Biden begins transition plans as Trump refuses to concede

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 10:49 PM ET, Wed November 11, 2020
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7:40 p.m. ET, November 11, 2020

GOP elections lawyer: Trump's legal barrage "looking like a losing effort"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Renowned Republican elections lawyer Ben Ginsberg said today that President Trump's effort to challenge election results in swing states are already proving to be futile.

"What you are also seeing today in court is ... affidavits that don't even challenge votes, but that challenge the process, are really getting derided by judges around the country," said Ginsberg, speaking with CNN's Erin Burnett. 

Pointing to legal battles in Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Michigan, Ginsburg said there have been a few "bad court days" for the Trump campaign.

"More and more, this is looking like a losing effort and that brand is eventually gonna stick to the President," he said. 

As of the recount of 5 million votes that's about to begin in Georgia, Ginsberg said to expect a few hundred votes to change at the most. 

6:44 p.m. ET, November 11, 2020

Georgia's secretary of state says he has not seen evidence of widespread voter fraud

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, November 11, in Atlanta.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference on Wednesday, November 11, in Atlanta. Brynn Anderson/AP

Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger today said he has seen no evidence of voter fraud that could upend President-elect Joe Biden's lead of about 14,000 votes, even as he prepares to begin a process that will lead to a statewide recount.

"We have ongoing investigations but we've not seen something widespread of a large nature, nothing in the order of over 10,000," said Raffensperger, when asked CNN's Wolf Blitzer if he had seen evidence of mass voter fraud. 

Georgia announced earlier on Wednesday that there would be a full hand recount of the presidential race in the state. 

Raffensperger noted there has never been a recount in the state that has changed the vote by a margin large enough for President Trump to overtake Biden's lead.

"We believe that the ballots were counted accurately with the machine count and the risk-limiting audit ... the hand counts of the statewide recount will confirm that," he said.

Raffensperger is preparing for the audit under calls for his resignation from both incumbent Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue who have alleged, without evidence, that the state's election process was faulty. Both senators appear to be headed for runoff elections in January.

Neither of those candidates have provided his office with evidence of wrongdoing so far, Raffensperger said.

Raffensperger also noted he had launched the recount process independent of any pressure from the White House saying, "they haven't called me."

6:19 p.m. ET, November 11, 2020

Sen. Bernie Sanders says he would accept the job of Labor secretary if asked by Biden

From CNN's Annie Grayer

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at town hall at the National Motorcycle Museum on January 3, in Anamosa, Iowa.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at town hall at the National Motorcycle Museum on January 3, in Anamosa, Iowa. Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders told CNN's Wolf Blitzer he would accept the job of Labor secretary if President-elect Joe Biden asked him to join the cabinet.

“If I had a portfolio that allowed me to stand up and fight for working families, would I do it? Yes I would,” Sanders said.

Asked if it is true that he is eying the position of Labor secretary, Sanders said, “what’s true is I want to do everything I can to protect the working families of this country who are under tremendous duress right now. Whether that’s in the Senate, whether that’s in the Biden administration, who knows? Well, let’s see how that unfolds.”

CNN previously reported that Sanders has started to ramp up a campaign to become Labor secretary in Biden’s cabinet and is seeking the support of top labor leaders.

5:11 p.m. ET, November 11, 2020

Biden poised to announce his White House chief of staff as early as Thursday

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

President-elect Joe Biden addresses the media about the Trump Administration’s lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act on November 10, at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware.
President-elect Joe Biden addresses the media about the Trump Administration’s lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act on November 10, at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is poised to name his White House chief of staff as early as Thursday, with longtime adviser Ron Klain the leading finalist for the post, three people familiar with the matter told CNN. 

Biden is also narrowing in on selecting the rest of his senior team of West Wing advisers, CNN has learned, with some announcements also possible before the end of the week, followed by others in weeks to come.

Some context: This comes as no surprise, of course, given that Klain served as Biden’s chief of staff during the opening years of his vice presidency and has been seen as the top prospect for the critical job as gatekeeper to the President.

Klain also served as White House Ebola response coordinator in 2014 and has taken considerable interest in the response to coronavirus, which is a central priority for the incoming Biden administration.

Biden does not expect to make any announcements on cabinet nominations until after Thanksgiving, he has said, with advisers adding that “early December” is the target date.

The first batch of announcements are likely to be for those with health, economic and defense portfolios, officials said, with other cabinet members possibly delayed until early January, when the outcome of the Georgia Senate run-offs are known and it’s clear whether Republicans have maintained control of the Senate.

4:28 p.m. ET, November 11, 2020

Retiring Republican senator refuses to acknowledge Biden's victory

From CNN's Sarah Fortinsky 

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is seen in the basement of the Capitol before a Senate vote on Tuesday, September 22, 2020.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., is seen in the basement of the Capitol before a Senate vote on Tuesday, September 22, 2020. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who is retiring in 2022, declined to acknowledge Wednesday that Joe Biden is President-elect, but said it does appear Biden will be certified as President-elect "relatively soon." 

“I think we're going to adjudicate several disputes. That's all part of this process. It'll be done soon enough, and I think the outcome will be clear,” Toomey said, when The Washington Post's Robert Costa directly asked if he considers Biden to be President-elect during an interview on Post Live Election Daily.

Toomey is among the majority of Republican senators who continue to deny recognizing Biden as President-elect, despite the fact that CNN and other major networks have all projected Biden as the winner.

Toomey said if Republicans hold the Senate majority, a Biden cabinet will remain an “ongoing discussion,” as the cabinet is a "shared responsibility" between the president and Congress.

"I think people who are well outside of the political mainstream don’t belong in really important senior-level Cabinet type posts, and that’s why that’ll be an ongoing discussion, I think, between a Republican Senate, and, Joe Biden should he, in fact, get sworn in as President,” he said.

On the termination of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and other personnel changes in the intelligence community, Toomey said, "Look, presidents get to make that decision about their cabinet members, and there have been, it's not a state secret that Defense Secretary Esper and the President have had disagreements about public policy, so it's not shocking that the President would make a change."

2:33 p.m. ET, November 11, 2020

White House political director tests positive for coronavirus

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

White House Political Director Brian Jack on Jan. 23, 2020.
White House Political Director Brian Jack on Jan. 23, 2020. Patrick Semansky/AP

White House political affairs director Brian Jack has tested positive for coronavirus, an official confirmed.

The White House declined to comment on Jack specifically, but said in a statement, "Any positive case is taken seriously. Contact tracing has been conducted by the White House Medical Unit consistent with CDC guidelines to stop further transmission. Appropriate notifications and recommendations have been made." 

Jack attended the election night party held indoors over a week ago. The diagnosis was first reported by the New York Times. 

1:51 p.m. ET, November 11, 2020

Department of Energy division had call to discuss unofficially preparing for a transition

From CNN's Annie Grayer

A division within the Department of Energy is starting to quietly prepare for a Biden administration even though ascertainment has not yet been reached and no official connection between the agency and the Biden transition team has been made, according to a department staffer.

“We had a call yesterday and talked quite a bit about this, and the direction we received was to expect a transition, start planning for it, think about the things that the Biden team would likely want to see and start brushing up on those documents and start thinking about how do we frame our programs and our work in a way that is attractive to the Biden administration,” the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told CNN. 

“I would say that's been the most specific direction that I’ve received,” the staffer added, referring to the call. 

The staffer clarified that this guidance was not from Trump appointees, but from professional staff, and that this topic was purposefully delivered in the form of phone call and not a memo, as not to have a paper trail. 

“This is not direction from the current political appointees from the Trump administration, it’s from basically the staff below the political level,” the staffer said.

The reason why this planning is unofficial, happening without a paper trail, the staffer explained, is because until ascertainment is made and the DOE can make official contact with the Biden transition team, the DOE needs to stay on the good side of Trump appointees who are still in charge of approving their projects for the time being. 

“The risks, I would say for us are like for some projects we work on now that will still continue to need approval from Trump appointees. We don't want to get on their bad side in this interregnum period,” the staffer said. “I think that's part of this is not wanting to get ahead of them and making sure that we are, you know, being, careful about how we frame things, without a paper trail or anything public facing.”

Even though this staffer characterized DOE employees as viewing the Biden transition as inevitable, the staffer said colleagues are still careful with their wording when talking about the incoming Biden administration. 

“In terms of how to talk about it, what we decided is to refer to the next administration but not to say Biden or President-elect,” the staffer explained. “If we're doing the work internally or if we're sending an email or something related to it, say like the next administration but be ambiguous about what that means.”

2:59 p.m. ET, November 11, 2020

President Trump will meet with political advisers again today

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

President Donald Trump at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020.
President Donald Trump at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020. Patrick Semansky/AP

Sources say President Trump is expected to hold meetings with his political advisers today to discuss the path forward as he continues to fight the results of the election with baseless allegations. 

Trump went into the Oval Office after he arrived back at the White House following his first public appearance in six days, with the exception of two trips to the golf course. He's expected to spend the afternoon there, a source said. Trump visited Arlington National Cemetery this morning to commemorate Veterans Day.

CNN's Kevin Liptak and Jeremy Diamond reported earlier that Trump had similar meetings Tuesday.

1:15 p.m. ET, November 11, 2020

Trump campaign calls Georgia recount "an important first step"

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

Trump campaign officials held a call on Wednesday with reporters to discuss the latest news on Georgia’s decision to initiate a recount.

Earlier Wednesday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced that the state will conduct a full hand recount of the ballots cast in the 2020 presidential race.

“What we’re talking about today is a major announcement in the state of Georgia by the Secretary of State today, by announcing a hand recount of every single vote. This has never been done in Georgia before. This is an important first step in the process to ensure that the election was fair and that every legal vote was counted,” said Tim Murtaugh, Trump campaign communications director. 

“We have to understand the very basic principle that every illegal vote suppresses a legal vote and we don’t want to see that happen,” Georgia Republican Rep. Doug Collins said on the call.

“We sent a letter yesterday asking that there be a complete hand count of the ballots here in Georgia in all 159 counties. We are glad to report that that has been agreed to. As we go forward that will take place starting soon,” he added.

Collins called the state’s recount decision a victory for “integrity” and “transparency.”

Stefan Passantino, the campaign’s legal counsel, explained how the process will take place, adding that more details will be available from the Georgia secretary of state’s office at 1 p.m. ET.

“In addition to having votes cast on a computer machine, also produced a paper ballot, which had a QR code and an actual English language version of who the person voted for. There are pieces of paper representing every vote cast both in person, absentee, provisional. The secretary of state announced that every single one of those pieces of paper is going to be reviewed as part of this process,” Passantino said.

Asked about timing for the recount, Passantino said the campaign expects it to be “intense” and concluded by November 20.

“Under Georgia law, the secretary of state is required to certify election results by November 20. This is a pre-certification survey. So it is our understanding and anticipation that this process is going to be intense and concluded by November the 20th,” Passantino said.