Biden begins transition plans as Trump refuses to concede

By Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes, Melissa Mahtani and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:01 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020
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11:12 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Republicans ask Pennsylvania court to issue emergency order to immediately block vote certification

From CNN’s Jessica Schneider

Rep. Mike Kelly speaks during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Tuesday, March 3.
Rep. Mike Kelly speaks during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Tuesday, March 3. Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call/AP

Republicans in Pennsylvania are asking a state court to step in on an emergency basis to stop the vote certification there. The move comes just hours before most counties are expected to officially certify and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar signs off.

The lawsuit was filed by GOP Rep. Mike Kelly and others on Saturday. It alleges that Pennsylvania's allowance of universal, no-excuse mail-in balloting was unconstitutional. The lawsuit seeks an immediate halt to the certification process and an invalidation of all mail-in ballots.

Now, with 65 of the 67 counties in the state expected to have meetings shortly to certify their election results, plaintiffs are asking the state board to immediately issue an injunction, writing: "the Court must intervene immediately in order to prevent further, irreparable injury from the resulting wrongs of an election conducted pursuant to an unconstitutional and invalid mail-in voting scheme."

Philadelphia County is expected to meet Monday or Tuesday, depending on this pending lawsuit. According to the Washington Post, Berks County does not intend to certify until Wednesday.

This year there were 2,612,091 mail-in ballots cast for the general election in Pennsylvania.

The initial request for an injunction by Rep. Kelly and other plaintiffs was filed hours before a federal judge in Pennsylvania wrote a scathing opinion dismissing a Trump campaign lawsuit. That suit was filed by Trump's legal team led by Rudy Giuliani, seeking to stop certification. 

Judge Matthew Brann, a longtime Republican nominated by President Obama, compared the lawsuit to "Frankenstein’s monster…haphazardly stitched together," and slammed the request to disenfranchise nearly seven million voters in a complaint littered with "strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations."

The Trump campaign has appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals which has granted expedited review of the appeal.

The Circuit Court set a deadline for the Trump campaign to submit its brief by 4 p.m. ET Monday, with the reply brief due Tuesday by 4 p.m. ET.  The Circuit Court is still determining if there will be oral arguments.

10:22 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Former Republican national security officials call for orderly transition

From CNN's Evan Perez

A group of former national security officials from past Republican administrations are calling on Republican leaders, particularly those in Congress, to demand that Trump stop subverting the election and begin the transition to Biden.

 “We therefore call on Republican leaders – especially those in Congress – to publicly demand that President Trump cease his anti-democratic assault on the integrity of the presidential election," they said in a statement.

“President Trump’s continued efforts to cast doubt on the validity of the election and to interfere in state electoral processes undermine our democracy and risk long-term damage to our institutions,” the statement continues.

The former officials say that encouragement of Trump’s tactics is a risk to democracy. “By encouraging President Trump’s delaying tactics or remaining silent, Republican leaders put American democracy and national security at risk. “

The list includes Tom Ridge, Michael Hayden, Chuck Hagel, Richard Armitage and Ken Wainstein.

Remember: Trump has refused to concede the race and blocked his administration from taking any of the administrative steps typically taken in a transfer of power.

This includes allowing the General Services Administration  to declare that there is a president-elect — a move that triggers the transition process. Major new organizations, including CNN, projected Biden will win the presidential election

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

Two Michigan Republicans try to calm nerves and predict election certification will happen

From CNN's Annie Grayer and Dianne Gallagher

Two Michigan Republican sources are seeking to calm an increasingly tense situation bubbling in Michigan ahead of the state board of canvasser’s meeting Monday afternoon where there is growing concern that two Republican board members will vote against certification, and upend a typically uneventful process. 

Even with reports of one of the two Republican board members, Norman Shinkle, already signaling a vote against certification, these sources still believe certification will happen today. 

But neither source has said they have spoken directly to Aaron Van Langevelde, the other Republican board member who has not signaled how he would vote ahead of the meeting.

 One GOP source told CNN that today’s vote will be “fine.”

“It will either be 3-1 or 4-0. Still no worries” the source told CNN, acknowledging there was a chance that Shinkle could vote against certification, as CNN has previously reported.

The source also tamped down concerns that the legislature would get involved, even if both Republican board members blocked the vote, and implied that a block in certification would likely be resolved in court.

“To be honest, even if they deadlocked it would be fine. The legislature wants no part of that coup idea,” the source said. 

A separate, county-level Republican official echoed a similar sense of resolve to CNN, stating that the “drama” and “freaking out” happening ahead of the vote has no bearing on what will actually happen.

The source predicted that the board would certify in a 3-1 or even 4-0 vote as well.

10:48 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Georgia passes new rules for Jan. 5 Senate runoff

From CNN’s Jason Morris

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference on Friday, November 20, in Atlanta.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference on Friday, November 20, in Atlanta. Brynn Anderson/AP

The Georgia State Election Board passed two new rules this morning ahead of the Senate runoff election scheduled for Jan. 5.  

The first rule extends the use of secure, monitored, drop boxes that will be available 24/7 through the Jan. 5 runoff. Voters can use these drop boxes to deliver their absentee ballots – a rule that was also in place during November’s general election. Counties are required to use video surveillance to monitor the drop boxes for security.     

The second rule will require counties to begin processing absentee ballots one week and a day before election day. While this new rule makes it clear that counties have to start scanning absentee ballots a week and one day before election day, none of the absentee ballots are tabulated until the polls close on Jan. 5, per Georgia law. Georgia’s larger counties are authorized to start processing and scanning absentee ballots two weeks in advance of Jan. 5. 

The five-member election board is chaired by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. According to his office, at least 762,000 absentee ballots have been requested for January’s Senate runoff so far.

What's at stake: The expected twin Georgia runoff elections in January will determine control of the Senate. This will encapsulate the structural challenge facing Democrats as they battle to secure a majority in the chamber that could determine the shape of Joe Biden's presidency.

10:16 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Michigan State Board will meet today to certify election results. Here's what you need to know. 

From CNN's Annie Grayer

Certification is usually a formality, but President Trump is trying to block or delay the process in key states as part of a long-shot effort to overturn the election that he lost to President-elect Joe Biden.

Monday is the day when the Michigan State Board of Canvassers is scheduled to meet to certify the state's results. The board's certification of election results is what triggers electors to be selected, which is what gets sent to the Electoral College.

But the Trump campaign and its allies are continuing to try to intervene.

There has been no evidence of widespread fraud nationwide. Michigan Secretary of State spokesperson Tracy Wimmer told CNN that they expect the board of state canvassers to certify at their scheduled meeting on Monday.

Here's what you need to know about today's meeting and where things stand in the state's election certification process:

  • On Saturday, the Michigan Republican Party and Republican National Committee sent a letter to the State Board of Canvassers asking them to delay certification for 14 days and wait for an audit of the election results in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, and is the state's largest county -- even though state law doesn't allow that.
  • The letter is part of a desperate effort from Trump and Republican allies, including making baseless claims about fraud, filing multiple lawsuits in several states to try and delay the finalization of results and even putting pressure on local officials.
  • Leaders from the state's GOP legislature who met with Trump at the White House on Friday delivered a blow to the President when they said they hadn't seen any evidence that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan -- undercutting Trump's baseless claims of fraud. Biden leads Trump by more than 154,000 votes in the state.
  • Earlier in the week, Trump called two Republican canvass board members from Wayne County to offer his support, after they went back and forth on voting to certify the election results from the country. The board members filed affidavits Wednesday seeking to "rescind" their votes to certify the election result, though Michigan Secretary of State spokesperson told CNN no legal mechanism exists from them to do so.
  • Writing to the state board on Saturday, Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox and Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, who's from the Wolverine State, called for a "full audit and investigation" into what they claimed were "anomalies and irregularities."
  • The Michigan State Board of Canvassers is made up of two Democrats and two Republicans. The members are appointed by the governor "with the advice and consent of the Senate," according to the law.

Read more here.

Diane Gallagher reports:

9:07 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Trump's national security adviser says there will be a transition if courts "don’t rule" in his favor

From CNN's From Jennifer Hansler

Eloisa Lopez/Pool/AFP/Getty Images
Eloisa Lopez/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump's National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien on Monday downplayed concerns about the potential negative consequences of a delayed transition and claimed that those concerns did not come up in his meetings in Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

He acknowledged that “(t)here’ll be a transition if the courts don’t rule in President Trump’s favor.”

The Trump team’s attempts to undermine the votes of the people in court have been overwhelmingly fruitless. Experts have raised concerns that the delay in ascertainment and the start of the formal transition could have serious implications for national security and the safety and wellbeing of the American people.

“No, what I have heard from my counterparts at the highest level of the governments of Vietnam and the Philippines and Japan is that they understand that Donald J. Trump will be the President of the United States until January 20th, and until noon on that day, and they’re going to continue to deal with President Trump as the President of the United States of America, as they should, and that’s our tradition. That’s our laws,” O’Brien said on a State Department organized call with reporters.

“There’ll be a transition if the courts don’t rule in President Trump’s favor, and it will be a professional transition,” O’Brien continued. “But President Trump has not exhausted his legal remedies. We’re a country based on the rule of law and the President has taken his case to court, as he has every right to do as an American citizen, and so those cases will get resolved. And once they’re resolved and the courts rule, then we’ll move forward from there.”

“But we’re not concerned about those issues and we haven’t had any concerns raised by foreign counterparts,” the national security adviser said, adding that “they are impressed with how many Americans went out to vote.”

 “They are impressed at the resilience of our institutions, and they know that the President – many of these leaders have gone through numerous transitions, and some would start early, some start late, some are from an incumbent party to a second term, some are a change of party,” he said. “So, they’re familiar with these issues, they’re not concerned about them, and I think they’re impressed by the resilience of American democracy.”

 

9:02 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Inside a government official's pressure-filled decision to delay the formal transition to a Biden presidency

From CNN's Kristen Holmes and Jeremy Herb

Emily Murphy, general services administrator, speaks in Washington in 2019.
Emily Murphy, general services administrator, speaks in Washington in 2019. Susan Walsh/AP

As the only obstacle between President-elect Joe Biden and the formal start of the presidential transition, General Services Administrator Emily Murphy is struggling with the weight of the presidential election being dropped on her shoulders, feeling like she's been put in a no-win situation, according to people who have spoken to her recently.

This was never a position that Murphy thought she would find herself in, the people said.

But as the government official in charge of signing off on the election result, President Trump's refusal to concede the election has thrown Murphy into the middle of a political firestorm.

Facing mounting pressure from both sides, and even death threats, the sources say Murphy is working to interpret vague agency guidelines and follow what she sees as precedent to wait to sign off on the election result, a process known as "ascertainment" that would allow the official presidential transition to begin.

Still, Murphy's stalled sign-off is one of the more confounding decisions made since the election, since it's clear Biden won and Trump's legal challenges won't change the outcome. Biden's team has warned the delay has real-world consequences to national security and their Covid-19 response.

Sources who spoke to CNN could not say whether Murphy has been in touch with the White House on the issue.

"She absolutely feels like she's in a hard place. She's afraid on multiple levels. It's a terrible situation," one friend and former colleague of Murphy's told CNN. "Emily is a consummate professional, a deeply moral person, but also a very scrupulous attorney who is in a very difficult position with an unclear law and precedence that is behind her stance.

"She's doing what she believes is her honest duty as someone who has sworn true allegiance to the Constitution of the United States of America, and the laws that govern her position," the friend added.

Murphy declined an interview request for this story, and GSA declined to comment.

Read more here.

8:54 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

A federal judge dismissed the Trump campaign's Pennsylvania lawsuit. Here's what you need to know.

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz and Kevin Bohn

President Donald Trump holds a briefing at the White House on November 20.
President Donald Trump holds a briefing at the White House on November 20. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

A federal judge dealt a death blow to the Trump campaign's effort to overturn President-elect Joe Biden's win of the presidency on Saturday, by dismissing a closely watched lawsuit that sought to invalidate millions of Pennsylvania votes.

"It is not in the power of this Court to violate the Constitution," Judge Matthew Brann of the US District Court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania wrote on Saturday in a withering decision, hours after the final round of filings in the case came in.

The judge wholeheartedly rejected the Trump campaign's attempt to throw out the Pennsylvania vote, noting that Biden has won the state and results will be certified by state officials on Monday. Biden has a margin of more than 81,000 votes in the state.

"In the United States of America, this cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its sixth most populated state. Our people, laws, and institutions demand more," the judge wrote. "At bottom, Plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden to state a claim upon which relief may be granted."

Though the case was always extremely unlikely to succeed, President Trump's backers and legal team — and particularly his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani — had pinned their hopes on the federal judge in Pennsylvania giving some credibility to their suspicions of fraud and entertaining Trump's attempt to overturn the popular vote for Biden.

But Brann, a longtime and well-known Republican in Pennsylvania, refused.

Shortly after the decision came down, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania congratulated Biden as the President-elect, breaking from party leaders and a vast majority of congressional Republicans who continue to back Trump's efforts to challenge the results.

This was essentially the last major case seeking to throw out or block enough votes that could swing a key state in Trump's favor, and Brann's decision on Saturday is at least the 30th loss or withdrawal of a case from the Trump campaign and its allies since Election Day. There have only been two wins in court for Republicans, about very small numbers of votes.

Read more here.

8:41 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Biden and Harris will meet virtually with mayors today

From CNN’s Arlette Saenz and Eric Bradner

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris hold a news conference in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 16.
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris hold a news conference in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 16. Andrew Harnik/AP

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are set to hold a virtual meeting in Wilmington, Delaware, with the US Conference of Mayors on Monday, the transition announced.

This follows Biden’s virtual meeting with a group of bipartisan governors last week.

In a news conference Thursday after meeting with the Republican and Democratic governors — part of Biden's effort to work around the Trump administration's refusal to allow his transition team access to federal agencies, including those coordinating the coronavirus response — Biden lambasted Trump's actions, saying that Americans are "witnessing incredible irresponsibility."

The result, he said, is an "incredibly damaging message is being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions."

President Trump meanwhile has no public events on his schedule again today as his campaign continues to contest election results in court. 

Trump has had no public events for the majority of time since he lost the election.