Biden begins transition plans as Trump refuses to concede

By Meg Wagner and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 9:02 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020
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12:16 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Trump campaign eliminates "voter fraud" hotline after it's flooded with prank calls

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

US President Donald Trump visited his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia on November 3, 2020. 
US President Donald Trump visited his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia on November 3, 2020.  Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump's campaign has ended a "voter fraud" hotline it established last week so people could report alleged instances of fraud after it was flooded with prank calls. 

The campaign went as far as to set up an entire conference room that was dedicated to the hotline where staff took calls, but sources said it was mostly spam or calls from people mocking the hotline, given the number was posted online.

It's now been changed to a website where people can submit instances of alleged fraud via a web form, a campaign official says. 

Remember: There has been no evidence of widespread voting fraud despite Trump's claims. The President has launched a series of legal challenges to the results and has not yet conceded to President-elect Joe Biden, despite the fact that major new organizations, including CNN, last week projected Biden will win the election.

12:14 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Pelosi doesn't take responsibility for loss of House seats

From CNN's Clare Foran, Daniella Diaz, Sarah Fortinsky and Manu Raju

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) arrives for her weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol on November 13, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) arrives for her weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol on November 13, 2020 in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to take responsibility for the loss of House seats Democrats suffered in the 2020 elections.

“I take credit for winning the majority," she defiantly told CNN's Manu Raju at her press conference today. 

Asked how the smaller majority of Democrats in the House affects her approach, and if she will need to compromise, she replied, "No, not at all. We have a President of the United States."

She later added,

"Our leverage and our power is greatly enhanced by having a Democratic President in the White House."

But Pelosi did say she spent most of the weekend listening to the concerns of candidates who did not win their races, and that there’s a need for "a deep dive" to further understand the election results for Democrats.

"I have pages, in fact, books on how they saw what happened in their districts, and how they see how to go forward. And it is clear that a number of the people who, there are certain issues that may have worked one place or another. But we have to have a deep dive. We have to really have the data. So all of them gave me their view for the moment and said, when we get more data, we’ll have a clearer picture," she said. 

Pelosi said she and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer spoke to President-elect Joe Biden yesterday "about the intensifying pandemic, and the economic crisis accompanying it, and about the urgent need for Congress to pass a bipartisan bill in the lame duck session."

She argued that the longer Republicans refuse to accept the results of the presidential election, the more difficult it will be to address the coronavirus pandemic.

"The election is over. Joe Biden is the president-elect," Pelosi said."The longer the Republicans keep up the charade, the further out of control the Covid crisis will spiral."

12:04 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Why Biden is taking a "notoriously deliberative" approach to filling his cabinet

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny 

President-elect Joe Biden addressing the media on November 10, 2020.
President-elect Joe Biden addressing the media on November 10, 2020. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden will spend the day and the weekend considering potential nominees to his cabinet, aides said. They cautioned that no major announcements are expected in the coming days.

Advisers to Biden describe him as "notoriously deliberative" in making personnel decisions, pointing to the most recent example of the multiple delays in selecting his running mate. The deadline for that announcement was repeatedly pushed back, aides said, as Biden asked for more information and bided his time.

While he has leading contenders for nearly all of his cabinet positions in mind, the outcome of the election has changed the calculus – particularly if Republicans maintain control of the Senate. For now, aides said, that is the operating principle the transition team is working on.

In the words of one longtime adviser, Biden can often be "slow" to make up his mind on hiring people, but aides say he is also cognizant of the fact that time is of the essence. The Biden team is poised to announce an ambitious timeline of its transition to power, hoping to keep driving the perception that they are not being slowed by the Trump administration’s refusal to cooperate. 

But there are several reasons to be deliberate, given the political climate and the GOP control of the Senate.

"There is no room to spare for any embarrassments," a former senior Obama official, who is advising the Biden transition, told CNN.

That, of course, is what happened during the Obama transition. President George W. Bush was remarkably gracious and helpful, which Obama notes again in his new book, but several cabinet nominees were not properly vetted and ultimately had to withdraw: Tom Daschle as Secretary of Health and Human Services and Bill Richardson and Judd Gregg as Commerce Secretary.

"We made many missteps that Biden does not have the luxury of making," the Obama official said, noting significant missteps also came during Bush and Clinton transitions.

The first month of the Obama transition also was weighed down with allegations of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich improperly trying to fill the Senate seat. The Obama transition launched an internal review of who spoke to Blagojevich, even as the US Attorney opened a criminal probe.

"I would ask for your patience" Obama told reporters during one news conference, "because I do not want to interfere with an ongoing investigation."

While Biden does not face a similar situation – Sen. Kamala Harris is poised to resign from her seat in the coming weeks – the team is mindful of properly vetting all potential cabinet nominees.

This week in Wilmington, Biden hinted at a Thanksgiving timeframe for some members of his cabinet. Health, economic and defense are expected to be the first portfolios to be announced, aides said, given the rising coronavirus crisis and unsteady economy.

But if you look at his words carefully, aides said, there is sufficient wiggle room on the timing.

"I hope we're able to be in a position to let people know at least a couple that we want before Thanksgiving," Biden said Tuesday, "and we'll just work this out."
11:40 a.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Michigan official says lawsuits filed suggesting voter fraud "provide no evidence to support their claims"

From CNN's Brian Vitagliano

Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel said lawsuits filed in Michigan against state agencies and officials suggesting voter fraud, "provide no evidence to support their claims." 

"Those who continue to push a false narrative claiming our elections were not conducted in a fair, free and transparent manner, or that there is widespread voter fraud, are only trying to erode public confidence in our election system, undermine our democracy and steal the election away from the people of Michigan. The facts simply are not there to support these claims," Nessel said in a press release Friday. 

Additionally, Nessel’s office issued five cease and desist letters to "entities and individuals spreading misinformation during the general election."

Nessel also announced felony charges of voter fraud against a 47-year-old Michigan man who allegedly completed, "signed and submitted his daughter’s absentee voter ballot to his local clerk’s office."

"Signing someone else’s name to a ballot is a felony under state law and spreading misinformation to purposefully interfere with our election and ballot-counting processes is criminal behavior that will not be tolerated. Michigan has multiple layers of review throughout our election process that make it very difficult for a bad actor to commit fraud, which is why it so seldom occurs," Nessel said in the release Friday.  

Remember: Major new organizations, including CNN, projected Biden will win the presidential election. President Trump has launched a series of legal challenges to the results, even though there has been no evidence of widespread voting fraud despite Trump's claims. 

11:12 a.m. ET, November 13, 2020

New acting defense secretary has spoken with congressional leaders and foreign counterparts

From CNN's Barbara Starr and Michael Conte

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Newly appointed Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said he has spoken to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chairs and ranking members of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees.

He's also spoken to his counterparts in Germany, France and the United Kingdom, he said in remarks made to reporters before his meeting with Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis at the Pentagon today.

"I want to assure the American public, and our allies and partners, that the Department of Defense remains strong and continues its vital work of protecting our homeland, our people, and our interests around the world," Miller said. 

Former defense officials have raised concerns about how President Trump’s sudden replacement of Defense Secretary Mark Esper could endanger US national security in a vulnerable period of governmental transition.

Miller also said that he would be speaking to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg this afternoon, saying he was doing "a remarkable job all around."

10:59 a.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Arizona GOP files another lawsuit seeking to recount a portion of election day ballots 

From CNN’s Kara Scannell

The Arizona Republican Party filed a lawsuit late Thursday against the recorder of Maricopa County – the most populous county in the state – seeking a more expansive audit of ballots cast electronically.

The lawsuit is focused on a small number of votes and contains no allegation of fraud. 

It alleges that under Arizona state law, the county recorder is required to conduct a hand recount of a random sampling of ballots cast in polling places, and electronic machines in at least 2% of precincts or two precincts, whichever is greater. The lawsuit alleges that secretary of state manual violates state law by defining the sample set to include polling places, not precincts. 

The lawsuit alleges the recorder should sample ballots cast at 15 of the 748 precincts in Maricopa County, not 2%, or 3.5, of the 175 polling places. 

CNN has reached out to the Maricopa County Recorder for comment. 

The lawsuit is the second suit seeking a recount of a portion of ballots cast on Election Day. The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit on Saturday seeking to block certification of ballots until votes cast on Election Day could be reviewed. The campaign does not allege the county engaged in fraud but it alleges voters were confused and some believe their ballots may not have been counted if the machines read their ballots as overvotes. They are seeking a hand review of any ballots flagged by the machine as "overvote" adding it could result in thousands of votes for President Trump. 

A judge heard six hours of evidence on Thursday but reserved decision. Lawyers for Maricopa County and the secretary of state said 191 ballots were flagged by the machines as possible overvotes for the presidential race.

CNN projected Thursday that Joe Biden won Arizona. He has a vote margin of more than 11,000 votes over Trump.

10:28 a.m. ET, November 13, 2020

USPS delivered ballots on time and securely, Postmaster General says

From CNN's Paul P. Murphy

Tom Williams/Pool/Getty Images
Tom Williams/Pool/Getty Images

In a Friday morning meeting with the US Postal Service Board of Governors, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said the USPS delivered the nation's political and election mail on time, and securely.

"It was our mission to deliver the nation's political and election mail in a timely and secure manner," DeJoy said. "I am proud to say that we accomplished that mission."

According to DeJoy, on average, blank ballots were delivered to voters in 2.1 days. Completed ballots were returned to the Boards of Elections in roughly 1.6 days, DeJoy says. 

"Despite a narrative that arose in certain circles, we never wavered in our commitment to fulfill our sacred duty to delivery election mail, and ballots in particular," he said. 

DeJoy did not address the fact that he and the USPS were enjoined in a number of injunctions in federal court that forced the USPS to do whatever it could to deliver ballots on time.  

In all, DeJoy said that the USPS delivered 610 million pieces of election mail — which includes ballots and official communications to voters from election officials. The service also delivered 4 billion pieces of political mail.

9:45 a.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Law firm attempting to block Biden's win in Pennsylvania withdraws from controversial Trump campaign case

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

A law firm representing the President’s campaign in a controversial and long shot attempt to block Pennsylvania’s popular vote for Joe Biden, is leaving the case.

The firm, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, had two Pittsburgh-based lawyers leading the effort for the Trump campaign in Pennsylvania. In an overnight filing they both told a judge they were withdrawing. The Trump campaign may bring in new counsel.

The Trump campaign is now down to one lawyer in the federal court effort in Pennsylvania—a solo practitioner in Philadelphia named Linda Ann Kerns who touts her media appearances and commentary as much as her legal experience.

Porter Wright is a mid-sized Midwestern law firm built to primarily represent corporations. Its choice to leave the Trump case signals a growing discomfort nationally with the President’s continued wish to push unfounded attacks on voting, and undermine Biden’s win in several key states with a play to block the popular vote and sway the Electoral College in his favor.

"Plaintiffs and Porter Wright have reached a mutual agreement that Plaintiffs will be best served if Porter Wright withdraws, and current co-counsel and such other counsel as Plaintiffs may choose to engage represent Plaintiffs in this case. Plaintiffs are in the process of retaining and causing other counsel to enter an appearance herein," lawyers Ronald Hicks and Carolyn McGee wrote in the Pennsylvania case.

The case has major arguments and a hearing on evidence about voting set for next week. 

The judge over the case, Matthew Brann, earned his seat during the Obama years but is a longtime leader in the Republican Party in Pennsylvania.

Earlier this week, Jones Day, a large and elite law firm that has long represented the interests of Trump, publicly distanced itself from cases where the President is contesting the popular vote or alleging voter fraud.

Remember: Major new organizations, including CNN, projected Biden will win the presidential election. President Trump has launched a series of legal challenges to the results, even though there has been no evidence of widespread voting fraud despite Trump's claims. 

12:13 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Top Trump adviser says White House is proceeding under the "assumption of a second Trump term"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Top Trump adviser Peter Navarro appeared on television Friday to baselessly yet emphatically claim that the White House is proceeding under the "assumption of a second Trump term," and that President Trump "won the election," even though he has lost. 

Remember: Major new organizations, including CNN, projected Biden will win the presidential election. President Trump has launched a series of legal challenges to the results, even though there has been no evidence of widespread voting fraud despite Trump's claims. 

"We are moving forward here at the White House under the assumption that there will be a second Trump term," trade adviser Navarro lied on Fox Business Friday morning. 

He continued to lie, saying:

"What we seek here is verifiable ballots, certifiable ballots, and an investigation into what are growing numbers of allegations of fraud under signed affidavits by witnesses and my own view looking at this election, we have what appears in some sense to be an immaculate deception. But if you look statistically at what happened, clearly the president won this election, was leading on election day. And then, after election day, somehow in these key battleground states, they got just enough votes to catch up to the President."

There is no evidence of widespread fraud. In fact, a group of national, state, and private election officials called the Nov. 3 election the "most secure" election in American history. 

Yet, Navarro continued to lie. 

 "Our assumption is the second Trump term, we think he won that election, and any speculation about what Joe Biden might do I think his moot at this point,' he said. 

Navarro declined to provide any proof when pressed on the legal argument. 

After the Fox Business appearance, Navarro also declined to take questions from reporters that weren’t focused on the executive order aimed at China. 

"Not my lane," he said when asked by CNN’s Joe Johns about vaccine deployment. As director of trade and manufacturing policy, it very much is his lane.

John King Reports: