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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.

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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

Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene challenges House mask rule with 'my body, my choice]

Representative-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., joins other for a chat during a congressional orientation on Capitol Hill on Nov. 13, 2020.Astrid Riecken / Pool via Reuters

Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., challenged the House mask rule during the first session of new member orientation.

Greene cited “my body, my choice,” a term previously used by the pro-choice movement regarding abortion. Throughout the summer, coronavirus protestors who opposed lockdowns and mask usage used the phrase to reject mask mandates. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the mask mandate in July, requiring all members and staffers to wear masks on the House floor. 

The freshman congresswoman said people in Georgia do not wear masks to shop, work out or go to restaurants. Georgia reported more than 413,000 Covid cases as of Thursday.

Greene, a Georgia businesswoman, has expressed support for the far-right conspiracy theory QAnon and been criticized for a series of racist comments.

Biden transition 'charging ahead' despite no GSA ascertainment letter

President-elect Joe Biden's transition team said Friday that it's “charging ahead” despite the fact that the General Services Administration hasn’t actually officially declared Biden the victor in the 2020 race — a process known as "ascertainment."

On a briefing call with reporters, transition spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that “engagement directly with the agencies” would “help our ability to govern,” especially on efforts to control the Covid-19 pandemic. She added that there was “concern” that the transition doesn’t have access to items like threat assessments and intelligence briefings. 

More than six days after media outlets projected that Biden had defeated President Donald Trump to win the White House, GSA chief Emily Murphy still has yet to sign the letter of "ascertainment" — a previously mostly uncontroversial process since the passage of the transition act nearly 60 years ago.

Asked about the possibility of litigation to force the GSA end its hold-up, Psaki said Friday that “while no presidential transition would take any options off the table,” litigation is “certainly not our preference.”

Trump campaign gives up on Maricopa County, Arizona, lawsuit

Lawyers for the Trump campaign told a judge in Maricopa County, Arizona, on Friday that their lawsuit alleging that problems with the use of Sharpies caused some ballots to be wrongly rejected is moot. 

The lawyers suggested that number of ballots in question would not change the outcome in the state given Joe Biden's lead. 

“The tabulation of votes statewide has rendered unnecessary a judicial ruling as to the presidential electors,” they said.

NBC News has called Arizona for the president-elect, counting his lead there at more than 10,000 votes. 

Trump supporters demonstrate near White House

Lankford says Biden should receive presidential briefings, working with GSA

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., continued to voice support on Friday for President-elect Joe Biden to begin receiving presidential-level security briefings, warning of national security risks if the General Services Administration does not initiate the transition process. 

"One of the two is going to be president, and if you take politics out of this, national security trumps it," Lankford said on The Brian Kilmeade Show, still falling short of recognizing Biden as the winner of the election.

Lankford also said he’s working with the GSA, but emphasized, "I can’t force them to make this decision."

"But I do want to know how it’s going to be done, because this is an issue that we have faced as a nation before and said we made a mistake on it," he continued. "I want to make sure we don’t make that mistake again."

Lankford was referring to the 2000 election, when it took weeks for both George W. Bush and Al Gore to receive briefings. 

The 9/11 Commission found that the lengthy transition period contributed to the country's vulnerability leading up to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. 

Cindy McCain on why Biden won Arizona: 'People were looking for something else'

Cindy McCain told NBC News that Joe Biden's defeat of Donald Trump in traditionally conservative Arizona shows that "people were looking for something else" from a president.

“They were looking for civility, they were looking for empathy, compassion, a leader that would listen to them and care about them, and care about the issues that were important,” McCain told NBC's Vaughn Hillyard after the network projected Thursday that Biden had flipped the state blue.

The wife of late Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was the Republican nominee for president in 2008, said she feels Republicans have lost their way in recent years. 

“I think our party, although I don’t think any of our party is misguided or bad — don’t ever suggest that, because I don’t — I do believe that perhaps, in some ways, we’ve lost our way. And we’ve lost our way in that we’re not always putting country first, and instead, perhaps parties, is the issue at hand. And that certainly is the case with the president, right now,” said McCain, who endorsed Biden in September. 

She said she hoped her endorsement made “a difference” in the state, where her late husband is still enormously popular. “I hope, if nothing more, I encouraged women, especially Republican women, to step outside their comfort zone and vote for a Democrat for the reasons that I just specified. I hope that’s what happened,” McCain said. 

 

Pelosi stresses Covid-19 relief as U.S. faces 'an emergency of the highest magnitude'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday that her focus during the lame-duck session of Congress is on passing a Covid-19 relief package, especially with the pandemic worsening. 

The surging case and death toll numbers are "an emergency of the highest magnitude," she said at a news conference, describing it as a "red alert" situation. Thursday's record number of 160,000 new cases was “horrifying,” especially after a week straight of more than 100,000 infections a day, she said. 

“Republicans in Congress continue their tactics of delay, distort and deny, which has led to deaths," Pelosi said. "The longer the Republicans keep up the charade, the further out of control the Covid crisis will spiral."

Asked about Democrats losing seats in the House, Pelosi said, "We had a very deep victory two years ago. I don't think that people are quite understanding of the 40 seats that we won, 31 were in Trump districts. We saved most of those seats, so we're very proud of that."

Pelosi emphasized that Joe Biden is the president-elect and was elected with what she said was a mandate. She also suggested Democrats will have the he upper hand, even in a divided Congress, because Biden will be in charge of the executive branch. 

"When your president is the president of your party, the leverage in your power is greatly increased," she told reporters. "You must know that." 

After California restores felon voting rights, activists see growing national trend

WASHINGTON — California voters delivered the state's convicted felons a win on Election Day: the ability to join them the next time the state votes.

A national movement continues across the country to let felons — many who have completed their sentences and ended their parole — return to the voting booth.

For Earlonne Woods, co-host of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated podcast Ear Hustle and an advocate for ex-felons who are working to return to life after incarceration, the ability to vote after leaving prison was an important step to reconnecting to society.

“I was first incarcerated at 9 years old,” Woods told NBC News. After 21 years in prison, Woods was granted clemency by California’s governor. His parole ended on September 23rd, 2020 and that night he registered to vote.

According to the advocacy organization, The Sentencing Project, as of 2016, there are 6.1 million Americans who are convicted felons barred from voting due to state laws. About 75 percent of those are no longer incarcerated and half have already completed their parole.

Read more here.

Navarro says White House assumes 2nd Trump term coming, calls election 'immaculate deception'

Top Trump trade adviser Peter Navarro told Fox Business on Friday that the White House is moving forward "under the assumption that there will be a second Trump term" as the president's campaign continues to press election challenges. 

"My own view, looking at this election, we have what appears in some sense to be, an immaculate deception," Navarro added.

Noting the post-Election Day gains for Joe Biden in the vote counts in some battleground states, Navarro said, "So I think what's important here is that this is a country of laws and rules, we have a very clear set of election laws, and what we need to do is go through the process, as we did with Gore — Bush v. Gore."

"So until we do that ... our assumption is the second Trump term," he continued. "We think he won that election, and any speculation about what Joe Biden might do I think is is moot at this  point."

NBC News projected Biden's win on Saturday along with other news networks. Biden now has 290 electoral votes to Trump's 217. The president has yet to concede the election, however, and is pushing unfounded claims of voter fraud. But a coalition of federal agencies involved in election security and representatives for election officials from each state refuted the widespread claims of voter fraud by the president and right-wing conspiracists in a statement Thursday, calling the election "the most secure in American history."

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.