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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

Trump attacks N.Y. gov, says he'll withhold Covid vaccine from state until Cuomo approves

President Donald Trump threatened to withhold a coronavirus vaccine from New York state on Friday and escalated his feud with Gov. Andrew Cuomo during his first public comments since Joe Biden was projected the winner in the presidential race.

Trump — snapping the longest stretch of silence in his presidency — began his remarks in the White House Rose Garden by touting the effectiveness of Operation Warp Speed, his administration's initiative to spur production of a vaccine, before taking aim at his home state.

"As soon as April the vaccine will be available to the entire general population, with the exception of places like New York State, where for political reasons the governor decided to say — and I don't think it's good politically, I think it's very bad from a health standpoint — but he wants to take his time on the vaccine," Trump said.

He was referring to comments Cuomo made in September, where he said he planned to have a panel of experts review a vaccine because he was concerned that Trump was trying to rush one out ahead of the presidential election.

"He doesn't trust where the vaccines coming from," Trump continued. "So the governor, Gov. Cuomo will have to let us know when he's ready for it, otherwise we, we can't we can't be delivering it to a state that won't be giving it to its people, immediately. And I know many I know the people in New York very well I know they want it. So the governor will let us know when he's ready," he added.

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Photos: As a new Congress prepares to sweep in, some are swept out.

Items are packed inside the office of Rep. Eliot Engel, D-NY, who lost his seat in Congress earlier this year, on Friday.Caroline Brehman / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images
Newly-elected members of Congress attend a socially-distanced orientation on Capitol Hill on Friday.Chip Somodevilla / Pool via AP
A vacuum sits outside the vacated office of Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., at the Rayburn House Office Building on Friday.Caroline Brehman / CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

As 'Q' fades, QAnon's Dominion voter fraud conspiracy theory reaches the president

A Qanon believer speaks to a crowd of President Donald Trump supporters outside of the Maricopa County Recorder's Office where votes in the general election are being counted, in Phoenix on Nov. 5, 2020.Dario Lopez-MIlls / AP file

For days after the election, adherents to the QAnon conspiracy movement had been trying to get President Donald Trump’s attention with constant false claims about voter fraud connected to a company that makes voting machines.

On Thursday, they celebrated. Trump tweeted in all-caps about a conspiracy theory that baselessly alleges that Dominion Voting Systems, a company that makes voting machines, “deleted” millions of Trump votes, citing a report on the far-right cable news outlet One America News Network.

While the theory has already been debunked — including by Chris Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is tasked with national security related to the internet and technology — Trump's tweet offered a sliver of energy at a time when the QAnon movement had stalled, waiting for its leader, “Q,” to return with guidance from a hiatus that began on the morning of Election Day and lasted more than a week.

But QAnon is far from done. The movement's recent evolution and activity around the Dominion conspiracy theory highlight how even Joe Biden's election win and the disintegration of the broader QAnon narrative do not spell the end of the broader conspiracy ecosystem it has built.

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Fact check: Trump claims credit for Pfizer vaccine effectivenes

“As a result of Operation Warp Speed, Pfizer announced on Monday that its China virus vaccine is more than 90 percent effective,” President Trump said Friday, using a derogatory term for the coronavirus as he sought to take credit for Pfizer's announcement that its vaccine was proving remarkably effective.

“In July my administration reached an agreement with Pfizer to provide $1.95 billion to support the mass manufacturing and distribution of 100 million doses with the option to purchase a total of 600 million doses shortly after,” Trump said during a Friday afternoon press conference at the White House promoting his administration's efforts to accelerate progress on COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

“Pfizer said it wasn’t part of Warp Speed, but that turned out to be an unfortunate misrepresentation," Trump added.

Trump's account is misleading. Pfizer’s research and development is not taxpayer funded, though the U.S. government did strike a deal through Operation Warp Speed to buy 100 million doses of the vaccine if it proves effective.

Johnson & Johnson and Moderna, two other companies at work on a vaccine, have both received research and development money through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

CIA Director Haspel not included in Trump's intelligence briefing Friday

President Trump's in-person daily intelligence briefing on Friday did not include CIA Director Gina Haspel, whose job has been on the line, according to several current and former officials familiar with the situation.

The meeting was organized by the Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, the former Texas congressman and strong Trump partisan during the impeachment proceedings against the president.

Some Trump allies, including former acting DNI Richard Grenell, have been pushing for Haspel's ouster, according to current and former officials. She has also been criticized on Twitter by the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr.  

In an email message, Grenell denied that he was pushing for Haspel's ouster. 

Haspel and National Security Agency head Gen. Paul Nakasone opposed the president’s often-stated desire to declassify more of the intelligence that undergirded the launch of special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe. They are known to believe declassifying the intelligence would dangerously expose critical sources and methods. 

Concern among Haspel’s supporters grew last week after Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the administration installed several new Pentagon officials who had worked with or been closely allied to House Intelligence Committee raking member Devin Nunes, of California, a fierce Republican critic of the Russia investigation. A former White House official has also been appointed as general counsel at the NSA under Nakasone and would have great influence over the legal justification for any declassification. The president or Ratcliffe could release the documents without Ms. Haspel’s approval.

Justice Alito takes aim at gay marriage in 'politically charged speech'

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito criticized same-sex marriage as a harbinger of the erosion of free speech in America, drawing renewed concern from LGBTQ advocates about the future of this recently gained right.

In a virtual address Thursday to the conservative Federalist Society, Alito took aim the landmark 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision that guaranteed gay marriage rights across the country, as well as restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus and talk of restructuring the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary more broadly.

“You can’t say that marriage is a union between one man and one woman. Until recently, that’s what the vast majority of Americans thought. Now, it's considered bigotry,” Alito said in his speech. “That this would happen after our decision in Obergefell should not have come as a surprise.”

Alito then cited his dissent in which he theorized that the majority’s opinion in the case would lead to those who “cling to traditional views on marriage” being “labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers and schools.” He then warned that freedom of speech is “falling out of favor in some circles” and at risk of becoming a “second-tier constitutional right.”

Paul Smith, a professor at Georgetown Law School, told NBC News that while Alito has spoken at Federalist Society events for years, his latest address was “aggressive in tone,” in contrast to past talks. That contrast, according to Smith, could be due to the event being streamed live, instead of behind closed doors as other Federalist Society events have been.

Read more here.

Trump campaign shuts down 'voter fraud' hotline after it's flooded with prank calls

The Trump campaign has closed down its “voter fraud” hotline after about a week in operation, a campaign official confirmed to NBC News.

The campaign is now directing people to an already-existing website to submit any claims.

A main reason for the switch? The phone line was being flooded with prank calls. The campaign had dedicated a conference room of staffers to the hotline effort in the days after the election.

Neither Trump nor the campaign has provided evidence of to back up their claims of voter fraud, which numerous election experts have said is not widespread.

Biden presses Trump for 'urgent action' against Covid-19 during months before inauguration

President-elect Joe Biden on Friday afternoon called on the Trump administration to take "urgent action" on combatting the Covid-19 pandemic, "starting with an acknowledgment of how serious the current situation is."

In a statement released just moments before Trump was scheduled to hold a Rose Garden press conference on "Operation Warp Speed," Biden said, "this crisis demands a robust and immediate federal response, which has been woefully lacking."

"I am the president-elect, but I will not be president until next year. The crisis does not respect dates on the calendar, it is accelerating right now. Urgent action is needed today, now, by the current administration — starting with an acknowledgment of how serious the current situation is," Biden added. 

Biden also reiterated his call "for every American, regardless of where they live or who they voted for, to step up and do their part on social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing to protect themselves and to protect others."

As of Friday, nearly 245,000 people in the U.S. had died of Covid-19, with more than 10.7 million confirmed cases in the U.S.

With final states called, Biden's projected Electoral College victory matches Trump's in 2016

President-elect Joe Biden is the apparent winner in Georgia and President Donald Trump has won North Carolina, NBC News projected Friday, bringing the presidential race to a close.

Those last two calls by NBC News — coming 10 days after polls closed on Election Night — were the final calls by the network in a tumultuous post-election stretch that included the tense four days it took for news outlets to call the race for Biden.

With 99 percent of the vote counted in Georgia, Biden had received 49.5 percent of the vote, while Trump had 49.2 percent. Biden’s margin in his apparent victory over Trump in the state was 14,152 votes, according to NBC News. His apparent win there is the first by a Democratic presidential candidate in the state since 1992. The outcome in Georgia, however, is subject to a planned recount of the state’s votes.

With 99 percent of the vote counted in North Carolina, Trump had 50 percent of the vote, while Biden had 48.6 percent. Trump’s margin of victory over Biden in the state was just over 73,600 votes.

Biden’s projected win in Georgia added 16 Electoral College votes to his tally, while Trump’s projected win in North Carolina added 15 Electoral College votes to his own. On Thursday, NBC News projected that Biden wins Arizona, a pickup of 11 Electoral College votes for Biden. As a result, Biden’s final projected Electoral College vote victory over Trump amounted to 306 to 232, according to NBC News.

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