President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is set to formally introduce Pete Buttigieg as his nominee for the secretary of transportation, a key role in advancing Mr. Biden’s ambitious agenda on both rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and on climate change, one of the most important priorities for the new administration.
A one-time political rival of Mr. Biden’s, Mr. Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., supports restoring Obama-era vehicle emissions standards and making the United States carbon neutral by 2050, priorities that align with the climate-centric role Mr. Biden wants for his Transportation Department. The agency has the authority to regulate vehicle emissions, the leading source of climate-warming pollution in the United States.
Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will announce Mr. Buttigieg at an event in Wilmington, Del.
If he is confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Buttigieg will be the first openly gay person to serve as a cabinet secretary, and at 38, he would also be one of the youngest in history. Julián Castro was 39 when President Barack Obama appointed him housing secretary in 2014. And Alexander Hamilton was in his mid-30s when he became the nation’s first Treasury secretary.
“His voice as a champion for the L.G.B.T.Q. community in the cabinet room will help President-elect Biden build back our nation better, stronger and more equal than before,” said Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign.
As the mayor of South Bend, Ind., Mr. Buttigieg worked to revive his crumbling downtown by making infrastructure and the city’s transportation corridors an early focus of his tenure.
The two men developed a close relationship after Mr. Buttigieg ended his primary campaign to be the Democratic nominee and endorsed Mr. Biden. A Navy veteran, Mr. Buttigieg was said to be on Mr. Biden’s short list to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, a post for which Mr. Biden ultimately chose Denis McDonough, a former Obama chief of staff. Mr. Biden has said that Mr. Buttigieg reminds him of his late son, Beau Biden, who died of brain cancer in 2015.
Many in the left wing of the Democratic Party want President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to move faster in announcing substantive plans for his administration, providing more than just glimpses of what he might do in the early days of his administration, such as a sweeping plan to bring the pandemic under control.
At the same time, many members of Republican Party have refused to accept Mr. Biden as the winner of the Nov. 4 election, something Senate Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged just a day ago. He urged other Republicans to do the same.
But despite the tensions with opposite ends of the political spectrum, Mr. Biden has maintained a steady and deliberate pace in developing a unified platform with his advisers. He has revealed plans for his administration, introducing his cabinet picks over weeks, not days — most recently Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., to lead the Transportation Department. In the coming days, he is expected to name Jennifer M. Granholm, a former governor of Michigan, to serve as energy secretary and Gina McCarthy, a former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, to be his senior adviser on climate change.
Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are scheduled to introduce Mr. Buttigieg as the transportation secretary nominee at an event in Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday.
Mr. McConnell’s public recognition of Mr. Biden’s win and belated congratulations inspired some optimism among Democrats that the relative monotony of recent weeks, during which President Trump has waged a daily campaign challenging the election results across multiple states, might at last be breaking.
And while Mr. Biden’s slow rollout of his plans for the next four years has helped pre-empt outcry from factions in the Democratic Party that are vying for influence, it has also increasingly fueled frustrations from interest groups and the party’s progressive wing, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, both of which said they had felt neglected in the coalition that helped bring him to power.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected to announce a significant part of his energy and environment team this week.
In the coming days, Mr. Biden intends to name prominent leaders in the climate and clean-energy world to two senior positions: Gina McCarthy, a former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, will be his senior adviser on climate change, and Jennifer M. Granholm, a former governor of Michigan, will lead the Energy Department.
Mr. Biden on Tuesday named Pete Buttigieg, the former Democratic presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend., Ind., to be his transportation secretary, a job that is expected to become climate-centric as Mr. Biden pushes policies to promote electric vehicles and climate-resilient infrastructure.
Still undecided, though, is the president-elect’s choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. That person will be central to his campaign pledges to enact an ambitious agenda of fighting climate change and reinstating environmental regulations that President Trump rolled back.
Ms. McCarthy, who led the Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama administration, was the architect of landmark rules to cut planet-warming pollution. In her new role, she would be in charge of coordinating domestic climate change policies across the federal government.
In addition to developing the Clean Power Plan, which set the first-ever national limits on carbon emissions from power plants, she also pushed forward rules to cut mercury emissions from power plants, to increase fuel efficiency in automobiles and to limit methane leaks from oil and gas wells.
The coal, gas and oil industries opposed all these policies, which were ultimately repealed or weakened by the Trump administration.
Ms. McCarthy’s deputy will be Ali Zaidi, the New York State deputy secretary for energy and environment. Mr. Zaidi served in the Obama administration’s Office of Management and Budget, where he helped to coordinate and enact climate change policies and served as a top adviser on climate change to Mr. Biden’s campaign.
John Podesta, the founder of the Center for American Progress and a onetime adviser to President Barack Obama on climate change, called Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Zaidi a “powerhouse team.”
Some Republicans were less enthusiastic. Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming said in a statement that he was concerned about reviving Obama-era policies that he described as “punishing” to his state as well as others with economies reliant on fossil fuels.
In her new position, Ms. McCarthy will be empowered to direct agency heads across the federal government to enact climate policies, such as emissions rules at the E.P.A. and financial regulations on companies in connection with their bottom-line financial exposure to climate risks.
However, it is not yet clear who will hold her old job of E.P.A. administrator, a position that comes with the authority to reinstate and strengthen the very Obama-era climate rules that Ms. McCarthy once wrote.
Mr. Biden’s first choice to lead the E.P.A. was Mary D. Nichols, California’s top climate change regulator. But liberal activists contended that she had not done enough in her state to address racial disparities in environmental policy.
That has set off a scramble to find a new candidate to lead the agency. Possibilities now include Richard L. Revesz, a law professor and former dean of the New York University School of Law; Michael S. Regan, who currently serves as head of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality; and Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles.
One member of the Biden transition staff said that a final E.P.A. choice might not come until after Christmas.
Congressional leaders on Wednesday closed in on an agreement on a coronavirus relief measure that could infuse the economy with as much as $900 billion, as they raced to complete both a pandemic aid package and a catchall federal spending measure before government funding lapses on Friday.
The top two Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill appeared to be coalescing around a plan that would include both another round of direct stimulus payments to Americans and additional unemployment benefits, according to people familiar with the emerging compromise who described it on condition of anonymity.
While the details were not yet final, the plan was also expected to provide billions of dollars for vaccine distribution, schools and small businesses, but omit coronavirus liability protections long sought by Republicans and a dedicated funding stream for state and local governments insisted upon by Democrats — the two most contentious sticking points.
The contours of the deal, reported earlier by Politico, became clear after a flurry of late-night negotiations among the four leaders and their staff on Capitol Hill. With Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, joining by phone, the four met twice on Tuesday in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office suite in the Capitol to work out the details.
“We committed to continuing these urgent discussions until there’s an agreement,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said Wednesday morning in a speech on the Senate floor.
It was unclear how large the direct payments would be, though the $2.2 trillion stimulus law enacted in March provided $1,200 per adult, and progressives and some conservative Republicans have recently called for the same amount or more to be included in the new round of aid.
Negotiators were also still haggling over an expansion and extension of unemployment benefits and how long they would last. They were also discussing reinstituting supplemental jobless payments — which were at $600 per week when they lapsed over the summer, but would likely be revived at a smaller amount. Although Democrats appeared to have dropped their demand for a major new infusion of aid for state and local governments, some officials familiar with the discussions said privately that there were other avenues to provide some of those funds in the final package.
An agreement on both the relief measure and must-pass legislation including the dozen spending bills needed to keep the government funded beyond Friday could emerge later on Wednesday.
Sidney Powell, a lawyer who was part of President Trump’s legal team, spread a conspiracy theory last month about election fraud. For days, she claimed that she would “release the Kraken” by showing voluminous evidence that Mr. Trump had won the election by a landslide.
But after her assertions were widely derided and failed to gain legal traction, Ms. Powell started talking about a new topic. On Dec. 4, she posted a link on Twitter with misinformation that said that the population would be split into the vaccinated and the unvaccinated and that “big government” could surveil those who were unvaccinated.
“NO WAY #America,” Ms. Powell wrote in the tweet, which collected 22,600 shares and 51,000 likes. “This is more authoritarian communist control imported straight from #China.” She then tagged Mr. Trump and the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn — both of whom she had represented — and other prominent right-wing figures to highlight the post.
Ms. Powell’s changing tune was part of a broader shift in online misinformation. As Mr. Trump’s challenges to the election’s results have been knocked down and the Electoral College has affirmed President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s win, voter fraud misinformation has subsided. Instead, peddlers of online falsehoods are ramping up lies about the Covid-19 vaccines, which were administered to Americans for the first time this week.
Apart from Ms. Powell, others who have spread political misinformation such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican of Georgia, as well as far-right websites like ZeroHedge, have begun pushing false vaccine narratives, researchers said.
Their efforts have been amplified by a robust network of anti-vaccination activists like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on platforms including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Among their misleading notions is the idea that the vaccines are delivered with a microchip or bar code to keep track of people, as well as a lie that the vaccines will hurt everyone’s health (the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have been proved to be more than 94 percent effective in trials, with minimal side effects). Falsehoods about Bill Gates, the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist who supports vaccines, have also increased, with rumors that he is responsible for the coronavirus and that he stands to profit from a vaccine, according to data from media insights company Zignal Labs.
The shift shows how political misinformation purveyors are hopping from topic to topic to maintain attention and influence, said Melissa Ryan, chief executive of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches disinformation.
It is “an easy pivot,” she said. “Disinformation about vaccines and the pandemic have long been staples of the pro-Trump disinformation playbook.”
Christopher Krebs, the former top cybersecurity chief fired by President Trump after he disputed the president’s false claims of election fraud, will testify before a Senate committee on Wednesday morning — after courts and state elections panels confirmed his analysis.
Mr. Krebs, who led the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency through the presidential election, had joined other election officials in calling the vote “the most secure in American history,” a fact-finding summary Mr. Trump viewed as political usurpation.
Mr. Trump attacked Mr. Krebs, a widely respected cybersecurity expert with experience in the public and private sectors, last month and forced him out a week later.
Mr. Krebs has since filed a lawsuit accusing the president, members of his legal team and the conservative TV outlet Newsmax of engaging in “a calculated and pernicious conspiracy” to defame and injure Mr. Krebs and other members of the Republican Party who have stood up against the president’s baseless claims of election fraud.
Mr. Krebs’s testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee comes just days after the revelation of a hack engineered by Russia’s premier intelligence agencies of multiple federal agencies, including the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and parts of the Pentagon.
Senator Gary Peters, Democrat of Michigan and the ranking member of the committee, issued a statement on Tuesday criticizing Republicans for holding the hearing, which was billed as “Examining Irregularities in the 2020 Election.”
While some officials have framed the inquiry as a matter of simply getting to the truth, Mr. Peters said, “the real goal of this hearing is to help a defeated presidential candidate in his last-ditch effort to cling to power, despite the undeniable fact that the American people have chosen Joe Biden to serve as the next president of the United States.”
Sen. Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin and the chairman of the committee, acknowledged in a statement that Mr. Trump’s litigation campaign has been roundly rejected by the courts. But, he said, “The only way to resolve suspicions is with full transparency and public awareness. That will be the goal of the hearing.”
The extensive hack of American government computer systems, almost certainly orchestrated by the Kremlin, underscores the daunting foreign policy challenge that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia poses to the incoming Biden administration.
The Russian leader did not acknowledge the Biden victory until Tuesday, and for weeks Kremlin-backed news outlets had gleefully amplified President Trump’s groundless claims of election fraud.
“I am ready for contacts and interactions with you,” Mr. Putin said in a message of congratulations to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., according to a Kremlin statement issued Tuesday.
Yet there is little doubt Mr. Putin is unhappy that Mr. Trump’s see-no-evil approach to Russia is coming to an end, as the relationship with Mr. Biden is setting up as tense if not hostile.
Many of Mr. Biden’s key goals — reviving arms control, combating climate change, ending the coronavirus pandemic and stabilizing the Middle East — will require collaboration with a Russian leader who is nakedly hostile to Western interests.
Mr. Biden and his national security team must find a way to do that even as they work to check a Kremlin whose troops harass American forces in conflict zones overseas and whose state-sponsored hackers have interfered in presidential elections in the United States.
Although Mr. Putin emerged as a clear rival during the Obama era, when Mr. Biden was vice president, the incoming president will face an even bolder Russian leader who advances his nation’s interests — and challenges American ones — not only in what Moscow calls its near-abroad but also in Western Europe, Africa, Latin America and the Arctic.
Mr. Putin has also become a threat in the United States, emerging as a malignant player in domestic politics whose proxies flood social media with disinformation and seek to interfere in elections, with a clear bias against Democrats like Mr. Biden.
“Russia has moved from a classical, conventional nuclear power to an insidious hybrid threat,” said Fiona Hill, who spent more than two years as Mr. Trump’s top National Security Council aide for Russia affairs.
Mr. Putin’s message to Mr. Biden betrayed no hostility and, in the words of the Kremlin, “expressed confidence that Russia and the United States, which bear special responsibility for global security and stability, can, despite their differences, effectively contribute to solving many problems and meeting challenges that the world is facing today.”
The Trump administration on Wednesday labeled Vietnam and Switzerland as currency manipulators, accusing them for the first time of improperly intervening in foreign exchange markets and setting off a new economic confrontation with two trading partners.
It was the first time that the Treasury Department has applied that label to either country, and will require Vietnam and Switzerland to enter into negotiations with the United States and the International Monetary Fund to address the situation.
The currency report is the final one by the Trump administration and it will be up to the next Treasury secretary to determine whether to keep or remove those labels. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has nominated Janet L. Yellen for the post.
Previously, the Trump administration applied the label to China in 2019 — the first time it had been used since 1994 — while the two countries were negotiating a trade deal. The administration later dropped the official designation but the Chinese yuan has remained on Treasury’s list of currencies it is monitoring.
The decision to label Vietnam a currency manipulator is the latest move by the Trump administration to take aim at that country over its trade practices. In October, the administration opened an investigation into Vietnam’s trade practices, saying it would begin looking into whether Vietnam has undervalued its currency — the dong — which made its products unfairly cheap abroad. It was looking also at the country’s importation and use of timber, which the administration said was illegally harvested and traded. Vietnam is America’s 13th largest trading partner, according to the U.S. Trade Representative.
Switzerland, which is America’s 16th largest trading partner, “conducted large-scale one-sided intervention,” the report said, “significantly larger than in previous periods, to resist appreciation of the franc and reduce risks of deflation.”
Currency manipulation labels are supposed to set off talks with the United States and can involve input from the International Monetary Fund. If the Treasury Department’s concerns are not resolved, the United States could impose an array of penalties including tariffs.
A senior Treasury official said that Ms. Yellen, who has been nominated as Treasury secretary, had not yet been briefed on designations and that they are the decisions of the Trump administration.
The Biden administration has not clarified whether it would continue the Trump administration’s pressure campaign on Vietnam. But many labor unions and progressive Democrats have supported adopting tougher trade measures on countries that artificially weaken their currency, saying they undercut America’s ability to manufacture and export by making U.S. goods comparatively more expensive.