The latest on Biden's transition

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, December 16, 2020
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1:01 p.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Attendance at President-elect Biden's inauguration will be limited

From CNN's Manu Raju

The stage for the Presidential inauguration is prepared outside the U.S. Capitol on December 11, in Washington DC.
The stage for the Presidential inauguration is prepared outside the U.S. Capitol on December 11, in Washington DC. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced Wednesday the planned limitations and guidance for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. 

“The JCCIC, in consultation with diversified public health and medical experts and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, has determined that this global pandemic and the rise in COVID-19 cases warranted a difficult decision to limit attendance at the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies to a live audience that resembles a State of the Union,” committee chairman Roy Blunt said in a statement.

Traditionally, the committee would give out 200,000 tickets for the official ceremonies, but this year, members of Congress will be limited to themselves and one guest, according to the committee. 

"While the pandemic has forced us to limit in-person attendance, it also brings opportunities to honor our democracy in innovative ways so that Americans across the country can experience Inauguration Day from home,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar said.

Read more here.

12:50 p.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Buttigieg on the significance of nomination: I'm mindful "the eyes of history are on this appointment"

Pete Buttigieg, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to be secretary of transportation, reacts to his nomination as Biden looks on during a news conference at Biden's transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 16.
Pete Buttigieg, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to be secretary of transportation, reacts to his nomination as Biden looks on during a news conference at Biden's transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 16. Kevin Lamarque/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg was just formally nominated by President-Elect Joe Biden as his transportation secretary in Wilmington, Delaware.

If confirmed by the US Senate, Buttigieg would be the first LGBTQ Cabinet secretary approved by the chamber. 

Buttigieg used part of his remarks to note the significance of his nomination and shared a personal story about his journey.

"I'm also mindful that the eyes of history are on this appointment. Knowing that this is the first time an American president has ever sent an openly LGBTQ Cabinet member to senate for confirmation," Buttigieg said. "I can remember watching the news, 17 years old, in Indiana, seeing a story about an appointee of President Clinton named to be ambassador, attacked and denied a vote in the Senate because he was gay. Ultimately able to serve only by recess appointment. At the time, I had no aspirations of being appointed by a president to anything. At that age I was hoping to be an airline pilot and I was a long way from coming out even to myself," he said.

Buttigieg said that when watching that story, he learned about some of the "limits that exist in this country" when it comes to who "is allowed to belong."

The transportation secretary nominee said he hopes his nomination today will inspire young people who are in a similar place as he was.

"But just as important, I saw how those limits could be challenged. So two decades later, I can't help but think of a 17-year-old somewhere who might be watching us right now, somebody who wonders whether and where they belong in the world, or even in their own family," Buttigieg said. "And I'm thinking about the message that today's announcement is sending to them."

Buttigieg thanked Biden for honoring his "commitment to diversity."

12:32 p.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Buttigieg paints vision of using transportation to connect communities

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to be secretary of transportation, listens as Biden announces his nomination during a news conference at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 16.
Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's nominee to be secretary of transportation, listens as Biden announces his nomination during a news conference at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 16. Kevin Lamarque/AFP/Getty Images

Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, President-Elect Biden's nominee for transportation secretary, said his focus would be on growth and equity all while "rising to the climate challenge."

"This administration can deliver policies and resources that will create jobs, rise to the climate challenge, and equitably serve all Americans," Buttigieg said. "Step one in building back better literally is to build."

Buttigieg talked about how transportation and infrastructure should be used to bring people together and boost the economy – in stride with the Biden administration's message of healing.

"At its best, transportation makes the American dream possible. Getting people and goods to where they need to be. Directly and indirectly creating good paying jobs," he said. "At its worst, misguided policies and missed opportunities can reinforce racial, economic and environmental injustice. Dividing or isolating neighborhoods."

Buttigieg cited his own experience in South Bend, Indiana, saying infrastructure "was at the heart of our vision" to get the city out of a recession.

"We reimagined how vehicles and people move through the city, unlocking new economic vibrancy in our urban core. We built up partnerships to improve rail service to public/private partnership that put our city at the cutting edge of bicycle mobility," he said.

12:11 p.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Biden introduces Buttigieg as transportation secretary nominee: "A new voice with new ideas"

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, from South Bend, Indiana, attends a meeting with Rev. Al Sharpton at Sylvia's Restaurant in New York, on April 29, 2019.
Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, from South Bend, Indiana, attends a meeting with Rev. Al Sharpton at Sylvia's Restaurant in New York, on April 29, 2019. Bebeto Matthew/AP

President-elect Joe Biden is formally introducing former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg as his nominee for transportation secretary at an event happening now in Wilmington, Delaware.

If confirmed by the US Senate, Buttigieg would be the first LGBTQ Cabinet secretary approved by the chamber. 

"For secretary of transportation, I nominate mayor Pete Buttigieg. I got to know Pete on the campaign trail. He is one of the smartest people you will ever meet and one of the most humble," Biden said of his nominee. "A mayor from the heartland, a management expert, a policy wonk with a big heart, a veteran, intelligence officer deployed to Afghanistan while he was mayor. A new voice with new ideas, determined to move past old politics."

The President-elect praised the diversity of his Cabinet nominees so far.

"And by the end of this process, this Cabinet will be the most representative of any Cabinet in American history. We'll have more people of color than any Cabinet ever, we'll have more women than any Cabinet ever. We'll have a Cabinet of barrier breakers. A Cabinet of firsts," Biden said.

Buttigieg's selection also represents the first time the President-elect has tapped one of his former Democratic presidential opponents to join his administration as a Cabinet secretary.

The role of transportation secretary is expected to play a central part in Biden's push for a bipartisan infrastructure package. Buttigieg spearheaded a number of infrastructure projects as mayor, and as a presidential candidate, Buttigieg proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure plan.

The former mayor is seen as a rising star in the Democratic primary and rose to national prominence during the 2020 Democratic primary. Once an unknown mayor of a small city, Buttigieg became a top presidential contender and made history as the first LGBTQ presidential candidate to win primary delegates from a major party. 

Here's a look at who else Biden has selected for his Cabinet so far.

12:02 p.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Biden's inauguration will have a "live audience that resembles a State of the Union"

From CNN's Manu Raju

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced Wednesday the planned limitations and guidance for President-elect Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20. 

“The JCCIC, in consultation with diversified public health and medical experts and the Presidential Inaugural Committee, has determined that this global pandemic and the rise in COVID-19 cases warranted a difficult decision to limit attendance at the 59th Inaugural Ceremonies to a live audience that resembles a State of the Union,” committee chairman Roy Blunt said in a statement.

Members will be limited to themselves and one guest, according to the committee. 

4:06 p.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Pompeo's meeting tomorrow with Biden's secretary of state nominee will not happen in person

From CNN's Kylie Atwood

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaks at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, on Wednesday, December 9.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaks at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, on Wednesday, December 9. Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will no longer be meeting in person with Antony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to be Secretary of State at the department tomorrow, sources familiar with the meeting tell CNN.

It is not clear if the meeting will happen virtually, or if Blinken will still come to the State Department to meet with other officials from Pompeo’s staff.

The State Department said Wednesday that Pompeo is in quarantine, due to close contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19.

More on the meeting: The meeting between Blinken and Pompeo was to mark the first formal recognition by President Trump's top diplomat that he is preparing to hand over the reins of American foreign policy to his successor.

CNN reported earlier this week the meeting was scheduled to last for only 15 minutes, but State Department officials viewed it as a positive step.

In addition, Pompeo’s office has canceled two holiday gathering for foreign ambassadors in Washington that were scheduled to take place at the department today and where Pompeo was scheduled to give remarks, according to an internal schedule reviewed by CNN.

Yesterday Pompeo and his wife did not attend a separate holiday party hosted at the State Department yesterday, says a source familiar with the event.

Instead, Deputy Secretary of State, Steve Biegun, attended the event and gave remarks to the family members of US diplomats who serve in dangerous locations where they cannot being their family along, the source said. At the time, no reason was given for Pompeo skipping the event.

It remains unclear when Pompeo came into contact with the person who tested positive for Covid-19 and how long he will quarantine for. It’s also unclear when Pompeo will get the Covid-19 vaccine. Yesterday the department said in a memo that certain groups of US diplomats had been prioritized to get the doses in the first tranche, but would not say if Pompeo fell into any of the prioritized categorizes.

Last week Pompeo visited the White House on Friday and also spent time with his son and his new fiancé in Washignton, DC according to photos on his personal Twitter.

4:06 p.m. ET, December 16, 2020

GOP senator acknowledges Biden as President-elect and says he won't dispute election results on floor

From CNN's Ali Zaslav, Jeremy Herb and Ali Main

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) delivers opening remarks during a hearing on Capitol Hill on December 3, in Washington, DC. 
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) delivers opening remarks during a hearing on Capitol Hill on December 3, in Washington, DC.  Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, told reporters Wednesday that he does not plan to object to election results when Congress meets for a joint session on Jan. 6, while defending holding today’s hearing probing the 2020 election.

“I don't think it's going to happen I'm surely not going to do it,” Johnson said.

Some context: Under the rules, any House member can join a senator to raise objection to a state’s electoral college results. Doing so would spark debate and votes. The expectation isn’t that anyone could overturn the results of the election, but it would be a political spectacle.

The Wisconsin Republican also explicitly acknowledged Joe Biden as the President-elect.

When asked if he considers Biden the president elect, he replied: “Yes, the electoral college has voted, and so now he's the President-elect.

He continued, “The process has played out. Many lawsuits filed, many settled or dismissed. The collective judgment of that entire process the certification of the electors by the states and electoral college now has shown …Vice President Biden beat the president elect.”

Sen. Ron Johnson also said Wednesday he’s hoping a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden’s taxes is “not necessary, but it might be.”

He made the comments when asked about reports that President Trump is asking about appointing a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden’s taxes.

Speaking about the US attorney in Delaware, Johnson said, “I'm hoping he’s a person of integrity and that we can rely on him. Hopefully we can also rely on Vice President Biden not replacing that individual, but again if we don't have that assurance.. don't have that confidence, we just might need a special counsel.”

Asked how he anticipates working with Biden in the years ahead, he said “I'm happy to work in good faith because I think being President of United States is almost an impossible task.”

10:04 a.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Pete Buttigieg would make history if confirmed in the Senate to serve in Biden's Cabinet

From CNN's Dan Merica

Former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg waves as he arrived for the tenth Democratic primary debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina, on February 25, 2020.
Former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg waves as he arrived for the tenth Democratic primary debate at the Gaillard Center in Charleston, South Carolina, on February 25, 2020. Logan Cyrus/AFP/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden will formally introduce former Democratic 2020 presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg this morning as his nominee for transportation secretary in an event in Wilmington, Delaware.

Buttigieg would be the first Senate-confirmed LGBTQ Cabinet secretary should his nomination make it through the chamber.

"Mayor Pete Buttigieg is a patriot and a problem-solver who speaks to the best of who we are as a nation," Biden said. "I am nominating him for Secretary of Transportation because this position stands at the nexus of so many of the interlocking challenges and opportunities ahead of us."

Biden added that he sees the Department of Transportation as the "site of some of our most ambitious plans to build back better" and that he trusts "Mayor Pete to lead this work with focus, decency, and a bold vision."

The choice — which represents the first time the President-elect has called on one of his former Democratic presidential opponents to join his administration as a Cabinet secretary — vaults a candidate Biden spoke glowingly of after the primary into a top job in his 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.

4:06 p.m. ET, December 16, 2020

Immigrant advocates are urging Biden to quickly rectify trauma of Trump's family separation policies

From CNN's Priscilla Alvarez

Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during President- elect Joe Biden introduction of his cabinet member nominees at the Queen in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 24.
Alejandro Mayorkas speaks during President- elect Joe Biden introduction of his cabinet member nominees at the Queen in Wilmington, Delaware, on November 24. Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Immigrant advocacy groups, that for years scrambled to identify and reunite families separated at the US-Mexico border, are now preparing for the incoming administration and steps to rectify the trauma experienced by parents and children.

Last week, immigrant advocacy groups met with President-elect Joe Biden's transition team on family separation and next steps as part of a series of ongoing listening sessions, according to a source familiar with the meeting. Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden's pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security, has also met with immigration leaders, among other groups, according to another source familiar with the discussions.

Immigrant advocacy groups hope Biden's administration can work toward restoring trust with the families who've grown increasingly skeptical of the US since having their kids taken from them.

"It's going to take a long time for families to trust the government if they're not seeing action," said Cathleen Caron, executive director at Justice in Motion, which is leading the on-the-ground efforts to locate the deported parents who were separated from their children.

Advocates have been putting together a list of recommendations on how the government can work to rectify the consequences of family separation and address the situation in a thoughtful and holistic manner, according to Conchita Cruz, a co-executive director of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, which represents separated families.

Some background: The so-called "zero tolerance" policy — which called for the criminal prosecutions of every adult illegally crossing the border and, as a result, the separation of thousands of families — became a flashpoint during the Trump administration.

The policy came to encapsulate the lengths President Trump was willing to go to in order to deter migrants from coming to the US, regardless of their circumstances, and it revealed the disarray that ensues when agencies are unprepared.

Biden has condemned the policy, calling it "criminal" during a presidential debate in October. "Their kids were ripped from their arms and separated. And now they cannot find over 500 sets of those parents and those kids are alone. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to go. It's criminal. It's criminal," he said.

Read more here.