President-elect Joe Biden pushed forward with his transition planning Wednesday amid resistance from President Donald Trump, whose administration is stonewalling the former vice president as the president pursues legal challenges to the election results.
Biden has been unable to receive intelligence reports because of the Trump administration's unwillingness to acknowledge his victory. On Tuesday, the Democratic president-elect called Trump's refusal to concede "an embarrassment" and said his transition was "well underway" despite the efforts to stymie his plans. Those include the General Service Administration head's refusal to recognize his incoming administration, which is delaying millions of dollars in transition funds and access to current government officials.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department's election crimes chief resigned in protest this week after Attorney General William Barr directed federal prosecutors to investigate "substantial allegations" of voter fraud before the presidential race results are certified — a change to Justice Department policy. And Senate Republicans got a victory in North Carolina's Senate race, raising the stakes in the two outstanding Georgia races, which appear likely to determine control of the chamber.
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Georgia secretary of state says officials will conduct hand recount in presidential race
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Wednesday that officials will conduct a full hand recount of votes in the presidential race.
At a press conference in Atlanta, Raffensperger, a Republican, said officials would recount every paper ballot by hand in each county and aim to complete the audit by Nov. 20, the certification deadline for the election.
Raffensperger said that with 97 percent of the vote reported, Biden leads Trump by more than 14,000 votes in the state. He said officials will investigate any case of illegal voting.
When asked, the secretary of state denied his office was doing the recount at the direction of the Trump campaign, saying the audit would go forward because it makes the most sense because of the "national significance of this race and the closeness of this race."
Raffensperger also said that he would be moving the Dec. 1 state runoffs to Jan. 5, when Georgia is holding a Senate runoff election. NBC News has projected that the race between Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock will go to a runoff, but the race between GOP Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff is still too close to call, with neither candidate currently receiving 50 percent of the vote.
Blue and red states cite smooth election, contrary to Trump's baseless claims
ATLANTA — The 2020 election unfolded smoothly across the country and without any widespread irregularities, according to state officials and election experts, a stark contrast to the baseless claims of fraud being leveled by President Donald Trump following his defeat.
Election experts said the large increase in advance voting — 107 million people voting early in person and by mail — helped take pressure off Election Day operations. There were also no incidents of violence at the polls or voter intimidation.
“The 2020 general election was one of the smoothest and most well-run elections that we have ever seen, and that is remarkable considering all the challenges,” said Ben Hovland, a Democrat appointed by Trump to serve on the Election Assistance Commission.
Errors seemed to have occurred at lower rates than in most elections, University of Iowa computer scientist Doug Jones said.
“The practical consequence of Trump’s call to vigilance to prevent fraud was increased scrutiny from both sides, and this increased scrutiny seems to have worked,” Jones said. “Election officials have been more careful, and election procedures have been followed more scrupulously than usual.”
The federal agency charged with leading efforts to secure U.S. elections has said there were no significant problems aside from small, ordinary glitches.
Read more here.
Indigenous candidates' wins in Congress give hope for change
Internet access, health care and basic necessities like running water and electricity within Indigenous communities have long been at the center of congressional debates. But until recently, Congress didn’t have many Indigenous members who were pushing for solutions and funding for those issues.
Hope is growing after the Native delegation in the U.S. House expanded by two on Election Day: Yvette Herrell, who is Cherokee and prevailed in New Mexico’s 2nd Congressional District, and Kai Kahele, a Native Hawaiian who won that state’s 2nd District.
They will join four Native Americans who won reelection: Reps. Deb Haaland of New Mexico, who’s Laguna; Sharice Davids of Kansas, who’s Ho-Chunk; Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, who’s Cherokee; and Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who’s Chickasaw.
Of the six who prevailed, half are Democrats and half Republican — a divide Cole said would “absolutely be indispensable in passing anything the next two years.” The winners were among a dozen Indigenous major-party candidates running in top-of-the-ticket races.
Puerto Rico discovers uncounted ballots 1 week after election
Puerto Rico’s elections commission said Tuesday that it has discovered more than 100 briefcases containing uncounted ballots a week after the U.S. territory held its general election, drawing criticism and scorn from voters who now question the validity of the outcomes of certain races.
Francisco Rosado, the commission’s new president, said the briefcases were found in a secured vault and blamed the situation on what he said was an underfunded and understaffed administrative board responsible for counting a record number of absentee and early votes.
“We’ve identified, much to our regret, a disorganization in the handling of material in the vaults,” he said at a press conference. “Misplaced. Poorly organized. We have to admit that.”
Rosado said he didn’t know yet how many total votes are in the 126 briefcases, noting some contained three ballots and others 500 ballots. Officials initially said there were 182 briefcases but later revised the number.
The discovery is the latest misstep for a commission that botched the island’s primaries in August so badly that a second round of voting was held, an unprecedented situation that led to the commission’s previous president to resign a month later. Then the commission was criticized for taking a record four days after the Nov. 3 general election to finalize counting nearly all votes, only to announce on Tuesday that it had discovered more briefcases. Traditionally, the commission releases final vote counts the night of the election.
Ukraine police close Biden probe initiated by ousted prosecutor
Ukrainian authorities have closed a criminal probe into Joe Biden, who was accused of improperly forcing the ouster of the country’s prosecutor general in 2016, a police spokesperson said.
The investigation was launched in February after the ousted prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, appealed to a court.
Under Ukrainian law, anyone can go to court to request an investigation if the State Investigative Bureau declines to open one on its own. The courts overwhelmingly order law enforcement to launch criminal cases even in the absence of evidence, according to Vitaly Shabunin, the co-founder of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, a Kyiv-based watchdog group.
President Trump pressured Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce a probe of this kind last year, a move that led to Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives. Trump was accused of corruptly using government power to push for political help from Ukraine in the form of investigations to try to discredit his Democratic political rivals. The president was acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate in a mostly party-line vote.
California voters reject revamp to property tax system
California voters rejected a proposal to partially dismantle the state’s 42-year-old cap on property taxes, a move that would have have raised taxes for many businesses in a pandemic-hobbled economy.
Following Tuesday’s update to the vote count, Proposition 15 had only about 48% support and was trailing by more than a half-million votes.
The loss is another blow to organized labor, which also came out on the losing side of the most expensive ballot question in state history. That would have required Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other app-based delivery services to treat their drivers as employees rather than independent contractors.
Since 1978, California has limited tax increases to 2% a year until a property is sold. With prices climbing at a much higher rate, taxpayers who have held homes and businesses for many years pay far less than what the market value would determine.
Proposition 15 would have allowed local governments to reassess commercial and industrial property every three years, while residential property, including home-based businesses, would remain under 1978 rules. The change would have generated up to $12.5 billion in revenue.
Trump wins Alaska, NBC News projects
President Donald Trump has won Alaska, NBC News projects, leading Joe Biden with 57 percent of the vote and 75 percent of the total vote reported.
The victory means Biden now leads Trump in the Electoral College 279 to 217 — already past the level to have won the presidency.
NBC News has yet to make calls in the presidential race in Georgia, Arizona and North Carolina. Biden is leading in Georgia and Arizona while Trump is up in North Carolina. NBC News deems each race still too close to call.
GOP incumbent Dan Sullivan defeats Democrat Al Gross in Alaska Senate race, NBC projects
GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan has been re-elected to his seat in Alaska, defeating Democratic challenger Al Gross, NBC News projects.
With 75 percent of the vote in, Sullivan received more than 57 percent of the vote and leads Gross by more than 52,000 votes.
NYC man arrested for threatening to kill Sen. Schumer, protesters, prosecutors say
Authorities arrested a man in New York after he threatened to kill “anyone that claims to be a democrat” and “blow up” the FBI on social media, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, including FBI agents and New York Police Department officers, arrested Brian Maiorana, 54, early Tuesday at his home on Staten Island.
Maiorana was charged in a federal complaint with threatening to kill and ordering others to kill protesters, law enforcement members and elected officials, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, (D-N.Y.), according to papers filed in the Eastern District of New York. A judge in a Brooklyn federal court ordered his detainment pending a bail hearing, prosecutors said.
His attorney, James Darrow, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. Family members of Maiorana could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday
Trade, Covid-19, climate change and more: Host of global issues awaits Biden
But with domestic crises including the coronavirus pandemic, an economic recession and a national reckoning with racism on Biden’s home blotter, the new president may have to initially set aside any bold international initiatives, said Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.
“More than ever before, domestic priorities are going to squeeze out any foreign policy agenda in the first six months at least,” Glaser said.
That means Biden will need to set strict priorities on the global concerns he addresses, said Peter Trubowitz, director of the U.S. Center at the London School of Economics.
With that in mind, here’s where Biden will likely land on major issues and challenges facing the United States globally.