but there are key areas — pandemic relief, trade, financial regulations. student loan debt — where she could quickly disappoint them, based on her record.
“While she’s a strong advocate for a big new economic relief package, she has also spoken forcefully about the need to get the growth of the federal deficit under control. She is a long-time supporter of free trade, which many progressives consider a threat to American workers. And while she oversaw the imposition of tough new banking rules as Federal Reserve chair in the Obama era, she played little direct role in shaping them, raising questions about how aggressive she’d be about new financial regulations.”
NYT’S CARL HULSE: “Senate Democrats Face Power Struggle for Top Judiciary Job”
THE CORONAVIRUS CONTINUES TO RAGE … 12.8 MILLION Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus … 263,462 Americas have died.
— WSJ: “U.S. hospitalizations surpass 90,000 for the first time,” by David Hall: “The number of people hospitalized in the U.S. due to Covid-19 surpassed 90,000 for the first time, as the pandemic loomed over Thanksgiving Day celebrations.
“The U.S. reported more than 110,000 new coronavirus cases for Thursday, sharply lower than totals in recent days, according to data compiled from Johns Hopkins University. Holidays and weekends often have an impact on the reporting of caseloads and deaths. As Thanksgiving falls on a Thursday, data could also be affected Friday and throughout the weekend, with numbers potentially falling and then rising, as testing and reporting decline and then catch up in the following days, according to the Covid Tracking Project.”
— “Governments around the world weigh thorny question: Who gets the vaccine first?” by Ryan Heath and Carmen Paun
TV TONIGHT — PBS’ “Washington Week” with Bob Costa: Yasmeen Abutaleb, Sarah Kliff and Fareed Zakaria.
SUNDAY SO FAR …
“State of the Union”: Adm. Brett Giroir … Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) … Reps.-elect Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) … Jon Osoff.
“Fox News Sunday”: Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson … New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. Panel: Jason Riley, Susan Page and Juan Williams. Power Player: Sandy Lerner.
“Face the Nation”: Deborah Birx … El Paso Mayor Dee Margo … Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan … David Beasley … Claire Babineaux-Fontenot … Scott Gottlieb.
“Meet the Press”: Anthony Fauci. Panel: Michael Eric Dyson, Hugh Hewitt and Kasie Hunt.
“Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren”: Rep.-elect Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) … Rep.-elect Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) … Kevin Cirilli.
“America This Week with Eric Bolling”: Brett Favre.
LITTLE ROCKET MAN — “S. Korea agency says N. Korea executed people, shut capital,” by AP’s Hyung-Jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea: “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has ordered at least two people executed, banned fishing at sea and locked down the capital, Pyongyang, as part of frantic efforts to guard against the coronavirus and its economic damage, South Korea’s spy agency told lawmakers Friday.
“Kim’s government also ordered diplomats overseas to refrain from any acts that could provoke the United States because it is worried about President-elect Joe Biden’s expected new approach toward North Korea, lawmakers told reporters after attending a private briefing by the National Intelligence Service.” AP
BUSINESS BURST — “Pushed by Pandemic, Amazon Goes on a Hiring Spree Without Equal,” by NYT’s Karen Weise in Seattle: “Amazon has embarked on an extraordinary hiring binge this year, vacuuming up an average of 1,400 new workers a day and solidifying its power as online shopping becomes more entrenched in the coronavirus pandemic.
“The hiring has taken place at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, at its hundreds of warehouses in rural communities and suburbs, and in countries such as India and Italy. Amazon added 427,300 employees between January and October, pushing its work force to more than 1.2 million people globally, up more than 50 percent from a year ago. Its number of workers now approaches the entire population of Dallas.
“The spree has accelerated since the onset of the pandemic, which has turbocharged Amazon’s business and made it a winner of the crisis. Starting in July, the company brought on about 350,000 employees, or 2,800 a day. Most have been warehouse workers, but Amazon has also hired software engineers and hardware specialists to power enterprises such as cloud computing, streaming entertainment and devices, which have boomed in the pandemic.”
HIGH TIMES — “How One of the Reddest States Became the Nation’s Hottest Weed Market,” by Paul Demko in Wellston, Oklahoma: “One day in the early fall of 2018, while scrutinizing the finances of his thriving Colorado garden supply business, Chip Baker noticed a curious development: transportation costs had spiked fivefold. The surge, he quickly determined, was due to huge shipments of cultivation supplies—potting soil, grow lights, dehumidifiers, fertilizer, water filters—to Oklahoma.
“Baker, who has been growing weed since he was 13 in Georgia, has cultivated crops in some of the world’s most notorious marijuana hotspots, from the forests of Northern California’s Emerald Triangle to the lake region of Switzerland to the mountains of Colorado. Oklahoma was not exactly on his radar. So one weekend in October, Baker and his wife Jessica decided to take a drive to see where all their products were ending up.
“Voters in the staunchly conservative state had just four months earlier authorized a medical marijuana program and sales were just beginning. The Bakers immediately saw the potential for the fledgling market. With no limits on marijuana business licenses, scant restrictions on who can obtain a medical card, and cheap land, energy and building materials, they believed Oklahoma could become a free-market weed utopia and they wanted in.
“Within two weeks, they found a house to rent in Broken Bow and by February had secured a lease on an empty Oklahoma City strip mall. Eventually they purchased a 110-acre plot of land down a red dirt road about 40 miles northeast of Oklahoma City that had previously been a breeding ground for fighting cocks and started growing high-grade strains of cannabis with names like Purple Punch, Cookies and Cream and Miracle Alien.”
Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].
BIRTHDAYS: Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) is 5-0 … Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) is 62 … Caroline Kennedy is 63 … Alex Wagner … Rich Verma, vice chair at the Asia Group (h/ts Ben Chang) … Mary Vought, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund … Sam Love … POLITICO’s Adam Cancryn, Fonda Fralin and Solomon Yeon … Paul Maslin (h/t Jon Haber) … Joe Solmonese … Jason Gold … Marissa McBride … Jen Broberg (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Brian McCormack … Andrea Koppel-Pollack … Nick Massella, senior director of brand strategy and comms for PBS NewsHour … former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is 6-0 … former Rep. Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) is 47 … Sean Bartlett … Jasmin Aleman, legislative correspondent for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer …
… Nick Wittenberg, legal counsel at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy … WSJ’s Katie Honan … Kaiser Health News’ Victoria Knight … Libby Leist, EP of NBC’s “Today” show … Marie Logsden … Simon Taylor … Michael Starr Hopkins, founding partner of Northern Starr Strategies … Daniel Ducassi … Shai Korman, comms director at the Center for a New American Security, is 41 … Rob Towner … Barry Sternlicht is 6-0 … Sam Wainwright is 33 … Molly Logan Cox … John Aravosis … Ashley Robinson … Susan Falconer … Kathryn Ciano, product counsel at Google … Dina Cappiello, editorial director and EVP at Edelman … Katie Campo … Facebook’s Kaiya Waddell … Christine Taylor … Jess Byrne Knox … Joe Davila … Mary Anne Pintar … Chelsie Jeppson … Paul Nasella … Sid Burgess is 39 … Victoria Lai