By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis


1. COVID crisis


Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: Pfizer and BioNTech will seek emergency authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine today. Vice President Pence presided over the first White House coronavirus task force in months on Thursday. President-elect Joe Biden and his transition team are still locked out of federal data, including vaccine distribution plans. Biden also ruled out a national lockdown as COVID engulfs the nation, straining hospitals, calling it “counterproductive.”


And what of President Trump, who hasn’t attended a task force meeting in months or acknowledged the growing crisis to his country? His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, held a madcap presser devoid of any evidence of election fraud. Wall Street Journal: "President Trump has broadened his push to overturn the election outcome and threatened Republicans who challenge his refusal to concede, as looming deadlines for key states to certify their results are set to narrow the path for his legal challenges. Some Trump advisers say they are concerned the continued push risks giving false hope to millions of Mr. Trump’s supporters."


With American pandemic deaths crossing the 250,000 threshold, President Trump made calls to Michigan local election officials and is inviting legislators to the White House, while President-elect Joe Biden was talking to stressed out front line medical workers. That explains their priorities. Trump is attempting to undermine the American election system, with a Reuters/Ipsos Poll showing that 68% of Republicans now believing the election was "rigged."  There are Republicans beginning to speak up (though none from Indiana). “Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election," said Sen. Mitt Romney. "It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President.” And Sen. Ben Sasse said, "President Trump lost Michigan by more than 100,000 votes, and the campaign and its allies have lost in or withdrawn from all five lawsuits in Michigan for being unable to produce any evidence. Wild press conferences erode public trust. We are a nation of laws, not tweets.” The damage to our most precious American cornerstone is stunning, disgusting and sad, and the whole world is watching.


2. Out of control pandemic


The CDC is warning Americans not to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday. “Amid this critical phase, the C.D.C. is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving period,” said Dr. Henry Walke, Covid-19 incident manager. “We’re alarmed,” he added, citing an exponential increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Indiana Health Commissioner Kristina Box urged returning college students to hunker down, advising them to “behave as if you have COVID, or have been exposed. And please don’t head out to the bars or hang out with all the friends you haven’t seen for months. You need to keep those social bubbles small.”


3. Key Holcomb hires


Gov. Eric Holcomb made two key hires on Thursday, announcing Dr. Katie Jenner will serve as Indiana’s first secretary of education, while Karrah Herring, the director of public affairs for the University of Notre Dame, has been selected as the state’s first chief equity, inclusion and opportunity officer. Jenner’s selection is the final act of consolidating Indiana education policy under the guise of the governor after the Indiana General Assembly shifted the position from elected to appointed and Gov. Holcomb signed the bill.


4. Banks elected to RSG


U.S. Rep. Jim Banks was elected at chair of the House Republican Study Group on Thursday. As it did for then-Rep, Mike Pence, it gives him a two-year platform to articulate GOP policy. Banks told The Hill, “I think the role of focus Republican Study Committee in the next couple of years is going to be foundational toward determining what the Republican Party stands for, what the conservative movement looks like moving forward in what is likely the post-Trump era. I want RSC to lead a collaborative effort and conversation with where the conservative movement goes from here and draw from the many lessons that we've learned for President Trump.”


5. Biden’s birthday


President-elect Joe Biden turns 78 today. When Biden is sworn into office on Jan. 20, he will displace President Reagan as the oldest president in the nation’s history, who left the White House in 1989 when he was 77 years and 349 days old.


Have a great weekend, folks. Here’s to IU’s Hoosiers, hoping they can upset Ohio State on Saturday (noon of Fox). It’s The Atomic!