Biden begins transition plans as Trump refuses to concede

By Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 2:30 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020
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2:30 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Wisconsin elections commission approves recount for Milwaukee and Dane counties

From CNN's Casey Tolan and Brad Parks

Election officials count absentee ballots on November 4 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Election officials count absentee ballots on November 4 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Wisconsin Elections Commission has officially ordered a partial recount of votes in the presidential race after receiving a $3 million payment from the Trump campaign, according to a release from the election commission.

The commission’s order requires the boards of canvassers in Dane and Milwaukee counties to convene by 9 a.m. CT on Saturday, and to complete the recount by Tuesday, Dec. 1.

President Trump’s campaign filed a petition Wednesday asking for the two county-level recounts. These two counties are Democratic strongholds, home to many Black and college-age voters in Milwaukee and Madison.

CNN projected that President-elect Joe Biden won the state of Wisconsin. He is currently ahead of Trump by more than 20,000 votes, which even some prominent Republicans acknowledge is likely an insurmountable lead.

In a meeting on Zoom, the six-member elections commission, which is divided between three Democrats and three Republicans, previewed some of the arguments that could be aired during the recount over the next two weeks.

Republican members of the commission accused Democratic officials in the two counties of trying to use coronavirus safety guidelines as an excuse to make it harder for Trump’s campaign to observe recount proceedings.

“Safety cannot mean that they can’t have observers, that they can’t have them close,” Republican Dean Knudson said. “The right to view what’s going on is more important than any kind of local safety command that they’ve come up with.”

The commission did unanimously approve public safety guidelines suggesting counties use measures like acrylic glass barriers and social distancing during the recount. 

Democratic members pushed for the commission to update the state’s recount manual to not require recount canvassing boards to review absentee ballot requests if there was no discrepancy in the number of absentee ballots. The commission’s nonpartisan staff said that that change would more accurately reflect state statutes. But the Republican members opposed the change, leading to a deadlock. 

Democratic commission member Mark Thomsen blasted the Trump campaign’s recount petition for singling out Milwaukee and Dane counties, noting that the petition alleged statewide irregularities without evidence but only requested a recount in two counties. 

 “I have never felt so attacked, to say that it’s all unfair and then just pick out our county,” he said.

11:48 a.m. ET, November 19, 2020

President Trump's participation in G20 remains unclear

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Donald Trump arrives to deliver an update on "Operation Warp Speed" at the White House on November 13 in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump arrives to deliver an update on "Operation Warp Speed" at the White House on November 13 in Washington, DC. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The White House will not say whether President Trump plans to participate in this weekend's virtual G20 summit hosted by Saudi Arabia, and Trump's aides have not told the meeting's organizers whether to expect the President to appear, according to an official familiar with the matter.

Trump skipped a pair of Asian summits earlier this month, tasking national security adviser Robert O'Brien with representing him instead. Aides have tentatively planned for him to participate in the APEC summit on Friday, which will also be held virtually.

But it remains unknown whether Trump will appear at the G20, the large gathering of industrialized nations. Trump would be the first US president not to appear at a G20 since the group began holding leaders' summits in 2008.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be in Saudi Arabia during the summit.

A person familiar with the matter said Trump hasn't said yet whether he wants to participate. In the past, Trump has questioned the value of international summits, which feature lengthy speeches and where he must share the spotlight with other leaders.

Separately, US officials say there are no plans now for Trump to convene a G7 summit before his term ends. The US was the president of the G7 this year, and had been planning an on-and-off summit since last spring, when Trump said he would invite Russia to participate.

Eventually the meeting was postponed because of coronavirus, and Trump suggested he might schedule it after the election.

But no efforts have been made to arrange the summit and officials said it did not appear likely the US would host the meeting before the G7 presidency is handed over to the United Kingdom on Jan. 1.

10:46 a.m. ET, November 19, 2020

Trump campaign drops federal lawsuit in Michigan

From CNN's Jessica Schneider 

A volunteer processes absentee ballots in Detroit, Michigan, on November 4.
A volunteer processes absentee ballots in Detroit, Michigan, on November 4. Emily Elconin/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The Trump campaign is dropping its federal lawsuit in Michigan that alleged voting irregularities and asked the court to stop certification of the votes in Wayne County, home to Detroit. 

In its filing, the campaign misrepresented the sequence of events surrounding the vote certification out of Wayne County, which was finalized Tuesday night. While the Wayne County Board of Canvassers initially deadlocked 2-2 on whether to certify the results, the four member board eventually unanimously agreed to certify the presidential race for Joe Biden. 

Thursday morning’s filing wrongly claims that the Wayne County board “declined to certify the results of the presidential election.” Attached to the filing are affidavits from the two Republican board members who now claim that they were bullied into siding with the Democrats and want to now rescind their votes to certify. 

But certification will move forward with the Board of State Canvassers set to meet on Nov. 23 to complete the final step of certifying the state’s votes for Biden.  

The move to withdraw the federal lawsuit comes as the Trump campaign faces growing resistance and a number of defeats in courts around the country, including in Pennsylvania.

In Michigan on Thursday morning, a similar lawsuit brought by two individual plaintiffs alleging voter irregularities was also withdrawn. 

10:23 a.m. ET, November 19, 2020

GOP officials try to "rescind" their vote to certify Detroit's results

From CNN's Annie Grayer

The two Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers want to “rescind” their votes to certify the presidential results from the county, the largest in Michigan and home to the city of Detroit.

They both sent sworn affidavits to the county’s attorney, disavowing their previous votes to certify. But given that the deadline for county certification has already passed, it is unclear what legal remedy or legitimate argument these two Republican officials can make to formally rescind their votes and undo the certification.

Republican Chair Monica Palmer and Republican board member William Hartmann had initially voted against certification during their Tuesday night meeting, leaving the board in a 2-2 deadlock.

After hours of public pressure, and complaints that they were brazenly disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of voters from the majority-Black city of Detroit, the Republicans changed their votes and the certification passed unanimously.

Democrat Vice Chair Jonathan Kinloch said on Thursday that the county certification date of Nov. 17 is a definitive deadline and that board members’ votes cannot be changed after the fact. The GOP officials sent their affidavits to the county, but the action stops there. They have not filed any lawsuits to try to force the county to call a new meeting.

 “There is no further action that can be taken in regards to the certification,” Kinloch told CNN.

Kinloch also shared that at the Tuesday night meeting, the board unanimously passed a resolution that would waive any future reconsideration, further discrediting the actions of Palmer and Hartmann. 

Certification is usually a formality, but President Trump is trying to block or delay the process in key states as part of a longshot effort to overturn his election defeat through the Electoral College. 

10:28 a.m. ET, November 19, 2020

"Democracy can be messy": Gen Z and millennial Republicans respond to Trump’s refusal to concede

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

Some Gen Z and millennial Republicans say that they are troubled by President Trump’s failure to concede more than two weeks after Election Day, citing the harm it could cause to American democracy and the example Trump’s behavior sets for young Republicans. 

“I feel like Trump is attempting to subvert our democracy, and it’s very worrisome to see how many people are blindly supporting him. I find it really disappointing how Trump is blatantly going out of line with American values and going against objective facts, ” Ally Chun, an 18-year-old Republican from New York, told CNN. 

Chun is, in part, concerned with the way Trump continues to spread misinformation online as well as the impact Trump’s failure to concede could have on young Americans.

While she still considers herself a Republican, Chun said she is “extremely disillusioned by the party" and hopes they can condemn and distance themselves from Trump' actions.

Likewise, Chip Myers, a 21-year-old Republican from Arkansas, told CNN he is “really troubled,” by Trump’s “failure to concede.”

“President-elect Biden needs access to transition funds likely being held up due to Trump’s failure to concede, and he needs access to the [President’s Daily Brief] for the sake of national security. If presidents can get away with sabotaging their political adversaries’ presidencies like this, then I’m really worried about what that might do for our democracy in the future, especially if someone more competent than Trump is running the show,” Myers said. 

Meanwhile, Gen Z GOP, a group of disaffected young conservatives who came together with hopes of building a new home for young Republicans earlier this year, says they are “moving on.” 

 “President Trump lost. End of story. We’re moving on. Gen Z GOP is focused on building a common sense Republicanism, a party with an orientation toward integrity and results, and emphasize conservative, common-sense policies over rhetoric that divides our communities,” Elle Kalisz, communications director for Gen Z GOP, told CNN.

But not all young Republicans feel this way and some agree with Trump’s decision not to concede.

Still, while these young Republicans say that Trump’s commitment to legal challenges is completely within his purview and demonstrates that he is a “fighter,” they aren’t yet convinced that the legal challenges will end up changing the results of the election.

Ryan Fisher, the 20-year-old chair of the University of Michigan College Republicans, told CNN that Trump’s refusal to concede is something he is still conflicted on.

“On one hand, I do see some instances of what [Trump] refers to as fraud or not counting votes. But my fundamental issue is even if he’s right, I don’t believe the winds would be sufficient to declare him the victor," he said.

“I appreciate [Trump] seeking fairness in elections, and I appreciate him fighting against sort of unsolicited and unverified mail in ballots,” Fisher told CNN.

But Fisher also said that he is “pragmatically in favor or Trump’s concession at this point,” as he doesn’t believe the recounts produce enough of a margin of victory to push Trump to the necessary 270 electoral college votes needed to win.

Adam Brown, age 22 and the former vice chair of the Utah College Republicans, also believes Trump is a “fighter,” he told CNN.

“Given the fact that he was a United States’ political candidate and as President of the United States, he should continue to fight until he feels the results are properly reflected,” Brown said.

“He’s well within his rights to pursue all legal avenues and we have to wait until those avenues come to completion,” Brown said, adding that “democracy can be messy.”

And while Grayson Massey, 26 and the national committeeman for the Utah Young Republicans and former chair of Utah College Republicans, told CNN he agrees that Trump is within his legal purview to pursue all legal options, Massey added that even once those avenues have come to completion, he does not believe the results will change.

“Our Democratic colleagues would agree, we simply want to count every vote to certify that Vice President Biden or President Trump are in fact the legally elected President of the United States,” Massey said.

10:04 a.m. ET, November 19, 2020

Here's how Trump is intentionally making things more difficult for Biden — and weakening Democracy 

Analysis from CNN's  Zachary B. Wolf

President Donald Trump delivers an update on "Operation Warp Speed" at the White House on November 13 in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump delivers an update on "Operation Warp Speed" at the White House on November 13 in Washington, DC. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump continues to howl on Twitter — between rounds of golf — spreading the lie that he won the election he lost, and promising he will be in the White House come January.

Meanwhile, a "bunker mentality" has set in, according to CNN's reporting, and the first family has canceled plans for Thanksgiving in Florida to instead stay in the White House he'll leave in just more than two months.

But across the government Trump oversees — with actions at the Pentagon, inaction on the economy and denialism about the pandemic — the President and his allies are undercutting President-elect Joe Biden and harming the American people, even as none of them acknowledge that they're about to be replaced.

Here's a look at how Trump is leaving things for his successor:

Boxing Biden in on foreign policy: A report by CNN's national security team is emblematic of how Trump's administration is working actively in ways to make Biden's life more difficult. The goal is to set so many fires that it will be hard for the Biden administration to put them all out, an administration official tells CNN in the report. And Trump's last-minute change of civilian leadership at the Pentagon is part of this effort.

Handing Biden an economic grenade: Trump's failure to negotiate a new Covid stimulus with Congress will set Biden up for a political fight on Day One about how to help Americans hurt by the pandemic.

Here's what expires in December without further action:

  • Provisions to beef up unemployment insurance
  • A deferral on student loan payments
  • A paid family leave provision
  • Coronavirus relief funding for states whose tax base has been decimated
  • And a moratorium on evictions

Trump could potentially address these items with executive orders if he were to focus on them. Regardless, the first major political fight of Biden's presidency is likely to be this standoff with either a narrowly Republican- or Democratic-controlled Senate.

Trump also signed a temporary delay on payroll taxes this year. Not all employers took part, but with Trump unable to make the tax delay permanent or to forgive it, Biden will have to figure out how not to make the accumulated payroll taxes feel like a tax hike when the bill comes due in 2021.

Weakening American democracy: The most important of these various nails left under the couch cushions is Trump's steadfast refusal to accept the legitimacy of Biden's win, an ultimately futile bit of pique, since Biden will take the oath of office and Trump will no longer be President in January.

Either because he wants to retire campaign debt, seed a new media empire of democratic disbelievers or is personally incapable of admitting defeat, Trump's actions will have consequences. We keep fact-checking these allegations and theories. They all spin a kernel of something into lies.

Read the full analysis here.

9:29 a.m. ET, November 19, 2020

Georgia officials expect recount results to affirm Biden victory as Trump baselessly claims state will "flip"

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Gwinnett County election workers handle ballots as part of the recount for the 2020 presidential election on November 16 in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
Gwinnett County election workers handle ballots as part of the recount for the 2020 presidential election on November 16 in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Megan Varner/Getty Images

President Trump continues to baselessly claim that the election results will shift in his favor in Georgia, where the state plans to announce the results of the statewide audit around noon today.

Trump baselessly claimed the results would change after signature matching in a tweet and made accusations of widespread fraud, despite no credible evidence, in another tweet, both aimed at Gov. Brian Kemp, a Trump ally.

Trump called on Kemp to “get it done!”

Remember: Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told CNN’s Jake Tapper Wednesday that once the audit ends, he believes Biden will carry the state and that they have “not seen widespread voter fraud.”

The Republican leader also intimated that Trump lost Georgia because he questioned the mail-in ballot process in the fall, saying: “24,000 Republicans that actually voted absentee in the June primary did not come out in the Fall and vote. They did not vote absentee nor did they vote in early voting or the day of the election. 24,000… that’s the margin right there.”

The Secretary of State plans to post county-by-county tallies with timestamp, so the public can view the results of the audit. Georgia’s voting systems implementation manager Gabriel Sterling said that the state has finished auditing virtually all ballots from the presidential race. About 5 million Georgians voted. The Secretary has until Friday to certify the results.

Trump would have two business days after state certification to ask for a recount. 

8:38 a.m. ET, November 19, 2020

Biden will meet virtually with a group of bipartisan governors today about coronavirus 

From CNN's Betsy Klein, Dan Merica and Sarah Mucha

President-elect Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, speaks at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 16.
President-elect Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, speaks at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 16. Andrew Harnik/AP

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will meet virtually with the bipartisan National Governors Association’s executive committee in Wilmington, Delaware, today.

The call is expected to focus on the coronavirus pandemic and be facilitated by the NGA in conjunction with the Biden transition team, an NGA spokesperson and Biden transition official said earlier this week.

"The governors are the ones who have been handling this war, frankly. Joe Biden wants to engage with them right away and I think that's smart,” NGA chairman and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday during an appearance on MSNBC. 

The executive committee group is made up of Cuomo, Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama, Governor Jared Polis of Colorado, Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and Gov. Gary Herbert of Utah.

The call comes as the Trump administration continues to block the Biden transition, with the Biden team, public health, and national security experts sounding the alarm on the potential consequences.

More than 250,000 Americans have so far died of the virus — a higher death toll than any other country — and another 188,000 are projected to lose their lives over the next three and a half months, according to the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. By mid-January, the IHME model predicts more than 2,100 Americans could be dying daily.

After the call with the governors, Biden and Harris will deliver remarks.

8:31 a.m. ET, November 19, 2020

Official White House Christmas tree presentation still going on as planned

From CNN's Kate Bennet

A view of the White House on November 18.
A view of the White House on November 18. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Another holiday tradition going on as planned is the arrival of the official White House Christmas Tree, which will be greeted by Melania Trump on Monday.

This year’s tree is from Oregon. 

Yesterday, CNN reported that President Trump will pardon the annual Thanksgiving turkey at the White House on Tuesday.

The President — who has refused to concede he lost the election — has made just four official appearances since Nov. 3, and he's only spoken publicly twice.

With exception of golf on the weekends, and a visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Veteran's Day, he has not left the White House.