Biden's transition formally begins

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

Updated 5:13 AM ET, Wed November 25, 2020
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11:31 a.m. ET, November 24, 2020

Pennsylvania certifies 2020 presidential election results

From CNN's Kelly Mena

A county employee opens a mail in ballots at the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections in Pennsylvania on November 3.
A county employee opens a mail in ballots at the Luzerne County Bureau of Elections in Pennsylvania on November 3. Aimee Dilger/Sipa USA/AP

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf just announced that the Keystone state has certified its 2020 general election results. 

In a twitter post Tuesday morning, Wolf confirmed he'd signed the certificate for Ascertainment that formally acknowledges the state's recognition of Biden winning the election.  

The certification comes just one day after all of Pennsylvania's 67 counties, under law, had to receive precinct results and certify them to the Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar by the third Monday after the election. 

This will now officially award the state’s 20 electoral votes to President-elect Joe Biden. 

Wolf went onto thank election officials for their work. 

"Again, I want to thank the election officials who have administered a fair and free election during an incredibly challenging time in our commonwealth and country's history. Our election workers have been under constant attack and they have performed admirably and honorably," Wolf said in a news release. 

11:12 a.m. ET, November 24, 2020

Rising share of Trump's post-election fundraising going to his PAC

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond

President Trump's campaign is funneling an increasingly large share of its "Election Defense Fund" fundraising to Trump's political action committee, as his opportunities to legally challenge the election results fade. 

Even as fundraising emails tell supporters their donations will help "protect the integrity of the election," 75% of donations to the fund are now deposited into the coffers of Trump's fledgling leadership PAC, Save America.

That's up from the 60% share the PAC was receiving last week.

The campaign's "Recount Account" — arguably the account supporters believe they are donating to – only gets a piece of donations above $5,000.

The remaining quarter of any donation goes to the Republican National Committee's general fund, with donations over $35,500 steered to the RNC's legal fund.

The Trump campaign did not respond to CNN's requests for comment. 

11:03 a.m. ET, November 24, 2020

Biden will introduce his first Cabinet nominees today. Here are key things to know about his picks. 

From CNN's Gregory Krieg and Sarah Mucha 

Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images
Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will publicly announce their nominees and appointees to key national security and foreign policy posts today at 1:00 p.m. ET, according to a transition team news release.

Their six foreign policy and national security nominees and appointees, which were unveiled yesterday, are expected to join them and speak at the event in Wilmington, Delaware.

Here are some key takeaways from Biden's first wave of nominations and appointments:

  • Expertise over big names: As the first round of nominations come in, it's clear that Biden is choosing people who are, indisputably, experts in their fields over bigger names in Democratic politics. Some of that is a practical matter. Democrats didn't do well down-ballot on Election Day and there is little appetite within the party to risk its hold on power, even in blue states or districts, on any powerful office. Biden's nominees to lead the State Department, Antony Blinken, and the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, are not household names, but they both have extensive experience at the agencies they will be tasked with running.
  • Diversity is a priority: The first woman to oversee the Treasury Department. The first Latino and immigrant to run the Department of Homeland Security. The first woman to lead the intelligence community. Announcements and reports of these historic impending nominations came in the space of a few hours on Monday, as Biden announced that Cuban-born Mayorkas would head DHS and Avril Haines was Biden's pick to be the next director of national intelligence. Janet Yellen is poised to break the mold for a second time. The first woman to chair the Federal Reserve, she will, if confirmed, bear the same distinction as Treasury secretary.
  • The picks are a fundamental rejection of Trumpism: Bringing in former Secretary of State John Kerry as his special presidential envoy on climate -- and giving that position a seat on the National Security Council -- is a marked departure from climate change-denying Trump, who has called global warming a hoax and pulled the US out of the Paris climate accord. The simple act of hiring people qualified for their jobs is in itself a rejection of the Trump model, which installed donors, right-wing ideologues and inexperienced allies into positions of power, in some instances for the express purpose of undermining the institutions they were meant to lead.

Here's a look at which Cabinet nominations Biden has unveiled so far:

10:34 a.m. ET, November 24, 2020

CDC ready for Biden transition: "This is what we've been waiting for"

From CNN's Nick Valencia

Leadership at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, beset by a Trump White House that was harshly critical of the agency coronavirus response, are anticipating the Biden transition team and the change a new administration will bring, senior health officials tell CNN. 

“This is what we’ve been waiting for is for them to send their landing team here and set up shop,” a senior CDC official said.

The senior official added that while it is standard operating procedure during any transition of administration, the expectation is there will be some “rebuilding of the agency” under President-elect Joe Biden.

When asked if there was more enthusiasm among senior leaders at the CDC on Tuesday morning, the official said emphatically, “Yes!”

A federal health official official declined to say if they had spoken directly to anyone from the Biden transition team as of Tuesday morning, but did say having been through numerous administration transitions, “the CDC benefits when that happens quickly.”

“From experience, the faster you get through it the better,” the official said of the transition.

Speaking to the mood in the agency among senior leaders, the official said there did seem to be more enthusiasm that the CDC may be able to restart regular briefings, which were ordered to be stopped by the Trump Administration at the beginning of the pandemic. 

“Man oh man, I hope so,” the official said about the CDC returning to a more visible role. 

The federal health official with knowledge of operations said, that the CDC remains leading the public health response through its Emergency Operations Center. 

The official noted that the CDC has remained in daily contact with states regarding vaccine distribution and rollout. Also, as the nation grapples with record breaking infection and hospitalizations, schools continue to be front and center in the response, the official said.


10:18 a.m. ET, November 24, 2020

CNN's Jake Tapper acknowledges 4 GOP officials that "remained allegiant" to facts and truth

Following the General Services Administration’s formal beginning of the Biden transition and Michigan's certification of their election results, CNN's Jake Tapper took a moment on Twitter last night to acknowledge four Republican officials who "despite pressure" from President Trump and the Republican Party "remained allegiant" to facts, truth and math following the Trump campaign's challenge of the election results.

Tapper listed the following officials who played a key role in the certification of election results and combating misinformation:

  • Al Schmidt, Philadelphia City Commissioner 
  • Brad Raffensperger, Georgia Secretary of State
  • Chris Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency who was fired by Trump and had rejected the President's election conspiracy theories
  • Aaron Van Langevelde, one of the two Republican members of the Michigan state canvassing board who joined the two Democrats to vote to certify the election results

"And at the end of the day it came down to judges and election officials doing their jobs and sticking to facts while most GOP leaders kept silent," Tapper said.

Read Tapper's full Twitter thread here:

9:41 a.m. ET, November 24, 2020

Stock market rises as Biden transition formally begins

From CNN’s Matt Egan

US stocks raced higher Tuesday morning, leaving the Dow flirting with the 30,000 level for the first time ever.

The rally comes after the General Services Administration announced Monday evening it is ready to begin the formal transition to the Biden administration. That step should ease lingering investor concerns about a peaceful transfer of power. 

Here's how the market opened today:

  • The Dow gained 305 points, or 1%, to 29,895.
  • The S&P 500 climbed 0.8%.
  • The Nasdaq jumped 0.5%.

Markets also started the week on a strong note. The Dow gained 328 points, or 1.1%, Monday on growing vaccine optimism.

9:39 a.m. ET, November 24, 2020

GOP senator has "no doubts" about Biden treasury secretary nominee's "integrity or technical expertise"

From CNN's Manu Raju

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Sen. Pat Toomey responded on Tuesday to reports that Janet Yellen will be President-elect Joe Biden's Treasury Secretary. The Pennsylvania Republican wrote in a statement that while he and the former Federal Reserve chair had previously had their "fair share of disagreements," he has "no doubts about her integrity or technical expertise."

Toomey specifically mentioned the legal requirement for CARES Act temporary emergency lending facilities to shut down by the end of the year without further congressional action as something he would like to discuss with Yellen as her nomination is considered.

Here's Toomey's full statement:

"While Dr. Yellen and I had our fair share of disagreements during her tenure as chair of the Federal Reserve, I have no doubts about her integrity or technical expertise. As I consider her nomination, I look forward to discussing with her a variety of issues, especially the legal requirement for CARES Act temporary emergency lending facilities to shut down by year-end and remain shut down, absent further congressional action." 

He also tweeted about Yellen's nomination:

9:11 a.m. ET, November 24, 2020

These are the resources Biden's team can access now the formal transition is underway

From CNN's Devan Cole 

When the General Services Administration informed President-elect Joe Biden on Monday that the Trump administration is ready to begin the formal transition process, it released a slew of resources for his team to access in the coming weeks.

The now-available resources are enumerated in a "memorandum of understanding" between Biden and the GSA, which also outlined the government resources he was able to use before Administrator Emily Murphy acknowledged his win.

Here's a look at some of those resources:

  • Nearly $6.3 million: Biden's transition team will be able to use approximately $6.3 million during the next few months as it prepares to take over the presidency. The funds will primarily go to renting office space, paying staffers working for the transition team and compensating experts or consultants, according to the memo. The money can also be used to pay for travel expenses, rental cars, IT services and other administrative costs, the document says. In addition to that $6.3 million, another $1 million will be set aside for orientation activities "for individuals the President-elect intends to nominate as department heads or appoint to key positions in the Executive Office of the President," according to the memo.
  • Federal employees: Federal transition laws also give Biden's team access to employees of any federal agency and employees of any congressional committee or office. This including people working in the offices of House members or senators so long as the congressperson or agency head consents to it, the memo says. Both career and political officials have expressed interest in starting the formal transition process.
  • Office space: Biden's transition team can now use "approximately 128,000 rentable square feet of space designed to house approximately 500 individuals," according to the memo, which says the space can be used until the inauguration. The memo notes that the office space has not been configured to comply with coronavirus pandemic guidelines and that Biden's staff "shall determine any Covid-19 protocols for the space, including entrance and screening requirements," and the GSA will "make all reasonable efforts to accommodate" the protocols. Biden officials have previously said that a lot of the transition work will be done virtually due to the pandemic.
  • IT and mail support: The GSA memo says the agency will also provide "an architected infrastructure to meet telecommunications and IT services and equipment for use" by Biden's team. The GSA will also begin providing mail support for Biden's team, which includes "training on official government mail procedures" for staffers. The US Secret Service will also oversee off-site mail screening of all incoming letters and parcels.
8:52 a.m. ET, November 24, 2020

GOP leaders McConnell and McCarthy mum on GSA transition sign off

From CNN's Lauren Fox and Capitol Hill team

As of Tuesday morning, the top two GOP leaders on Capitol Hill — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top House Republican Kevin McCarthy — have not commented on the Biden transition beginning.

The House and Senate are out of session this week.

Top Republicans have largely let President Trump lead the way on his decisions regarding the transition and when to move ahead.

For McConnell, the future of his Senate majority rests in Georgia with two runoff elections. Republicans have tread carefully with the fear being that crossing Trump publicly could backfire in a state where the GOP will need to mobilize Trump voters to win.