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
4 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
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.

8:52 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

President-elect Biden will announce his first Cabinet picks tomorrow. Here's who he is expected to nominate.

From CNN's Devan Cole and Sarah Mucha

Antony Blinken, left, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Antony Blinken, left, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield. AFP/Bloomberg/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is poised to nominate Antony Blinken to serve as secretary of state, people familiar with the matter told CNN, elevating a longtime foreign policy adviser as Biden makes his first round of Cabinet announcements Tuesday.

Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain said earlier Sunday that Biden intended to begin revealing members of his Cabinet Tuesday. Blinken is expected to be among the first nominations, people familiar with the matter said, with Biden intent on sending a signal that rebuilding America's alliances is one of his top priorities.

Bloomberg was first to report that Biden intends to name Blinken.

Blinken served in the Obama administration as deputy secretary of state and principal deputy national security adviser. He also served as national security adviser to then-Vice President Biden.

In that time, he played a central role in much of the Obama administration's foreign policy, including how to respond to Russia's incursion into Crimea in 2014, the raid to kill Osama Bin Laden in 2011 and the fight against ISIS.

If confirmed by the Senate, Blinken will be tasked with repairing relationships with close allies across the globe, many of whom have bristled at President Donald Trump's confrontational style and attempts to remake the United States' international responsibilities at part of his "America First" campaign pledge.

The longtime foreign policy adviser will also be asked to address a State Department dramatically altered under Trump, including staffing up an organization that was subject to a hiring freeze and combating a baseless view pushed by Trump that the agency was part of a "deep state" working against the Republican leader.

Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware and former UN ambassador and national security adviser Susan Rice had been among the other contenders for the post.

Former Obama administration official Jake Sullivan is the leading contender to be national security adviser.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield is the leading contender for the position of ambassador to the United Nations, sources familiar with the matter told CNN, which is also expected to be announced Tuesday.

Thomas-Greenfield, an African-American woman with a lengthy career in foreign service, previously served as assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs. The selection of Thomas-Greenfield would help Biden honor his pledge to build a diverse administration.

Axios first reported the possibility of Thomas-Greenfield being nominated.

The transition team has also already assigned advisers — known as sherpas — to help guide their nominated Cabinet members for the confirmation process, one source said.

Read more here.