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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.

Hallie Jackson

Freddie Tunnard

Hallie Jackson and Freddie Tunnard

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

The Associated Press

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

Dartunorro Clark

Dartunorro Clark and Kristen Welker

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

Dartunorro Clark

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. 

Click here for the full story

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

Ali Vitali

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

The Associated Press

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.

Click here for the full story.

Biden could announce chief of staff as early as Thursday


Geoff Bennett

Amanda Golden

Kristen Welker, Mike Memoli, Geoff Bennett and Amanda Golden

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.

Trump met with advisers about path forward

President Trump met Wednesday with top advisers to discuss the path forward following last week’s election, a White House official and a separate person familiar with the meeting told NBC News.

Among those attending: Jared Kushner, campaign manager Bill Stepien and campaign senior adviser Jason Miller.

On Tuesday, the president held a similar meeting that was more focused on the status of the legal challenges, per the White House official.

Trump may accept the results, but he'll never concede he lost, aides say


Carol E. LeeCarol E. Lee is the Washington managing editor.

Hallie Jackson

There is a growing expectation among President Donald Trump’s advisers that he will never concede that he lost re-election, even after votes are certified in battleground states over the coming weeks, according to multiple people familiar with the president’s thinking.

“Do not expect him to concede,” one top aide said. More likely, the aide said, “he’ll say something like, ‘We can’t trust the results, but I’m not contesting them.’”

Another adviser said that after the legal battles and recounts, the closest the president is likely to get to a concession is, “he’ll acknowledge the results and that we’ll never know how accurate they are.”

Read more here.

Biden talked a big game on LGBTQ rights. Here's what his agenda may look like.

Jeff Taylor

Just a week after Election Day, President-elect Joe Biden is doubling down on promises made to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans during his campaign and signaling his intent to reverse course from the Trump administration, which was marked by several rollbacks in LGBTQ rights.

“The president-elect and the vice president-elect put together the most comprehensive plan to advance equality here at home and abroad ever put forth by a presidential ticket, and as a result it lays out a pretty strong blueprint on what the incoming administration can do,” Reggie Greer, the Biden team’s LGBTQ engagement director, told NBC News.

That ambitious platform includes pledges to enact the Equality Act, reinstate Obama-era guidelines preventing anti-LGBTQ discrimination in areas like federal contracts, fight against broad carve-outs in antidiscrimination law on the basis of religious beliefs, end the transgender military ban, and eliminate LGBTQ youth homelessness.

Biden has also set a goal of ending the HIV epidemic — which disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men as well as transgender women — by 2025, five years ahead of the goal set by President Donald Trump during his State of the Union address this year.

Making good on every goal is unlikely, as it is with any broad platform, but the Biden team is confident in their ability to enact major reforms. Greer said signing into law the Equality Act, federal legislation that would add LGBTQ protections to existing federal civil rights law, is a “top priority regardless of Senate control.”

Read more here.

'We're not a colony': Mexican president stands firm on not recognizing Biden win


MEXICO CITY — Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Wednesday dug in his heels as one of the few leaders of major countries yet to congratulate Joe Biden on his presidential election win, saying it was too early and that his country was “not a colony.”

Lopez Obrador, who accused rivals of electoral fraud in his presidential defeats in 2006 and 2012, says he has no side in the U.S. election and will wait until legal challenges launched by the Trump administration over the vote have played out.

“We can’t make any kind of recognition of a government that is not yet legally and legitimately constituted,” he told a news conference. “It’s not up to us, that's interventionism.”

Lopez Obrador showed no such hesitation in congratulating the victors of Bolivia's divisive 2019 presidential election, which was later annulled over irregularities. Critics charge his position on Biden does not look neutral.

While in opposition, Lopez Obrador likened Donald Trump to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and pledged to put him “in his place” if elected. Since taking office nearly two years ago, he has been at pains to avoid conflict with the American president.

His attitude on the vote has upset some Democrats but Lopez Obrador insisted there would be no repercussions for Mexico.

“Because we’re adhering to our policy of principles,” he said. “Also, we’re not a colony. We’re a free, independent, sovereign country. The Mexican government is not a puppet of any foreign government.”

More people who attended Trump's Election Night party test positive for Covid

Two more people who attended the White House party on the night of the election have tested positive for Covid-19. 

Two sources familiar with the diagnosis confirmed to NBC News that Brian Jack, the White House political director, has tested positive for the virus. Trump ally Healy Baumgardner also told NBC News that she tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday. She said she attended the White House party on Election Night.

Baumgardner is a former Trump campaign aide and now works in private equity.

A number of other guests at last week's event also tested positive for Covid-19, including chief of staff Mark Meadows, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, campaign legal adviser Dave Bossie and multiple White House aides.

Ex-Bush, Obama Homeland Security chiefs call on Trump admin to begin transition

A bipartisan group of former Homeland Security chiefs are calling on the Trump administration to allow the transition process to begin, saying for "the good of the nation, we must start now."

The four secretaries — Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, who served under George W. Bush, and Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson, who served under Barack Obama — said in a joint statement that the process cannot be delayed while the Trump campaign pursues legal challenges in some states.  

"President Trump is assured the benefit of a fair process and the right to file legal challenges and request recounts in certain states, but his legal claims cannot and must not prevent the transition process from beginning. The Presidential Transition Act requires a transition to run concurrently with any election challenges and is intended to ensure the incoming administration is prepared to handle any challenge on Day 1," they said in a statement issued through Citizens for a Strong Democracy, a nonprofit that they founded to educate voters on the safety and security of U.S. voting systems.

The administration's unwillingness to allow the transition to begin is preventing President-elect Joe Biden from accessing classified information and blocking his campaign from interacting with government agencies. 

The group noted, "A peaceful transfer of power was defined as essential to national security by the 9/11 Commission." They added, "Our country is in the middle of twin crises: a global pandemic and a severe economic downturn. The pandemic will make any transition more complicated. At this period of heightened risk for our nation, we do not have a single day to spare to begin the transition. For the good of the nation, we must start now."

Trump and Biden mark Veterans Day in solemn, but contrasting, wreath-laying ceremonies

Image: President Trump attends Veterans Day observance at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia
President Donald Trump walks in the rain as he arrives to attend a Veterans Day observance in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on Nov. 11, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters

President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden both marked Veterans Day by paying tribute to the nation's fallen military heroes at somber wreath-laying ceremonies on Wednesday.

Trump, making his first public appearance in days, participated in the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in a rainy Arlington National Cemetery. Trump made no remarks, but touched the wreath and saluted as "Taps" was played.

Despite several aides and top officials recently testing positive for coronavirus, which followed a crowded election night party at the White House last week, the president, Vice President Mike Pence, their spouses and Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie did not wear masks at the ceremony, ignoring signs at the entrance that they were required.

Read the story.

Pentagon adds another Trump loyalists to top post

Doug MacGregor, a retired Army Colonel, Fox News regular and Trump administration nominee to be the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, is coming to the Pentagon as a senior adviser to Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller.

A Defense Department official said in a statement, "I can confirm that Mr. MacGregor will be serving as a Senior Advisor to the Acting Secretary of Defense. Mr. MacGregor’s decades of military experience will be used to assist in the continued implementation of the President’s national security priorities." 

Axios was first to report this move. In the past, MacGregor has advocated for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Syria. 

He was up for a policy job at the Pentagon earlier this year but didn’t end up getting the nomination because of his history of controversial remarks. Anthony Tata got the nomination instead, but his name was withdrawn (also for making controversial comments.)

Steve Kornacki bids farewell to his election tie

Nicole Via y Rada

Sadly, it's time to say goodbye to Steve Kornacki's tie. 

Kornacki tweeted a photo of the tie he wore throughout the election — perhaps, with the article of clothing holding by a thread but for a few staples, a metaphor for the contest itself — saying it was time to put the striped strip of cloth into retirement. 

The veteran journalist and election map man received praise and offers of help from his colleagues; MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell told Kornacki to "grab a dozen" from his office closet. 

Others took the opportunity to suggest that the Smithsonian should take the tie — the subject of at least one farcical Twitter account — to commemorate his historic coverage, and Kornacki's new status as a viral sensation and "national treasure." 

Even with Georgia runoff, Facebook and Google are still banning political ads

Facebook and Google have decided to keep political ads off their platforms for now, with no exceptions, even for at least one runoff election in Georgia that could help determine control of the Senate. 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee quickly criticized the decisions Wednesday, saying the bans “amount to unacceptable voter suppression.” 

The campaigns of Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock said in separate statements that the bans will block voters from learning how to register to vote, how to request absentee ballots and how to ensure their vote is counted. 

The two tech companies, which dominate online advertising, are enforcing a quiet period in political ads out of concern they could inflame tensions and lead to civil unrest while the presidential election results are being certified. 

“The temporary pause for ads about politics and social issues in the U.S. continues to be in place as part of our ongoing efforts to protect the election,” Facebook said in a blog post Wednesday. 

Read the full story here.

NBC News

Biden places wreath at war memorial in Philadelphia on Veterans Day

Image: Joe Biden
President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden place a memorial wreath during a Veterans Day stop at the Korean War Memorial Park in Philadelphia, Pa., on Nov. 11, 2020.Angela Weiss / AFP - Getty Images

Joe Biden on Wednesday laid a wreath at Philadelphia's Korean War Memorial in honor of Veterans Day. Biden was accompanied by his wife Jill Biden and did not speak at the brief ceremony.

Earlier Wednesday, Biden tweeted to veterans that he’d be a president who “respects your sacrifice, understands your service, and will never betray the values you fought so bravely to defend.”

Pompeo calls for respecting elections abroad while ignoring Biden victory


Josh Lederman

Carol E. LeeCarol E. Lee is the Washington managing editor.

Abigail Williams

Josh Lederman, Carol E. Lee and Abigail Williams
Image: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gives a briefing to the media
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a media briefing at the State Department in Washington, on Nov. 10, 2020.Jacquelyn Martin / Pool via Reuters

After years of preaching that world leaders must swiftly abide the verdicts of voters, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has settled on the opposite message at home.

Pompeo has called for a peaceful transition of power and free and fair elections in countless foreign countries, including just this week in Myanmar. Yet the secretary is now also suggesting President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the U.S. election could be reversed through legal action to award President Donald Trump another four years.

“There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” Pompeo said with a grin Tuesday from the same podium at the State Department where he and others have urged others to step aside after election defeats. He added: “The world is watching what's taking place.”

Pompeo’s suggestion that Biden may not have won drew immediate backlash from U.S. diplomats, several of whom told NBC News the assertion undermined U.S. efforts to promote democracy, as well as critics who said Pompeo was doing precisely what he himself has repeatedly condemned in foreign countries.

Read the story.

Boris Johnson calls Trump the 'previous president'

Nicole Via y Rada

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson referred to President Trump as the "previous president" on Wednesday during his weekly question-and-answer session with Parliament.

Angela Eagle, a member of Parliament, asked the Prime Minister if he had any advice for his "erstwhile best friend," in response to Trump's refusal to concede last week's election. Eagle called Trump's behavior "both embarrassing for him and dangerous for American democracy."

Johnson responded, saying "I had — and have — a good relationship with the previous president." He continued, saying it is the prime minister's duty to "have a good relationship with the White House."

Eagle highlighted the exchange on Twitter, telling Trump "it's over."

Johnson spoke with President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday to congratulate him on his projected win, saying he looked forward to "strengthening the partnership between our countries and to working with him on our shared priorities."

Georgia secretary of state says officials will conduct hand recount in presidential race

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

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

The Associated Press

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

The Associated Press

Image: Kai Kahele
House of Representatives candidate Kai Kahele waves at people passing by while campaigning with supporters in Hilo, Hawaii, on Oct. 28, 2020.Kelsey Walling / Hawaii Tribune-Herald via AP file

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.

Read the story

Puerto Rico discovers uncounted ballots 1 week after election

The Associated Press

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.

Read the story.

Ukraine police close Biden probe initiated by ousted prosecutor

Veronika Melkozerova

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.

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California voters reject revamp to property tax system

The Associated Press

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

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

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

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Trade, Covid-19, climate change and more: Host of global issues awaits Biden

The congratulatory tweets from world leaders are still trickling in, but already a host of urgent international issues are begging for the attention of President-elect Joe Biden and his team.

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.

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Trump's border wall endangered ecosystems and sacred sites. Could it come down under Biden?

In March, after construction crews blasted and bulldozed through the remote desert terrain of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, an ecological reserve on the Arizona-Mexico border, Christina Andrews observed the transformation in disbelief.

Dozens of miles of towering border wall ordered by the Trump administration were rising across the rugged landscape in southern Arizona, displacing century-old cacti and cutting off migratory paths for jaguars and wolves. Ancestral lands and sites considered sacred by local Native Americans were also threatened after the administration declined to consult tribal groups as normally required under federal law.

"It felt like someone took a dagger and drove it through my heart," said Andrews, a chairwoman of the Hia-Ced O'odham, or Sand People, a community living near the national monument that is seeking tribal recognition from the federal government.

But with Democrat Joe Biden's projected win over President Donald Trump, Andrews and environmental activists and conservationists are pinning their hopes on a new administration's reversing certain policies, halting construction and going as far as to rip down the new sections of border wall.

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Biden's key immigration policies face uphill battle

Image: Joe Biden, Kamala Harris
President-elect Joe Biden, joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks at The Queen theater, on Nov. 10, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.Carolyn Kaster / AP

The incoming Biden administration has promised to unroll President Donald Trump's legacy on immigration, but it faces an uphill battle to make good on that promise. Three people involved in crafting Biden's immigration platform said that the changes will be hard-fought and that they may not happen all at once.

Among Biden's top priorities: Reuniting separated migrant families, ending the "Remain in Mexico" policy for asylum seekers, reinstating and expanding some protections for "Dreamers," and increasing the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. annually.

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Credited with boosting Democrats in Georgia, Stacey Abrams looks to January

Georgia Senate
Stacey Abrams, former candidate for Georgia governor, speaks at campaign event for Rev. Raphael Warnock, Democratic candidate for Georgia senate, near Coan Park in Atlanta on Nov. 3, 2020.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Stacey Abrams isn't slowing down.

Soon after it became clear Friday that Georgia, once a reliable Republican stronghold, wouldn't easily bend toward victory for President Donald Trump, Abrams, the voting rights activist and former candidate for governor, took to social media.

First, she recognized the achievement, thanking elated voters and activists in a video posted to her social media accounts for their efforts over the years to create "this new Georgia." Then, she turned their attention elsewhere: to the state's two potential Senate runoff races.

"We have seen what is possible when we work hard and when we work together," Abrams said in the video statement. "We know we can win Georgia. Now let's get it done, again."

That laser focus on turning out voters and protecting their votes has come to define Abrams, who is being widely applauded for her work in transforming Georgia into a battleground.

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1st woman of color elected to Vermont Senate wants to uplift others

Image: Kesha Ram
"So many times in my life, I felt the impact of policies that didn't let people like me fall through the cracks, and it started to paint a picture for me of what I could do to help other people in politics," Kesha Ram said.Courtesy Kesha Ram

Democrat Kesha Ram made history last week when she became the first woman of color to be elected to the Vermont Senate in a state that’s more than 94 percent white.

Ram, the daughter of an Indian immigrant father and a Jewish mother, said her parents’ experiences deeply influence the way she thinks government can affect people’s lives.

“It's generally a story about the American dream and the immigrant experience but it had undertones that really formed my thinking about policy,” said Ram, 34.

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Biden will have a long list of economic fixes to make: Experts say these are the top 3

Martha C. White

Economists say these are the week-one, day-one challenges President-elect Joe Biden will face as soon as he is sworn in — and how he might be able to meet them.

Corral the coronavirus: Biden's administration will need to invest in people, equipment and technology to improve the availability and accuracy of testing, production and dissemination of PPE and development of virus-mitigation and contract tracing protocols — all goals endorsed by public health officials. 

Stimulus: Economists are divided on whether or not — and when — another tranche of aid might be forthcoming. Most analysts, along with top officials like Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, do agree that additional stimulus is needed. The progress announced by Pfizer on Monday towards a Covid-19 vaccine was promising, some said, but did not negate the need for lawmakers to act in the near term.

Jobs: A growing number of job losses are shifting from temporary to permanent, an ominous change labor economists say will get worse between now and the inauguration. Biden’s transition website calls for establishing a 100,000-person job corps to combat the coronavirus.

In addition, Biden will likely implement a flurry of executive orders, with many targeted at undoing policies President Donald Trump had unilaterally imposed the same way, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

“Biden’s going to reverse Trump on trade, on immigration, on climate change, on banking regulations," he said. “It’s not big, fundamental shifts… it’s more incremental.”

Biden camp: Avg. vote change from recounts only 430

Deepa Shivaram

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Deepa Shivaram and Rebecca Shabad

The Biden transition team is dismissing the Trump campaign's lawsuits as "noise" and "theatrics" and is confident they will have a full transition to the new administration in January.

"Since 2000, in 31 statewide recounts, the average change in votes was 430, and the median change was 267. End of story. These margins cannot be overcome in recounts. So the recounts are yet another piece of the political theatrics," said Biden senior legal counsel Bob Bauer during a briefing with reporters on Tuesday.

Speaking about the GSA's refusal to recognize the incoming administration, Bauer said: "However this develops, we can continue and are continuing with the transition…we are going to be moving very quickly and very decisively toward a full transition."

Both Bauer and Biden campaign general counsel Dana Remus said they're "not worried" about Trump’s delay tactics.

"You can perhaps create obstacles to the smooth functioning of the process … you can't succeed in stopping the process from coming to the inevitable conclusion," Bauer said. 

Trump first public event in days: Will observe Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

After not being seen in public for days following his election loss, Trump will observe Veterans Day on Wednesday with a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. 

His official White House schedule says he and first lady Melania Trump are expected to briefly participate in a Veterans Day observance event at 11 a.m. ET at the cemetery in Northern Virginia. 

After that, they are scheduled to return to the White House, with no other public events expected.

Except for when he was spotted golfing on both Saturday and Sunday, Trump has barely been seen in public since Election Day last week. He has not held any public events since Thursday. 

Biden hopes to announce some Cabinet picks in next two weeks


Deepa Shivaram

Marianna Sotomayor

Stacey Khizder

Ryan Beals

Deepa Shivaram, Marianna Sotomayor, Stacey Khizder and Ryan Beals

President-elect Joe Biden said Tuesday that he hoped to unveil some of his Cabinet picks in the next two weeks and predicted they would be confirmed by the Senate.

"I hope we're able to be in a position to let people know, at least a couple that we want before Thanksgiving, and we'll just work this out," Biden said. "Look, I am not a pessimist, as you know."

Answering questions from reporters in Wilmington after delivering a speech on strengthening the Affordable Care Act, Biden acknowledged that control of the Senate is still up in the air and he might need Republican support for some of his picks, which would mean working with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

"I understand he said he will make it clear who he is prepared to support and not to support, and that's a negotiation that I'm sure we'll have," Biden said. "Look, one of the things that I would do as president-elect and when I become president is lay out to Republicans, as well as Democrats, who we intend to name for each Cabinet position." 

Biden gets congratulatory calls from European leaders Johnson, Macron and Merkel

Andy Eckardt

Dareh Gregorian and Andy Eckardt

President-elect Joe Biden got congratulatory calls from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who has a close relationship with President Donald Trump — publicly congratulated Biden on the election win that Trump has yet to recognize. 

Johnson, who Biden reportedly called Trump’s “physical and emotional clone” last year, tweeted that he had just spoken to Biden "to congratulate him on his election." "I look forward to strengthening the partnership between our countries and to working with him on our shared priorities — from tackling climate change, to promoting democracy and building back better from the pandemic,"  Johnson said, a play on Biden's campaign slogan of "Build Back Better."

Macron, whose more complicated relationship with Trump included epic tug-of-war-style handshakes, also spoke to Biden on Tuesday "to congratulate him and Kamala Harris on their election,” the Elysee press office said. 

Merkel, who Trump once accused of “ruining Germany,” also called Biden to congratulate him and Harris. “The Chancellor expressed the wish for a close and trustful future cooperation,“ the German government statement said.

Erdogan also congratulated Biden in a statement. He said that the “strong cooperation and alliance” between the Turkey and the U.S. would continue to contribute to world peace, according to a translation of his remarks by Reuters.

Watchdog group finds no evidence to support Trump's election fraud claims

An international group invited by the Trump administration to observe the presidential election found no evidence to support the president's claims of fraud, it said in a report.

The Organization of American States sent 28 observers from 13 countries to watch elections in several states, including Georgia and Michigan, at all stages including early voting and on Election Day, as well as vote tabulation, at the invitation of the U.S. Department of State.

But noting that Trump had claimed he has only lost in those states because of "fraud," the organization wrote: "The OAS observers deployed in the battleground states of Michigan and Georgia did not witness any of the aforementioned irregularities."

Latest group of GOP senators to say Biden transition should begin

Dartunorro Clark

On Tuesday, four GOP Senators told reporters that the Biden team should have access to resources needed for an orderly transition. 

Trump has refused to concede the race, and the vast majority of Republicans in Congress and elsewhere have yet to acknowledge the Democrats' win. A little-known agency known as the General Services Administration headed by a Trump appointee as yet to sign a letter giving the Biden team access 

Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said it is likely that Biden is the next president and it's important for a transition process to begin. 

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said the president can pursue lawsuits but "need to have that contingency in place," referring to a Biden transition. Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota said while the president is in court the transition should "move forward." 

Sen. Mitt Romney, who has congratulated Biden and Harris, told NBC News that "it's very much in our national interest, in our foreign policy interest, national security interest" for Biden to have a smooth transition.

Click here for other Republicans who have broken with Trump and say the transition should begin.

Biden's lead in Arizona tightens as more ballots processed in Maricopa County

Dartunorro Clark

Biden's lead over Trump in Arizona has dwindled from 13,582 to 12,813 as Maricopa County, the largest county in the state, processed more than 5,000 ballots on Tuesday. 

More than 2 million voters cast a ballot in the county, which represents about 80 percent of total eligible voters, according to a release. 

The remaining ballots include (estimated):

  • 9,347 early ballots
  • 1,300 early ballots to verify
  • 18,404 provisional ballots in total
  • 5,783 valid provisionals that will be counted
  • 6,595 invalid provisionals that will not be counted
  • 6,026 remaining provisional ballots left to verify

NBC News has rated the state as too close to call. Biden is in the lead with 49.4 percent of the vote and Trump has 49.0 percent, with 98 percent of the vote in as of Tuesday. 

Trump loyalists given top Pentagon roles after several officials resign following Esper's ouster

Dartunorro Clark

Several loyalists to President Donald Trump were promoted to top roles in the Pentagon on Tuesday after officials tendered resignations following the unceremonious ouster of Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

The Pentagon confirmed the resignations of the department’s top officials for policy and intelligence in a press release. The resignations include: Acting undersecretary for policy James Anderson; undersecretary for intelligence Joseph Kernan; and Esper's chief of staff Jen Stewart. The release noted that Kernan's resignation was "planned for several months."

Anthony Tata, a retired Army general and frequent Fox News guest, will replace Anderson. Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who currently works in Defense and is a former aide to disgraced National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, will replace Kernan. Kash Patel, a former National Security Council official and former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who worked on the controversial House probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, will replace Stewart.

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