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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7:02 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Federal prosecutors assigned to investigate election fraud denounce Barr's policy change

From CNN's Christina Carrega

 Attorney General Bill Barr
Attorney General Bill Barr Jeff Roberson/Pool/AFP/Getty Gages/FILE

A group of federal prosecutors, who were assigned by the Justice Department to enforce federal voting rights laws across the country on Election Day, urged Attorney General William Barr on Friday to rescind his order for prosecutors to examine allegations of voting irregularities before states move to certify the results in the coming weeks, according to an internal letter obtained by CNN. 

The letter from the 16 prosecutors comes days after Barr released a memo earlier this week telling prosecutors not involved with the election crimes branch of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section to skip procedural steps to investigate "substantial" allegations of voter fraud. 

Barr’s memo served a catalyst for the resignation of Richard Pilger, the leader of the election crimes branch. Pilger spoke out against Barr’s memo in a resignation letter that he forwarded to colleagues.

"We urge you to rescind it," the prosecutors wrote in bolded type about Barr’s memo. 

The bipartisan coalition of federal "District Election Officers" said Barr's marching orders "is not based on fact." 

"It was developed and announced without consulting non-partisan career professionals in the field and at the department. Finally, the timing of the memorandum’s release thrusts career prosecutors into partisan politics," the prosecutors wrote.

The letter was co-signed by 16 assistant US attorneys from 15 out of the 44 jurisdictions that were chosen by the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division to monitor the Nov. 3 general election.

More background: The assistant US attorneys also said in the letter that, in the districts they monitored, they found no evidence substantial voting irregularities.   

Kerri Kupec, a spokesperson for the Justice Department, declined to comment on the prosecutors' letter.

Kupec referred to the last paragraph of Barr's memo that said: "Nothing here should be taken as any indication that the Department has concluded that voting irregularities have impacted the outcome of any election. Rather, I provide this authority and guidance to emphasize the need to timely and appropriately address allegations of voting irregularities so that all of the American people, regardless of their preferred candidate or party, can have full confidence in the results of our elections."

CNN's Evan Perez contributed to this report.

6:48 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Judges rule against Trump campaign in 6 Pennsylvania cases over absentee envelopes

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

Two judges in Pennsylvania on Friday tossed a half dozen court cases the Trump campaign had brought to invalidate thousands of votes around Philadelphia, where voters carried President-elect Joe Biden to a win in the battleground state.

In total, the Trump campaign had sought to throw out almost 9,000 absentee ballots because their outer envelopes lacked a name, date or address, or some combination of the three that voters could have filled out. 

In five related cases, Judge James Crumlish of Philadelphia County's Court of Common Pleas said the Trump campaign couldn't invalidate 8,329 ballots it alleged were improper. The judge ruled those ballots should be processed and counted.

In another case, the President's campaign sought for the Montgomery County Board of Elections to throw out 592 mail-in ballots where voters hadn't filled out their address on the outside envelope. Those ballots will be counted, the second judge, Richard Haaz of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, ruled on Friday. 

Haaz found that state law didn't require voters to fill out the address section on the envelopes, and the instructions on the ballots didn't tell voters they must have filled them out more.

"Voters should not be disenfranchised by reasonably relying upon voting instructions provided by election officials," Haaz wrote.

The Trump campaign had said in court it wasn't alleging voting fraud in the cases, just attempting to enforce the rules.

Some context: Though the ballots are numbered in the thousands, they would not be enough for Trump to overcome Biden's win in Pennsylvania, even if all were Biden votes.

7:27 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

New York governor says Trump's behavior is "the height of irresponsibility and narcissism"

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo CNN

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo today said President Trump's denial of his electoral loss and his refusal to participate in a smooth transition process is "delusion... [and a] dislocation from reality."

"For him not to have the Biden people in an orderly transition is just the height of irresponsibility and narcissism," Cuomo said, speaking with CNN's Wolf Blitzer this afternoon "...It's shameful. He is still in denial. The numbers couldn't be any more clear."

Cuomo's remarks came after Trump attacked him in a news conference earlier in the day and threatened to delay the delivery of any potential vaccine to the Empire State. 

Speaking on the CNN's "The Situation Room," Cuomo also denied he is interested in working in the Biden administration, jokingly tell Blitzer he'd recommended him to join the Biden White House.

"I am staying right here," he said. Cuomo's current term as governor ends in January 2023, but he announced late last year he would a seek fourth term in office in the 2022 election.

Watch:

6:47 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Former White House chief of staff criticizes Trump over not helping with a Biden transition

John Kelly attends an Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons annual meeting in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, October 11, 2018.
John Kelly attends an Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons annual meeting in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, October 11, 2018. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images/FILE

Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly issued a statement Friday night lambasting President Trump for not helping with the transition to a new Biden administration.

"The delay in transitioning is an increasing national security and health crisis. It costs the current administration nothing to start to brief Mr. Biden, Ms. Harris, the new chief-of-staff, and all identified cabinet members and senior staff," Kelly said in the written statement.

Kelly added: "[T]he downside to not doing so could be catastrophic to our people regardless of who they voted for. ... The current administration does not have to concede, but it should do the right thing just in case the Constitutional system declares they lost. It is not about the GOP or the Democrat Party. It is not about the President or about Mr. Biden. It is about America and what is best for our people. Mr. Trump should order the transition process begin immediately. It is the right and moral thing to do." 

5:34 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Biden calls for "urgent action" on coronavirus

From CNN's Sarah Mucha

President-elect Joe Biden met with the co-chairs of his Covid-19 advisory board today and said that based on what he learned, "urgent action" is needed on the part of the current administration.

He renewed his call for Americans to wear masks, socially distance themselves and wash their hands.

"I am the president-elect, but I will not be president until next year," Biden said in a statement. "The crisis does not respect dates on the calendar, it is accelerating right now. Urgent action is needed today, now, by the current administration — starting with an acknowledgment of how serious the current situation is." 

"Today, I renew my call for every American, regardless of where they live or who they voted for, to step up and do their part on social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing to protect themselves and to protect others," he added.

5:17 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Fact check: Trump falsely says that Covid-19 cases are rising because of more testing

From CNN's Tara Subramaniam

President Donald Trump speaks about Operation Warp Speed in the Rose Garden at the White House on November 13 in Washington, DC.
President Donald Trump speaks about Operation Warp Speed in the Rose Garden at the White House on November 13 in Washington, DC. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

During a news conference this afternoon, President Trump again falsely suggested that coronavirus cases are high because of more testing.

“We test far more than any other country so it shows obviously more cases,” Trump said.

Facts First: Trump's claim that increased testing is why the US has increased cases is comprehensively inaccurate, just as it's been when he has made the same claim repeatedly through the campaign and over the summer.

The spike in US coronavirus cases is not being caused by an increase in testing.

As of the day before Trump spoke, the number of confirmed new cases was increasing at a faster rate than the number of new tests, according to the COVID Tracking Project, an initiative that assembles and analyzes coronavirus data.

Testing this week had increased by 13%, which the COVID Tracking Project acknowledged was not enough to account for the 41% increase in cases. The number of hospitalizations and deaths is also rising, which shows that the increase in the case numbers isn't merely being caused by tests capturing mild cases.

Taken together, the numbers tell a consistent story; the situation in the US is genuinely getting worse. Both case and hospitalization figures hit all-time highs on Thursday. 

You can read a longer fact check here.

5:10 p.m. ET, November 13, 2020

Trump doesn't address election defeat at Rose Garden event

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Donald Trump delivers an update on "Operation Warp Speed" in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, on November 13.
President Donald Trump delivers an update on "Operation Warp Speed" in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, on November 13. Mandel Ngan/A

President Trump on Friday inched closer to acknowledging he will not be president after Jan. 20, though stopped well short of recognizing his loss, in vowing his administration wouldn't order new coronavirus lockdowns.

"I will not — this administration will not be doing a lockdown. Hopefully whatever happens in the future — who knows which administration it will be? I guess time will tell — but I can tell you this administration will not go to a lockdown," Trump said in the Rose Garden, his first public remarks in days.

Trump's willingness to suggest there might be a different administration next year is as far as he's gone in recognizing the election results, which he is currently contesting.

While he went no further in publicly saying he would soon be leaving office, Trump did offer an opening. 

"This administration will not go, under any circumstances, will not go through a lockdown, but we will be very vigilant. Very careful," he said.

Some background: The US has added more than half a million new Covid-19 cases since hitting 10 million on Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

At this rate, the number should pass 11 million in the next four days, making for the fastest addition of another million yet, John Hopkins data show.

November already was crippling for American communities battling Covid-19 spikes in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Experts warn it will likely get worse before it gets better.

For the 10th day in a row, the US reported more than 100,000 infections, and the total since Monday hit 556,961. On Thursday, with its highest number yet at more than 153,000 new infections, the country inched closer to what one expert predicted could soon become a devastating reality — 200,000 cases a day.

Watch the moment:

CNN's Jay Croft and Christina Maxouris contributed to this report.

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: