Biden begins transition plans as Trump refuses to concede

By Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020
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3:45 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Biden hears emotional testimony from ICU nurse during roundtable

From CNN's Sarah Mucha

Mary Turner speaks during a virtual roundtable with frontline health care workers and President-elect Joe Biden.
Mary Turner speaks during a virtual roundtable with frontline health care workers and President-elect Joe Biden. Biden Transition

President-elect Joe Biden grew emotional, wiping away a tear after hearing an intensive care unit nurse describe her experience on the frontlines battling Covid-19.

Mary Turner, head of the Minnesota Nurses Association, recounted that she has held the hands of dying patients who cried out for family members they weren't able to see, and that she has taken care of co-workers who fought for their lives on a ventilator.

Turner said that the nurses in her unit have had to reuse N-95s many times to the point that "sometimes the masks literally fall off our faces."

After noting that she has yet to be tested for Covid-19, Biden spoke for the first time, interjecting, "You're kidding me." 

As she finished, Turner apologized for being emotional, to which Biden replied, "No, you got me emotional."

Watch Minnesota nurse Mary Turner describe her life as a frontline worker:

2:53 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Biden officials still confident that Georgia recount will affirm victory in the state

From CNN’s Sarah Mucha

People hand count ballots during an audit at the Gwinnett County Voter Registration office in Lawrenceville, Georgia, on November 13.
People hand count ballots during an audit at the Gwinnett County Voter Registration office in Lawrenceville, Georgia, on November 13. Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Officials on Joe Biden’s campaign expressed on a press call Wednesday afternoon that they believe the Georgia recount will finish today and that it will affirm Biden’s victory in the state. 

“That process is consistent with our expectations that the outcome following this hand recount will be the same outcome as the initial results indicated: that President-elect Biden has won the state of Georgia,” said Patrick Moore, who serves as legal counsel on the campaign. 

Moore noted that while there have been a handful of discrepancies in the totals, this is normal.

“These developments are entirely consistent with what you would see in any full hand recount,” he said. "Because human error happens, the administration of elections is complicated, but through diligence it’s uncovered and addressed. And that's exactly what has happened here."

He added, “We continue to agree with the secretary of state that there is no reason to believe that any widespread irregularity has occurred.” 

Marc Elias, an election expert, addressed the last pending lawsuit filed last week which called for a temporary restraining order, calling it “frivolous.” He added, like he said last week, that this was a bipartisan agreement that was struck between his clients. 

Asked if they’ve considered any other routes the Trump campaign might pursue following certification, Elias dismissed the possibility.

“There isn't any amount of recounting of these ballots that's going to change [that Joe Biden won.] All it's going to do is waste the taxpayers money of Georgia,” he said.  

2:24 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Biden tested negative for Covid-19 today

President-elect Joe Biden tested negative for coronavirus today.

"President- elect Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected," Biden's office said. 

Biden is currently participating in a virtual roundtable with frontline health care workers.

2:36 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Why HHS Secretary Alex Azar says he will not brief Biden transition team on Covid-19 pandemic

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said staff will not work with President-elect Joe Biden's transition team until the General Services Administration makes a determination that Biden is the President-elect.

"We've made it very clear that when GSA makes a determination, we will ensure complete, cooperative professional transitions and planning," Azar said during a briefing Wednesday. "We follow the guidance. We're about getting vaccines and therapeutics invented and get the clinical trial data and saving lives here. That's where our focus is as we go forward with our efforts."

Azar said that many people involved in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Operation Warp Speed team are "career officials" and not impacted by a change in leadership.

The Biden transition team has yet to be briefed on the pandemic and has not been given full access to information from agencies on vaccine distribution plans.

2:03 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Biden participates in virtual roundtable with health care workers

Biden Transition
Biden Transition

President-elect Joe Biden is participating in a virtual roundtable with frontline health care workers in Wilmington, Delaware.

The event comes as the US nears 250,000 coronavirus deaths and cases continue to surge across the country.

At least 1,707 new Covid-19 deaths were reported Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That's the highest daily death toll since May 14.

Biden's transition has moved to tackle the pandemic and announced a team of coronavirus advisers.

1:47 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Biden nets 28 votes from latest batch of uncounted ballots in Georgia audit

From CNN’s Jason Morris, Amara Walker and Wes Bruer

Another memory card with uncounted votes was discovered during Georgia’s statewide audit, giving a small boost to President-elect Joe Biden, a top election official told reporters on Wednesday. 

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting systems implementation manager, said local officials in Douglas County, just west of Atlanta, “forgot to upload” results from one memory card on Election Day.  

The memory card had 156 votes for Biden, 128 votes for President Trump, and seven votes for Libertarian nominee Joe Jorgenson, Sterling said. That slight edge for Biden in this latest batch puts his statewide lead at 12,781 votes, with almost the entire audit completed, Sterling said.   

“We are down to the tens-of-thousands of ballots left to go,” Sterling said, adding that his still expects to meet the self-imposed deadline of midnight tonight. That would give state officials enough time and certify the official results of the election by Friday, as required by state law. 

The audit previously turned up three batches of uncounted votes, from Walton County, Fayette County and Floyd County, and those batches netted about 1,000 votes for Trump. Officials have stressed that these mishaps were caused by human error and are not indicative of vote-rigging or widespread fraud. 

Sterling continued to rebut Trump’s claims of fraud, as he has done nearly every day this week. 

“The President’s tweets basically targeting fraudulent votes is a little ironic because he has actually gained votes from this process. I hope people will go to trusted sources like the election county directors or the secretary of state site to get real information of how the system works and what we are doing to protect everybody’s vote in the state,” Sterling said during the news conference.   

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that the Georgia audit previously turned up two batches of uncounted votes from Fayette County and Floyd County. The previous audit resulted in three batches of uncounted votes, including from Walton County. 

1:00 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Biden campaign argues partial Wisconsin recount sought by Trump campaign will not change results

From CNN's Sarah Mucha

Voters cast their ballots at a polling location in Milwaukee on Tuesday, November 3.
Voters cast their ballots at a polling location in Milwaukee on Tuesday, November 3. Alex Wroblewski/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Joe Biden's presidential campaign is reacting to the Trump campaign seeking a partial recount in Wisconsin, arguing that it will not change the results and calling Biden's victory "clear and resounding."

“The official canvass results reaffirmed Joe Biden’s clear and resounding win in Wisconsin after Wisconsin voters turned out to cast their ballots in record numbers," Biden campaign Wisconsin Communications Director Nate Evans said.

"A cherry-picked and selective recounting of Milwaukee and Dane County will not change these results. Election officials worked extremely hard under unprecedented circumstances to ensure all votes were counted quickly and accurately, and the recount demanded and paid for by the Trump campaign will once again confirm Joe Biden’s victory," he added.

Earlier: A Trump campaign official told CNN they will seek a limited recount of some Wisconsin counties, but the official declined to identify the counties. The campaign needs to officially request the recount, and pay an upfront fee, by 5 p.m. CT.

Wisconsin election officials confirmed on Wednesday that they received a partial payment of $3 million from the Trump campaign. These officials said last week that the price tag for a statewide recount would be approximately $7.9 million. 

12:47 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Sen. Lindsey Graham acknowledges he's not probing states Trump won: "They're not in question"

From CNN's Manu Raju

Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on November 17.
Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on November 17. Chip Somodevilla/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham acknowledged on Wednesday he is not seeking an investigation into states that President Trump won, telling CNN that that "they are not in question" so it isn't an issue for him.

"We're looking at states where there's a contest," Graham said. "I'm not looking at states that he lost. I'm looking at states where there's a challenge." 

Graham has previously said he's reviewed the voting practices of Georgia, Arizona and Nevada to learn about whether any changes needed to be made to verify ballots sent by mail. He continued to defend his effort on Wednesday.

Graham also told reporters this when asked about Trump's lie that he won Michigan.

"It's a free country. The way you win Michigan is that you have a court to overturn enough votes, so that you're ahead. Or call for a new election. And right now, he's behind in Michigan," Graham said. Asked to elaborate, Graham said: "The way you could win is have a court to accept your challenge. The day that the court says there's no more challenges left... I'm very comfortable with the idea that the president should be allowed to go to court and challenge the process."

Asked if he's okay with counties refusing to certify the election results, Graham said: "If they had a reason not to certify it, I'd be okay with it, but apparently they did."

11:55 a.m. ET, November 18, 2020

GOP senators defend Trump's firing of Homeland Security official who rejected voter fraud claims

From CNN's Ali Main and Ali Zaslav

The day after President Trump terminated a top election security official who had pushed back on his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, Senate Republicans defended the President's right to fire CISA's Chris Krebs, while continuing to cast doubt on the integrity of the election.

Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham told reporters on Wednesday it was Trump's "right" to fire Krebs, adding that he didn't think there was any foreign election interference.

"Now there may be some irregularities at the state level, but I believe that this election was secure when it came to foreign influence," Graham said. His comments come as the South Carolina Republican has been probing officials in states won by Joe Biden about mail-in voting, drawing much scrutiny over whether his actions were appropriate and whether he pressured states to discard legally cast ballots.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said it's ultimately up to Trump to decide who he wants in his administration, but "from everything I saw it appeared that [Krebs] did an able job in a difficult important role."

Last night, Cruz's colleagues Sens. Ben Sasse and Rob Portman also defended Krebs's work, but explicitly said they believed he should not have been fired.

Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana said he didn't think Krebs's firing was an act of retaliation by the President, even though Trump directly tied it in his tweet to the top election security official publicly defending the integrity of election amid claims of fraud.

"Vice President Biden is talking about unifying the country. I don't think that's possible until you overturn every stone out there because I think it should be in the best interest of all Americans to make sure there aren't any irregularities in a process that’s so sacred to all of us," Braun said.

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in this election.

Speaking broadly of the President's many controversial firings of administration officials, Braun said "I don't follow all of that."