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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5:54 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Biden says he asked Fauci to be one of his chief medical advisers

From CNN's Dan Merica

President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on December 3.
President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on December 3. CNN

President-elect Joe Biden told CNN's Jake Tapper on Thursday that he has asked Dr. Anthony Fauci to be a chief medical adviser and part of his Covid-19 response team when his administration begins next year.

Biden said the conversation happened on Thursday afternoon. CNN reported earlier in the day that Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force, had a planned meeting with Biden’s transition team.

“I asked him to stay on the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents, and I asked him to be a chief medical adviser for me as well, and be part of the Covid team,” Biden told Tapper as part of the first joint interview with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Biden added that Ron Klain, his incoming chief of staff, knew Fauci well and had been talking to him “all the time.”

Fauci has had a complicated relationship with Trump ever since he began advising the Republican leader on the coronavirus response, with the President often flouting the recommendations of Fauci and other scientific leaders. Those clashes have made Fauci the focus of public attention, often seen as a hero on the left for his commitment to science in the face of Trump’s comments and a villain on the right, especially among Trump loyalists.

Biden described his coronavirus plans as a balance between ensuring that Americans believe the vaccine is safe and instituting a number of plans that will curb the spread of the virus without shutting down the economy. Biden said that on the day he is inaugurated he plans to ask the public to wear a mask for at least 100 days.

“Just 100 days to mask, not forever 100 days. And I think we’ll see a significant reduction,” he said.

Biden also said during the interview that he will be “happy to” get a coronavirus vaccine once Fauci says it is safe and that he will get the vaccine publicly to demonstrate his confidence in it.

“That’s the moment in which I will stand before the public” and get the vaccine, Biden said. “People have lost faith in the ability of the vaccine to work. Already the numbers are really staggeringly low, and it matters what the President and vice president do.”

Biden’s comments come a day after three of his presidential predecessors — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — said they would publicly get a coronavirus vaccine as a way to demonstrate its safety and efficacy.

“I think that my three predecessors have set the model as to what should be done, saying, once it’s declared to be safe… then obviously we take it and it’s important to communicate to the American people,” Biden said.

Watch here:

4:02 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Rhode Island governor says she won't be Biden's HHS secretary

From CNN's Chris Boyette

Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo speaks at a news conference at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence, Rhode Island, on May 12.
Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo speaks at a news conference at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence, Rhode Island, on May 12. John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said today she won't be President-elect Joe Biden's nominee for Health and Human Services secretary.

Speaking at a news conference today, she went on to say that she is focused on her duties in her home state.

"My focus is right here in Rhode Island, as I have said. I am working 24/7 to keep Rhode Islanders safe and keep our economy moving and I have nothing else to add on that topic,” Raimondo said.

Some background: CNN reported that Raimondo was a contender for the position and had been interviewed for the job, a source familiar with the process tells CNN.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is also a leading contender to head the Department of Health and Human Services, people familiar with the matter tell CNN.

The secretary of Health and Human Services will play a central role in the coronavirus fight, which is why Biden is focusing on governors who have been on the front lines of the pandemic.

3:57 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Hispanic Caucus held "diplomatic but tense" meeting with Biden team over Cabinet spots, source says

From Daniella Diaz and Manu Raju

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus met virtually with incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, as well as key Biden transition team leaders Jeffrey Zients and Ted Kaufman, with a source on the call describing it as "diplomatic but tense."

The source said the CHC members pushed back about leaks coming from the transition team about New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham turning down the role of interior secretary.

The source said Klain was very respectful and told the group they were right but he couldn't control what leaks came out of the transition team.

The source also said they learned on the call that Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo is no longer in the running for Secretary of Health and Human Services.

The CHC was clear with the Biden transition team that the group wants Lujan Grisham as secretary of health and human services and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra or Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez to serve as the US Attorney General.

Some background: Today's meeting 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.

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 are urging Biden to choose diverse candidates fill the remaining high-profile positions.

CNN's Nicquel Terry Ellis and Lauren Fox contributed reporting to this post.

3:32 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

The White House has held multiple pardon meetings since the election

From CNN's Pamela Brown and Gloria Borger 

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

With a rush of pardons expected before President Trump leaves office, the White House has been holding multiple pardon meetings since the election, involving the White House Counsel's office and other staff, two senior administration officials told CNN. 

The meetings include a list of potential pardon cases to be considered and ideas of who else should be included. White House officials like Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner have weighed in, but the White House Counsel's office runs the meetings, one of the sources said. 

While such meetings are not unusual and past presidents have issued pardons on their way out, the president’s past clemency for allies, like Michael Flynn and Roger stone, and potential preemptive pardon considerations for his family bring an added dimension. 

The Trump White House also acts fast once the President makes a decision, at times without Justice Department involvement, according to sources.

The White House declined to comment when reached out to by CNN.  

Three sources with knowledge of the situation told CNN Kushner has not been personally involved in advocating for his father, Charles Kushner, to get a pardon for his felony, but two of the sources said outside criminal justice groups who worked with Jared Kushner in the past have petitioned the White House to consider the pardon. 

It's known Kushner would like one, according to one source, and it's so evident it doesn't need to be discussed since the President is aware.

In 2004, Charles Kushner pleaded guilty to 16 counts of tax evasion, one count of retaliating against a federal witness — his brother-in-law — and another count of lying to the Federal Election Commission.

CNN previously reported that associates in Trump's orbit, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, have approached the President to seek preemptive pardons. The President has also been talking with advisers about preemptively pardoning several people close to him, including his children and Jared Kushner.

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 the Biden 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 reported Wednesday that the public should expect a "flurry" of pardons before Trump leaves office, a source close to the White House says, as has happened at the end of previous administrations.

This source, familiar with discussions on the matter, told CNN some of the President's advisers believe that it would perfectly fine for Trump to pardon his family members and other associates preemptively, even though they haven't been charged with any crimes.

CNN's Jim Acosta contributed reporting to this post.

3:06 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Trump has had more than 30 defunct election-related lawsuits in 30 days. Here's where things stand.

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

President Donald Trump listens during a Medal of Freedom ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House on December 3 in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump listens during a Medal of Freedom ceremony in the Oval Office of the White House on December 3 in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

After more than 30 defunct lawsuits in 30 days, attempts by President Trump and his backers to overturn the election of Joe Biden as the next president have failed in court — sometimes repeatedly, with judges gutting claims and shutting down all possible legal avenues to interfere with the Electoral College.

The President's effort isn't stopping, with more lawsuits and appeals getting filed almost daily and more than $170 million raised in response to pleas for cash from Trump.

But officials across the country confirmed that the 2020 vote was secure. Biden's victories have already been certified in six of the most closely contested states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. His wide Electoral College win over Trump is secured, and will be formalized this month.

Judges have rejected Trump's attempts so thoroughly over the past few weeks, they've shut down the cases on nearly every question they're asked.

One federal judge in Pennsylvania, Matthew Brann, wrote he couldn't do what the Trump campaign and Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani wanted because it would be unconstitutional. A judge in Michigan, Timothy Kenny, explained point by point why witness statements suspecting fraud fell short.

A judge on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court wrote in a concurring opinion last weekend, which denied a Republican attempt to throw out millions of absentee votes in the state, that the court shouldn't "lend legitimacy to such transparent and untimely efforts to subvert the will of Pennsylvania voters."

And yet, Trump's dreams linger in court. Ongoing cases still look to push false narratives of fraud — often built on their disbelief of Biden support in heavily Democratic cities and unhappiness with absentee voting.

Here's a look at the lawsuits the Trump campaign and allies have won and lost:

Read more here.

2:02 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

March For Our Lives calls on Biden to appoint gun violence prevention director and youth engagement director 

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

Demonstrators hold signs during the March For Our Lives on March 24, 2018 in New York City.
Demonstrators hold signs during the March For Our Lives on March 24, 2018 in New York City. Andrew Holbrooke/Getty Images

March For Our Lives Thursday is calling on the Biden-Harris administration to appoint a National Director of Gun Violence Prevention and a Director of Youth Engagement – two positions that have never before existed in a presidential administration.

“In order to replicate the historic turnout and engagement of young voters in 2020, the Biden-Harris administration must meaningfully engage with the voters that helped put them in the White House," March For Our Lives said in a statement first provided to CNN Thursday.

"This is an important moment in our country’s history: young Americans are more politically active and engaged than ever before, and we expect this administration to be responsive to our needs. These two groundbreaking appointments would be an important step in that direction,” the statement continued.

The group is asking that a National Director of Gun Violence Prevention serve in a senior level position — adjacent to the cabinet — and that this person report directly to the President, leading a committee dedicated to studying gun violence and related reforms.

The group has also asked that the National Director of Gun Violence Prevention “reflect the understanding that gun violence is a public health crisis, and disproportionately affects our most vulnerable populations,” adding that, “candidates who have been impacted by gun violence and who bring an intersectional approach should be considered.”

March For Our Lives is also asking that a Director of Youth Engagement join the Biden-Harris administration to, “sit on the Domestic Policy Council and advise the President and senior staff on issues of importance to young Americans.”

The group has suggested that this position be filled by a member of Gen Z.

March For Our Lives was founded in 2018 by survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen students and faculty members were killed in the tragedy.

Since then, the group has led a massive youth-led gun violence prevention movement and a national push in both 2018 and 2020 to register and engage young voters.

“This necessary addition to the domestic policy team would prioritize issues disproportionately impacting young Americans, and ensure a seat at the table for young American voices, who have traditionally been shut out of the domestic policy agenda,” March For Our Lives said of the role, adding that the director would work with the Office of Public Engagement to coordinate an annual youth summit at the White House and pay special attention to the issues most impacting young Americans including climate change, racism, healthcare, education and gun violence.

Eve Levenson, Policy and Government Affairs Manager for March For Our Lives, told CNN the group believes it is crucial the incoming administration "remember their mandate to the young people who helped them get elected."

“We expect that they will work to ensure our generation is represented both in terms of prioritizing the issues we care about, including gun violence prevention, and ensuring youth representation in staffing," Levenson said.

“As the generation that has lead the social movements over the last 4 plus years that fundamentally changed the political landscape that determined the election, we’ve more than earned our seat at the table,” Levenson added.

Max Markham, incoming policy director for March For Our Lives, told CNN the country's youth can only expect to see the "progress and healing it needs" if the new administration offers them a "meaningful and unique seat at the table."

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.