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Nov. 13 highlights: Trump speaks, more press for Biden to get security briefings

The president and his administration continue to challenge the results.
Image: Donald Trump and Joe Biden on a background of red and blue ripples with white stars.
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

It's been nearly a week since Joe Biden was projected to win the presidency and President Donald Trump has yet to concede.

While few Republican lawmakers have publicly congratulated Biden, some have begun to push the Trump administration to begin a key part of the transition process: giving Biden access to access to presidential-level intelligence briefings.

This live coverage has ended.

Stories we're watching:

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

Republicans who have broken with Trump to congratulate Biden on his win

More people who attended Trump's election night party test positive for Covid

Full presidential election results

Obama calls Republicans embracing Trump's unfounded fraud claims 'disappointing'

Former President Barack Obama said Republican lawmakers who are supporting President Donald Trump's unfounded claims of massive voter fraud are "disappointing."

In a preview of an interview he taped for “CBS Sunday Morning” that was released on Friday, Obama said of the Republicans "They obviously didn't think there was any fraud going on because they didn't say anything about it for it the first two days" after the election.

Obama didn't name names, but among Republicans who were projected to win re-election themselves shortly after polls closed and haven't rejected Trump's claims are Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, while Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California have actively promoted the president's claims. 

Obama said "there's damage to this because what happens is that the peaceful transfer of power, the notion that any of us who attain an elected office, whether it's dog catcher or a president, are servants of the people. It's a temporary job. We're not above the rules. We're not above the law. That's the essence of our democracy."

Obama also recounted staying up until 2:30 a.m. in 2016 to congratulate Trump after TV networks projected he'd won, and  "His margin of victory over Hillary Clinton wasn't greater than Joe Biden's margin over him. But  if you're listening to some of the talk radio that Trump voters are listening to, if you're watching Fox News, if you're getting these tweets, those allegations are presented as facts. So you've got millions of people out there who think, ‘Oh, yeah, there must  be cheating because the president said so.’”

He recalled John McCain's concession call to him in 2008, and being welcomed at the White House by President George W. Bush and Laura Bush. “Could not have been more gracious,” he said.

Left out of Covid-19 vaccine planning, Biden advisers developing their own distribution strategy

Doctors close to President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team are working to develop their own plans to mass distribute a coronavirus vaccine, concerned that Trump administration planning will leave them underprepared when he leaves office.

President Donald Trump's ongoing refusal to concede and his administration's unwillingness to acknowledge Biden means that those working to develop the vaccine distribution plan cannot start to share the plans with those who will take over in January.

"We're in a Covid crisis," said Ron Klain, Biden's incoming chief of staff in an interview with MSNBC Thursday. "Right now, there are officials inside the department of Health and Human Services who are busy planning a vaccination campaign for the months of February and March when Joe Biden will be president so the sooner we can get our transition experts into meetings with the folks who are planning the vaccination campaign, the more seamless the transition."

The physicians working with Biden's team have been in contact with CVS and Walgreens, which they see as key distribution points for the general public, and have been tracking whether the retail pharmacies will have the staffing and supplies needed to vaccinate millions of Americans, said one person close to the transition. The Biden team has also been in contact for months with Pfizer as it tries to sort out the sub-zero storage requirements for the company’s vaccine, a transition official said.

Read the story.

EXPLAINER: Is Georgia’s upcoming ballot ‘audit’ a recount?

Georgia says it’s going to be tallying — by hand — nearly 5 million ballots that were cast in its very close presidential election on Nov. 3. But is it a recount? An “audit”? And why are they doing it?

It’s all a bit confusing, but election experts say what’s happening in Georgia is unlikely to change the outcome and are warning that discrepancies in the final vote count are likely. That doesn’t mean anything nefarious happened. Experts say some discrepancies are expected when so many votes are counted a second time using an entirely different method — hand versus machine.

While President Donald Trump has been making unsubstantiated claims of fraud as he challenges the election’s outcome, Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, has defended the work of election officials in the state and said the review was unlikely to change the outcome. Unofficial results show Democrat Joe Biden leading Trump by about 14,000 votes.

Read the story.

Trust America again? Climate leaders hopeful for Biden to put U.S. back on track

Image: People march from the U.S. Capitol to the White House for the People's Climate Movement to protest President Donald Trump's environmental policies
People march from the U.S. Capitol to the White House for the People's Climate Movement to protest President Donald Trump's environmental policies, April 29, 2017 in Washington.Astrid Riecken / Getty Images file

As congratulatory messages for President-elect Joe Biden poured in from around the world Saturday, an overarching theme began to emerge: climate change.

From Canada to New Zealand, world leaders raised hopes that Biden would reinvigorate efforts to fight global warming after the United States' four-year absence under President Donald Trump.

But the messages come with some trepidation. Persuading the world to trust America again when it comes to its international commitments will be a challenge in light of Trump's legacy of withdrawals from multilateral treaties and organizations.

"The U.S.'s political inconsistency on this issue will have been demonstrated and will take years to repair in terms of trust on the international stage," said Cara Horowitz, co-executive director at the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA.

Experts say there are some immediate moves they hope to see.

Read the story.

FIRST READ: Trump spends post-election week spreading misinformation and chaos as virus rages on

The past week after news organizations like NBC News projected Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election has epitomized the last four years of the Trump presidency.

You have a president who’s been unable to admit he lost. (NBC News last night called Arizona for Biden, which brings his electoral vote total to 290. With Biden still ahead in Georgia, a win there would increase that to 306.)

You have his administration officials still carrying out his orders. (GSA Administrator Emily Murphy has yet to recognize Biden’s victory, preventing immediate funding for his transition.)

You have most of the Republican Party — though not all of it — either supporting Trump’s claims or trying to stay silent. (Yet more and more cracks within the GOP are beginning to emerge.)

You have plenty of chaos. You have lots of misinformation. You have little to no president-ing going on. And most important of all, it’s coming during the worst spike yet in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations since the virus arrived in the country.

Get First Read.

Democrats gear up to fight gerrymandering after state House losses

Democrats may have won the presidency, but they failed to fulfill one of their biggest hopes of this election cycle: taking control of state legislatures and the power to draw electoral districts.

Now, organizers and party officials said, they will be forced to bank on litigation, friendly state courts, Democratic governors, recent state reforms and a growing grassroots movement to hold the line against their fears of Republican gerrymandering — embedding a political advantage in the drawing of electoral maps.

"Let's have fair maps. Let's have an actual battle of ideas," said Patrick Rodenbush, communications director of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. "Republicans are afraid of the voters they say they want to represent, and they are cheating the American people out of representation by doing this."

After each census is completed, state legislatures take up the responsibility of drawing the maps for congressional and legislative districts. Republicans took control of the majority of state Houses after the 2010 census, and they were able to maintain much of that dominance this year.

Republicans said they plan to try to cement their power in the drawing of 30 state maps. Democrats control 19 legislatures.

Read the story.

Is the outcome of the election really in doubt?

More than a week after Election Day, incumbent President Donald Trump is still promising his supporters a win and Republican lawyers are still pursuing claims of election improprieties in half a dozen states. But is the result of the election really in doubt?

Conversations with more than a dozen state election chiefs around the country and with election lawyers and experts indicate that recounts will likely not move states like Wisconsin and Georgia into Trump's column. Nor do they think that legal challenges — even if some succeed — will undo former Vice President Joe Biden's projected Electoral College victory.

Despite the number of lawsuits filed and the public rhetoric that has accompanied them, experts say, few have the evidentiary backing to survive in court. The state election officials, Republican and Democrat alike, told NBC News there is no evidence of fraud backing up Trump's claims in their states.

"Any amount of scrutiny is going to reveal this, that the process actually worked extraordinarily well," said Jocelyn Benson, Michigan's Democratic secretary of state, who points out that Biden is leading in Michigan by nearly 150,000 votes.

Read the story.

Beloved businesses are going bankrupt waiting for federal help. It will get worse

Last Friday, as Americans waited to learn who their next president would be, Debbe Andrews-Lewis of Lincoln, Nebraska, knew her life was about to change either way. At the end of the day, she would lose her boutique, The Funky Sister.

She had built it from scratch to honor her late husband's memory — they had always wanted to run a store together in retirement. She found quick success selling antiques and oddball items, which allowed her to expand the business and hire her daughter, who took her young son to work every day.

But then the Covid-19 pandemic hit, shuttering the store for two months last spring. When Andrews-Lewis reopened, a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program — part of the emergency relief bill passed by Congress in March and signed into law by President Donald Trump — covered only a brief stretch of her daughter's salary. She hoped for more help from Washington, but it never came. And with street traffic way down, more residents buying online and little sign of improvement on the horizon, it was no longer tenable to continue.

"When I looked at the lease, I just couldn't justify allotting another $100,000 for rent and utilities for three years," she said.

The election may be over, but the White House and Capitol Hill are no closer to terms on a new Covid-19 relief plan. And even if a deal is reached, it's far too late to help save as many as 100,000 small businesses that have been forced to close while waiting for more help, like The Funky Sister. Neighborhood shops around the country are in mortal danger every day Washington fails to act.

Read the story.

Mark Zuckerberg tells Facebook employees Biden will be next president

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged to employees on Thursday that Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States, a spokesman for the company confirmed to CNBC.

"I believe the outcome of the election is now clear and Joe Biden is going to be our next president," Zuckerberg said at a companywide meeting, according to BuzzFeed News.

"It’s important that people have confidence that the election was fundamentally fair, and that goes for the tens of millions of people that voted for Trump."

Zuckerberg's comments are his first recognizing the incoming Biden administration, even as President Donald Trump has claimed, without presenting any evidence, that there was widespread voting fraud.

Read the story.

Biden's talking to Republican officials, top aide Klain says

Ron Klain, the incoming White House chief of staff, said Thursday that President-elect Joe Biden has spoken to Republicans since he won the presidential race.

"Joe Biden has spoken to Republicans. He's spoken to some Republican senators, some Republican governors. I'm not going to go into the names," Klain said in an interview on MSNBC's "The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell."

Asked if GOP senators have called Biden or if the president-elect called them, Klain said it’s been a mix of both.

Klain, a longtime adviser to Biden who was announced as the next chief of staff on Wednesday, said that the president-elect has not yet spoken to Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and suggested part of the reason why is that the GOP leader has thrown his support behind President Donald Trump's efforts to contest the election results.

Read the story.

With Trump defeated, Georgia Democrats aim to keep voters fired up for Senate control

Image: Jon Ossoff, Raphael G Warnock
Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff, right, and Raphael G. Warnock, left, arrive at a "Get Out the Vote" event in Jonesboro, Ga., on Oct. 27, 2020.Brynn Anderson / AP

ATLANTA — Democrats know this year's election was as much about President Donald Trump as anything else, but without him on the ballot, they are working to find other ways to keep voters engaged.

In Georgia, party officials, labor leaders and progressive activists are mounting an aggressive campaign to keep their base mobilized and register new voters ahead of a Dec. 7 deadline before voters here return to the ballot box on Jan. 5.

This historically conservative state could host two runoffs for Senate seats on Jan. 5. Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler will face Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock. The race between David Perdue, the other Republican incumbent, and Democrat Jon Ossoff remains too close to call, but if Perdue stays under the 50 percent mark, that race will also head to a runoff.

Democrats are doing what they can to stoke enthusiasm.

Read the story.

Trump discussing 2024 campaign announcement, if election certified for Biden

Trump has told some advisers that if the election is officially certified for Biden, which is expected, he will announce a 2024 White House bid shortly afterward, a person familiar with the discussions confirmed to NBC News.

The New York Times first reported the news. 

It's not clear, however, which exact date Trump is referring to when he said "certified."

In another story, The Times reported that governors "must send Congress a 'certificate of ascertainment' with their states' certified vote totals and the names of their electors before Dec. 14, when the Electoral College will convene." Election results that are certified by Dec. 8, the report said, are largely protected from challenges.

China congratulates President-elect Joe Biden on White House win — eventually

China extended its first congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden on Friday, issuing a terse statement that contrasted with a fulsome and swift message from the country's leader after President Donald Trump won four years ago.

"We respect the choice of the American people and we extend our congratulations to Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris," said foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, during a daily press briefing reported in state media.

China was one of the last major countries to officially acknowledge that Biden became president-elect on Saturday.

While Biden now counts with 290 electoral votes compared to Trump's 217, the president has yet to concede the election, baselessly claiming that voter fraud occurred.

"We understand the result of the U.S. election will be determined in accordance with U.S. laws and procedures," Wang said.

President Xi Jinping congratulated Trump on Nov. 9, 2016 — within a day of Trump being declared the winner.

Read the full story here. 

Meghan McCain on Biden's projected win (really more on Trump's projected loss) in Arizona

Biden wins Arizona, NBC News projects

President-elect Joe Biden has won Arizona, NBC News projects

The state's 11 Electoral College votes bring Biden's lead to 290-217 and put further pressure on President Donald Trump, who has yet to concede the election.

NBC News projected Biden the overall presidential winner on Saturday. Arizona hasn't voted for a Democrat for president since 1996. In 2016, Trump beat Hillary Clinton there.

The race was called on the ninth day of counting after Election Day. This leaves only North Carolina and Georgia as states that have not yet been called. They are both still rated by NBC News as "too close to call" and a hand recount is being conducted in Georgia. 

GOP senators, former security officials push for Biden to receive intelligence briefings

Senate Republicans and former national security officials on Thursday increased pressure on the General Services Administration to grant President-elect Joe Biden access to presidential-level intelligence briefings, a key step in transitioning to the White House.

The congressional Republicans stopped short of acknowledging that President Donald Trump has been defeated, but acknowledged a need for Biden to begin to get critical information about the nation's security.

Over 150 former national security officials in a letter on Thursday urged the GSA to recognize Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the winners of the election, giving them access to the President's Daily Briefing and to begin to obtain the security clearances necessary for members of the transition team.

"In this moment of uncertainty, we must put politics aside," says the letter, obtained by NBC News.

Read more here.