The latest on Biden's transition

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Fernando Alfonso III and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 10:33 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020
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1:48 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Biden will appoint a former top Obama economic adviser to be his Covid-19 coordinator 

From CNN’s MJ Lee

Jeffrey Zients, former acting director and deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, testifies before the Senate Budget Committee on April 11, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Jeffrey Zients, former acting director and deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, testifies before the Senate Budget Committee on April 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

Jeffrey Zients is President-elect Joe Biden's choice to be the White House coronavirus coordinator, or "czar," a source familiar tells CNN.

Zients, a top economic adviser under President Barack Obama and a co-chair of Biden's transition team, was widely expected to get this appointment.

The announcement is expected to be formally made in the coming days.

Politico first reported Zients' appointment.

Last month, Biden announced a coronavirus advisory board led by established public health officials and staffed by a mix of doctors and current and former government officials.

12:40 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Trump won't say if he has confidence in Attorney General William Barr

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Donald Trump listens to a question during a ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House on December 3 in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump listens to a question during a ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House on December 3 in Washington, DC. Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump wouldn’t say whether he had confidence in Attorney General William Barr when asked Thursday.

Trump paused a moment, then told reporters in the Oval Office, “Ask me that in a number of weeks from now. They should be looking at all of this fraud.”

That question comes after Trump and Barr had a “contentious” meeting on Tuesday after Barr told the Associated Press the Justice Department had seen no evidence of widespread election fraud, CNN's Kaitlan Collins reported earlier Thursday.

Trump erupted at Barr, sources said, but did not scream at him. 

The Washington Post reported that Trump has considered firing Barr, though Jim Acosta reported Trump is frustrated with Barr over those comments, per sources who describe Trump as “disappointed” but added that officials are discouraging the President from firing any top leaders in the administration — the attorney general in particular — so close to the end of his term. 

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany also wouldn’t say Wednesday whether Trump had confidence in Barr when asked, saying, "If the President, if he has any personnel announcements, you'll be the first to know it.”

Trump also repeated baseless claims of “massive fraud” and a “rigged election” Thursday. There is no evidence of widespread election fraud, as state officials and Barr have said.

“He hasn’t done anything. He hasn’t looked (for fraud in the Georgia election),” Trump said of Barr and his administration’s Justice Department.

Watch:

11:45 a.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Trump and Barr had "contentious" meeting after attorney general's comments on election fraud, source says

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

Getty Images
Getty Images

President Trump and Attorney General William Barr had a "contentious," lengthy meeting inside the West Wing this week after Barr told The Associated Press in an interview that the Justice Department had uncovered no evidence of fraud that would change the election outcome, one person familiar with the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity told CNN.

The interview had caused his boss to erupt, multiple people familiar with his reaction said.

Though the press secretary said Wednesday she was unaware if Trump and Barr met when he was at the White House Tuesday, the source described the meeting as contentious but said the President was not screaming at Barr.

The Justice Department seemed to try and claw back the damage, issuing a statement Tuesday hours after Barr's comments to The Associated Press claiming it had not concluded its election fraud investigation and therefore not "announced an affirmative finding of no fraud in the election."

"The department will continue to receive and vigorously pursue all specific and credible allegations of fraud as expeditiously as possible," said a Justice Department spokesperson who did not speak on the record.

ABC News first reported the tense White House meeting.

Trump was deeply frustrated with Barr long before the interview but said it only added to his anger. Two White House officials said that while Trump had certainly considered firing Barr, he's being advised against it by several people.

10:58 a.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Fauci will meet with Biden's transition team today

From CNN's Jim Acosta and Jim Sciutto

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House on November 19 in Washington, DC.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing at the White House on November 19 in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, confirmed to CNN that he will be meeting with President-elect Joe Biden's transition team virtually today at 2 p.m. ET.

The meeting will take place with the transition team assigned to the National Institute of Health (NIH).

Fauci has had initial conversations with Biden aides, including incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain, in recent days as part of the infectious diseases expert's expected role in the Biden administration.

The expected meeting was first reported by CBS.

The meeting comes a day after the total number of coronavirus deaths reported in a day set a new record and hospitalizations also reached an all-time high.

More than 100,200 patients were in US hospitals Wednesday, according to the COVID Tracking Project. More than 2,800 Covid-19 deaths were reported Wednesday, the most the US has ever reported in a single day.

12:00 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Trump is holding a rally in Georgia Saturday. Here's why some Republicans are worried about his visit. 

From CNN's Ryan Nobles and Alex Rogers

President Donald Trump on November 26, 2020 in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump on November 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. Erin Schaff/Pool/Getty Images

Georgia Republicans are increasingly worried about President Trump's rally on Saturday for the two Senate runoff races, as some brace for a tirade to overturn his loss that could hurt the party's effort to keep control of the chamber.

This will be Trump's first rally since losing the election to Joe Biden.

The campaigns for Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler recognize that Trump can fire up his supporters for their Jan. 5 elections like no one else in their party can.

But in the aftermath of his loss in Georgia, Trump has attacked fellow Republicans Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brian Raffensperger, not only undermining confidence in the integrity of US elections, but also discouraging some potential Republican voters, who now think that the fix is in.

Trump's rally also comes ahead of Loeffler's to debate with Democratic challenger Rev. Raphael Warnock on Sunday. Perdue declined an invitation to debate Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff.

A group of prominent former Georgia Republican officials, including former Gov. Nathan Deal and former Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, released a statement on Wednesday urging the party to unify, and shift their attention to the challenge of protecting their Senate majority.

"Please separate the two," Eric Johnson, a Trump supporter and former state Senate Republican leader who signed the statement, told CNN.

"Looking into potential problems with the election is important, but we need to leave that (to) the lawyers," said Johnson. "The grassroots activists need to focus on the runoff."

Read more here.

Watch the latest on CNN:

10:43 a.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Congressional Hispanic Caucus set to meet with Biden's team today in push to diversify incoming Cabinet

From CNN's Nicquel Terry Ellis, Lauren Fox and Daniella Diaz

A group of lawmakers and civil rights groups are demanding that President-elect Joe Biden appoint Black and Latino nominees to some of the remaining high-level Cabinet positions, as Biden faces increasing pressure to diversify his administration. 

The push comes as activists and elected officials insist that Biden is not doing enough to meet his promise of creating an administration that reflects the nation's diversity.

The latest effort comes from members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who in a letter obtained by CNN, requested that Biden appoint either California Attorney General Xavier Becerra or Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez to serve as the US Attorney General.  

"We are confident that either would lead the Department with distinction, champion equal protection under the law, and advance the cause of justice for all Americans," the letter read. 

The caucus is scheduled to meet today with incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, as well as key Biden transition team leaders Jeffrey Zients and Ted Kaufman.

This will be the first official meeting between the transition and the caucus, according to a person familiar with the planning, and the expectation is it will be an opportunity for members to ask questions and continue their push for a series of candidates they'd like to see in Cabinet positions. 

So far, Biden has named four people of color to his Cabinet: UN Ambassador nominee Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a Black woman, Secretary of Homeland Security nominee Alejandro Mayorkas, a Cuban American man who would be the first Latino to serve in the position if confirmed by the Senate, and Neera Tanden, who is the first woman of color and first South Asian person nominated to lead the Office of Management and Budget. 

Cecilia Rouse, a Black woman, was nominated to chair the Council of Economic Advisers, a position which Biden announced last week he will elevate to the Cabinet level.  

Biden, however, named White nominees to two of the highest-profile Cabinet positions — secretary of state and treasury secretary.

Black and Latino leaders are concerned that people of color are primarily being nominated to second-tier positions in Biden's administration and urging Biden to choose diverse candidates fill the remaining high-profile positions, saying it will give underrepresented groups a voice in the nation's leadership.

Here's a look at who Biden has selected so far:

Leaders from seven Black-led civil rights groups say they requested a meeting to discuss the need for more Black nominees to Biden's Cabinet.  

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated how many people of color Biden has named to his Cabinet. He has named four.

8:27 a.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Harris just announced key senior staffers. Here's who is joining her incoming team.

From CNN’s Jasmine Wright

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Dec. 1, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Dec. 1, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. Andrew Harnik/AP

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is constructing the key team of senior staffers who will accompany her to the White House, announcing Thursday the hiring of three top roles including chief of staff.

The staffers, all of whom are women and two of whom are people of color — highlight the incoming administration's commitment to diversity.

Here's a look at who is joining her team:

  • Harris tapped Hartina Flournoy, a Black woman, as her incoming chief of staff. She currently serves as chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton. "Tina brings a strong commitment to serving the American people, and her leadership will be critical as we work to overcome the unprecedented challenges facing our nation," Harris said in a statement. News of Flournoy's hiring was first reported by journalist Yashar Ali late Monday night, and confirmed by CNN shortly after.
  • Rohini Kosoglu, a longtime Harris aide who currently serves as senior adviser to Harris on the transition team and held chief of staff titles in both the incoming vice president's Senate office and past presidential campaign, will be her domestic policy adviser.
  • Ambassador Nancy McEldowney will be Harris' national security adviser. McEldowney has an extensive career in foreign service including serving as the US ambassador to Bulgaria during the George W. Bush administration.

The all-women, majority of color trio will join at least two other women of color holding senior roles in Harris' office, in the latest high-profile appointments for an administration that has pledged to have its ranks reflect the diversity in America.

That includes Symone Sanders, an incoming senior adviser and chief spokesperson for the vice president-elect, and Ashley Etienne, who will serve as communications director for Harris.

"Together with the rest of my team, today's appointees will work to get this virus under control, open our economy responsibly and make sure it lifts up all Americans, and restore and advance our country's leadership around the world," Harris said.

Read more here.

8:13 a.m. ET, December 3, 2020

CNN's Jake Tapper will interview Biden and Harris today in their first joint interview since election win 

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

CNN's Jake Tapper will interview President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris today in their first joint interview since winning the election, the network announced Tuesday. 

Part of the interview will air on CNN's "The Lead" in the 4 p.m. ET hour and "The Situation Room" in the 5 and 6 p.m. ET hour on Thursday, and the full interview will air later the same day during an hour-long special at 9 p.m. ET. It will be simulcast on CNN International and in Spanish on CNN en Español.

The interview will take place in Biden's hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, at the same theater where the President-elect unveiled several top members of his administration.

Since being projected the winners of November's election, Biden and Harris have moved quickly to build out a diverse administration that will help them tackle the nation's most pressing issues. 

During Biden's first 100 days in office after being sworn in on Jan. 20, the President-elect and his team are expected to focus on passing a broad economic aid package and, where legislation is not necessary, put forth a series of executive actions aimed at advancing his priorities, CNN has reported.

8:37 a.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Here are the key priorities of Biden's first 100 days in office

From CNN's Gregory Krieg, MJ Lee and Sarah Mucha

President-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre on November 25, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. 
President-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address at the Queen Theatre on November 25, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.  Mark Makela/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden and his transition team are preparing for an early, all-out push to pass an ambitious new stimulus bill, while also drawing up plans for a flurry of executive actions aimed at delivering on campaign promises and undoing the Trump administration's efforts to undermine key government agencies.

Biden will be inaugurated in January with a pressing mandate to confront simultaneous and interwoven public health, economic and racial crises. At the same time, his team will take over the work of spearheading one of the most complicated, politically fraught mass vaccination campaigns in American history.

Biden's agenda for his first 100 days in office will, according to both those close to him and outside groups in contact with his top aides, center on two key avenues of action:

  1. The passage of a broad economic aid package
  2. A series of executive actions aimed at advancing his priorities where legislation is not necessary.

Containing the Covid-19 pandemic, launching an economic recovery and tackling racial inequality are his most urgent priorities, transition officials say.

The scope of stimulus legislation will likely turn on the results of the Senate run-offs in Georgia in early January, a little more than two weeks before Biden is inaugurated.

If either Democrat fails to unseat their GOP incumbent rivals, and the body remains under the thumb of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, Biden's ambitions will be checked from the outset. The immigration legislation Biden said he plans to send to the Congress within his first 100 days would likely be dead on arrival.

But sources familiar with internal discussions stressed that getting a grip on the surging coronavirus crisis is far and away Biden's top concern. Until that happens, one of the sources said, the President-elect's wider legislative agenda is likely to take a backseat.

Read more here about Biden's priorities in the early days of his administration.