Biden begins transition plans as Trump refuses to concede

By Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 8:09 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020
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7:27 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Republicans temporarily block certification of Detroit's election results

From CNN's Annie Grayer and Marshall Cohen 

In an unprecedented move, the Detroit-based Wayne County Board of Canvassers deadlocked along partisan lines on a critical vote Tuesday and was unable to certify the county’s presidential results before the deadline. 

The two Democrats on the panel voted to certify the results, while the two Republicans voted against it. 

President-elect Joe Biden won Michigan by more than 148,000 votes, a win made possible by a strong showing in Wayne County. If those votes aren’t eventually certified, it could jeopardize Biden’s claim to Michigan’s electoral votes. President Trump has mounted a longshot attempt to overturn the election results through lawsuits and with the Electoral College, though GOP lawmakers in Michigan have said they’ll respect the statewide popular vote. 

According to Michigan law, the Board of State Canvassers is now required to deal with the results from Wayne County within 10 days. The Board of State Canvassers similarly has two Democrats and two Republicans. 

It is unclear what would happen if the state board reaches the same partisan deadlock. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, suggested in a statement Tuesday night that she could use her powers overseeing the statewide Bureau of Election to get the results from Wayne County certified. 

“In similar circumstances in the past, state canvassers have appointed the Bureau of Elections to carry out the processes of canvassing the vote and voter totals,” Benson said. “The Bureau stands ready to fulfill this duty and we expect this will address clerical errors and improve the quality of the canvass overall.” 

During the meeting of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, Vice Chair Jonathan Kinloch called the deadlock “reckless and irresponsible.” Kinloch is one of the two Democrats on the panel.  

“This board, over the years, has taken pride in not allowing politics to show itself in the actions of what we do,” Kinloch said. “There is no reason under the sun for us to not certify this election. I believe politics made its presence here today, and I think forever that this board will have to live with the fact that we have allowed external, non-relevant issues to impact this decision today, hoping to change and bring about an outcome that will not happen.” 

The Republican chair of the board, Monica Palmer, explained why she voted against certification.

“Based on what I saw and went through in poll books in this canvas, I believe that we do not have complete and accurate information in those poll books,” Palmer said.

In Benson’s statement, she said it was “common” for some precincts to have minor discrepancies with their poll books. But she also said, “importantly, this is not an indication that any votes were improperly cast or counted.”

7:38 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

President Trump fires director of Homeland Security agency who had rejected his election conspiracy theories

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

Chris Krebs
Chris Krebs Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP/FILE

President Trump on Tuesday fired the Department of Homeland Security official who had rejected Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud.

Trump announced on Twitter he was firing Chris Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and directly tied it to Krebs' statement that said there "is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised."

"The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud," Trump said in a tweet before repeating multiple baseless conspiracy theories about the election. "Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency."

Watch:

7:34 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Trump cancels Thanksgiving trip to Mar-a-Lago

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond, Kaitlan Collins and Kate Bennett

Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images/FILE
Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images/FILE

President Trump has canceled his plans to travel to Mar-a-Lago for Thanksgiving, an administration official tells CNN.

The President and first lady were scheduled to spend Thanksgiving at their Palm Beach, Florida resort, but have instead decided to stay in Washington.

Before the election, Trump had told people he was eager to visit the club after being away for so long and noted his rooms were in the middle of being renovated, so the cancellation came as a surprise to those around him.

CNN previously reported that Trump was considering canceling the trip, with one official describing it as a sign of Trump's "bunker mentality."

Behind the scenes, Trump has been eager to accomplish things that fell by the wayside during his first years in office and people close to him have said to expect that the next two months won't pass quietly.

Officials were told today that Trump had pulled the plug on the trip, the official said.

Watch Jeremy Diamond report:

6:24 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Another batch of uncounted ballots found during Georgia audit 

From CNN's Amara Walker and Marshall Cohen 

Gabriel Sterling gives an updated on the Georgia election audit via a Zoom call on Tuesday, November 17.
Gabriel Sterling gives an updated on the Georgia election audit via a Zoom call on Tuesday, November 17. Georgia Secretary of State

Election officials in Georgia said Tuesday that about 2,755 early in-person votes were not included in initial results from Fayette County – a mistake that was uncovered during the ongoing audit of the state’s presidential election. 

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting systems implementation manager, said the ballots were scanned but local election workers failed to complete the final step of uploading the votes onto a memory card. The missing votes were discovered because the number of voters who checked-in to vote did not match the number of votes that were publicly reported by the county, said Sterling, who added that this was an isolated mishap and not intentional. 

President Trump will net 449 votes from the new ballots, slightly narrowing President-elect Joe Biden’s statewide lead.

This is the second batch of previously uncounted votes that were found during the audit – the other came from Floyd County, where about 2,600 ballots were never counted after election night. Both batches of new votes helped Trump, but he is still trailing by more than 12,000 votes, which experts say is an insurmountable deficit. 

Sterling said that Walton County “may also have a memory card with 224 votes from an Election Day polling location that have not been uploaded,” and therefore were not counted. Officials are still looking into this.

Sterling said that 78 of Georgia’s 159 counties already finished the audit and uploaded results to the state. Of those, 57 counties found no discrepancies, and 21 counties were only one vote different than the original tally. 

“We have 159 counties and the vast majority are doing everything right,” Sterling said.

After top officials said there was no widespread fraud, Trump started attacking the audit and pushed baseless conspiracy theories about voting machines changing millions of votes. He also spread false claims about the signature-matching process that was used to verify the legality of absentee ballots before they were counted. 

Responding to Trump’s claims about signature-matching, Sterling said, “he’s just flat-out, 100 percent, four-square wrong,” adding, “It’s just confusing to people, because people want to believe it, because the President is saying it."

6:19 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

In final weeks of administration, White House announces several appointments and nominations 

From CNN's Jason Hoffman 

Former NFL athlete Jack Brewer addresses the virtual Republican National Convention, on August 26.  President Trump intends to make Brewer a member of the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys.
Former NFL athlete Jack Brewer addresses the virtual Republican National Convention, on August 26. President Trump intends to make Brewer a member of the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys. Republican National Committee/Getty Images/FILE

In the waning months of his presidency, the White House has announced a slew of nominations and appointments President Trump intends to make. 

Trump is nominating Brian Brooks, the current acting comptroller of the currency, to get the job full time for a five-year term. 

He also intends to nominate Scott Francis O’Grady to be an assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. O’Grady is a successful author, speaker, spokesperson, investor, and entrepreneur, and served 12 years as an officer in the United States Air Force, according to a statement from the White House. 

Notable in the list of appointments Trump intends to make is Jack Brewer to be a member of the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys for a term of four years. Brewer is a former NFL player who spoke at the Republican National Convention in support of Trump. 

The President will also appoint Jackie Gingrich Cushman, daughter of Newt Gingrich, to be a member of the Adams Memorial Commission, which is a bipartisan commission formed to establish a federal memorial in Washington, DC, to honor former President John Adams. 

6:33 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Atlanta mayor: Sen. Lindsey Graham's "attempt to interfere with our election is despicable"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms CNN

Atlanta's Democratic Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms today said she was stunned when she heard allegations that Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham had pressured the state's secretary of state to find ways to discard ballots.

"It's disheartening to say the least," Bottoms told CNN's Wolf Blitzer this afternoon. "...My first thought was, where's the decency in all this?"

"This attempt to destroy our democracy at any cost, it saddens me," she continued. "...Any attempt to interfere with the election in Georgia is despicable."

Graham has denied the report, telling reporters Monday it was "ridiculous" and saying he'd had a conversation with Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger about voting machines and signatures but had not asked that votes be discarded. 

Bottoms went on to praise Raffensperger, who originally made the accusations, saying he had shown a commitment to the rule of law over partisan preference. 

"This is a man who has taken seriously the oath of his office in making sure that this election has been administered fairly," she said. "To have someone of Lindsey Graham's stature to attempt to interfere with that, it's dishonorable to say the least."

"It has been quite refreshing to see our secretary of state just say quite simply he wants to administer a fair election, and I appreciate and applaud his courage in standing up against his own party," she added. 

Watch:

4:59 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Biden has no immediate plans to comment on troop drawdown

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

Andrew Harnik/AP
Andrew Harnik/AP

President-elect Joe Biden has no immediate plans to comment on the Trump administration’s plan to withdraw thousands of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq just days before Biden is set to take office.

A transition aide tells CNN that a comment is not expected tonight or in the coming days. 

A separate official close to Biden says there is one commander-in-chief at a time and it would not be not appropriate – so close to the proposed withdrawal of troops – to offer Biden’s view on this plan. He will be asked about it, of course, but for now he is not commenting. 

The troop drawdown, which was announced at the Pentagon just as the Biden national security briefing was getting underway today, did come up during the conversation, the official said, who declined to say what advice Biden was given. 

3:54 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules that counties can determine where poll watchers stand

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that a Trump campaign ballot processing observer in Philadelphia has no right to stand any particular distance, and that it's up to counties in the state to decide where poll watchers can stand.

It's a significant loss for the Trump campaign at a moment where the legal strategy to block Biden's win and undermine the election results has been crumbling and in its final throes.

The state high court's ruling overturns an earlier decision that the Trump campaign called a major win, even while it affected no actual votes in Pennsylvania. But that small win has propelled the Trump campaign in reason days to argue that vote counts across the state have been unfair and prompted them to push suspicions of fraud. 

The Trump campaign's latest loss in court comes amid a break in a hearing where Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani is arguing to a federal judge there could have been widespread fraud in absentee voting in Pennsylvania. 

That hearing, with arguments that began this afternoon in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, is on a break because an audio phone line that allowed public access to the hearing went down.

5:58 p.m. ET, November 17, 2020

GOP senators congratulate Harris, even as they side with Trump

From CNN's Manu Raju and Ali Zaslav

Sen. Lindsey Graham gives Vice President-elect, and current US senator, Kamala Harriss a fist bump.
Sen. Lindsey Graham gives Vice President-elect, and current US senator, Kamala Harriss a fist bump. Senate TV

Several GOP senators congratulated Kamala Harris on the Senate floor today — even as they side with President Trump.

Sens. Tim Scott, Mike Rounds and James Lankford all congratulated her, as did Sen. Ben Sasse. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham gave her a fist bump.

“How is the food fight behind you in California?” Lankford said, an apparent reference to the effort to fill her Senate seat.

It’s another sign GOP senators privately see the race as over and publicly take a different approach.

Watch: