News Brief: Michigan Election Results, Thanksgiving Travel, Pompeo In Israel
NOEL KING, HOST:
After six days of recounting ballots by hand, election officials in Georgia confirmed last night that President-elect Joe Biden won the state of Georgia.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Yes. Joe Biden also won the state of Michigan by more than 150,000 votes, in fact. But that has not stopped President Trump from trying to overturn that result. The president and his lawyers tried to sue Michigan over the vote, but it didn't go anywhere. So the president appears to be taking things into his own hands. Today, he has reportedly invited two Republican state lawmakers from Michigan to the White House.
KING: Rick Pluta of Michigan Public Radio is following this one. Good morning, Rick.
RICK PLUTA, BYLINE: Good morning.
KING: OK. So Biden is leading in Michigan by about 150,000 votes, as Rachel said, and yet President Trump is disputing. Why?
PLUTA: Well, he's hanging it on the fact that the result is not official yet. The statewide vote has not been officially counted and confirmed, and it can't be without the results from Detroit and Wayne County. And the Wayne County board of canvassers deadlocked Tuesday night on certifying that vote based on returns from Detroit. That's because a bipartisan vote is required. And there was this blowback during the public comment period, and it was fierce. And so the Republicans on the board reversed themselves, and then they voted to approve it. And now they want to reverse it again - a double reversal and uncertify what they've already certified.
KING: OK. That is a lot happening in Michigan. The Trump campaign has filed lawsuits in multiple states. They have mostly imploded, but the campaign actually dropped its lawsuit in Michigan. Why is that?
PLUTA: Well, Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, seemed to suggest that the lawsuit was dropped because certification of the election in Wayne County is blocked, which is not true. The state can't simply ignore voters in the state's largest county. It includes the state's largest city, Detroit. And we should note, Detroit is largely African American. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, we should mention, says they can't do that.
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JOCELYN BENSON: It's clear that the voters of Wayne County and Michigan have spoken and they've made a choice. And there's no legal or factual basis for anyone to question that choice or challenge it. And so we accept the Wayne County certification, just as we accepted every one of our 83 county certification, as it was properly made in a public vote in a public meeting.
KING: OK. So you have the secretary of state saying it's all good, and then you have the president reportedly inviting Michigan Republicans to the White House today. Do you know what that meeting is supposed to be about?
PLUTA: Well, what possibly could it be about? The two Michigan Republican leaders - and they run the House and the Senate - are apparently going to meet with the president today. That's Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and the Statehouse speaker, Lee Chatfield. And they've both said the state's electoral votes will reflect the popular vote, and they're not even sharing or officially confirming that this meeting is happening. But Michigan and its 16 electoral votes are very important to Republicans, and they're critical to President-elect Joe Biden if his victory is going to be made official. I mean, I can't imagine that the subject of the election won't come up.
KING: Yeah, sure enough. What is the next step in Michigan?
PLUTA: Well, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers is supposed to meet Monday to certify the statewide results. It's also a two-two Republican-Democrat board that requires bipartisan approval to certify the results. And if they can't agree, it goes to court.
KING: Rick Pluta of Michigan Public Radio. Thanks, Rick.
PLUTA: A pleasure.
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KING: The CDC's advice to Americans is incredibly simple.
MARTIN: Right. The agency said yesterday, quote, "the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with." Even so, many Americans are planning to travel. And for some of them, the plan is to just get tested before they go. Is that a safe strategy?
KING: NPR health correspondent Rob Stein has been looking into that. Good morning, Rob.
ROB STEIN, BYLINE: Morning, Noel.
KING: All right. Let me ask you big picture. I stood on line on Tuesday for about 90 minutes waiting to get a test here in D.C., but I did get one. Does the country have enough tests at this point?
STEIN: Well, glad to hear you got your test, Noel. You know, the testing situation has gotten a lot better. More than 171 million tests have now been done in the U.S. and it's gotten way easier to get a test, like you found eventually, anyway. More than 1.6 million tests are now being done every day. And there are several different kinds of tests available and, you know, new ones getting authorized all the time. That said, the U.S. still doesn't have nearly enough tests, really. The U.S. needs millions of tests every day at a minimum to try to get ahead of this virus. And this massive surge in infections going on right now is already starting to make things worse. You know, long lines like you found have started forming around the country, and supplies are running short, and it's taking longer to get results.
KING: A lot of people are rushing to get tests now so they can travel for Thanksgiving. What tests are available? What tests are fast?
STEIN: Yeah. So the main test that's out there is still the one known as a PCR test. It's the one that most people would probably get at, say, one of those drivethrough sites or their doctor's office. It's very accurate, but it requires sending samples off to a lab. So it usually takes at least a couple of days to get results. So there's also the one the White House used, you know, the Abbott ID NOW test. It's not quite as accurate, but it's pretty good, and it produces results in about 15 minutes. And, you know, you may have heard about another one that was authorized just this week by the FDA. It's the first test designed to let people test themselves in their own homes. You know, no need to wait in line somewhere, no need to even send a sample off in the mail. You could do the whole thing at home in about 30 minutes, but it requires a prescription, and it won't be widely available for quite a while.
KING: OK. So the home test is out for now. Is there something similar and just in terms of, like, the level of easiness that a home test would provide?
STEIN: Well, you know, there are these tests called antigen tests, and they're much cheaper and easier to make and use than those PCR tests. They're really fast. And they can tell you whether you're positive in minutes. And they're already available in the millions with, you know, millions more in the pipeline. And a lot of people think these could be game changers. They could be really huge for doing things like screening students and teachers and waiters and factory workers or keep schools and the economy open. But there's a big debate about these tests, about how reliable they are. But proponents say they're really good at spotting people when they're most contagious.
KING: OK. So there are lots of tests out there. There are lots more coming. I am compelled to ask, does this mean we can use tests to stop wearing masks all the time to know when it's safe to hang around our friends and family?
STEIN: Well, you know, unfortunately, here's the bottom line - none of these tests are 100% guaranteed, you know, get-out-of-jail-free cards. Even the most accurate tests can miss infected people. Plus, you know, it can only tell you whether or not you're infected at the moment you got the test. You could have caught that virus on your way home. So, you know, it's dangerous to rely on just one negative test, especially to do something like, you know, sit next to grandma at Thanksgiving dinner.
KING: Hence the CDC's advice. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein. Thanks, Rob.
STEIN: You bet, Noel.
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KING: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has spent the past few days in Israel.
MARTIN: Yeah, he has traveled in areas that are under Israeli occupation, and he's been expressing U.S. support for Jewish settlements. Here he is talking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
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MIKE POMPEO: For a long time, the State Department took the wrong view of settlements. It took a view that didn't recognize the history of this special place.
MARTIN: So how could Pompeo's words and actions just weeks before the Trump administration leaves - how could that complicate things for the incoming Biden administration?
KING: NPR's Daniel Estrin has been following this in Jerusalem. Hi, Daniel.
DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Hi, Noel.
KING: Where's Mike Pompeo been?
ESTRIN: Today, he was at a museum that's affiliated with U.S. evangelicals, and he's also made some unprecedented trips. He's the most senior U.S. official to visit the Golan Heights, which Israel annexed from Syria, which most countries do not recognize. He's also the most senior U.S. official to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank. And that was interesting. He visited an Israeli settler winery. He was presented a wine named Pompeo in his honor because Pompeo proclaimed that settlements are not an illegal enterprise. Now, that winery grows grapes on land that Palestinian landowners say is theirs. The Israeli settler who runs the winery actually built his own home on a Palestinian landowner's property, according to activists. And, you know, the bigger picture is that most countries say the very presence of Israeli settlements on occupied land violates international law and hurts the chances of a Palestinian state. But Pompeo sees this as the land of the Bible. And, you know, he might be thinking about a run for office in 2024. These photo ops can help him with evangelical voters.
KING: To that end, to the question of what he's thinking long term, Pompeo basically announced a new U.S. policy yesterday. Can you tell us about what that is?
ESTRIN: Right. Well, he made a declaration that a pro-Palestinian movement to boycott Israel is anti-Semitic. Now, many U.S. states have passed laws against Israel boycotts. Many say this kind of boycott is unacceptable because some boycott supporters say Israel should not exist as a Jewish state. Boycotters say calling them anti-Semitic is an attempt to, you know, delegitimize a nonviolent protest in support of Palestinian rights. There was another declaration Pompeo made as well, which is that when the U.S. imports products to the U.S. like wines from the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, they cannot be labeled made in the West Bank. They must be labeled as made in Israel. The West Bank is not Israel, right? Israel has not officially annexed those lands. And here again, Pompeo's siding with Israeli settler claims to those lands.
KING: All right. So Pompeo and President Trump, on their way out. President-Elect Biden, on his way in. What does this mean for his administration?
ESTRIN: Look, Pompeo's trying to lock in this approach on settlements before he leaves office. And it puts Biden in a very tough position. I mean, one Israeli settler leader who's close to the Trump administration told me Pompeo's playing chess here with Biden. And this is check. This is one step before checkmate, you know. But Biden has opposed settlement expansion. He has said that it harms the chances of creating a Palestinian state and bringing peace. So if he reverses Pompeo's moves, he will risk tensions with Israelis and some pro-Israel Americans.
KING: NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem. Daniel, thanks so much.
ESTRIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.