Presidential Transition Live Updates: Biden Plans to Announce Members of His Cabinet on Tuesday

 nytimes.com  11/22/2020 14:25:07   Annie Karni and Alan Rappeport
Ron Klain, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.s incoming White House chief of staff, said inauguration events would be downsized.
Ron Klain, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.s incoming White House chief of staff, said inauguration events would be downsized.Credit...Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.s transition team will announce its first cabinet appointments on Tuesday, said Ron Klain, Mr. Bidens incoming White House chief of staff, although he declined to say which ones.

Mr. Klain, in an interview on ABCs This Week, said that Mr. Biden would be beating the pace of appointments set by both the Obama-Biden transition and the Trump transition. Mr. Bidens cabinet and team will look like America in terms of ideology and background, Jennifer Psaki, a senior adviser to the transition team, said on CNNs State of the Union when asked whether the cabinet would include more progressive Democrats than President Barack Obamas first cabinet. That group included a record 14 minorities and women.

Mr. Klain also said that inauguration events on Jan. 20 would be downsized because of the coronavirus and that they might include virtual aspects as the Democratic National Convention had done in August. The inauguration will incorporate some mix of those techniques, scaled-down versions of the existing traditions, he said.

Obviously this is not going to be the same kind of inauguration we had in the past, Mr. Klain added. We know people want to celebrate. There is something here to celebrate. We just want to find a way to do that as safely as possible.

Mr. Klain called President Trumps efforts to overturn the election results corrosive, but said that he was not concerned that they would change the outcome.

Ms. Psaki, however, conceded that Mr. Trump was slowing down the process of building out a new government. She said that F.B.I. background checks, a key part of the confirmation of cabinet secretaries, could not be done until the General Services Administration ascertained Mr. Bidens victory.

The process would give Mr. Biden and his staff access to federal resources, data and personnel. Symone D. Sanders, a senior adviser and spokeswoman for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, said on CBSs Face the Nation that, among key matters, conversations with government officials about a vaccine distribution plan were not happening because of the lag.

With every single moment that there is a delay of ascertainment, every single moment that our folks are not able to get into and work with current government officials, puts the effective distribution of that vaccine in danger, she said.

Representative Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat who is set to leave his House seat for a role in the Biden administration, echoed that. The transition team wants to talk to the people doing the job right now so that we can be ready, particularly for the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine, he said on NBCs Meet the Press.

The Biden campaign is not considering legal action to compel the agencys administrator, Emily W. Murphy, to start the transition process, said Kate Bedingfield, Mr. Bidens deputy campaign manager.

Litigation is not a panacea. It is not going to suddenly move things forward, Ms. Bedingfield said. What will move things forward is the G.S.A. administrator signing the piece of paper.

An election board worker in Pittsburgh processed mail-in and absentee ballots on Nov. 12. A federal judge on Saturday dismissed a lawsuit by the Trump campaign that argued there were widespread improprieties with mail-in ballots.
An election board worker in Pittsburgh processed mail-in and absentee ballots on Nov. 12. A federal judge on Saturday dismissed a lawsuit by the Trump campaign that argued there were widespread improprieties with mail-in ballots.Credit...Steve Mellon/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, via Associated Press

The Trump campaigns legal efforts to challenge election results in Pennsylvania met with a sharp defeat Saturday night, and some fellow Republicans began to signal their desire to move on, acknowledging that the president had lost both the state and his bid for re-election.

Mr. Trump said in a series of tweets late Saturday that he would continue his effort to overturn the results, including asking state legislatures to intervene on his behalf.

A federal judges ruling in Pennsylvania on Saturday night, which dismissed a lawsuit by the Trump campaign that had claimed there were widespread improprieties with mail-in ballots in the state, ended the last major effort to delay the certification of Pennsylvanias vote results, which is scheduled to take place on Monday.

Senator Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, a Republican, said in a statement released Saturday night that with the decision, President Trump has exhausted all plausible legal options to challenge the results in Pennsylvania. He added that the outcome of the challenge and others confirm that Joe Biden won the 2020 election.

Mr. Toomey congratulated President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory and urged Mr. Trump to accept the outcome for his own legacy and to help unify our country.

On Twitter, Mr. Trump hit back at Mr. Toomey, calling him no friend of mine and said that he would appeal the decision. And on Sunday, one of Mr. Toomeys Republican colleagues, Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, said he did not agree with Mr. Toomeys conclusion, saying, I dont know why we are so easily offended by a president who is carrying out all his legal options.

Everybody just ought to just relax and let it play out in the legal way  well be just fine, Mr. Cramer said on NBCs Meet the Press. But Mr. Cramer noted he had instructed his staff to cooperate with any outreach from the Biden transition team because Id like to have a president that has more than one day to prepare, should Joe Biden, you know, end up winning this.

In the decision handed down on Saturday, Judge Matthew W. Brann wrote that Mr. Trumps campaign, which had asked him to effectively disenfranchise nearly seven million voters, should have come to court armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption in its efforts to essentially nullify the results of Pennsylvanias election.

But instead, Judge Brann complained, the Trump campaign provided only strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations that were unsupported by evidence.

After legal defeats in nearly all of the key swing states  Michigan, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona and Wisconsin  Mr. Trumps path to overturning the results of the election through the courts has all but vanished.

With his chances diminishing, Mr. Trump on Saturday night made his most explicit call yet for state legislatures to intervene with the aim of reversing the result, once again relying on false claims of fraud. Hopefully the Courts and/or Legislatures will have the COURAGE to do what has to be done to maintain the integrity of our Elections, and the United States of America itself, he wrote on Twitter.

The Pennsylvania lawsuit, filed on Nov. 9, accused its secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar, and several counties with largely Democratic populations of unfairly handling mail-in ballots, which were used in unprecedented numbers during this years election.

The suit claimed that under Ms. Boockvars guidance, the Democratic counties gave voters who had submitted mail-in ballots with minor flaws an opportunity to cure or fix them while counties with mostly Republican populations did not alert voters about faulty ballots.

That, according to the Trump campaign, violated the equal protections clause of the United States Constitution.

Judge Brann, a former Pennsylvania Republican Party official and a member of the conservative Federalist Society, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, rejected this argument, likening it to Frankensteins monster, which, he noted, had been haphazardly stitched together. He ruled that the Trump campaign, lacking standing to make the claim, could not prove that it had suffered any harm if some counties, anticipating a deluge of mail-in ballots, helped their voters to file proper ballots while others did not.

President Trump at Trump National Golf Club, in Sterling, Va., on Saturday.
President Trump at Trump National Golf Club, in Sterling, Va., on Saturday.Credit...Al Drago for The New York Times

President Trump is escalating his attacks on the democratic process after weeks of assailing the results of the presidential election, calling on state legislatures to have the courage to upend the results where Joseph R. Biden Jr. won.

Mr. Trump made the assertions in two tweets on Saturday night as his campaign faced its latest legal loss in its push to delay certification of the election in battleground states.

Why is Joe Biden so quickly forming a Cabinet when my investigators have found hundreds of thousands of fraudulent votes, enough to flip at least four States, which in turn is more than enough to win the Election? Mr. Trump baselessly claimed. Hopefully the Courts and/or Legislatures will have the COURAGE to do what has to be done to maintain the integrity of our Elections, and the United States of America itself. THE WORLD IS WATCHING!!!

While Mr. Trumps court challenges are nothing new, his direct and public appeal to legislatures to appoint electors who will back him instead of the candidate chosen by their states voters tests the U.S. system of democracy in a new way.

The tweets came as Republicans continued to question, without providing evidence, the results of the election in states Mr. Trump lost. Ronna McDaniel, a Trump ally who is the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, on Saturday co-signed a letter asking Michigans Board of State Canvassers to delay certifying the election for two weeks. The result is scheduled to be certified on Monday.

The president and his campaign lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, are hoping to delay certifications in various states. But so far those efforts have been rebuffed by lawmakers and by judges.

On Saturday, a federal judge in Pennsylvania dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign, which asserted that there were widespread improprieties with mail-in ballots. The decision ended the last major effort to delay certification of Pennsylvanias results, which is also scheduled for Monday.

Senator Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, a Republican, said in a statement that the president had exhausted all plausible legal options to challenge the result of the presidential race in the state. He congratulated President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory.

Senator Kelly Loeffler, center, of Georgia at an election event on Friday, tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday evening before getting an inconclusive result on a later test.
Senator Kelly Loeffler, center, of Georgia at an election event on Friday, tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday evening before getting an inconclusive result on a later test.Credit...Tami Chappell/EPA, via Shutterstock

Senator Kelly Loeffler of Georgia, a Republican who is campaigning in a high-stakes runoff election that could determine control of the Senate, is isolating after receiving both a negative and positive test for the coronavirus on Friday and then receiving an inconclusive result on Saturday, a campaign spokesman said.

Ms. Loeffler has worn masks while interacting with people, but was indoors and unmasked among unmasked crowds at an event on Thursday. She wore a mask while greeting voters who lined up to meet her.

On Friday morning, she took two coronavirus tests, according to her campaign spokesman, Stephen Lawson.

One of those was a rapid test, which came back negative, and Ms. Loeffler was cleared to attend events on Friday, including a rally with Vice President Mike Pence and Senator David Perdue of Georgia, Mr. Lawson said. But the second test, a polymerase chain reaction, or P.C.R., test  which is considered more accurate  came back with a positive result after her events on Friday evening, he said.

Ms. Loeffler, 49, received another P.C.R. test on Saturday morning. But it was inconclusive, Mr. Lawson said of the results, which came in Saturday evening.

The senator followed C.D.C. guidelines by notifying those with whom she had had sustained contact while she awaits further test results, he said.

She has no symptoms and she will continue to follow C.D.C. guidelines by quarantining until retesting is conclusive and an update will be provided at that time, Mr. Lawson said in a statement.

Ms. Loeffler has held recent events with prominent Republicans, including Mr. Pence, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Mr. Perdue, who is also engaged in a runoff election that could determine control of the Senate. Mr. Perdue is remaining at home until more details are known about the health status of Ms. Loeffler.

Senator Perdue will remain at home until Senator Loeffler receives confirmation of her test results, wrote John Burke, a Perdue campaign spokesman, in a text message Sunday.

The Loeffler campaign did not provide an update on her status Sunday morning. Mr. Perdue, 70, has encouraged people to wear masks to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. But he has also appeared at rallies where people did not wear masks. A Friday tweet from Ms. Loeffler includes a picture that shows the two senators in an indoor setting without masks.

A spokesman for Mr. Pence, Devin OMalley, said that as he awaits a confirmatory test from Senator Loeffler, Vice President Pence is in regular consultation with the White House Medical Unit and will be following C.D.C. guidelines as he has in other circumstances when he has been a close contact.

The last time Mr. Pence was deemed a close contact was last month, when his chief of staff, Marc Short, tested positive.

Mr. Pence continued to campaign then, with the White House saying that he was performing essential duties that exempted him from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines calling for people to quarantine for 14 days after exposure to the virus.

Ms. Loeffler, a businesswoman who is the Senates richest member, was temporarily appointed to her Senate seat late last year. She faces the Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, a Democrat, in an election on Jan. 5, when Georgia voters will also decide between Mr. Perdue and his opponent, Jon Ossoff, a Democrat.

President Trump played golf at Trump National Golf Club, in Sterling, Va., on Saturday.
President Trump played golf at Trump National Golf Club, in Sterling, Va., on Saturday.Credit...Al Drago for The New York Times

With both President Trump and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. keeping low profiles over the weekend, the goals of the departing and incoming administrations came into stark contrast as advisers and subordinates of both men raced to shape the countrys future.

As lawsuits challenging the election results brought by the Trump campaign have fallen apart in multiple states, strategists close to Mr. Biden trained their sights on Georgia, where he was certified as the winner on Friday and two key Senate races loom. Republicans have moved swiftly to bolster their candidates in the Jan. 5 runoff elections, releasing a wave of attack ads against Democratic challengers and opening a determined campaign to encourage Republican voters to turn out.

For both parties, the stakes of the twin runoffs are monumental, determining in one unusual election whether Mr. Biden will begin his term with a unified Congress or a divided one.

But while campaign staff members fretted over Georgia, the Trump administration continued to seek out last-minute policy moves that could both notch quick wins for the president and handicap the incoming Biden administration.

Chief among them is a drawdown of American forces in the Middle East.

With Mr. Trump poised to decisively withdraw troops from Afghanistan,

the retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Mr. Trumps second national security adviser, on Sunday morning offered a dire warning of the move. Mr. McMaster said it was abhorrent, potentially dangerous on the scale of the Sept. 11 attacks and a doubling down on the flaws of the Obama administration approach to Afghanistan. He urged the Biden administration to reassess with an eye toward U.S. interests.

The prioritization of withdrawal over our interests led to us actually empowering the Taliban, Mr. McMaster said on CBSs Face the Nation.

If they win, if the Taliban establishes control of large parts of Afghanistan, gives safe haven and support base to terrorist organizations who want to commit mass murder against us on the scale of 9/11, we will be far less safe and vulnerable to these groups.

He described his fears of what an empowered Taliban might look like this way: Does that mean that every other girls school is bulldozed? Does that mean there are mass executions in the soccer stadium every other Saturday? I think its abhorrent what were doing, and I hope a Biden administration will reassess, based again on whats in it for us. This is not a theoretical case. We know what happened on 9/11.

Supporters of President Trump celebrated in Miamis Little Havana neighborhood after Mr. Trump won Florida on election night.
Supporters of President Trump celebrated in Miamis Little Havana neighborhood after Mr. Trump won Florida on election night.Credit...Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

MIAMI  As the mayor of reliably Democratic Miami-Dade County in Florida, Carlos A. Gimenez, a Republican, was a pragmatist who avoided partisan politics and in 2016 voted for Hillary Clinton. But after President Trumps election, things started to change.

Six days after the inauguration in 2017, Mr. Gimenez became the first big-city leader in the country to reverse the countys de facto status as a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. Critics said he had kowtowed to Mr. Trump and turned his back on the county with the second-highest number of immigrants in the nation, after Los Angeles.

This year, Mr. Gimenez received Mr. Trumps endorsement, spoke at one of his rallies and was elected to Congress.

His remarkable political evolution mirrored a broader shift in Miami-Dade, where 58 percent of the electorate is Hispanic and Mr. Trump made huge inroads from 2016 to 2020. Hundreds of thousands more people voted for him this year, and though he still lost the county to Joseph R. Biden Jr., he improved his margin over 2016 by 22 percentage points, a swing that helped him easily win Florida and sweep a slew of local Republicans into office.

Much has been said about how Latinos in many parts of the country, while still favoring Mr. Biden in large numbers, voted more Republican than in 2016. But South Florida is a unique case study. No other place has quite the same mix of Republican-friendly Hispanics, led by conservative Cuban-Americans. And the Trump presidency has strengthened their hand, forcing Miami to reckon with hard and contradictory truths about immigration, racism and power.

Miami is a total bubble, said Michael J. Bustamante, an assistant professor of Latin American history at Florida International University who studies Cuban-American political culture. You cant talk about the Latino community or Hispanic community here in the same way perhaps that you talk about it in East L.A. or Chicago or New York or wherever because here, Latinos run the show.

Mr. Trumps stunning improvement here shocked not only the nation but also much of Miami, a city that likes to think of itself as the forward-looking capital of Latin America.

And yet many residents have come to the difficult realization that Miami even now is not quite as progressive as they had hoped.

We used to be more compassionate, said Carmen Pelez, a Cuban-American playwright and filmmaker who campaigned for Mr. Biden.

The federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind., where the Justice Department has carried out the recent executions.
The federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind., where the Justice Department has carried out the recent executions.Credit...Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The Trump administration has scheduled the executions of three more federal inmates on death row for the final weeks and days of President Trumps term.

The executions are scheduled to occur shortly before President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has signaled his opposition to the death penalty, enters the White House in January.

With the announcement on Friday, the Justice Department plans to execute a total of six inmates during the presidential transition. The first, Orlando Cordia Hall, was put to death on Thursday night.

Press officers at the Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Trump administration revived the federal death penalty last summer after a nearly two-decade hiatus. Since July, the federal government has executed eight prisoners.

Those scheduled to die find themselves just weeks away from the start of an administration that has signaled it would not seek to carry out their death sentences. Mr. Biden has promised to work to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level and incentivize states to follow suit.

In its announcement, the Justice Department said that the three men scheduled to die  Alfred Bourgeois, Corey Johnson and Dustin John Higgs  were convicted of brutal murders. Mr. Bourgeoiss execution is scheduled for Dec. 11. Mr. Johnson and Mr. Higgs are scheduled to die less than a week before Mr. Bidens inauguration on Jan. 20.

In three separate statements, lawyers for the men objected to the move to execute their clients. Lawyers for Mr. Johnson said his intellectual disability should prohibit his execution from being constitutionally carried out. A lawyer for Mr. Bourgeois similarly argued that his client had an intellectual disability, and that the Constitution and the Federal Death Penalty Act barred his execution.

A lawyer for Mr. Higgs claimed that his client did not kill anyone. Rather, he asserted, the sole gunman in Mr. Higgss case was his co-defendant, who was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release.

Additionally, two other federal inmates are scheduled to die before the end of Mr. Trumps term. Lisa M. Montgomerys execution is scheduled for Dec. 8, although a federal judge enjoined the government from doing so before Dec. 31. The execution of Brandon Bernard is scheduled for Dec. 10.

Many companies were already offering to work with the Biden administration on efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic and kick-start the economy.
Many companies were already offering to work with the Biden administration on efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic and kick-start the economy.Credit...Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

While President Trump is still contesting the election results, corporate America  along with much of the rest of the world  is moving on. In recent days, companies including Boeing, CVS Health and McDonalds have said they recognize President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and believe the election was free and fair.

On Friday and Saturday, the chorus of chief executives calling for an orderly transition continued to grow.

The election is over and we expect a smooth transition, said Ajay Banga, the chief executive of Mastercard. Thats the hallmark of American democracy.

Many companies were already offering to work with the Biden administration on efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic and kick-start the economy.

The country needs political stability, said Michael Dell, the chief executive of Dell Technologies. We are eager to progress forward and work with the new administration and Congress on pandemic response and recovery and other critical priorities including education, infrastructure and the environment.

Julie Sweet, the chief executive of Accenture, congratulated Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Nov. 8, the day after most major news media organizations called the election. On Friday, Ms. Sweet called for the Trump administration to cooperate with the transition.

We have work to do as a country  defeating the pandemic, ending the digital divide, rebuilding the economy and so much more, she said. A peaceful, lawful transition must be permitted to move forward.

Among the companies effectively calling on the Trump administration to concede defeat were many major government contractors, including Cisco.

We had a free and fair election, and it was encouraging to see the record number of Americans who exercised their right to vote, said Chuck Robbins, the chief executive of Cisco. Now we must move forward with the transition process so we can take the steps needed to recover from the pandemic.

Carlos Gutierrez, the former Commerce secretary, who is now the chairman of EmPath, a private company, and was previously the chief executive of Kellogg, said that beyond disrupting the handoff to the Biden administration, Mr. Trumps refusal to concede was eroding Americas standing in the world.

The absence of a normal transition, and a president determined to make some kind of a mark in his last 60 days, has created uncertainty and a worldwide sense of confusion, Mr. Gutierrez said.

The Group of 20 held a two-day virtual summit meeting hosted by Saudi Arabia.
The Group of 20 held a two-day virtual summit meeting hosted by Saudi Arabia.Credit...Turkish Presidency, via Associated Press

A closing statement released on Sunday by officials at the Group of 20 summit served as perhaps the Trump presidencys final reminder of the wide gulf between the United States and its allies on handling global threats, like the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.

In its statement, or communiqu, the group emphasized what it called the important mandates of the United Nations systems and agencies, primarily the W.H.O., referring to the World Health Organization. The communiqu, released after a two-day virtual summit meeting hosted by Saudi Arabia, said that the group supported strengthening the W.H.O.s overall effectiveness in coordinating and supporting the global response to the pandemic and the central efforts of member states.

In July, Mr. Trump formally withdrew the United States from the W.H.O., cutting off one of the largest sources of funding for the global health organization in the middle of a pandemic.

The closing statement also referred to climate change as one of the most pressing challenges of our time and said that the Financial Stability Board was continuing to examine the financial stability implications of the issue. The United States had resisted the inclusion of climate change in a joint declaration of finance ministers this year but eventually relented.

Mr. Trump, who has brushed aside dire predictions about the effects of climate change and routinely refused to acknowledge it as a man-made problem, most recently removed the scientist responsible for the National Climate Assessment. That scientist served as the federal governments premier contribution to climate knowledge and the foundation for regulations to combat global warming.

In his remarks at the virtual meeting on Sunday morning, Mr. Trump reiterated his opposition to the Paris climate accord, claiming it was not designed to save the environment but instead was designed to kill the American economy. The United States formally withdrew from the agreement this month, but President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has pledged to rejoin.

The communiqu also said the leaders had agreed to ensure affordable and equitable access of effective diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to treat Covid-19. We will spare no effort to ensure their affordable and equitable access for all people, consistent with members commitments to incentivize innovation, it said.

The leaders also threw their support behind a new framework to provide debt relief for poor countries that have been hit hard by the pandemic and reiterated their commitment to freezing bilateral debt payments through June. More than 40 countries have gained over $5 billion in immediate debt payment relief this year. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, had already backed the measure, but it was not clear it was on Mr. Trumps radar.

And, after four years of Mr. Trump shaking up the global order on international trade, the communiqu underscored a commitment to the future of the World Trade Organization, expressed support for the multilateral trading system and called for a stable trade environment and open markets. Although there was no mention of tariffs, the language could be read as a rebuke to Mr. Trumps penchant for protectionism and trade wars.

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