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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10:33 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Harris says Americans deserve a president "who puts the people of the country first"


Vice President-elect Kamala Harris closed out her interview alongside Joe Biden tonight by telling the American people they "are all very fortunate" that he is going to be their next president.

"The American people deserve in their president to have someone who is truly patriotic, who loves our country, who puts the people of the country first, not themselves. That's Joe Biden," Harris said during the interview with CNN. "Joe Biden is truly a kind human being. Joe Biden is someone who has endured real struggle and sacrifice and pain. He also is someone who knows love. He is someone who has dedicated his life to public service."

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10:00 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Biden: "We have to restore the soul within this country"

President-elect Joe Biden shared words of hope to all Americans struggling under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic which has killed more than 275,000 people in the US, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Biden's comments were made today during his first joint interview with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris since winning the election.

"I’m confident that what I’ve said from the outset, and I’ve never changed my view this whole campaign for over — going on 600 days, exactly what had to be done. We have to restore the soul within this country, meaning honor and decency, honesty, basic, basic fundamental decency," he said.

Biden added: "We have to rebuild the backbone in this country, the middle class, that and this time bring everybody along."

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9:53 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Biden thinks Trump should attend the inauguration

As Jan. 20 approaches, President-elect Joe Biden said he thinks President Trump should attend his inauguration because it will show a "peaceful transfer of power with the competing parties standing there, shaking hands, and moving on."

"The protocol of the transfer of power, I think, is important. But it is totally his decision, and it’s — it has no personal consequence to me. But I do think it is for the country," Biden told CNN today in his first joint interview with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris since winning the election.

More context: Republicans and aides to Trump are encouraging him to at least consider attending Biden's swearing-in, hoping his presence will both reflect well on his character and help preserve his future influence but also convince Americans the election was fair.

"I hope the President is there on Inaugural Day," Sen. Roy Blunt, the Missouri Republican who is responsible for overseeing January's inauguration, told CNN last weekend.

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10:00 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Biden on Trump's possible pardons for family: "It concerns me"

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 that he was concerned about reports that President Trump is considering a host of preemptive pardons for his adult children and lawyer Rudy Giuliani, as well as the possibility of one for himself.

"It concerns me in terms of what kind of precedent it sets and how the rest of the world looks (at) us as a nation of laws and justice," Biden said during his first joint interview with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris since winning the election. The full interview will air at 9 p.m. ET.

He added that his Justice Department will "operate independently on those issues" and how to respond to any Trump pardons.

"I'm not going to be telling them what they have to do and don't have to do," Biden said. "I'm not going to be saying, 'go prosecute A, B or C', I'm not going to be telling them. That's not the role, it's not my Justice Department, it's the people's Justice Department. So the persons or person I pick to run that department are going to be people who are going to have the independent capacity to decide who gets prosecuted, who doesn't."

Biden concluded that his administration would not approach pardons in the same way as Trump, adding, "It's going to be a totally different way in which we approach the justice system."

Biden has yet to select an attorney general, but is considering a range of names, including former deputy attorney general Sally Yates; Doug Jones, the soon to be former senator from Alabama who was defeated in November; and Jeh Johnson, the Homeland Security secretary under Obama; among others.

Harris echoed the sentiment of Biden's remarks on the Department of Justice.

"We will not tell the Justice Department how to do its job," Harris said. "And we are going to assume, and I say this as a former attorney general elected in California ... that any decision coming out of the Justice Department ... should be based on facts, it should be based on the law, it should not be influenced by politics period."

Biden interjected: "And I guarantee you, that's how it will be run."

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9:44 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

These are the 4 crises that Biden says are affecting Americans

President-elect Joe Biden described what he believes are the four crises affecting Americans in his first joint interview with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. They are...

  1. Coronavirus
  2. The economy
  3. Racial inequity
  4. Climate change

Biden recently named John Kerry as his special presidential envoy for climate to address the issue of climate change.

Harris described their agenda on climate change as "pretty progressive." 

"But we — the American people and, frankly, the world can't afford anything less. The clock is ticking rapidly on this issue," she said.  

Harris went on to say that tackling climate change won't be easy.

"It will require a convening. But as the President-elect always says, look, this as much as anything is also about jobs. It's about investing in research and development.  It's about investing in the American worker with jobs that are well-paying jobs, good union well-paying jobs," she said.

9:49 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Biden says several Republican senators called him privately to congratulate him


President-elect Joe Biden told CNN's Jake Tapper that Republican senators have privately called him to congratulate him.

"There have been more than several sitting Republican senators who have privately called me and congratulated me. And I understand the situation they find themselves in. And until the election is clearly decided in the minds when the Electoral College votes, they get put in a very tough position," he said in his first joint interview with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Biden went on to say that he has spoken to several senators about key issues.

He acknowledged that the work is "going to be hard."

"I'm not suggesting it's going to be easy. It's going to be hard. But I'm confident that on the things that affect the national security and the fundamental economic necessity to keep people employed, to get people employed, to bring the economy back, there is plenty of room we can work," Biden said.

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9:39 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Biden vows that his Cabinet will "look like the country"


President-elect Joe Biden vowed today that his Cabinet will "look like the country" following increasing pressure to further diversify his administration.

"I'm going to keep my commitment that the administration both in the White House and outside in the cabinet is going to look like the country," he said in his first joint interview with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris today.

Activists and elected officials have insisted 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.

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
  • 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.

Their demands come as the nation reels from police killings of Black people, massive protests calling for racial equality this year and President Trump's anti-immigration policies.

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.

Biden said he is meeting with members of the NAACP on Tuesday.

"My job is to keep my commitment and to make the decisions.  And when it's all over, people will take a look and say, I promise you, you'll see the most diverse cabinet, representative of all folks, Asian-Americans, African-Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ, across the board," he said

"And so, I think — and they are forthcoming in the next month or so," Biden added.

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9:33 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Harris says she and Biden "are full partners in this process"

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks during an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on December 3.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks during an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper on December 3. CNN

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris discussed how she and President-elect Joe Biden will work together through the transition and in the White House during her first joint interview today with Biden today.

"I'll take the last for first which is, if the future is determined in any way based on what has been happening, we are full partners in this process. And I will tell you that the President-elect has been — since the first day he asked me to join him on the ticket — been very clear with me that he wants me to be the first and the last in the room," Harris told CNN.

She added: "And so, on every issue that impacts the American people, I will be a full partner to the President-elect and the President. And whatever our priorities are, I will be there to support him and support the American people."

Biden said he and Harris have become friends and "are simpatico on our philosophy of government and simpatico on how we want to attack — approach these issues that we're facing. ... and when we disagree it will be just like — so far it has been just like when Barack and I did."

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9:32 p.m. ET, December 3, 2020

Biden says a $900 billion stimulus plan "would be a good start"


President-elect Joe Biden said that while a $900 billion stimulus package would help Americans in need during the pandemic, "it's not enough."

"That that would be a good start. It’s not enough. It’s needed, and they should focus on the things that are immediately needed," Biden told CNN today. "And what’s immediately needed is relief for people in their unemployment checks, relief for people who are going to get thrown out of their apartments after Christmas because they can’t afford to pay the rent anymore, relief on mortgage payments. Relief on all the things that are in the original bill the House passed."

Biden added: "But here’s the deal; if Mitch McConnell just brought the bill up, just put it on the floor, I believe, senator believes, or soon-to-be former senator believes, that it would pass. But it’s a start. But look, people are really hurting. They’re scared to death."

Earlier today: High-level negotiations over an economic stimulus package are intensifying as congressional leaders and top senators are pushing to reach a major agreement that has eluded Washington for months.

For much of the year there has been partisan bickering and negotiations that have broken down repeatedly, but momentum is finally building — as McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are in discussions over a possible $908 billion deal pushed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers — and lawmakers are trying to attach an agreement to a massive funding proposal to avoid a government shutdown by Dec. 11.

But even as Pelosi and McConnell spoke Wednesday about their shared goal to finalize an agreement, there are still many landmines to navigate and major divisions between the two parties. Aides acknowledge that they aren't there yet.

Right now, the $908 billion framework is little more than a one-pager. And, the divisions over state and local funding and liability protections are still very much alive.

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