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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11:40 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Biden expected to make history by selecting a woman for Treasury Secretary

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

Carolyn Kaster/AP
Carolyn Kaster/AP

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to announce his Treasury Secretary nominee and other top White House economic advisers likely right after Thanksgiving, officials familiar with the matter say.

In a history-making decision he's expected to select the first woman to fill the post.

The two leading contenders for the post are former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, and current Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard, two people familiar with the matter tell CNN.

For Treasury, Brainard is seen as too corporate by some on the left, officials said, and Yellen would face smoother sailing in confirmation in a Republican-controlled Senate.

The Cabinet picks are being paired in key portfolios, with the diplomacy announcements coming Tuesday, followed by economic and health-focused posts in December.


11:22 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Republican congressman calls on GOP to denounce Trump attorney's "insane conspiracy theories"

From CNN's Manu Raju

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican from Illinois, called on his party to denounce what he called "insane conspiracy theories" from Trump attorney Sidney Powell.

On Monday, Kinzinger retweeted a tweet from the Republican National Committee's official Twitter account featuring a video of Powell speaking at the Trump campaign's Thursday press conference at RNC headquarters, during which the lawyer baselessly alleged, among other things, that the CIA and the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez were involved in rigging the 2020 election. 

"Now would be a great time to denounce this,@gop how embarrassing. Our party needs to be better than giving credence to these insane conspiracy theories," Kinzinger wrote.

Some more context: On Sunday night, Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis, two members of the Trump campaign's legal team, attempted to distance themselves from Powell, saying she was "practicing law on her own" and not a member of the team, even though she participated in their press conference and the President had previously announced on Twitter she was joining the team.

11:18 a.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Biden announces 2 more key members of incoming White House senior staff

From CNN's Sarah Mucha

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden just announced two more key members of his White House senior staff.

In a press release, he named two Deputy Directors of Legislative Affairs who will serve under Louisa Terrell, who was announced last week as director. 

Here's who he appointed:

  • Reema Dodin currently serves as a volunteer on the Biden-Harris Transition Team leading legislative engagement for the confirmations process, per the transition's release. She is Deputy Chief of Staff and Floor Director to the Senator Dick Durbin. 
  • Shuwanza Goff served as Floor Director for the House of Representatives under House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, where she was the first Black woman to hold the position.

Both appointees are women of color, further fulfilling Biden's campaign promise to shape an administration that reflects the diversity of the country.  

"The American people are eager for our Administration to get to work, and today’s appointees will help advance our agenda and ensure every American has a fair shot. In a Biden administration, we will have an open door to the Hill and this team will make sure their views are always represented in the White House," Biden said in a statement.

The steady stream of staff announcements indicates that Biden has no intention of allowing President Trump's refusal to concede slow down his own transition process.

He is expected to make his first Cabinet announcements Tuesday, including longtime aide Antony Blinken as secretary of state.

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.”