Biden's transition moves ahead

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:01 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020
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10:36 a.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Georgia Republicans urge voters to focus on runoff that will determine control of Senate

From CNN’s Ryan Nobles

Ex-Senator Jonny Isakson, ex-Senators Saxby Chambliss and former Gov. Nathan Deal
Ex-Senator Jonny Isakson, ex-Senators Saxby Chambliss and former Gov. Nathan Deal Getty Images

A long list of Georgia Republicans have released a lengthy statement begging Georgia voters to shift their focus to the runoff elections in January that will determine which party controls the Senate.

Among the signatories to the statement is ex-Senator Jonny Isakson whose old seat is one of the two up for grabs in the runoff.

The statement does not specifically mention President Trump’s ill-fated effort to overturn the results of the November election, but it alludes to the lingering issues the President’s rhetoric has created.

“We have watched with increasing concern as the debate surrounding the state’s electoral system has made some within our Party consider whether voting in the coming run-off election matters, " the statement reads.

"We say today, without equivocation, that without every vote cast for President Trump and all our Republican candidates on November 3 also being cast in the U.S. Senate runoffs, the trajectory of our State and Nation will be irreparably altered on January 5th. Now is the time to unite our Party and win these U.S. Senate seats,” the statement continues.

Republicans are increasingly worried that the President’s supporters will either boycott the election in protest or may choose to not to participate because they do not trust the system.  

In addition to Isakson, ex-Senators Saxby Chambliss and Mack Mattingly signed on to the statement as did former Gov. Nathan Deal.

Former Congressman Bob Barr and Jack Kingston are also signatories. Kingston remains a loyal supporter of President Trump and has echoed his unfounded concerns that there was fraud conducted in the November election.

10:16 a.m. ET, December 2, 2020

National security council prepares transition binders for legal clearance

From CNN's Vivian Salama

Officials with the National Security Council were informed late Tuesday to finalize their binders for transition and submit them for legal clearance, according to an administration official. The binders then must be sent to the Office of the Executive Secretary no later than Thursday, the official said. 

The binders would typically then be handed over to officials with Joe Biden's landing team who are working with President-elect Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan.

What's in these binders: They typically do not contain information on highly sensitive matters, but rather, provide a broad overview of the work done in recent years, as well as basic information on NSC processes.

10:08 a.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Why all eyes are on Georgia now

From CNN's Caroline Kelly, Jason Morris, Ethan Cohen and Tori Apodaca

Getty Images/AP
Getty Images/AP

The focus of the political world has increasingly turned to what's happening in Georgia for one key reason: the January 5 runoff election will decide which party controls the Senate.

If either of the incumbent Republicans — Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — hold onto their seats, the party will retain its majority control in the chamber.

If Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock both prevail, however, Democrats would gain control of the Senate thanks to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote.

Trump is slated to travel to the Peach State on Saturday to campaign for Loeffler and Perdue. Former President Barack Obama meanwhile is prominently featured in a new television ad for Ossoff, pitching him as an injustice-fighting crusader who will pass a new Voting Rights Act and "listen to the experts" in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 940,000 mail-in ballots have been requested in Georgia for the runoff election. Georgia voters are required to request absentee ballots again for the runoff, even if they voted absentee in November, except those over the age of 65, members of the military or physically disabled people who requested absentee ballots for the entire election cycle.

Loeffler and her Democratic challenger Warnock have both accepted an invitation to participate in a debate this Sunday. Perdue declined an invitation to debate Ossoff.

Republicans are struggling to encourage voters to back incumbent Kelly and Perdue as Trump continues to cast doubt on the results of the presidential election.

12:07 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Trump is discussing pre-emptively pardoning his adult children

From CNN's Pamela Brown

Donald Trump Jr., left, Ivanka Trump, center, and Eric Trump listen during a joint press conference at the Foreign and Commonwealth office in London on June 4, 2019.
Donald Trump Jr., left, Ivanka Trump, center, and Eric Trump listen during a joint press conference at the Foreign and Commonwealth office in London on June 4, 2019. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Since the election, President Trump has been discussing with advisors about pre-emptively pardoning several people close to him, including his children, son-in-law and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, a source familiar confirmed to CNN.

The potential pardon list includes others who are close to the President and could be legally vulnerable but have not been charged.

The New York Times and ABC first reported the discussions about pre-emptive pardons for Giuliani, Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

Trump Jr. had been under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for contacts he had with Russians, but was never charged.

Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner provided false information about his foreign contacts when applying for his security clearance, but President Trump issued him one anyway.

The President has told advisors he feels he and his family have been unfairly targeted and that he's concerned the legal pursuits could continue under President-elect Joe Biden's Justice Department. Lawyers and allies of the President have been lobbying him for pardons ranging from their personal clients to people who Vice President-elect Kamala Harris put behind bars, according to multiple people. She was a state prosecutor and pardons only apply to federal crimes.

CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.

CNN's John Harwood reports:

9:20 a.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Inauguration is 49 days away. This is who Biden has tasked with leading the effort. 

From CNN's Sarah Mucha, Arlette Saenz and Fredreka Schouten

President-elect Joe Biden's transition team on Tuesday announced more senior positions on his inauguration committee. Inauguration Day is 49 days away and is expected to be a more scaled back event due to the pandemic.

First shared with CNN, the new additions to the team — which will plan the celebration and activities surrounding the President-elect's swearing-in on Jan. 20 — comprise a diverse group of staff who worked on Biden's campaign in various roles.

  • Alana Mounce, who served as the campaign's Nevada state director during the general election, will be chief of staff. She is joined by incoming White House deputy communications director Pili Tobar, who will serve as the committee's communications director.
  • Katie Petrelius, who was the national finance director for the campaign since its launch, will take the same role on the inauguration committee, and Christian Tom, the campaign's director of digital partnerships, will act as digital director.
  • Adrienne Elrod, who served as director of surrogate operations and strategy for the campaign, will take the helm of talent and external relations, a role that will involve booking celebrity guests and performers, as is customary during an inauguration. Her role in particular is met with a special challenge this year to incorporate special performances and guests, whether in person or virtual, into the activities during a global pandemic.

This senior staff joins the group Biden announced Monday, which includes chief executive officer Tony Allen, executive director Maju Varghese and deputy executive directors Erin Wilson and Yvanna Cancela.

More details on the event itself will be announced in the coming days and weeks, according to the committee.

Inaugural committees operate as nonprofits and federal law does not impose limits on the size of contributions they can accept, but the committee has decided it will accept corporate contributions of up to $1 million to help fund Biden's swearing-in festivities, according to an inaugural committee official involved in the planning. It has also capped donations from individuals at $500,000 apiece, the official said.

Read more here.

11:02 a.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Court records show DOJ is investigating a potential presidential pardon bribery scheme. Here's what we know.

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

The White House is seen on November 23 in Washington, DC.
The White House is seen on November 23 in Washington, DC. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

The Justice Department is investigating a potential crime related to funneling money to the White House or related political committee in exchange for a presidential pardon, according to court records unsealed Tuesday in federal court.

The case is the latest legal twist in the waning days of President Trump's administration after several of his top advisers have been convicted of federal criminal charges and as the possibility rises of Trump giving pardons to those who've been loyal to him.

Here are key things to know:

  • The disclosure is in 20 pages of partially redacted documents made public by the DC District Court on Tuesday afternoon.
  • The records show Chief Judge Beryl Howell's review in August of a request from prosecutors to access documents obtained in a search as part of a bribery-for-pardon investigation.
  • The filings don't reveal a timeline of the alleged scheme or any names of people potentially involved, except that communications between people including at least one lawyer were seized from an office that was raided sometime before the end of this summer.
  • No one appears to have been publicly charged with a related crime to date.

The White House declined to comment on the court filing.

CNN has previously reported that associates of the President are making appeals to him in the hopes of obtaining pardons before he leaves office. There is no indication that any of those associates are being investigated by DOJ in relation to Tuesday's filing.

Read the full story here and read the court filing on the DOJ pardon investigation here.

8:25 a.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Dates to watch from now until Inauguration Day

From CNN's Zachary B. Wolf, Will Muller and Kevin Liptak

President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration is next month, and preparations have begun on what likely will be a scaled back event due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump meanwhile has declined to offer a timeline for when he might ease up his losing battle to overturn the election results and has not said whether he will attend Biden's inauguration. 

Here's a look at some key dates from now until Inauguration Day:

Dec. 8

  • "Safe harbor" to determine election results and assign electors: Under the Electoral Count Act, this is the date by which states are meant to have counted votes, settled disputes, and determined the winner of their electoral college votes. Governors are supposed to create certificates of ascertainment listing the winner of the election and the slate of electors. In 2000, the Supreme Court ended a targeted recount in Florida because it could not be completed by this safe harbor date. That recount would not have changed the outcome of the election, but a full statewide recount could have made Al Gore president. This is when it could become very important for Republicans that they control more state legislatures than Democrats, including in most of the contested 2020 battleground states.

Dec. 14

  • Electoral votes cast: In law, this date is the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. This year it falls on December 14. Six days after disputes are supposed to be settled, electors are supposed to meet in their respective states and cast votes for US president. They certify six sets of votes and send them to Washington. Many states have laws requiring their electors to support the winner of their state's election and can levy fines against faithless electors who go their own way.

Dec. 23

  • Electoral votes must arrive in Washington: The certified electoral votes have nine days to get from their states to Capitol Hill.

Jan. 3

  • New Congress is sworn in: Members of the House and new members of the Senate take the oath of office at noon. This is the official start of the 117th Congress.

Jan. 6

  • Electoral votes counted: Members of the House and the Senate all meet in the House chamber. The President of the Senate (that’s Vice President Mike Pence) presides over the session and the Electoral votes are read and counted in alphabetical order by two appointees each from the House and Senate. They then give their tallies to Pence, who announces the results and listens for objections. If there are objections or if there are, somehow, multiple slates of electors put forward by a state, the House and Senate consider them separately to decide how to count those votes.There are 538 electoral votes — one for each congressman and senator plus three for Washington, DC. If no candidate gets 270, the 435 members of the House decide the election. Each state gets a vote. The House has until noon on Jan. 20 to pick the President. If they can't, it would be the vice president or the next person eligible in the line of presidential succession.

Jan. 20

  • Inauguration Day: A new president takes the oath of office at noon. In a disputed election, if the House has not chosen a President but the Senate has chosen a vice president, the vice president-elect becomes acting president until the House makes a choice. And if there's no president-elect and no vice president-elect, the House appoints a president until one is chosen.