Biden begins transition plans as Trump refuses to concede

By Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 10:00 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020
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8:22 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

Another Pentagon official to depart amid purge

From CNN's Ryan Browne

The deputy chief of staff to the secretary of defense has resigned, a US defense official told CNN on Thursday, becoming the latest official to depart the Pentagon amid a purge that began Monday when President Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Alexis Ross has resigned, the official said, joining now-former chief of staff Jen Stewart and the top Pentagon officials overseeing policy and intelligence, all three of whom had submitted their resignations Tuesday.

Stewart was replaced by Kash Patel, who most recently served as senior director for counterterrorism at the White House National Security Council and is seen as much more ideological and closely linked to Trump.

Esper was replaced by Christopher Miller, who was the director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

Among those who also assumed new roles at the Department of Defense this week are controversial retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, who moved into the Pentagon's top policy role, taking over the duties of James Anderson, who resigned Tuesday.

Tata had been nominated to be under secretary of defense for policy this summer but his nomination was withdrawn because of bipartisan opposition.

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Kernan, the under secretary of defense for intelligence, also left his position, according to another defense official. It was not immediately clear if Kernan had resigned or was fired, but his departure has been accelerated.

7:57 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

Biden's coronavirus plan is "eerily reminiscent" of current administration's plan, says HHS secretary

From CNN’s Lauren Mascarenhas

President-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus response plan is similar to that of the current administration, and “if there’s a transition,” Health and Human Services will ensure it is a cooperative one, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday.

“Vice President Biden's plan to deal with the coronavirus is eerily reminiscent of our plan and what we've been executing on and what we're executing on now,” Azar told CNN.

Azar cited several examples. He noted that Biden’s team has discussed the need for personal protective equipment, testing, and vaccines and therapeutics, adding that HHS has been working to deliver and develop those things to the nation.

“I think there's a lot of continuity, no matter what the circumstance,” Azar said. “Obviously if there's a transition here, we're going to ensure that it's a professional, cooperative one, because our mission is protecting the health and welfare of all Americans.”

Watch the moment:

7:16 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

Vice President-elect Harris will meet with transition advisers on Friday

From CNN's Jasmine Wright, Jeff Zeleny and Dan Merica

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be meeting with transition advisers on Friday.

More about the transition: President-elect Joe Biden tapped Ron Klain to be his incoming chief of staff. Klain is one of Biden's most trusted campaign advisers and was long seen as the most likely pick for the top job. He previously served as chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore during the Clinton administration and Biden during his tenure as President Barack Obama's vice president.

Klain praised Biden in his own statement Wednesday, calling his new role "the honor of a lifetime."

"I look forward to helping him and the Vice President-elect assemble a talented and diverse team to work in the White House, as we tackle their ambitious agenda for change, and seek to heal the divides in our country."

8:19 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

Obama says Trump's election fraud claims are setting a "dangerous path"

From CNN's Keith Allen

Former President Barack Obama talked about President Trump’s false claims of election fraud in the wake of his loss to Joe Biden and the impact they are having on the country, according to an interview he did with CBS.

The network released a clip of the interview on Thursday’s CBS Evening News. 

“They appear to be motivated, in part, because the President doesn’t like to lose, and never admits loss” Obama told CBS News' Scott Pelley. “I’m more troubled by the fact that other Republican officials who clearly know better are going along with this, are humoring him in this fashion.”

“It is one more step in delegitimizing, not just the incoming Biden administration, but democracy generally. And that’s a dangerous path,” Obama said.


The entire interview, Obama’s first since the election, airs Sunday on CBS.

5:29 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

Judy Shelton expected to be confirmed to the Federal Reserve next week 

From CNN’s Ted Barrett

Judy Shelton testifies before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on February 13, in Washington, DC.
Judy Shelton testifies before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on February 13, in Washington, DC. Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images/FILE

President Trump’s nominee for the Federal Reserve, Judy Shelton, will get votes on the Senate floor next week and is expected to be confirmed after Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a centrist Republican from Alaska, told reporters she would back the nominee.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took procedural steps to set up votes next week to break a filibuster of her nomination and then a confirmation vote. Votes are expected the middle of next week.

4:21 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

Twitter says it added contextual labels to 300,000 tweets around the election

From CNN’s Brian Fung

Twitter said it applied contextual labels to approximately 300,000 tweets during a two-week period covering the election, in a wider post-mortem assessment of the company’s handling of political misinformation before and after Election Day. 

In addition to the labeling, Twitter said more than 450 of those tweets were also covered up by a warning message and were subject to sharing restrictions that limited how they could be retweeted. Roughly three out of four people who viewed those tweets did so after the labeling was applied, Twitter said in a blog post. The analysis focused on tweets about the US election from Oct. 27 to Nov. 11. 

“We also want to be very clear that we do not see our job as done — our work here continues and our teams are learning and improving how we address these challenges,” wrote Vijaya Gadde and Kayvon Beykpour, who respectively lead Twitter’s legal and product teams. “We’ll be sharing a comprehensive report on the election early next year.”

Some context: The disclosure comes as Twitter rolls back certain preemptive policies that it put in place ahead of Election Day.

Twitter said it found that removing recommendations to users for who they ought to follow had little meaningful impact on misinformation during the election, and the company will undo that change on Thursday. 

The company said it will also relax some of the restrictions surrounding what trending topics users may see under a curated tab on its website labeled “For You.” During the election, Twitter said, only topics that provided additional in-line context were permitted in that section of the site. That change is also being reversed.

One election-related change that Twitter will be keeping going forward is an extra screen prompting users to quote tweet content instead of retweeting it. Twitter said its data showed that the limitation reduced sharing via quote tweets and retweets by 20%, and that it “slowed the spread of misleading information by virtue of an overall reduction in the amount of sharing on the service.”

Twitter did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for data on how long it generally took Twitter to apply a label to misinformation, nor which accounts were primarily responsible for posting the tweets that ultimately got flagged.


3:40 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

As GOP lawmakers defend CIA director, few inside the White House are urging Trump not to fire her

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins and Manu Raju

Gina Haspel, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, right, arrives for a meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on November 10.
Gina Haspel, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, right, arrives for a meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on November 10. Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Several GOP lawmakers have publicly defended Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel as it becomes clear she's on the verge of being fired by President Trump in his post-election government purge.

But few outside of Capitol Hill have urged Trump not to terminate her. Instead, several people inside the White House have encouraged the President to do so.

A senior administration official told CNN trust between the White House and the CIA had "completely broken down." They said they believed Haspel was trying to get Congress to defend her so Trump wouldn't fire her, which "didn't help her case."

A Republican senator said he has privately urged the White House not to fire Haspel, noting she has a deep reservoir of support among GOP senators who have expressed a similar sentiment. This senator said the White House has suggested she is safe. But it is unclear what President Trump will do, as he stews over the election and goes after those he perceives as disloyal to him.

Whether Haspel should be let go has been a subject of multiple discussions inside the White House over the last 48 hours.

While Trump has made clear his desire to get rid of her, he has not made clear whether he will follow through with his threat.

He followed a similar method with Defense Secretary Esper, asking people hours before he fired him whether he should.

One person who has defended Haspel inside these West Wing discussions is White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

3:37 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

Trump's eldest children split on his path forward

From CNN's Pamela Brown, Dana Bash, Gloria Borger and Betsy Klein 

Donald Trump Junior, left, Ivanka Trump, center, and Eric Trump listen during a joint press conference at the Foreign and Commonwealth office in London on June 4, 2019.
Donald Trump Junior, left, Ivanka Trump, center, and Eric Trump listen during a joint press conference at the Foreign and Commonwealth office in London on June 4, 2019. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump has long sought advice from different perspectives throughout his career. Now, at a pivotal moment in defining his legacy as President, he is receiving conflicting advice from his closest and most trusted advisers — his eldest children — as he strategizes his next move after losing the election.

While his adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, are gung-ho, leading the charge for the President to stay in the fight, daughter and White House adviser Ivanka Trump has emerged as someone looking for a way for the President to save face as he considers his next steps, sources tell CNN.

Differing approaches have emerged amongst the Trump siblings: Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are telling their father to aggressively fight to the end, echoing baseless claims that the election has been rigged and the outcome should change.

Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, are weighing a different political calculus.

The couple doesn't believe legal battles will change the election's outcome. Nevertheless they are advocating for a more measured approach, to let the legal fight and recounts continue to ensure future election integrity, while allowing them to appear sensitive to Trump, a source familiar with the situation said.

Ivanka Trump has offered a more calibrated message to her father, asking him whether it is worth damaging his legacy, and potentially his businesses, to continue his refusal to concede. She is privately realistic about the President's loss, a source told CNN, but she also knows that her entire future — now more than ever — is tied to her father's, and must be handled delicately.

A White House spokesperson declined to comment to CNN on the matter. A spokesperson for Donald Trump Jr. declined to comment.

3:17 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

CIA director on "thin ice," source says

From CNN's Jim Acosta and Zachary Cohen

CIA Director Gina Haspel arrives for a closed door briefing at the US Capitol on July 2 in Washington, DC.
CIA Director Gina Haspel arrives for a closed door briefing at the US Capitol on July 2 in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

A source close to the President told CNN that CIA Director Gina Haspel is on "thin ice."

This source said she has been on thin ice with Trump for months.

Some context: Trump and some of his conservative allies have become increasingly frustrated with Haspel, accusing her of delaying the release of documents they believe would expose so-called "deep state" plots against Trump's campaign and transition during the Obama administration, according to multiple current and former officials.

Those frustrations have lingered since Election Day, with a senior administration official and three former administration officials with knowledge of the situation telling CNN they expect the President to remove Haspel from her post, as he did Defense Secretary Mark Esper earlier this week.