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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12:59 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

Sen. Graham says Biden should have access to classified briefings

From CNN's Ted Barrett

Sen. Lindsey Graham arrives for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on November 10 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Sen. Lindsey Graham arrives for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on November 10 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Susan Walsh/Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN Thursday he thinks President-elect Joe Biden should get intelligence briefings starting now. 

“Yeah, I think he should,” said Graham, a close ally of President Trump.

The President has not conceded the election to Biden and has refused to allow a formal transition period to begin, including giving Biden access to the classified updates the President’s gets each day.

Graham said he has not expressed his thoughts with the White House but said, "I hope so," when asked if he expects Biden to get the briefings soon.

Another influential Republican, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, said, "yeah, I don’t think that would hurt," for Biden to start getting the briefings now, as a handful of other Republicans have said they support this. 

Graham and Portman joined other senior Republicans who say Biden should have access to classified briefings.

12:51 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

Las Vegas newspaper that endorsed Trump now says he's seeking to "delay the inevitable"

From CNN's Jeff Simon 

President Donald Trump speaks in the briefing room at the White House on November 5 in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump speaks in the briefing room at the White House on November 5 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Review-Journal published an editorial Wednesday saying President Trump is seeking to "delay the inevitable."

The paper is owned by Trump donor and friend Sheldon Adelson, and had endorsed Trump for president last month.

An excerpt from the editorial says:

"There is no evidence, however, that fraud cost Mr. Trump the election, no matter how much the president tweets the opposite and his supporters wish it so. Mr. Trump would still trail in Pennsylvania even if mail-in ballots received after Election Day were discarded. He would remain well behind Mr. Biden in Nevada even if unverified GOP claims of thousands of illegal votes were dropped from the tally."
“It’s an insult to reason and logic to argue that isolated irregularities constitute proof of a grand national conspiracy.”

The editorial goes on to say that the Trump administration has "nothing to lose" by cooperating with Biden’s transition team.

Trump's administration is currently blocking Biden's transition team from getting access to intelligence briefings, as the President refuses to accept he lost the election.

You can read the full editorial here.

12:20 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

House Minority Leader declines to say Biden should receive classified intelligence briefings

From CNN's Sarah Fortinsky and Kristin Wilson

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on November 12 in Washington, DC.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on November 12 in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy declined to say President-elect Joe Biden should receive classified intelligence briefings, even though other Republicans, including Sens. Chuck Grassley and James Lankford, said he should.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also declined to respond to a question on the matter when he was headed to the floor this morning.

When CNN’s Manu Raju asked McCarthy if he agrees with Grassley and Lankford, the California Republican instead quoted an earlier quote by Biden himself, saying "access to classified information is useful but I’m not in a position to make any decision on those issues anyway."

"It’d be nice to have. It’s not critical," he added.

"I think I got to stand with Joe Biden,” McCarthy said. “He’s not President right now. I don’t know if he’ll be president on January 20th, but whoever is will get the information."

Remember: Biden and his senior advisers are not yet receiving the President's Daily Brief, the highly classified intelligence briefings about pressing national security issues that their soon-to-be predecessor has been offered daily.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Monday that Biden's lack of access stems from the election being not yet ascertained by the General Services Administration.

12:15 p.m. ET, November 12, 2020

GOP senator says Biden getting classified briefings is "important from a national security standpoint"

From CNN's Manu Raju

Sen. John Thune asks questions during a hearing on October 28 in Washington, DC.
Sen. John Thune asks questions during a hearing on October 28 in Washington, DC. Greg Nash/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Majority Whip John Thune told CNN President-elect Joe Biden should have access to classified briefings.

The South Dakota Republican joins a growing number of his colleagues who believe such a move is critical for national security preparedness. 

"Well, I think that it probably makes sense to prepare for all contingencies," Thune said when asked if Biden should get briefings.

"And as these election challenges play out in court, I don't have a problem with, and I think it's important from a national security standpoint, continuity. And you've seen other members suggesting that. I think that makes sense," he added.

The Trump administration is currently blocking Biden's transition team from getting access to intelligence briefings, as President Trump refuses to accept he lost the election.

11:48 a.m. ET, November 12, 2020

Lindsey Graham appears to issue veiled warning to Trump on US troop changes

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on November 10 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on November 10 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Susan Walsh/Pool/Getty Images

Close Trump ally, Sen. Lindsey Graham, appeared to issue a veiled warning to President Trump regarding his US military posture. Graham's comments come just days after Trump fired Defense Sec. Mark Esper in a tweet, and other top Pentagon officials have left.  

Knowledgable sources told CNN that Trump's changes may be in response to Esper and his team pushing back on a premature withdrawal from Afghanistan, that would be carried out before the required conditions on the ground were met, as well as other pending security issues.  Esper was replaced by Christopher Miller, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

"This is scary, it's very unsettling," one defense official told CNN. "These are dictator moves."

Graham said Trump had been "too good" as commander in chief to make significant changes to current US troop levels abroad, citing current threats to the US. 

"To trust the Taliban to police Al Qaeda and ISIS would be insane. Our presence in South Korea is a buffer against China and keeps North Korea in check. Having a troop reduction in Afghanistan makes sense, pulling out makes no sense. Radical Islam is very present in Afghanistan. Our troops over there are an insurance policy against another 9/11," Graham said during an appearance on Fox News. 

With reporting from CNN's Barbara Starr, Zachary Cohen and Ryan Browne.

11:41 a.m. ET, November 12, 2020

White House national security adviser tells staff to focus on their jobs and let electoral process play out

From CNN's Vivian Salama

National security adviser Robert O'Brien attends a Veterans Day wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on November 11.
National security adviser Robert O'Brien attends a Veterans Day wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on November 11. Patrick Semansky/AP

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien has informally told staff that they should focus on their jobs and let the electoral process, vote counting and legal battles, play themselves out, according to one administration official.

While O’Brien has not held a traditional "all hands" meeting with the entire staff, nor has he issued any written guidelines about how to proceed now that the race was called for President-Elect Joe Biden, he has been telling the heads of certain NSC directorates to keep working as though there’s been no change. 

Privately, officials tell CNN that O’Brien, who was a national security attorney prior to joining the administration, recognizes that the President’s path to victory is narrow, and is committed to holding a professional transition, but he cannot officially greenlight any transition activities – even preliminary outreach to Biden counterparts – until the President is ready to concede or the General Services Administration grants Biden ascertainment.

11:28 a.m. ET, November 12, 2020

Trump allies mocked Democrats as "sore losers" in 2016 for not accepting election results

From CNN's KFile team Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck

Top Donald Trump campaign and White House officials continue to baselessly assert there was widespread election fraud in the 2020 election. They are currently refusing to acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden's victory, despite having mocked Democrats who didn't accept Trump's victory four years ago as "sore losers."

"You have people trying to delegitimize the President-elect of the United States right now," Kayleigh McEnany, then a CNN contributor – now White House press secretary – said in November 2016.

"You have people out there that are calling for recounts that are unsubstantiated based on no evidence," McEnany said in 2016.

A reminder: In 2016, Trump's allies routinely attacked recount efforts that they said were "based on no evidence" and were designed to "delegitimize" his 2016 victory. They also commended President Barack Obama and administration officials for accepting the results of the election. The comments were made in response to protests against Trump's victory, recount efforts sponsored by the Green Party and candidate Jill Stein, and efforts to persuade Electoral College voters to vote against Trump.

Here's some of what Trump's key allies said about the election outcome in 2016:

Kellyanne Conway

Conway, now the President's adviser and then-campaign manager, hit Democrats over recount efforts when speaking with "Meet the Press" in late November 2016.

"There's a respect there. And there is a respect for the process and the peaceful transition of power, which is why this recount by Jill Stein and now the Hillary (Clinton) people just is so confounding and disappointing. Their president, Barack Obama, is going to be in office for eight more weeks," Conway said. "They have to decide whether they're going to interfere with him finishing his business, interfere with the peaceful transition, transfer of power to President-elect Trump and Vice-President-elect Pence, or if they're going to be a bunch of crybabies and sore losers about an election they can't turn around."

Kayleigh McEnany

McEnany attacked people who called for recount efforts as trying to delegitimize the President-elect on CNN Tonight in late November 2016

On the same day, McEnany commended Obama for accepting the results of the 2016 election and working with President-elect Trump during the transition, even calling Obama a "hero."

"We're commending the people who have put feelings aside and done what's for the betterment of the country and that's President Obama," she said. "Who put out a statement when this all was going on saying, 'Look, we believe the vote represents the voice of the American people.' And he has acted like a gracious, really hero in all of this, the way he's accepted this and moved on."

In December 2016, McEnany said it was "inexcusable" to "question the legitimacy of the election" after Obama said there was no widespread fraud, and it was a legitimate election.

Rudy Giuliani

The former New York City mayor and personal attorney to Trump called anti-Trump protesters "a bunch of spoiled crybabies" in November 2016 after Trump's victory.

"The reality is they are a bunch of spoiled crybabies. And – and somebody said– I think I heard somebody said we're bringing up a generation of spoiled crybabies. Most of the kids aren't crying. Most of the kids are going to class," he said on Fox News.

On ABC News, Giuliani later called on Obama and Clinton to "say something about this" to anti-Trump protesters because it is "really not the right thing in a democracy." He further suggested that some might be "professional protesters."

Matt Schlapp

Schlapp, the Trump ally who is chairman of the American Conservative Union, said in early December 2016 on Fox Business that Clinton was on her "sore loser tour" and that she needed to "get out of the way" to allow Trump to become president.

"Hillary is on her sore loser tour. It started at Harvard where the Hillary campaign blamed everybody for Hillary's lost. And now we have her going through recounts. You know what she needs to do? She needs to get over it. She lost. Get out of the way and let Donald Trump be President," Schlapp said.

Clinton conceded the 2016 election to Trump on election night and delivered a concession speech the following day.

Back to today: Many of those same allies are now bolstering Trump's baseless and dangerous claim that the election is being stolen out from under him, despite no evidence of widespread voting fraud.

The aides continue to feed into Trump's delusion about winning the election and continue to work on his behalf to file longshot legal and recount efforts, despite a widening vote count in key battleground states in favor of Biden.

You can read more of what Trump's key allies said in 2016 here.

11:27 a.m. ET, November 12, 2020

McConnell won’t answer if President-elect Biden should get classified briefings

From CNN's Ted Barrett, Alison Main and Caroline Kelly

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declined to respond to a question about whether President-elect Joe Biden should receive classified briefings as he went to the floor.  

CNN's Manu Raju reported moments earlier that Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley told CNN that President-elect Joe Biden should have access to classified briefings to prepare for the transition.

Remember: Biden and his senior advisers are not yet receiving the President's Daily Brief, the highly classified intelligence briefings about pressing national security issues that their soon-to-be predecessor has been offered daily.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Monday that Biden's lack of access stems from the election being not yet ascertained by the General Services Administration — a clear indication that the Biden transition team is not getting the same briefings that presidents-elect typically receive.

It remains unclear whether the race needs to be ascertained before the President-elect can legally receive the briefings. Biden has said that the daily briefings "would be useful, but it's not necessary."

11:26 a.m. ET, November 12, 2020

Biden should have access to classified briefings, GOP Sen. Grassley says

From CNN's Manu Raju

Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images
Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who as president pro tempore is the most senior Republican in the Senate, told CNN that President-elect Joe Biden should have access to classified briefings to prepare for the transition. 

“I would think —especially on classified briefings — the answer is yes,” Grassley said.

It comes after Sen. James Lankford made a similar comment — and other prominent Republicans have signaled it’s time to begin the transition process.

Asked if the General Services Administration should sign off on the requisite paperwork to allow for the transition to take place, Grassley said that “we ought to do what we did” after the contested 2000 election.

Reminded that the 9/11 report warned that the shortened transition period contributed to the lack of preparedness, Grassley said: “Well, I still would just stick by what I said whatever was done in 2000 ought to be done again.”