Biden's transition moves ahead

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:01 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020
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7:01 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Nevada judge rejects GOP's latest attempt to upend results of presidential election

From CNN's Stephanie Becker and Katelyn Polantz

Nevada District Judge James Russell rejected a Republican attempt to declare President Trump the winner of the Nevada election.

One day after a lengthy evidentiary hearing, Russell wrote that the “contestant did not prove under any standard of proof” the long list of accusations against the Biden-Harris campaign, including paying voters to cast ballots.

Russell denied their request to replace Democratic electors with Republican electors.

Some background: After more than 30 defunct lawsuits in 30 days, attempts by 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.

Officials across the country has confirmed that the 2020 vote was secure.

4:43 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Biden discusses what his inauguration will look like in a pandemic: "The key is keeping people safe"

Construction continues on the presidential inaugural platform at the Capitol on November 17 in Washington, DC. 
Construction continues on the presidential inaugural platform at the Capitol on November 17 in Washington, DC.  Katherine Frey/The Washington Post/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden said that since his January inauguration will come as the country is still battling the coronavirus pandemic, the events may be altered to keep attendees safe.

"The first and foremost thing is we're going to follow, again, the science and recommendations of the experts on keeping people safe," Biden said at a news conference today when asked what the ceremony will look like.

Biden said that means it's "highly unlikely" there will be millions of people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

He added that while there will likely be the traditional "platform ceremony," he isn't sure of all of the details yet.

"The key is keeping people safe," he added.

The President-elect said while safety is the first consideration, he also wants to "still allow people to celebrate," adding that there will likely be virtual events to mark the occasion.

2:36 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Biden transition team predicts a "very busy" next couple of weeks

From CNN’s Sarah Mucha

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will announce members of their health team early next week, transition adviser Jen Psaki said, adding that the next couple weeks will be "very busy."

"You will be hearing more about the President-elect and the Vice President-elect's team early next week and about their health team early next week – and I would also just reiterate that there will be more to come after that," Psaki said during a news briefing held by the Biden-Harris transition team.

"I would expect — or you should all expect to have a very busy next couple of weeks," Psaki added. "Hope you have your coffee and your spinach or whatever keeps you going because it will be busy between now and Christmas." 

While they would not reveal what kind of executive orders the President-elect intends to pass immediately when he assumes office, the team stressed that Biden campaigned on tackling the four crises that we are simultaneously facing in the country, which include the public health crisis, the climate crisis, the racial justice crisis and the economic crisis.

2:05 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

CDC director acknowledges a new administration will soon be in charge

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Robert Redfield speaks during a press conference on December 4 in Atlanta.
Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Robert Redfield speaks during a press conference on December 4 in Atlanta. Pool

Seated next to Vice President Mike Pence, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Robert Redfield made it clear that he recognizes President Trump lost the election and a new administration will soon be in charge.

Redfield praised the work of the men and women of the CDC, noting that they will continue to guide the nation’s response to coronavirus, “after we’re gone,” referring to himself and the vice president.

“I want to just reiterate the honor it’s been to work with you on the task force and your leadership in that. I want to thank you for coming here to acknowledge the incredible men and woman at CDC that work 24/7, and they will continue to guide our nation’s response to the pandemic after we’re gone and I have great confidence in them,” Redfield told Pence.

Pence then thanked CDC staff and Redfield specifically for the work he has done leading the agency, but made no mention of any sort of new administration or change in leadership.

1:33 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Here's where Biden's search for an attorney general stands 

From CNN's Dan Merica, Jeff Zeleny, Evan Perez and Manu Raju

Political questions from Democrats and a new Republican litmus test have suddenly become complicating factors in one of President-elect Joe Biden's most critical choices: picking a new Attorney General to lead the Justice Department out of its highly politicized era.

This creates competing realities for Biden. He must get an attorney general confirmed by a Senate that could be controlled by Republicans, some of whom tell CNN they will only vote for a candidate who pledges to continue an investigation into the 2016 election.

But even more significant, Biden is also feeling pressure from top Democrats and allied groups who believe he must nominate a person of color to at least one of the top four Cabinet posts, likely as attorney general.

Biden's list of contenders for the job — from Sally Yates, former deputy attorney general, to Doug Jones, soon to be former senator from Alabama who was defeated in November — largely centers on former prosecutors whose history at the department could lend credibility with the public and career officials.

Others said to be in contention include Deval Patrick, former Massachusetts governor and former Justice Department civil rights chief; Jeh Johnson, the Homeland Security secretary under Obama; California Attorney General Xavier Becerra; and Lisa Monaco, a former Homeland Security adviser in the Obama White House and who previously worked at the FBI and as top national security prosecutor at Justice.

Biden, along with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, are interviewing contenders and weighing the decision. They are not expected to announce a decision until next week at the earliest, people familiar with the matter told CNN, but with a goal of doing so well before the holidays. The timing is also contingent on the nomination of a Secretary of Defense.

Democratic lawmakers and allied groups are pressuring Biden's transition team after Biden selected White nominees for both his top job at the State and Treasury departments. The calculation is complicated by the fact that Michele Flournoy, who is also White, is seen as Biden's leading contender to lead the Defense Department.

The job, for whomever Biden picks, will be a heavy lift. The pick will be stepping into a Justice Department damaged by the Trump administration and with low morale among career officials, many of whom have been publicly called out by President Trump, Barr and other Republicans.

Read more here.

1:21 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Pompeo will meet with Biden transition at the right time, transition officials are told

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the press at the State Department in Washington, DC, on November 24.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the press at the State Department in Washington, DC, on November 24. Saul Loeb/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

State Department officials who work with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have told the career transition team at the State Department that he will meet with the incoming Biden team at the right time, according to two sources familiar with the message.

It comes as a bit of a surprise from Pompeo who has not yet publicly recognized President-elect Joe Biden’s victory or openly welcomed the incoming Biden team, even though outgoing secretaries of state in the past have met with their successors as a show of good faith and commitment to US national security regardless of political party. 

During the transition from President George W. Bush to President Barack Obama then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had dinner with Hillary Clinton, who Obama had selected to lead his State Department. After the dinner Rice said that Clinton would do a great job as America’s top diplomat.

Pompeo was also able to draw from the advice of former secretaries when he was picked to be Trump’s second secretary of state in 2018. He reached out to every living former Secretary of State, no matter the party, for advice after being nominated.

 “That’s the kind of style he has,” Brian Bulatao, who worked with Pompeo at the CIA and went with him to the State Department, told the New York Times at the time.

Pompeo’s willingness to meet with Biden’s team, through those he works with at the State Department, comes as he has not publicly committed to meeting with anyone on Biden’s team.

“You asked my wisdom for the next administration. They’re plenty smart enough. They’ll figure their way through this,” Pompeo said on Friday, before saying to world leaders that Biden’s team is not going to pick the right path forward on Iran.

Pompeo has also said “we’ll make this work” of the transition at the department, but he has not detailed what he means by that.

His comments last month about there being a smooth transition to a second Trump administration, which some said was a joke, also created confusion and anger within the ranks of career US diplomats. But those comments were met with praise by Trump.

Pompeo has not yet talked to Tony Blinken, Biden’s pick to be secretary of state, he said at the end of last month. It remains unclear if Pompeo intends to meet with Blinken one-on-one or meet with the group of Biden transition officials at the State Department.

12:22 p.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Biden says "grim" November jobs report shows an economy "that is stalling"

From CNN’s Sarah Mucha

President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks on November 16 in Wilmington, Delaware.
President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks on November 16 in Wilmington, Delaware. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden released a statement on the November jobs report ahead of his remarks on the subject later this afternoon in Wilmington, Delaware.

"This is a grim jobs report," he said in the statement. "It shows an economy that is stalling. It confirms we remain in the midst of one of the worst economic and jobs crises in modern history." 

He expressed optimism in the bipartisan efforts in the Senate around the $900 billion relief package but reiterated that whatever stimulus that is passed during the lame duck session will be just a start. 

"As we inherit this economic crisis, Vice President-elect Harris and I are working on the plan we will put forward for the next Congress to move fast and control the pandemic, revive the economy, and build back better than before," Biden said. "And, we hope to see the same kind of spirit of bipartisan cooperation as we are seeing today."

Earlier this week, Biden introduced key members of his economic team, including Janet Yellen, who would be the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary if confirmed, who will be tasked will helping the economy recover.

What the report showed: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the US economy added 245,000 jobs in November on a seasonally adjusted basis. It was 224,000 fewer than economists had expected, as the job recovery continues to slow.

The unemployment rate inched down to 6.7%, from 6.9% in October.

Eight months after Covid-19 brought the economy to a screeching halt and following better-than-expected improvements over the summer months, the recovery is running out of steam.

The economy is still down 9.8 million jobs since February, before the crisis began.

11:57 a.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Trump's secretary of state says Biden administration will "figure their way through this" on Iran

From CNN's Michael Conte and Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference on November 24.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press conference on November 24. Saul Loeb/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered a brief vote of confidence in the incoming Biden administration on the issue of Iran, saying, “You asked my wisdom for the next administration. They’re plenty smart enough. They’ll figure their way through this.”

Pompeo’s comments came following a plea for the international community to maintain pressure on Iran rather than “appease” them, which he said would be “fundamentally the wrong direction.”

“They are looking to see if they can’t convince the world that, no, the Trump administration had this wrong, you should fund us, you should underwrite us, you should appease us, you should let us have money, you should let European companies come back into our country so that we can build out on all of these terror programs and these malign activities around the world,” said Pompeo in an answer to a question on the effectiveness of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran at an International Institute of Social Studies dialogue.
11:20 a.m. ET, December 4, 2020

Here's what is prompting Biden's hold-up on several top Cabinet positions

From CNN’s MJ Lee

President-elect Joe Biden’s first round of personnel announcements last month featured some members of his national security team, but notably missing were his picks for defense secretary and CIA director. 

The Biden transition team had also made clear to allies early on that they hoped to roll out an economic team along with the public health team with the most urgency.

But while Biden did name key members of his economic team earlier this week including Janet Yellen for Treasury secretary, announcements regarding his public health team – including his choice to lead the Health and Human Services Department, a position that will be hugely important as the Biden administration tries to contain Covid-19 – are still outstanding.

Another other top appointment still to come is that of attorney general. 

Multiple people familiar with transition discussions said in recent days that all of these yet-to-be-announced positions are being held up, at least in part, by furious discussions – and lobbying – taking place about racial diversity in the Biden’s administration. 

The defense secretary appointment is a prime example. As CNN has previously reported, veteran Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy was once seen as a lock for the position.

However, she was not a part of Biden’s first round of national security team announcements in November, and multiple sources say she has perhaps, more than anyone else, gone dramatically from being seen as a shoe-in for a top job to now being in limbo. Behind the hold-up is racial diversity in Biden’s top Cabinet positions. 

“They’re absolutely not going to have the top four cabinet positions be White,” one person familiar with transition discussions said – a reference to the four Cabinet positions of secretary of state, treasury secretary, defense secretary and attorney general.

There was a domino effect of sorts after Tony Blinken was named secretary of state, sources said. Before Election Day, there was a good amount of speculation that Susan Rice, Obama’s former national security adviser who is Black, could get that role.

But when Democrats did not take control of the Senate last month and the job ultimately went to Blinken – followed by the Treasury role being given to Yellen – the Biden team came under even more scrutiny and pressure to ensure that there are non-white individuals named to the remaining top roles like defense secretary, attorney general and HHS secretary.

Another example: Biden is said to be a big personal fan of Alabama Sen. Doug Jones and likes the idea of naming him to be his attorney general, but that’s now also complicated by the fact that both Blinken and Yellen are White.

As we’ve reported, racial diversity is emerging as a key factor in the Health and Human Services secretary appointment as well, with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus publicly calling on Biden to choose New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Those lawmakers are also pushing Biden to choose either California Attorney General Xavier Becerra or Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez to serve as the US attorney general.

Meanwhile, the NAACP said it had asked for a meeting with Biden and Harris so they can discuss the importance of civil rights and diversity issues being adequately represented in the new administration. Earlier this week, the president of the group told CNN that they had not heard back about their request.

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Biden said Thursday that he will keep his repeated promise to create an administration that looks like America. 

“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,” Biden said. He said they planned to meet with the NAACP on Tuesday.