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.
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.
Biden's key immigration policies face uphill battle
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.
Credited with boosting Democrats in Georgia, Stacey Abrams looks to January
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.
1st woman of color elected to Vermont Senate wants to uplift others
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.
Biden will have a long list of economic fixes to make: Experts say these are the top 3
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
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
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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