(CNN) — President Donald Trump finally confirmed Thursday that he will leave the White House in January after weeks of plunging the US into a dark period of uncertainty – where the fate of democracy sometimes seemed to be hanging by a thread – but ignored in largely the mounting challenges his successor is facing as he leaves.
“It will be something very difficult to admit”, Trump told reporters Thursday night in the Diplomatic Reception Room, where he repeated his unsubstantiated claims of “massive fraud.” And he said if the Electoral College declared Biden the winner they would have “made a mistake.”
Trump’s meeting with reporters after a call with US service members fell short of a concession. He continued to pitch falsehoods about a voter fraud that simply doesn’t exist, declined to say whether he would attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, and cast dangerous criticism on the electoral system in Georgia, a state where he lost but plans to campaign next month by two Republican senators facing a second round that will determine control of the United States Senate.
Trump meeting with journalists
Most notably, Trump continued to promote his false narrative that the US is turning the corner of the pandemic, but acknowledged that he will be leaving next year, and lectured journalists to “don’t let Joe Biden takes credit “for the development of coronavirus vaccines” because I was the vaccine and I pushed people more than ever before.
The comments immediately reflected the president’s impressive narcissism and his inability to cope with the anxiety and financial pain so many Americans face this holiday week, as lines at food banks stretched across blocks and hospitals once again faced capacity limits. .
But his comments were welcomed if only as an admission that Trump, who has essentially abdicated his leadership in the pandemic, would be leaving the White House grounds in January, allowing a new administration to try to pull the nation out of its every turn. deepest crisis that the president has largely refused to see or acknowledge.
The president-elect tried to cheer weary Americans with a hopeful Thanksgiving message this week, promising that this “bleak season of division” would soon usher in a year of light and unity. But in addition to encouraging news about the effectiveness of vaccines in development, the news in these tumultuous weeks since the election has largely pointed to the myriad challenges facing Biden – from the millions of Americans who are about to fall off a financial cliff. when unemployment benefits expire, to the complexity you face developing a distribution plan for the coronavirus vaccine and then convincing skeptical Americans to get it.
Millions on the brink of the financial cliff
The images of Americans flooding food pantries in every US city this week – more than 50 million Americans could face food insecurity by the end of the year, according to Feeding America – were a chilling reminder of the cost of splitting e Washington’s intransigence, as members of the House and Senate were on vacation this week with no sign of another emergency pandemic stimulus package in sight.
Although more than 20 million Americans still received some form of unemployment benefits as of early November and another 778,000 filed unemployment claims for the first time last week, according to a new report from the Labor Department, Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress they have proven incapable of even meeting to negotiate another aid package.
They have remained divided along those partisan lines despite the fact that emergency pandemic benefits approved by Congress in March are scheduled to expire on December 26 for some 7.3 million workers, independent contractors, freelancers and other Americans. who did not qualify for regular unemployment benefits in their states, according to a analysis from The Century Foundation. Another 4.5 million Americans, who were assigned an additional 13 weeks of unemployment beyond the 26 weeks normally offered by most states, face the same December limit.
The Walt Disney Company just announced that it will lay off 32,000 employees next year. And much of the relief for small businesses has already been exhausted, and other protections that struggling Americans have relied on, such as a moratorium on evictions and deferred payments on mortgages and student loans, are also expiring.
“We cannot continue receiving these blows”
The inability of leaders to work together in Washington is being acutely felt by small business owners and workers who, once again, see their livelihoods compromised as cities and jurisdictions across the country impose new constraints on companies to try to control the dizzying number of covid-19 cases.
As Los Angeles County closed the outdoor dining area again this week, with the region facing an expected shortage of ICU beds within two to four weeks, restaurateur Tom Sopit said the move would “devastate and decimate” its industry once again.
“We can’t keep taking these hits, especially without federal help or help from anyone else,” Sopit told CNN’s Kate Bolduan. “This just can’t go on without help.”
“Some of my employees are still behind on their rent, some of them are living from payroll to payroll, and again there is no federal relief. The Senate is on vacation, “Sopit, the owner of Employees Only, said in” Erin Burnett OutFront “on Wednesday. “Every time they shut us down, they need to make sure there is relief to help us right now.”
Biden calls for unity
Although Biden has run for president with a platform where he could work with leaders on both sides to forge a compromise, there is no indication yet whether he can lead Congress to action at a time when many Republicans, who fear Trump, they have not even recognized their electoral victory yet.
Biden urged members of Congress to “come together” and pass a covid aid package like the Heroes Act, the $ 2 trillion package that was passed in March.
But even when the Trump White House was compromised, which is no longer the case, Republicans opposed the size of the package that Democrats were proposing (as well as the dollar figures Trump said he would accept). Although Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled this week that it would be open to “a targeted bill” somewhere on the order of half a billion, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has so far been unwilling. to give in their resistance to a proposal for a smaller and more fragmentary package.
The complicated task of distributing the vaccine in the United States
It’s not just a lack of economic relief that could get Biden off to a shaky start, as some economists warn of a double-dip recession. He and his team are trying to prepare for the daunting task of distributing the vaccine and convincing Americans to get it at a time when the details of the financing of how it would be carried out are still unclear.
In October, health departments and officials who will manage vaccine distribution told Pelosi, McConnell, and other top congressional leaders in a letter that they would need $ 8.4 billion to distribute a Covid-19 vaccine in the next package. supplemental emergency funds for the pandemic. Many troubled states have devised their vaccine distribution plans largely without knowing how they will cover the enormous costs.
The $ 8.4 billion figure would cover worker recruitment and training, data modernization, cold supply chain management to safely transport certain vaccines at low temperatures, and money to combat vaccine misinformation, among others. other costs.
Experts hope that announcements from Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna that their vaccines are more than 90% effective will help address skepticism about vaccines. But a Gallup poll released Tuesday showed that more than 40% of Americans still say they would not agree to receive an FDA-approved vaccine to prevent coronavirus if it were available at no cost.
That was an improvement over October, when only half of Americans said they would seek a vaccine, but it pointed to the strong skepticism about vaccines in the US that Biden will have to overcome. Distrust of vaccines runs even deeper in Black and Latino communities that have been disproportionately affected by the virus, pointing to the need for Congress to make funding available for a vaccine education campaign.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease specialist, addressed the need to address skepticism in the black community in an interview with theGrio this week.
Fauci noted that “historically, in particular the black community and to some extent the LatinX community has been treated in a way that has historically been shameful for decades,” Fauci told Byron Allen, CEO of Entertainment Studios, who conducted the interview.
“It is not easy to forget”
“That is not easy to forget,” he said. “So we have to reach out to the community and explain to them that we have done everything we can to make this a transparent and independent process.”
He pointed out the importance not only of the message, but of finding the right people to convey it and build trust.
“You don’t want just a white man in a suit like me to go into the community and say, ‘Trust me, I’m from the federal government,'” he said. “So you really want committed people, who are really respected in the community.”