Biden begins transition plans as Trump refuses to concede

By Meg Wagner and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 9:02 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020
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4:50 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Fact check: Trump claims Pfizer vaccine is a result of Operation Warp Speed

From CNN's Daniel Dale and Holmes Lybrand

President Trump claimed during Friday’s news conference that the Pfizer vaccine was a result of the White House’s Operation Warp Speed, adding that Pfizer’s prior claim that it was not part of the program was an “unfortunate misrepresentation.” 

Facts First: Pfizer's vaccine progress is not solely attributable to the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed public-private partnership program. But it was not accurate for Pfizer to suggest (as one executive did in comments to the New York Times) that it is operating entirely apart from Operation Warp Speed; the company has a major agreement to sell at least 100 million doses of its vaccine to the federal government, and Pfizer acknowledged in a Monday statement to CNN that it is in fact "participating" in Operation Warp Speed through this deal. Also, at least some independent experts say the Trump administration deserves partial credit for Pfizer's progress.

Pfizer, unlike some other pharmaceutical companies, did not accept federal money for research into a coronavirus vaccine. Pfizer, unlike these competitors, is not getting payments up front even before proving its effort has been successful.

However, the Trump administration agreed in July to buy at least $1.95 billion worth of a Pfizer vaccine, at least 100 million doses, if Pfizer does get a vaccine authorized by the Food and Drug Administration.

Three experts told CNN that this purchase promise may have played an important role in expediting Pfizer's vaccine development process. 

Read a full fact check here.

4:55 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Trump: We won't deliver a coronavirus vaccine to New York "until we have authorization"

President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House on November 13 in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House on November 13 in Washington, DC. Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump said the federal government won't deliver a possible coronavirus vaccine until the state's governor, Andrew Cuomo, lets the administration "know when he is ready for it."

“As soon as April, the vaccine will be available to the entire general population with the exception of places like New York state, where, for political reasons, the governor decided to say … he wants to take his time on the vaccine,” Trump said.

President Trump's term ends when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20. 

What this is about: Last month, Cuomo called the White House Covid-19 Task Force’s vaccination plan “deeply flawed." At that time, Cuomo said he was on a call with members of the national task force when he learned that the premise of the federal vaccination plan would be to use private pharmacies — like CVS and Walgreens — as the main distribution point for the vaccine.

“That is a very limited distribution mechanism,” Cuomo said, adding that the federal plan does not appear to provide for states to organize vaccination with state personnel on any scale.

Days later after his initial comments, Cuomo said the plan, as explained to him by the White House, involves the military distributing a future Covid-19 vaccine to large chain-pharmacies for distribution, a plan he said would disproportionately limit distribution in communities of color.

Today, Trump said the US government can't deliver the vaccine "to a state that won't be giving it to its people immediately."

"So we won't be delivering it to New York until we have authorization to do so and that pains me to say that," Trump said at an ongoing news conference. "This is a very successful, amazing vaccine at 90% and more, but — so the governor, Gov. Cuomo, will have to let us know when he is ready for it," Trump said.

Watch the moment:

4:40 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Trump speaks for the first time since Biden was projected the winner

Pool
Pool

President Trump is giving an update on Operation Warp Speed from the Rose Garden.

This will be the first time the President has spoken publicly since CNN and other networks projected on Saturday that Joe Biden would win the presidency.

Trump last spoke publicly on Nov. 5, when he baselessly claimed the presidency was being stolen from underneath him.

Watch:

3:23 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Sen. Martha McSally concedes Arizona Senate race

From CNN's Kevin Bohn

Source: AP, Getty
Source: AP, Getty

Republican Sen. Martha McSally issued a statement Friday conceding the Arizona Senate race to Democrat Mark Kelly.

CNN projected last Friday that the Democrat and former astronaut had defeated McSally in Arizona’s special election.

“With nearly all the votes counted, I called Mark Kelly this morning to congratulate him on winning this race,” McSally said in a statement. “I also offered support in his transition to ensure Arizonans are best served during this time. I wish him all the best.”

3:11 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Republican National Committee commits to $20 million investment in Georgia Senate runoff

From CNN's Ryan Nobles

The Republican National Committee is set to invest at least $20 million in the upcoming dual Georgia Senate Runoff elections that will determine which party controls the majority in the US Senate.

Spokesperson Mandi Merritt told CNN that in addition to the hefty financial investment, the RNC is also planning on sending more than 600 staffers into Georgia to help support the campaigns of Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

This news was first reported by the Associated Press.

3:11 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

The Carter Center will monitor Georgia's recount

From CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi

The Carter Center announced today it will monitor the ongoing hand recount of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia to "help bolster transparency and confidence in election results."

It's the first time the nonprofit, which has observed elections around the world, will monitor any part of an election process in the United States.

The move comes after an extraordinary and prolonged effort by President Trump and top Republicans to undermine confidence in the election's outcome by baselessly claiming fraud and refusing to recognize President-elect Joe Biden's victory.

For more than three decades, the organization, founded by former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalyn Carter, has helped support democratic elections in countries during fragile and volatile times. 

Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Wednesday that the state will conduct an audit of race, which includes all counties recounting, by hand, the nearly 5 million ballots cast.

Today the Carter Center said it will dispatch monitors to several county audit boards across the Peach State to watch the recount. It did not monitor voters when they cast ballots last week and the organization said this review is "not part of a broader assessment of the election as a whole."

"What we're monitoring is what many people have been calling the hand recount. Because the margin in the presidential race is so close, this sort of audit essentially requires review of every ballot by hand," Paige Alexander, the Carter Center's CEO, said in a statement.
"This is unusual, but it provides an opportunity to build trust in the electoral system prior to the state's certification of results."

Soyia Ellison, a spokesperson for The Carter Center, confirmed to CNN that Georgia will be the first time the organization has been involved in monitoring any part of a US election. 

Read the full article here.

3:01 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Biden transition team speaking to former Pentagon officials to get information

From CNN's Jim Sciutto and Kylie Atwood 

James Mattis arrives for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing concerning the authorizations for use of military force, October 30, 2017 in Washington.
James Mattis arrives for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing concerning the authorizations for use of military force, October 30, 2017 in Washington. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team is reaching out to former Pentagon officials who worked for former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as they seek to gather information for an incoming Biden team, according to two former officials who have been contacted by the transition team. 

The conversations are the result of the inability to engage with current Pentagon officials at this time, the sources told CNN. And they come as an effort to build the transition team’s understanding about what has happened in the department over the last four years. Reaching out to former officials is “the next best thing,” one of the former officials explained.

Politico was the first to report on the communications.

More background: The Biden team is also aware that even when they are able to speak with current defense officials after the General Services Administration formally signs off on Biden’s victory, they may not be eager to engage or be as forthcoming as the officials who have already departed.  

During some of these discussions people on the Biden transition team have sometimes referred to conversations with “Mattis people,” the second former official said, indicating that they are speaking to a group of these former officials.

But the Biden transition team – focused on information gathering – has not indicated that they want to hire these former officials who worked for Mattis.

“It is nice that I am not completely toxic because I was a Trump nominee, but I do not think that they would want to fill the place up with officials who were confirmed under Trump. They are not discussing a job with me,” the official said. “I am just being as helpful as I can be.” 

The Biden transition team declined to comment.

3:03 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Trump appointee calls the President's election claims "baffling" and "insulting"

From CNN's Alex Marquardt

A senior federal election security official, who is an appointee of President Trump, has blasted the President’s post-election claims calling them baffling, laughable and insulting.

They’re the strongest rejection from a Trump administration official so far of what the President is saying.

Remember: Last Saturday major news organizations, including CNN, projected Joe Biden will win the presidential election. Since then, Trump has continued to make baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud despite no evidence, and he's launched a series of legal challenges to the results.

Ben Hovland was nominated by Trump last year and unanimously confirmed by the Senate. He runs the Election Assistance Commission which, in part, tests and certifies voting machines. He also works closely with other federal agencies that oversee elections, like CISA — the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Asked what he would say to Trump about the election, he said "these conspiracy theories that are flying around, have consequences."

"At a minimum, it's insulting to the professionals that run our elections and hopefully that's the worst that comes of it," Hovland told MIT Technology Review.
"Our people, they're doing their jobs but they don't feel safe doing it. That is a tragedy. That is awful. These are public servants. This isn't a job you do for glory or to get rich," he added.

In response to Trump’s tweet that millions of his votes were deleted, Hovland calls it "pretty baffling." 

"I just wish that if claims like that were going to be made, they would actually be backed up with something credible. I think those types of statements matter. They cause Americans to lose confidence in the process," Hovland said.

The legal process that is taking place is very different than what we hear from the President and his aides, Hovland added. 

"We see bold statements on Twitter or at the podium and we see hearsay and we see laughable evidence presented to courts," Hovland said. "There's just not a correlation between those."

Hovland’s comments come as CISA Director Chris Krebs is also ratcheting up his rebukes of the President’s claims.

The Department of Homeland Security along with a group of national, state and private election officials said in a joint statement Thursday that there is no evidence of any voting system being compromised in the 2020 election despiteTrump's deluge of election fraud conspiracies. They called the election "the most secure in American history."

2:51 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

CIA director iced out of intelligence meeting at White House

From CNN's Vivian Salama and Zachary Cohen

Gina Haspel, director of the Central Intelligence Agency wears a protective mask while arriving for a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, not pictured, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, November 10.
Gina Haspel, director of the Central Intelligence Agency wears a protective mask while arriving for a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, not pictured, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Tuesday, November 10. Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A senior administration official told CNN that CIA Director Gina Haspel has been iced out of an intelligence meeting that was to take place at the White House Friday that included President Trump, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and other top intelligence officials. 

The official acknowledged that while her attendance is not mandatory, it doesn’t bode well for Haspel, although some of the President’s advisers and outside Republican allies continue to try to talk him out of firing her in this critical transition period.

The CIA declined to comment when asked if Haspel was iced out of the meeting. The White House has not responded to a request for comment.

A source familiar with recent discussions about Haspel’s potential firing told CNN that it is not surprising she was excluded from this meeting given the recent tension between her and Ratcliffe. 

Some more context: Ratcliffe is in charge of the agenda for Oval Office meetings of this nature and the Presidential Daily Brief is compiled by the Office of the Director for National Intelligence based on intelligence from various agencies, including CIA.

CNN reported Thursday that some Trump advisers believe Haspel has been "insubordinate" to both the President and Ratcliffe, arguing she routinely circumvents the chain of command to further her own agenda and that of the CIA.

But while multiple sources have told CNN they expect the President to fire Haspel, they have also emphasized that nothing is set in stone until Trump makes an announcement.