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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4:24 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Biden to pick former Fed Chair Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny and Dan Merica

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks during her last news conference in office on December 13, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen speaks during her last news conference in office on December 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden will choose Janet Yellen, former chair of the federal reserve, as his Secretary of the Treasury, according to a source with knowledge of the pick.

Responding to CNN’s reporting about Biden’s pick for the role, Jen Psaki, a senior adviser for the transition team, said Biden looks "forward to announcing some members of his economic team early next week who will work with him to build the economy back better."

Yellen, who will be the first woman to hold the job should she be confirmed by the Senate, will be tasked to lead Biden's economic response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on the economy and led millions of Americans to lose their jobs.

She will also be asked to make good on the former vice president's campaign promise to narrow the economic divide between rich and poor in the United States.

Yellen, after a long career in academia and different federal reserve roles, was nominated by President Barack Obama to become chair of the Federal Reserve — the first woman to hold the position — in a role she filled from 2014 to 2018.

President Trump opted not to renominate Yellen during his first year in office, instead nominating Jerome Powell to take the top job.

Biden had said that his pick to be Treasury secretary would attract broad support from different corners of the Democratic Party.

Read more here.

4:33 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020

King of Jordan becomes first Arab leader to speak with Biden

From CNN’s Jomana Karadsheh, Caroline Faraj, and Khali Abdullah and Sarah Mucha

Jordan's King Abdullah II (center) arrives for the opening session of the fourth ordinary parliamentary session in Amman on November 10, 2019.
Jordan's King Abdullah II (center) arrives for the opening session of the fourth ordinary parliamentary session in Amman on November 10, 2019. Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images

Jordan’s King Abdullah spoke with President-elect Joe Biden on Monday to discuss bilateral relations and regional security, according to a readout of the conversation released by Jordan’s Royal Court. 

This marks the first call between an Arab leader and the President-elect.

“In the phone call, King Abdullah said he looks forward to working with President-elect Biden on advancing the strategic partnership between Jordan and the United States, and expanding cooperation across various sectors, in service of mutual interests, and regional security and stability," the Royal Hashemite Court said.

"His Majesty reaffirmed the importance of continued coordination to counter joint challenges, including the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the readout continued.

“The King expressed his best wishes to President-elect Biden, wishing the American people continued progress and prosperity,” the readout concluded.

Here's a look at the other world leaders that have congratulated Biden.

3:48 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejects Trump campaign effort to block counting certain absentee ballots

From CNN’s Kara Scannell

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has rejected the Trump campaign’s effort to block the counting of certain absentee ballots clearing the way for those ballots to be counted in multiple counties, including Philadelphia.

“Here we conclude that while failures to include a handwritten name, address or date in the voter declaration on the back of the outer envelope, while constituting technical violations of the Election Code, do not warrant the wholesale disenfranchisement of thousands of Pennsylvanian voters,” wrote Justice Christine Donohue, who was joined in the opinion by two others in an ordered that was issued Monday afternoon. 

Two judges filed concurring and dissenting opinions, in which two other judges signed onto one of them.

3:46 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Biden speaks to bipartisan group of mayors about working together to combat Covid-19

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

President-elect Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and others at The Queen theater on November 23, in Wilmington, Delaware.
President-elect Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and others at The Queen theater on November 23, in Wilmington, Delaware. Carolyn Kaster/AP

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice president-elect Kamala Harris on Monday spoke to a group of Democratic and Republican mayors about working together across all levels of government to deliver economic relief to communities and combat the coronavirus pandemic as cases surge in the country.

“All of you have been on the front lines from the very beginning, and as we head into this Thanksgiving in a very dark winter with cases and hospitalizations and deaths spiking, I want you to know that we���re here for you and we’re going to listen to you and work with you,” Biden said, speaking virtually to the United States Conference of Mayors in Wilmington, Delaware. 

“It’s the first priority we’re going to have once sworn in,” Biden said. 

The President-elect stressed the importance of working with Democrats and Republicans alike to deliver for the American people in a time of crisis. His message echoed the one he had delivered to a group of Republican and Democratic governors last week. 

“No matter which party … whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, there’s a strong sense of common purpose, a real desire for a real partnership between the states, cities and the federal government,” Biden said. “And there’s a strong consensus that we have to move forward in a coordinated way among the government on delivering the economic relief to cities, states and tribal communities sooner rather than later.” 

Biden spoke to the mayors about the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine, universal masking, expanding testing and delivering economic relief to cities and states. 

“I know there are so many other issues that your cities are on the front lines of — racial justice, climate change, paid family leave, minimum wage, closing broadband gaps, ending homelessness,” Biden said.

But, Biden said, “the only way to beat these challenges, I believe, and so does Kamala, that we have to come together as a nation. You mayors get it.” 

Biden's comments come as President Trump continues to refuse to accept he lost the election and the current General Services Administration administrator, Emily Murphy, has yet to sign a letter to release funds to the Biden transition team through a process called ascertainment.

Without the GSA's signoff, Biden and his team are stuck in limbo, barred from access to federal agencies during the Covid-19 pandemic and classified intelligence briefings.

3:34 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020

House Democrats demand immediate briefing from federal agency tasked with triggering formal transition

From CNN's Kristen Holmes, Lauren Fox and Jeremy Herb

The Democratic chairs of key House committees sent a letter to the administrator of the General Services Administration – the government agency tasked with declaring there is a president-elect and triggering the transition process – insisting they cannot wait another week for a briefing on the transition. 

The committees have been requesting a briefing because the agency’s administrator, Emily Murphy, has yet to acknowledge Biden's victory and sign a letter to release funds to the Biden transition team through a process called ascertainment.

"We cannot wait yet another week to obtain basic information about your refusal to make the ascertainment determination," the Chairs wrote. 
"Every additional day that is wasted is a day that the safety, health, and well-being of the American people is imperiled as the incoming Biden-Harris Administration is blocked from fully preparing for the coronavirus pandemic, our nation’s dire economic crisis, and our national security," they added.

The letter is a response to an earlier GSA offer of a 30-minute briefing with their Deputy Administrator, Allison Brigati, on Monday Nov. 30. 

The Democratic chairs made it clear they were not willing to wait any longer, having made their initial request for a GSA briefing last week.

Their letter asks for a briefing tomorrow, offering multiple methods including Webex or a phone conference.

You can read the full letter here.

3:18 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Two Atlanta sports venues will be used for early voting in Georgia runoff election

From CNN's Dan Kamal

A view of the Mercedes Benz Stadium on April 4, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia.
A view of the Mercedes Benz Stadium on April 4, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Fulton County voters will be able to cast votes during the December early voting period for the Jan. 5 Georgia runoff election at both Mercedes Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

The announcement was made Monday by AMB Sports and Entertainment — parent company of the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United and Mercedes Benz Stadium — the Atlanta Hawks, and Fulton County. 

It will be the first time voters will have an opportunity to cast ballots at Mercedes Benz; more than 40,000 Fulton County voters cast ballots at State Farm Arena – home of the Atlanta Hawks - in the US Presidential Election.

More context: The state’s runoff election was mandated when none of the four remaining candidates in the races for US Senate was able to earn at least 50% of the vote earlier this month. 

Republican incumbent David Perdue is running in the January 5th election against Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler is running against Democrat Raphael Warnock.

The election could tip the balance of power in the US Senate, currently controlled by Republicans.

2:59 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Biden's secretary of state pick: "If confirmed, this is a mission I will take on with my full heart”

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Dan Merica and Kylie Atwood

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria on September 29, 2016.
Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Syria on September 29, 2016. Jose Luis Magana/AP

President-elect Joe Biden confirmed today the selection of Antony Blinken, Biden's top foreign policy aide, as the next secretary of state.

"Honored to announce, officially, that I have been nominated to serve as Secretary of State. If confirmed, this is a mission I will take on with my full heart,” Blinken tweetet.

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.

Biden is moving swiftly to craft his incoming administration despite Trump's ongoing efforts to reverse the election results and gum up the transition.

See Blinken's tweet:

2:50 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020

Senate GOP mostly quiet on Biden's Cabinet picks

From CNN's Manu Raju

Top Senate Republicans are staying mostly quiet about Joe Biden's Cabinet picks given that President Trump has yet to concede, and many of them have yet to acknowledge Biden as President-elect.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has yet to comment on Biden's picks, and several others have been quiet as well.

Sen. Jim Risch, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, made no comment on Biden picking Antony Blinken to run the State Department, according to a spokesperson. The same is true for Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who Biden picked to serve as the US ambassador to the United Nations.

Sen. Marco Rubio, the acting chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, didn't have a comment on Avril Haynes as Director of National Intelligence.

A spokesman for Sen. Ron Johnson, who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, could not be reached for comment on Biden's pick of Alejandro Mayorkas to run the Department of Homeland Security.

2:29 p.m. ET, November 23, 2020

What to watch in the coming days as key states hit their certification deadlines

From CNN's Kelly Mena, Annie Grayer, Ellie Kaufman, Casey Tolan and Katelyn Polantz

President Trump faces a critical week in his last-ditch effort to cling to power as key states are on the brink of certifying their election results, officially confirming Joe Biden as the President-elect.

States certify their results after reviewing disputed ballots, conducting post-election audits and double-checking numbers for accuracy. Federal, state and local election officials from both political parties have said there was no widespread fraud or irregularities in the 2020 election.

Here's where things stand as vote certification looms in key states:

  • Michigan: The state is supposed to certify its results Monday, and all eyes will be on the four board members to see if certification happens as planned, or if the two Republican members cow to outside pressure from Trump on top of a last-minute request from the Republican National Committee and state GOP to delay. The Michigan State Board of Canvassers is meeting now to vote on certifying the state's election results. Biden leads in the state by more than 154,000 votes.
  • Georgia: The state already certified the election on Friday and did a manual recount with state Republicans signing off on it, is doing another machine scan of the ballots at the Trump campaign's request. Gabriel Sterling, Georgia's Voting System Implementation Manager, said Monday that the recount would probably start sometime Tuesday, and "will probably wrap up sometime next week." The recount isn't expected to change Biden's lead over Trump, according to campaign law expert Jonathan Diaz, a CNN contributor.
  • Pennsylvania: The Trump campaign was dealt a major blow in the state -- where Biden also leads -- when a federal judge dismissed their case in a sharply worded decision that prompted a GOP senator to come forward and say that enough was enough with Trump's legal challenges. Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh; Lehigh County, which includes Allentown, and Lancaster County certified their election results Monday. Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt told CNN's Kate Bolduan he expects the county, Pennsylvania's largest, to certify later in the day. However, Republicans in Pennsylvania are asking a state court to step in on an emergency basis to stop the vote certification there, hours before most counties are expected to officially certify and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar signs off. The lawsuit seeks an immediate halt to the certification process and an invalidation of all mail-in ballots.
  • Wisconsin: Recounts continue in two counties in the state, which CNN also projected for Biden, with counting ongoing until the Dec. 1 certification deadline. Trump's campaign was unsuccessful on Friday in nullifying more than 60,000 ballots coming from the Democratic stronghold of Dane County, which includes the state capitol of Madison and is home to the University of Wisconsin.The Trump campaign is trying to overcome Biden's significant vote lead but past recounts haven't led to swings in the state of that level of votes, with the 2016 recount in the presidential race increasing Trump's margin by just 131 votes.
  • Arizona: The traditionally red state, which Biden flipped, will certify its election results on November 30, while its Maricopa County, home to much election night hand wringing, has already certified its results. Maricopa County, home to the state's largest city of Phoenix, certified its election results on Friday, giving Biden a decisive 45,109 vote margin of victory in the county, leading the way in carrying the state for the President-elect. The certification came just one day after a state judge threw out the Arizona Republican Party's lawsuit seeking a broader audit of votes cast on Election Day that county lawyers warned could have delayed the state's certification of ballots.

Read more here.