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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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