Biden will name Gina McCarthy to top domestic climate job
From CNN's Dan Merica
President-elect Joe Biden will name Gina McCarthy as his White House climate czar, a source familiar with the decision tells CNN, making the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency his top domestic climate coordinator.
McCarthy, who currently serves as the head of the Natural Resources Defense Council, will lead Biden’s newly formed Office of Domestic Climate Policy, a source said.
The source added that Ali Zaidi, currently New York’s Deputy Secretary of Energy and Environment, will serve as White House Deputy Climate Coordinator. Zaidi served in different climate focused roles in the Office of Management and Budget and White House Domestic Policy Council during the Obama administration.
Biden has said he will prioritize combating the climate crisis as president.
McCarthy joins former Secretary of State John Kerry, who the President-elect named his special presidential envoy for climate, as top Biden officials tasked with addressing the issue. Kerry is expected to focus on the foreign policy and international aspects of the climate crisis, while McCarthy will focus on domestic issues.
6:48 p.m. ET, December 15, 2020
Biden poised to tap Granholm to lead Department of Energy
From CNN's Jeff Zeleny and Dan Merica
President-elect Joe Biden is poised to tap former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm to lead the Department of Energy, two people familiar with the matter say, inviting a longtime adviser who played a critical role in his debate preparations over the years to join his Cabinet.
Granholm has long taken a deep interest in energy issues and was considered to be a top candidate for Energy secretary if Hillary Clinton had won four years ago. Now, she will have her chance, if confirmed by the Senate.
Politico was first to report the news of Granholm's selection.
4:47 p.m. ET, December 15, 2020
Biden stumps for Georgia runoff candidates Ossoff and Warnock
From CNN's Kate Sullivan
President-elect Joe Biden traveled to Georgia on Tuesday to campaign for Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, the two Democrats who are challenging incumbent Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in a pair of January runoff races that will determine which party controls the US Senate.
"They'll actually fight for you, represent you, stand up for you," Biden said of Ossoff and Warnock.
Biden thanked voters in Georgia for turning out to vote in last month’s presidential election. The President-elect became the first Democrat to win Georgia in 28 years. The last Democrat to win the state was Bill Clinton in 1992.
“Thank you for standing strong to make sure your voices were heard, your votes were counted, and counted, and counted again,” Biden said. “I’m starting to feel like I won Georgia three times.” Earlier this month, Georgia recertified its presidential election results, and again found Biden as the winner following three counts of ballots.
“I think all of you just taught Donald Trump a lesson: In this election, Georgia wasn’t going to be bullied. Georgia wasn’t going to be silenced, Georgia certainly wasn’t going to stand by and let Donald Trump or the state of Texas or anyone else come in here and toss out your votes,” Biden said.
Last week, the Supreme Court rejected a bid from Texas’ attorney general, which was supported by President Trump, to block the ballots of millions of voters in battleground states that went in favor of Biden. The lawsuit, brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a staunch Trump ally, sought to sue Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and Wisconsin — which all went for Biden — and invalidate their election results.
"You know who did nothing while Trump, Texas and others were trying to wipe out every single one of the almost five million votes you had cast here in Georgia in November? Your two Republican senators," Biden said, slamming Perdue and Loeffler.
"They stood by," Biden continued. "In fact, your two Republican senators fully embraced what Texas was telling the Supreme Court. They fully embraced nullifying nearly five million Georgia votes. You might want to remember that come Jan. 5."
Biden also praised former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who has devoted years to expanding the electorate and boosting turnout in the state, which had been reliably red for decades.
“Is there anyone in America who has done more to protect the right to vote in this election, is there anyone who’s done more to make sure the voice of every Georgian is heard? I don’t think so. Stacey Abrams, you’re a hero,” Biden said.
4:22 p.m. ET, December 15, 2020
Dozens of members of Congress call on Biden administration to end the federal death penalty
From CNN's Christina Carrega
More than three dozen members of Congress are calling on the Biden administration to prioritize abolishing the death penalty, in all jurisdictions, according to a letter sent Tuesday to the transition team for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
While Biden has pledged to abolish the federal death penalty and to give incentives to states to stop seeking death sentences as a part of his criminal justice reform plan, 40 members of Congress and three congresspersons-elect said they want to make sure the irreversible practice ends on his first day in office.
"The current administration has weaponized capital punishment with callous disregard for human life. In the middle of our current public health crisis, the Department of Justice resumed federal executions and executed more people in six months than the total number executed over the previous six decades," Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley wrote in a letter first obtained by CNN.
The letter was authored less than a week after celebrities, bipartisan politicians and anti-death penalty advocates called for President Trump to stop the pending federal executions. Pressley specifically called to stay Brandon Bernard's execution as his trial had allegations of prosecutorial misconduct that only surfaced two years ago.
Pressley, a Democrat, introduced legislation on July 25, 2019—the same day Attorney General William Barr announced federal executions, which had been stalled since 2003, would resume—to rid of the practice at the federal level and require resentencing for those currently on death row. The bill has not had any action in the House since August 2019.
For months, celebrities, bipartisan voices and anti-death penalty advocates have pushed for executive intervention from Trump to stop the executions, to no avail. The Department of Justice has previously defended its decision to resume the federal death penalty this summer after all appeals were exhausted and the Supreme Court ruled in their favor to continue their plans, despite the global health crisis.
Ten federal death row inmates have been executed since July while several states have postponed executions because of the pandemic.
"With a stroke of your pen, you can stop all federal executions, prohibit United States Attorneys from seeking the death penalty, dismantle death row at FCC Terre Haute, and call for the resentencing of people who are currently sentenced to death," wrote Pressley. "Each of these elements are critical to help prevent greater harm and further loss of life."
Miriam Krinsky, executive director of the Fair and Just Prosecution, told CNN after a meeting with the Justice Department's transition team earlier this month, that stopping federal executions "doesn't really require congressional action."
Krinsky and nearly 100 bipartisan criminal justice leaders including, 60 elected prosecutors, that have signed a joint statement on Dec. 3 demanding a halt on the pending federal executions and for Trump to commute their sentences.
The proposed executive order by Biden may be too late for three inmates—including the only White woman in the US scheduled to be executed in nearly 70 years—who are scheduled to die before Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.
"Ending the barbaric and inhumane practice of government-sanctioned murder is a commonsense step that you can and must take to save lives ... Research also reveals that capital punishment does not deter crime. Hence, there is no just reason to continue the death penalty," wrote Pressley.
McConnell said he does not “have any advice to give the president on the subject."
However, he added, “for me, and I think on the basis of the way the system works, the decision by the electoral college yesterday was determinative."
2:06 p.m. ET, December 15, 2020
How Biden's expected transportation secretary nominee could make history
From CNN's Dan Merica
President-elect Joe Biden will nominate Pete Buttigieg to be his transportation secretary, sources familiar with the matter tell CNN, elevating the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to a top post in the federal government.
Buttigieg would be the first Senate-confirmed LGBTQ Cabinet secretary should his nomination make it through the chamber.
The choice vaults a candidate Biden spoke glowingly of after the Democratic primary into a top job in the incoming administration and could earn Buttigieg what many Democrats believe is needed experience should he run for president again.
The role of transportation secretary is expected to play a central role in Biden's push for a bipartisan infrastructure package.
Mitt Romney spoke to President-elect Biden and congratulated him
From CNN's Manu Raju
Sen. Mitt Romney spoke to President-elect Biden and congratulated him, according to the senator's office.
From Romney's office:
“Senator Romney congratulated President-Elect Biden on his win and expressed admiration for his willingness to endure the rigors of a presidential campaign and serve in the nation’s highest office. They also discussed the challenging environment the President-elect will confront, with a divided nation, the ongoing pandemic, a struggling economy, and a rising China. The Senator wished him well.”
1:49 p.m. ET, December 15, 2020
McConnell and top Republicans urge GOP senators not to object to election results on Jan. 6
From CNN's Manu Raju
On a private conference call moments ago now, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged Republican senators not to join House members on Jan. 6 to object to state electoral results, a source on the call tells CNN.
Other top Republicans — Senate Majority Whip John Thune and Senate Rules Chairman Roy Blunt — echoed that sentiment. Doing so, they said, would be fruitless and force them to cast a politically challenging vote against the President that day.
No senators have pushed back so far, according to this source.
What this is about: House members can challenge the results on Jan. 6, when Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to preside over the official tallying of the electoral votes. But those members would need a Republican senator to sign on to the effort.
Even if the GOP effort makes it that far, the Democratic controlled House would vote down such a maneuver.
1:44 p.m. ET, December 15, 2020
White House claims Trump still pursuing litigation following Electoral College vote
From CNN's Allie Malloy
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany would not say whether President Trump recognizes Joe Biden as President-elect following Monday’s Electoral College vote, only saying, “The President is still involved in ongoing litigation related to the election.”
“Yesterday’s vote was one step in the Constitutional process so I will leave that to him and refer you to the campaign for more on that litigation," she said.
When pressed on what legal recourse the campaign has left following the Electoral College, McEnany referred to the campaign but added, “yesterday was one step in the constitutional process leading up to the Jan. 20th date in the Constitution.”