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Nov. 11 highlights: Presidential transition stonewalled by Trump administration

The president-elect called Donald Trump's failure to concede the election "an embarrassment" as he readies to tackle Covid and health care.
Image: Donald Trump and Joe Biden on a background of red and blue ripples with white stars.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading election news from Nov. 12, 2020.

What's Trump doing as Covid-19 cases surge? It's not clear.

What’s the president doing regarding pandemic response after a week in which states shattered Covid-19 records with the surge worsening as we head into winter? It’s not clear since he has not addressed it publicly in person since the election.

He actually hasn’t said anything in person at all to Americans in a week. His coronavirus task force met Monday for only the second time since Oct. 20th. But the president himself doesn’t regularly attend those meetings. 

What about online? The president’s been active there, sure — but not on the Covid-19 surge. Since the election, he has tweeted only rarely about the pandemic generally - and even then, he’s focused on the vaccine possibilities and their timing, not mentioning the rising death count. He’s mostly been tweeting baseless claims of election fraud, despite no evidence of widespread fraud, and despite the pushback late tonight from his own administration about a tweet in which he amplified allegations of changed votes (votes were not changed, per the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency).

White House spokesperson Brian Morgenstern, when asked specifically what the president has been doing recently regarding the uptick in cases, says the president is “routinely briefed, and the important work continues every day to help the American people overcome the challenges posed by the virus from China.” 

On Thursday, after yet another record day of cases yesterday, the president again did not tweet about that spike. Instead, he issued a flurry of angry tweets about his frustration with Fox News. 

Latest in the Arizona count

Latest in Arizona after Wednesday's tally: Biden holds a lead of 11,635 votes — 49.4 percent to 49.1 percent with approximately 24,000 ballots potentially left to be counted. 

Maricopa County just added results of more than 13,000 ballots, but President Trump won just 54 percent of them — a share far below what he needed in order to maintain pace to catch Biden in the desert. 

More noteworthy: this batch gave an indication that the outstanding provisional ballots will not overwhelmingly favor Trump, which the president needed. Of this Maricopa batch, more than 5,000 were provisional ballots. Of the remaining Maricopa ballots, about 50 percent of them are provisional. 

Biden was ahead in the roughly 5,000 ballots that came out of Pima County on Wednesday night. For the same reason as Maricopa County, this is significant because those were provisional ballots, which also make up the remaining uncounted ballots in Pima County.

What remains:

-Pima County: 8,000-11,000 provisional ballots

-Maricopa County: About 6,000 ballots

-Other counties: A few thousand scattered around

 

Voters have spoken, so what are next steps to make it official

This year's election was not the last step in selecting Joe Biden as the next American president. Under a system that’s been tweaked over two centuries, there is still a weeks-long timeline during which the 538-member Electoral College formally selects the president.

A look at the key steps:

— When American citizens voted for Biden or President Donald Trump, they really were voting for electors in their state. Those electors in most cases are committed to support the winning candidate in the state. The number of electors is equal to the number of electoral votes held by each state. State laws vary on how electors are selected, but, generally, a slate of electors for each party's candidate is chosen by state party leaders.

— States are still counting and certifying the results of the popular vote. When the count is completed, each governor is required by law to prepare “as soon as practicable” documents known as “Certificates of Ascertainment” of the vote. The certificates list the electors' names and the number of votes cast for the winner and loser. The certificates, carrying the seal of each state, are sent to the archivist of the United States.

— Dec. 8: Deadline for resolving election disputes at the state level. All state recounts and court contests over presidential election results are to be completed by this date. Trump’s campaign is contesting the vote count in several states through legal challenges, but none of those efforts are expected to alter the outcome.

— Dec. 14: Electors vote by paper ballot in their respective states and the District of Columbia. Thirty-three states and D.C. have laws or party regulations requiring electors to vote the same way the popular vote goes in the state. In some states, rogue electors can be replaced or subjected to penalties, according to the Congressional Research Service. The votes for president and vice president are counted and the electors sign six “Certificates of the Vote." The certificates, along with other official papers, are sent by registered mail to various officials, including the president of the Senate.

— Dec. 23: The certificates must be delivered to the designated officials. If they are not delivered, the law provides alternative avenues for getting the results to Washington.

— Jan. 6: The House and Senate hold a joint session to count the electoral votes. If one ticket has received 270 or more electoral votes, the president of the Senate, currently Vice President Mike Pence, announces the results. With the verdict in some states still to come, Biden already has won enough states to be awarded more than 270 electoral votes.

Members of Congress may object to returns from any state as they are announced. Objections must be made in writing by at least one member of the House and one in the Senate. If the objection meets certain requirements, each chamber meets separately to debate the objection for a maximum of two hours. Afterward, each chamber votes to accept or reject the objection. Back in joint session, the results of the respective votes are announced. Any objection to a state’s electoral vote has to be approved by both houses in order for any contested votes to be excluded.

If neither presidential candidate got at least 270 electoral votes, the House would decide the election, based on the 12th Amendment to the Constitution. If required, the House would elect the president. Each state delegation has one vote and it takes 26 votes to win.

— Jan. 20: Biden takes the oath of office on Inauguration Day.

Australia, Japan, South Korea congratulate Biden in phone calls with president-elect

Three world leaders congratulated President-elect Biden on his victory in phone calls on Wednesday, adding to the growing list of allies and countries who have recognized his victory as President Trump refuses to concede. 

In separate calls, Biden spoke with Prime Ministers Scott Morrison of Australia and Yoshihide Suga of Japan, as well as President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea, the transition team said in a statement. Biden thanked the leaders and vowed to strengthen alliances and combat the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron are among the foreign leaders who congratulated Biden on his win. 

By comparison — at last check — Biden had only received congratulatory calls from four Republican Senators.

Biden picks longtime aide Ron Klain as chief of staff

President-elect Joe Biden named Ron Klain, a veteran of Capitol Hill, to be his White House chief of staff, the transition team said Wednesday.

Klain is a longtime Democratic operative who has strong ties to Biden, largely as his former chief of staff during Biden’s first years as vice president. He also coordinated the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak, giving him both familiarity with Biden and important credentials as the Covid-19 response will consume Biden’s opening months. 

Since being the projected winner of the presidential race, Biden has been focused on building a team that will enter the White House with him on Inauguration Day as he looks to fill several thousand jobs in his administration, people familiar with the process told NBC News. 

There are roughly 200 positions in the White House that would be filled immediately and at some key government agencies. Once that’s complete, sources told NBC News that Biden will turn to building out his Cabinet.

The news of Klain's appointment was first reported by the Washington Post. 

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Warren lays out list of Day 1 policy priorities for Biden-Harris

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is laying out the policies she hopes the Biden-Harris administration prioritizes while also making the case that progressive policies were a key ingredient to the party’s success in 2020.  

“We need to have an important conversation about building a 50-state party that can win up and down the ticket,” she wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post. “But with a hobbled economy, an international health crisis, a vanishing middle class and widespread racial inequities, we also need to answer another important question — how to deliver on our campaign promises and improve the lives of the American people.”

The policies that she outlines for the Dems to tackle on day 1 will come as no surprise to those who followed her plans during 2020:

—Cancel billions in student loan debt

—Lower drug prices for key drugs like naloxone and EpiPens

—Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations 

—$15 minimum wage

—Collect and report Covid-19 racial disparities

—Anti-monopoly protections 

To read this is to see Warren’s outside-in theory of change on full display. This type of oped is not quite a threat, but certainly a shot across the bow that she will be a policy referee during this Democratic administration from the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, outside the White House.

Trump backs McDaniel for another RNC chair term

President Donald Trump is endorsing the chair of the Republican National Committee for another term, despite his electoral defeat.

Trump tweeted Wednesday: “I am pleased to announce that I have given my full support and endorsement to Ronna McDaniel to continue heading the Republican National Committee (RNC).”

McDaniel oversaw an investment in the GOP’s field and data program that helped Trump close in on President-elect Joe Biden in key battleground states, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the stiff headwinds of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus.

Trump boasted, “With 72 MILLION votes, we received more votes than any sitting President in U.S. history."

Biden has more than 77 million votes.

'Makes me sick': Georgia Republicans seek to ride Trump shock to holding Senate control

MARIETTA, Ga. — Conservative voters are shocked by how Election Day turned out in Georgia, but now Republicans are trying to convert the anger at Democratic successes into GOP wins in January.

More than a week after the election, some Republicans continue to cling to hope that a recount will reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s lead here and hand President Donald Trump a victory in a state that hasn’t backed a Democrat for the White House in nearly three decades. While the state remains "too close to call," Biden is currently ahead by about 14,000 votes.

GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler is battling Democrat Raphael Warnock in a runoff. Sen. David Perdue's race against Democrat Jon Ossoff is rated "too close to call" by NBC News but the Republican has begun to mount a runoff campaign, bending to the possibility that he may fall short of the 50 percent threshold to win outright.

Both parties seem eager to make the Senate races a referendum on whether Biden's party should control Congress. If Democrats were to grab both seats held by Loeffler and Perdue, it would deliver control the Senate chamber to their party.

“The road to socialism does not run through Georgia!” Loeffler told the crowd at an event here on Veterans Day. “Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi — you’re not going to take Georgia.”

Some conservative voters in the state say they are astonished and upset to see what they considered safe Republican territory slip from their grasp. Perdue and Loeffler have echoed Trump’s insinuations of impropriety in the election, which are unsubstantiated but believed by some of his followers here.

“There’s so much voter fraud it makes me sick,” said Jill Hovies, 70, of Kennesaw. “I think Hollywood has bought this election. The far left mob and the media have bought this election. It’s not fair. It’s a complete fraud.”

There has been no evidence of pervasive voter fraud in the United States but Trump has insisted it's to blame in places where he trails Biden. Even without Georgia, Biden has won enough states to become the next president, NBC News projects.

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Biden could announce chief of staff as early as Thursday

President-elect Joe Biden is poised to announce his chief of staff as early as Thursday, according to a top Biden official.

The news was first reported by CNN. 

There is no final decision yet but multiple sources familiar with the matter say Ron Klain is the leading contender. As NBC News reported Monday, Klain has always been seen by Biden insiders as the likeliest candidate for the role.  

No, dead people didn't vote in Philadelphia, elections boss says

Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt said Wednesday that despite claims spreading in conservative circles online, there's no evidence that any dead people voted in the city.

"I have seen the most fantastical things on social media, making completely ridiculous allegations that have no basis in fact at all and seen them spread," Schmidt, a Republican co-chair of the three-member panel in charge of the city's elections, told CNN in an interview.

He cited a report about "a long list of people that they said were dead voters who voted in Philadelphia. So, when we took a break between everything else that we're doing, we looked it up, each one of them to see what their vote history was. Not a single one of them voted in Philadelphia after they died," Schmidt said.

The conspiracy theory was shared last week by Rudy Giuliani and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, among others on the right.

Read more here.