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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 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

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.

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

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

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.