President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. warned that a “very dark winter” was ahead and called on Congress to pass an economic stimulus package immediately to help workers struggling to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.
In his first economic address since winning the election this month, Mr. Biden said he supported a national mask mandate to help curb the rise of the virus and that Congress should provide trillions of dollars in fiscal support to workers, businesses and state and local governments.
“For millions of Americans who’ve lost hours and wages or have lost jobs, we can deliver immediate relief and it need be done quickly,” Mr. Biden said. “Congress should come together and pass a Covid relief package” along the lines of the $3 trillion bill that House Democrats passed earlier this year.
Mr. Biden said that combating the virus remained the most urgent matter, however, and called on President Trump to begin the transition process quickly.
“More people may die, if we don’t coordinate,” he said.
Mr. Biden also said that he wanted to see a mask mandate in the United States, reiterating his request for state and local officials to require citizens to wear face coverings as cases surge during the cold winter months. Aiming fire at the Trump administration, he criticized the president and his advisers for attacking leaders of states like Michigan who have imposed new restrictions on businesses to contain rising case numbers.
“What the hell’s the matter with these guys?” Mr. Biden said. “It’s totally irresponsible.”
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, speaking before Mr. Biden, said they were focused on “opening this economy responsibly and rebuilding it so it works for working people.”
Earlier on Monday, Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris spoke with business and union leaders to discuss the recovery, including Mary Barra, the chief executive of General Motors; Sonia Syngal, the chief executive of Gap; Satya Nadella, the head of Microsoft; Richard Trumka of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and Rory Gamble, president of the United Auto Workers.
“They represent very different perspectives, but I’m convinced we can all come together around the same table to advance areas of common ground,” Mr. Biden said. He underscored the importance of unity between business leaders and unions and said that unions would have more power under his watch.
Mr. Biden said he supported a robust stimulus package such as the $3 trillion bill that House Democrats passed earlier this year, and he insisted that funding for states and cities needs to be included in such legislation. The president-elect said that sick leave and money for child care were also priorities, arguing that people should not have to choose between working and caring for others.
His speech came at a perilous moment for the recovery.
Credit card data and other indicators suggest that consumers began to pull back spending this month as infection, hospitalization and death rates from the virus surge nationwide. States have begun to impose new restrictions on economic activity in an effort to tamp down the spread.
But stock markets were rising again on Monday, encouraged by news that Moderna’s vaccine for the virus appears to be highly effective.
Still, widespread distribution of a vaccine that would allow Americans to resume anything close to normal levels of travel, dining out and other types of spending on services that have been crushed by the pandemic is likely months away.
Economists continue to call for a new and immediate round of aid from Congress to help people and businesses weather the difficult time before the rebound is complete.
The plaintiffs in four federal lawsuits around the country challenging the integrity of the presidential election all filed notice Monday morning that they were dropping their cases.
In a coordinated move, the filings — in Michigan, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — came in rapid succession within less than an hour.
The cases were similarly structured: All had been filed by ordinary voters who claimed that the certification of the vote in key counties in their states should be halted because of election improprieties.
Each of them was overseen by James Bopp Jr., a conservative lawyer and former top official at the Republican National Committee. In a brief interview on Monday, Mr. Bopp declined to comment on the suits, saying that he did not want to telegraph his strategy if he ultimately chose to file more cases.
The notices of dismissal were brief and perfunctory, giving no reasons for dropping the cases.
Neither the Trump campaign nor Republican officials were parties in these particular suits, though President Trump has urged his supporters to challenge an election that he has repeatedly claimed, without substantial evidence, was the result of widespread fraud.
The campaign, Republican organizations and individual voters have cumulatively filed nearly two dozen suits in at least seven states that have failed so far to stop either the counting of votes or the certification of results. But the barrage of legal action challenging President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory is not over.
Federal suits are still working their way through courts in Michigan, in Georgia and in Pennsylvania, where a judge in Williamsport is expected to hold a hearing on Tuesday. The Trump campaign also filed an appeal on Monday of a state court suit it lost in Michigan last week. And Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, who is leading the postelection legal battle, has promised further suits.
Late Sunday night, a lawyer for the Trump campaign filed a new version of the Pennsylvania suit, cutting from it one of Mr. Trump’s loudest and most persistent accusations: that Republican poll observers in the state were not given adequate access to monitor voting and vote-counting.
Lawyers for the Democratic Party have repeatedly argued that poll observers in Pennsylvania and other states have had adequate and equal access to counting process.
While the suit still mentions the alleged problems with observers in its introduction, they are no longer included among the formal counts in the complaint, meaning the campaign no longer has to provide evidence that those accusations are true.
President Trump’s national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, said in remarks aired on Monday that Mr. Trump appeared to have lost the election, and he said there would be “a very professional transition” from his staff.
“Look, if the Biden-Harris ticket is determined to be the winner — and obviously things look that way now — we’ll have a very professional transition from the National Security Council,” Mr. O’Brien said.
His remarks may be the most conciliatory public assessment from a senior member of the Trump White House, even as the president maintains his baseless claims that he was the true winner of an election riddled with fraud. But even Mr. O’Brien spoke conditionally, suggesting that the outcome was not certain.
“If there is a new administration, they deserve some time to come in and implement their policies,” Mr. O’Brien said during a talk recorded last week and streamed on Monday as part of a conference hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “And if we are in a situation where we are not going into a Trump second term, which I think people where I’m sitting in the White House would like to see, if it’s another outcome, it will be a professional transition — there’s no question about it,” he said.
Mr. O’Brien seemed to suggest that it was not too late to implement a smooth handoff, citing the weekslong delay after the disputed 2000 presidential election. “I’m old enough to remember Bush v. Gore, and the transition there didn’t start until mid-December, and yet it got done,” he said.
But the special commission formed by Congress to study the roots of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks specifically criticized that delay, finding that the 36-day holdup to the transition that year “hampered the new administration in identifying, recruiting, clearing, and obtaining Senate confirmation of key appointees.”
Aides and advisers to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. are also frustrated that Mr. Trump has made major personnel changes to the country’s national security leadership since the election, including the firing of Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and the installation of several loyalists — some with thin resumes relative to their new posts — at key positions at the Department of Defense and the office of the Director of National Intelligence.
ATLANTA — Roughly two-thirds of the 5 million ballots cast in Georgia’s presidential race have been recounted by hand as of Monday morning, with local elections officials reporting few problems and Democrats saying that the recount so far has not substantially changed President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s lead over President Trump.
Over the weekend, election officials said that roughly 50 of the state’s 159 counties had finished their recounts. All must complete recounting by Wednesday night.
Election officials declined Monday to release the results from individual counties. But Patrick Moore, a lawyer for Mr. Biden, said that Democrats had been keeping tabs on the county results and that only minor discrepancies had turned up.
“As expected, the counties that have completed their audit thus far have shifted vote totals, but almost imperceptibly, and thus far in favor of Joe Biden,” Mr. Moore said on Monday.
The New York Times declared Mr. Biden the winner of Georgia’s 16 electoral votes on Friday, joining a number of major news organizations. In the first round of counting, Mr. Biden outpolled Mr. Trump by more than 14,000 votes.
Even though it was the Trump campaign that had demanded that Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s secretary of state and a Republican, order a recount (Mr. Raffensperger’s office says the process is technically an “audit”), Mr. Trump disparaged the process over the weekend, writing on Twitter, “Their recount is a scam, means nothing.”
Mr. Raffensperger has said repeatedly that the election in Georgia was legitimate. A spokesperson for Representative Doug Collins, the Georgia Republican who is leading the Trump campaign’s recount efforts, could not be reached.
Fulton County, which is Georgia’s most populous and includes most of Atlanta, reported that it had completed its recount Sunday. Officials noted few problems as hundreds of workers in Atlanta’s downtown convention center plowed through more than half a million ballots.
In suburban Cobb County, northwest of Atlanta, a county spokesman, Ross Cavitt, said that most ballots had been recounted and that officials had found “nothing that indicates there’s going be a substantial change in the results.”
The state must certify its overall results, reflecting any changes resulting from the recount, by Nov. 20.
After that, Georgia law enables the second-place finisher to request another recount if the difference in the vote totals is within half a percentage point. Mr. Trump, trailing by about 0.3 percent, is currently within that margin. The second recount would be entail running ballots through scanners, not hand counting.
Mr. Biden was the first Democrat since 1992 to win Georgia, and it was one of five states won by Mr. Trump in 2016 that Mr. Biden flipped. The outcome of the recount will have no bearing on his victory; Mr. Biden has earned 306 electoral votes, well over the 270 he needed to become president-elect.
Michelle Obama suggested President Trump was treating the transition like “a game” on Monday and pleaded with Republicans to “honor the electoral process” by accepting Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the president-elect.
“Our democracy is so much bigger than anybody’s ego,” Mrs. Obama, the former first lady, wrote on Instagram, as she called out the president for “spreading racist lies” about her husband.
Mrs. Obama, one of the most popular women in the world and an influential figure in the Democratic Party, began her post by recounting how painful it had been to acknowledge that Mr. Trump had won in 2016.
Mr. Trump, she said, had spread the racist birther lie that “had put my family in danger” — but she was determined to follow the protocols of respect, cooperation and support that former President George W. Bush and his family adopted after President Barack Obama was elected.
Hillary Clinton, she said, “had just been dealt a tough loss by a far closer margin than the one we’ve seen this year,” she wrote. “I was hurt and disappointed — but the votes had been counted and Donald Trump had won.”
Mr. Trump’s birtherism, she wrote, “wasn’t something I was ready to forgive. But I knew that, for the sake of our country, I had to find the strength and maturity to put my anger aside.” So she instructed her staff in the East Wing to cooperate fully with her successor, Melania Trump, and her aides.
Mrs. Obama, who has delivered memorable convention speeches on behalf of Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Biden, did not campaign in person for Mr. Biden this year, but she helped the Biden-Harris campaign’s fund-raising and get-out-the-vote efforts.
Mrs. Obama’s 2018 memoir, “Becoming,” blended her progressive political views with personal observations about growing up as a Black woman in America, and a candid discussion of what it was like raising children in the glare of public scrutiny.
In keeping with that approach, Mrs. Obama used her personal actions — namely meeting with Mrs. Trump to answer questions about life in the White House four years ago — to illustrate what she sees as Mr. Trump’s dangerous violations of political traditions intended to stabilize the country’s institutions after elections.
“This isn’t a game,” she wrote, addressing the president’s followers, and Republican leaders who have placated Mr. Trump by refusing to acknowledge Mr. Biden’s status as president-elect.
“So I want to urge all Americans, especially our nation’s leaders, regardless of party, to honor the electoral process and do your part to encourage a smooth transition of power, just as sitting presidents have done throughout our history.”
In a last-minute push to achieve its long-sought goal of allowing oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, the Trump administration on Monday announced that it would begin the formal process of selling leases to oil companies.
The lease sales could occur just before Jan. 20, Inauguration Day, leaving the new administration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. — who has opposed drilling in the refuge — to try to reverse them after the fact.
“The Trump administration is trying a ‘Hail Mary’ pass,” said Jenny Rowland-Shea, a senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, a liberal group in Washington. “They know that what they’ve put out there is rushed and legally dubious.”
The Federal Register on Monday posted a “call for nominations” from the Bureau of Land Management, to be officially published Tuesday, relating to lease sales in about 1.5 million acres of the refuge along the coast of the Arctic Ocean. A call for nominations is essentially a request to oil companies to specify which tracts of land they would be interested in exploring and potentially drilling for oil and gas.
The call will allow 30 days for comments, after which the bureau, part of the Interior Department, could issue a final notice of sales to occur as soon as 30 days later.
There was no immediate response to emailed requests for comment from the Interior Department or the Bureau of Land Management office in Alaska.
Any sales would then be subject to review by agencies in the Biden administration, including the bureau and the Justice Department, a process that could take a month or two. That could allow the Biden White House to refuse to issue the leases, perhaps by claiming that the scientific underpinnings of the plan to allow drilling in the refuge were flawed, as environmental groups have claimed.
Reflecting the importance of the January runoffs in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will most likely campaign in the state before he takes office and funnel personnel and resources into the Democratic campaigns there, a top official said on Sunday.
“You’ll see the president-elect campaign down there as we get closer to Election Day,” Ron Klain, whom Mr. Biden tapped as his chief of staff last week, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We’re going to put people, money, resources down there to help our two good candidates win. I’m very hopeful that we can win those seats.”
If the Democratic challengers, Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, unseat both Republican incumbents, Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, and hand Democrats de facto control of the Senate, it will be far easier for Mr. Biden to enact his policy agenda on the coronavirus, health care, taxes, the environment and other issues.
The Democratic Senate candidates themselves took slightly different approaches to discussing the implications of the race on Sunday.
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Mr. Warnock sought to downplay the national significance of the races. Instead, he stressed the vast wealth of his opponent, Ms. Loeffler; his own experience as the pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once led; and health care, the issue Democrats put at the center of most of their congressional campaigns this year.
“This race is not about me — and Chuck Schumer’s name is certainly not on the ballot,” he said, referring to the Senate Democratic leader who would take control if Democrats snatched up both Georgia seats. “I’ll tell you what is on the ballot. Health care is on the ballot. Access to affordable health care.”
Mr. Ossoff, the other Democratic candidate, eagerly outlined the sweeping implications of the contests in an appearance on ABC’s “This Week” declaring, “With Trump departing, we have the opportunity to define the next chapter in American history, to lead out of this crisis — but only by winning these Senate seats.”
Mr. Warnock and Mr. Ossoff are working closely together, too. But the differences in how they are talking about the race stood out as Mr. Perdue and Ms. Loeffler campaign as a packaged ticket, reading from the same carefully coordinated playbook that warns that Democratic victories would alter the course of the country in dangerous ways.
“We are the last line of defense against this liberal socialist agenda that the Democrats will perpetrate,” Mr. Perdue said on Fox News. “We heard Schumer say just last week, ‘If we take Georgia, we change America.’”
Mr. Perdue has said he will not participate in a debate with Mr. Ossoff that had been planned for Dec. 6 by the Atlanta Press Club, just weeks after he withdrew from another debate against the Democrat in the days leading up to the election. At their only face-to-face debate, in late October, Mr. Ossoff slammed the incumbent over his stock transactions, calling him a “crook” as the senator gazed uncomfortably into the camera.
Georgia’s Senate battles come as Republican infighting over Mr. Biden’s narrow win over President Trump in the state — and a hand recount of the results expected to be completed this week — intensified.
Writing on his official Facebook page Sunday, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, shot back at Mr. Trump over a tweet in which the president claimed that absentee ballots were prone to fraud. Mr. Raffensperger ridiculed the president’s top defender in the state, Representative Doug Collins, for suggesting the signature validation system implemented by his office was inadequate.
“Failed candidate Doug Collins is a liar — but what’s new?” wrote Mr. Raffensperger, referring to Mr. Collins’s third-place finish in the contest that sent Ms. Loeffler and Mr. Warnock to a runoff.
When President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. assumes the White House, repairing what has become a toxic relationship with China, the world’s second largest economy, will need to be a top priority.
The hard choices for Mr. Biden will include deciding whether to maintain about $360 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports that have raised costs for American businesses and consumers, or whether to relax those levies in exchange for concessions on economic issuesor on other fronts like climate change.
But Mr. Biden will need to walk a careful line. He and his advisers view many of President Trump’s measures, which were aimed at severing ties between the Chinese and American economies, as clumsy, costly and unstrategic. Mr. Trump placed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of products from China, imposed sanctions on Chinese companies and restricted Chinese businesses from buying American technology — a multiyear onslaught aimed at forcing Beijing to change its trade practices and as punishment for its authoritarian ways.
And Mr. Trump shows no sign of letting up in his final days in office: On Thursday, he issued an executive order barring investments in Chinese firms with military ties.
Biden advisers say they want to take a smarter approach that combines working with the Chinese on some issues like global warming and the pandemic, while competing with them on technological leadership and confronting them on other issues like military expansionism, human rights violations or unfair trade.
But even if it departs from Mr. Trump’s punishing approach, the Biden administration will be eager to maintain leverage over China to accomplish its own policy goals. And the new administration will face pressure from lawmakers in both parties who view China as a national security threat and have introduced legislation aimed at penalizing Beijing for its human rights abuses, global influence operations and economic practices.
Like President Bill Clinton, Joseph R. Biden Jr. is an empathetic extrovert with a sprawling network of friends. Like President George W. Bush, he respects American political traditions, and with President Barack Obama, he shares eight years of history, experiences and some Washington battle scars.
But when Mr. Biden enters the White House in January, after four turbulent years of the Trump presidency and what is shaping up to be a chaotic transition period, he will bring with him his own set of instincts.
He has honed the ways he operates in Washington over 36 years as a senator and eight years as vice president. Based on his actions and attitudes throughout his most recent 18 months as a presidential candidate, here are four key elements of how Mr. Biden may approach governing come January, 48 years after he first arrived in Washington.
He consults experts, elected officials and his inner circle.
Mr. Biden relied this year on a blend of expert opinion and conversations with elected officials across the country as he formulated his plans to confront the extraordinary public health and economic crises at hand.
He can be loose with deadlines.
At key points throughout the campaign, Mr. Biden wanted to take in as much information as possible and missed self-imposed deadlines on, for example, naming a running mate. Mr. Biden ultimately is decisive, his allies argue, saying that he is not the kind of person to second-guess or to walk back a promise once he has arrived at a deal in a negotiation. But on major political and personnel decisions, at least, he has demonstrated that he cannot be rushed.
He’s a man of the Senate at heart.
His experience in the Senate defined his political outlook — one that prizes consensus, civility and bipartisanship as essential to at least some progress — and helps explain why he will enter the White House with great respect for Congress.
Joe Biden has a mandate to be Joe Biden.
After four years of President Trump in the White House, Mr. Biden promises, in many respects, a return to the past norms and traditions that have typically defined the office, whether that’s embracing the traditional role of serving as consoler in chief in times of tragedy or refusing to use Twitter to deliver messages to the American people.
The counties won by President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. experienced worse job losses, on average, during the initial wave of pandemic layoffs than the counties where President Trump was strongest in his bid for re-election.
After the worst of the downturn in April, many of the most affected red counties recovered far more swiftly than blue counties did. By September, as unemployment fell nearly everywhere, blue counties were more likely to have higher unemployment rates.
The economy is usually a big issue in election battles, and this election season saw both historically low levels of unemployment before the pandemic and later the worst rates of job loss since the Great Depression.
Mr. Trump’s supporters said consistently as the election approached that the health of the economy was important to them. In exit polls conducted by Edison Research, among those who said the economy mattered the most across a range of issues, 83 percent voted for Mr. Trump, compared with only 17 percent who supported Mr. Biden.
This gap in unemployment between Trump and Biden counties plays out on a state level as well, and has persisted even after many people returned to work.
Research has shown that Democratic areas, which tend to be more urban and have higher concentrations of service jobs, were particularly devastated by the economic fallout early in the pandemic. Many of these blue-leaning areas, including Clark County, Nev., home to Las Vegas, rely on tourism. Miami-Dade County, Fla., is another blue county where the disappearance of tourists damaged the economy.
In states such as Alabama and Mississippi, blue-leaning counties also have higher concentrations of Black residents — a group that has been disproportionately vulnerable to job loss and has lagged behind white workers during the economic crisis.
This pattern, however, does not hold true in every part of the country. The state with the highest county unemployment rates in April was Michigan, with one out of every three residents in some counties out of work. Several of the worst-hit counties in Michigan went on to vote for President Trump.
WASHINGTON — America’s two major parties had hoped the 2020 presidential election would render a decisive judgment on the country’s political trajectory. But after a race that broke records for voter turnout and campaign spending, neither Democrats nor Republicans have achieved the upper hand.
Instead, the election delivered a split decision, ousting President Trump but narrowing the Democratic majority in the House and perhaps preserving the Republican majority in the Senate. As President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. prepares to take office and preside over a closely divided government, leaders in both camps are acknowledging that voters seem to have issued not a mandate for the left or the right but a muddled plea to move on from Trump-style chaos.
Both parties find themselves stretched thin and battling on new fronts, with their traditional strongholds increasingly under siege. Indeed, Democrats and Republicans are facing perhaps the most unsettled and up-for-grabs electoral map the country has seen since the parties fought over California in the late 1980s.
This competition has denied either party the ability to claim broad majorities and has prompted a series of election cycles, which could be repeated in 2022, in which any gains Democrats make in the country’s booming cities and states are at least partly offset by growing Republican strength in rural areas.
The election also represented a continuation of this trench warfare between two parties that are increasingly defined by their activist flanks and limited to only incremental advances.
“We are more divided than any other time in my lifetime,” said Haley Barbour, the former Mississippi governor and Republican National Committee chair, whose first job in politics was on Richard M. Nixon’s 1968 campaign. “But usually when we’re at parity we’re bunched up in the middle — now we’ve got parity but with extreme polarity.”
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has said that one of his first priorities will be rolling back his predecessor’s restrictive immigration policies. To do it, he may have to overhaul the Department of Homeland Security, which has been bent to President Trump’s will over the past four years.
The department, created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, has helped enforce some of Mr. Trump’s most divisive policies, like separating families at the border, banning travel from Muslim-majority countries and building his border wall. When the president tried to reframe his campaign around law and order this year, Homeland Security leaders rallied to the cause, deploying tactical officers to protect statues and confront protesters.
Interviews with 16 current and former Homeland Security officials and advisers involved with Mr. Biden’s transition, and a review of his platform, suggest an agenda that aims to incorporate climate change in department policy, fill vacant posts and bolster responsibilities that Mr. Trump neglected, including disaster response and cybersecurity.
But undoing Mr. Trump’s immigration policies will initially dominate the agenda.
The Trump administration enacted more than 400 changes to tighten or choke off immigration, and while Mr. Biden can roll back the ones issued through executive orders or policy memorandums, rescinding policies that went through the full regulatory process will take time, according to Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst for the Migration Policy Institute.
“On immigration, I expect them to stick to things that are high profile, very easy procedurally and come with minimal logistical burden,” Ms. Pierce said.
That includes ending travel bans that restrict travel from 13 mostly Muslim and African countries and halting the Trump administration’s efforts to strip protections for about 700,000 young immigrants brought to the country as children.
The new administration will end the national emergency declaration that allowed Mr. Trump to divert billions of Pentagon dollars to the border wall, but an adviser involved in the transition said there were no plans to dismantle the 400 miles of wall already up.
Other regulations will prove more challenging to unravel, like the maze of asylum restrictions imposed by the Trump administration and the public charge rule that allows green cards to be denied to immigrants who are deemed likely to use public assistance.
Jay Clayton, the former corporate lawyer who led the Securities and Exchange Commission during the Trump administration, will step down by the end of the year, he announced on Monday. The move was first reported in the DealBook newsletter.
In nearly four years as chairman, Mr. Clayton largely lived up to the pledge he delivered in his first speech on the job, forgoing “wholesale changes to the commission’s fundamental regulatory approach.” He presided over a regime largely free of drama or major changes at the agency — aside from a prominent battle with Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk.
When he was chosen to head the S.E.C. in 2017, few expected Mr. Clayton to make waves. He had spent decades as a lawyer at the white-shoe law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, working with clients like Alibaba, Barclays and Goldman Sachs. His nomination by President Trump to fill a term that expires in June 2021 was somewhat of a surprise, given that Mr. Clayton had been known for being largely apolitical.
His focus at the agency was protecting “the long-term interests of the Main Street investor,” he said. That approach surfaced in moves like stopping the car-rental company Hertz from selling stock while in bankruptcy protection and cracking down on cryptocurrency frauds.
He also expressed skepticism about the transparency of disclosures for special purpose acquisition companies, the blank-check investment funds known as SPACs that have become hot on Wall Street, echoing concerns that they may hurt ordinary investors while benefitting the savvy deal makers running them.
Critics contended that Mr. Clayton was too soft on business. But during his tenure, the commission pursued 3,152 enforcement cases, slightly more than the number brought by his predecessor, Mary Jo White, from 2013 to 2017, and also obtained orders for larger financial remedies than under the previous chief. That said, NPR reported that the S.E.C. brought just 32 insider-trading enforcement actions last year, the fewest since 1996.
The S.E.C.’s most prominent battle came when it sued Tesla in 2018 over Mr. Musk’s tweets about taking the carmaker private. It resulted in Mr. Musk stepping down as chairman and paying a $20 million fine. That same year, the commission accused Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, of lying about her company’s blood-testing capabilities. It extracted a $500,000 settlement and barred her from serving as an executive or director of a public company for a decade, though the agency did not require her to admit guilt.
Mr. Clayton followed in the steps of many Republican leaders of the S.E.C. in pursuing deregulation. Under his watch, the commission loosened rules governing the independence of corporate auditors, adopted a conduct standard for brokers that consumer advocates argue weakened protections and proposed making most hedge funds exempt from publicly disclosing their stock holdings, generating widespread opposition.
One of the most memorable moments of Mr. Clayton’s tenure had to do with a different government post. Earlier this year, he told Attorney General Bill Barr that he was interested in becoming the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, despite having never been a litigator. After Geoffrey Berman was fired from the post, a political firestorm effectively forced Mr. Clayton to back off.
It is unclear what Mr. Clayton plans to do next, though he is unlikely to take up another corporate role in the near term. Like other financial agencies, the commission is expected to get tougher on big business under President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.