Biden begins transition plans as Trump refuses to concede

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

Updated 8:07 p.m. ET, November 16, 2020
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3:53 p.m. ET, November 16, 2020

Biden: "More people may die" if Trump continues to block transition 

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

President-elect Joe Biden warned today that a greater number of Americans may die of coronavirus if President Trump's administration continues to block a smooth transition, particularly when it comes to a vaccine distribution plan. 

"More people may die if we don't coordinate," warned Biden, when asked by a reporter what would result of Trump's attempts to block the transition.

"How do we get over 300 million Americans vaccinated?" asked Biden, speaking in Wilmington, Delaware. "What's the game plan? It's a huge, huge, huge undertaking to get it done."

"...If we have to wait until Jan. 20, to start that planning, it puts us behind over a month ... So it's important that it be done, that there be coordination now," he continued. "Now or as rapidly as we can get that done."

Later, in a response to a question from another reporter, Biden said he had spoken with a number of Republican lawmakers and said that he sympathized with the difficult position the President had put them in.

"I am hopeful that the President will be mildly more enlightened before we get to Jan. 20," said Biden.

Watch the moment:

3:42 p.m. ET, November 16, 2020

Biden: "It's time to reward work, not just wealth in America"

President-elect Joe Biden speaks about economic recovery on November 16 in Wilmington, Delaware
President-elect Joe Biden speaks about economic recovery on November 16 in Wilmington, Delaware Andrew Harnik/AP

As coronavirus continues to surge in the US and impact the economy, President-elect Joe Biden outlined his plan for building the American economy "back better."

"It's time to reward work, not just wealth in America. We're going to have a fair tax structure that makes sure the wealthiest among us and corporations pay their fair share," Biden said.

Biden added that his economic plan will create "millions of good-paying union jobs" in manufacturing, the technology sector and others industries.

"From autos to our stockpiles, we're going to buy American. No government contract will be given to companies that don't make their products here in America," Biden said.

The President-elect acknowledged the economic toll of the pandemic, telling the American people that it is an opportunity for the country to come "out of this stronger" and "more resilient" than where it was before the pandemic began.

3:51 p.m. ET, November 16, 2020

Biden says he needs access to Trump's vaccine distribution plan

President-elect Joe Biden speaks about economic recovery on November 16 in Wilmington, Delaware
President-elect Joe Biden speaks about economic recovery on November 16 in Wilmington, Delaware Andrew Harnik/AP

President-elect Joe Biden called it "great news" that vaccines from two companies — Moderna and Pfizer — have shown effectiveness "in excess of 90%" during recent trials.

He added, "Getting the vaccine and a vaccination, though, are two different things." 

Biden said that the business leaders he spoke to today agreed that the sooner that his team gained access to the Trump administration's vaccine distribution plan "the sooner this transition would smoothly move forward."

Watch the moment:

4:01 p.m. ET, November 16, 2020

Harris and Biden deliver remarks on the economy as coronavirus cases surge 

President-elect Joe Biden listens as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks about economic recovery on Monday, November 16 in Wilmington, Delaware.
President-elect Joe Biden listens as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks about economic recovery on Monday, November 16 in Wilmington, Delaware. Andrew Harnik/AP

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice president-elect Kamala Harris are delivering remarks on the economy from Wilmington, Delaware. 

“We all know that this pandemic and this recession have hit communities of color particularly hard. Black Americans and Latinos are three times as likely to contract Covid as others and more likely to die. Native Americans are more than four times as likely to be hospitalized as others. And last month the unemployment rate for Black Americans was almost twice the rate of others," Harris said.

"And we have also had a conversation about the impact this pandemic has had on our economy as a whole, from the Fortune 500 to the small small businesses that so many communities rely on,” Harris added.

Earlier today, Biden and Harris received an economic briefing from a group of CEOs, including from Microsoft, Target and Gap, and union leaders like Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO.

"And as I said the night we won this election, now is when the real work begins, the necessary work, the good work of getting this virus under control, saving lives and beating this pandemic and opening our economy responsibly while rebuilding it so that it works for working people," she said. 

"The road ahead, it will not be easy. But the President-elect and I are hitting the ground running because we all know the challenges facing America today are great. The American people deserve no less, and we don't have a moment to waste," Harris added.  

Harris' comments come as the country battles a surge in coronavirus cases. The United States surpassed 11 million coronavirus cases on Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The latest milestone came just six days after the US recorded 10 million cases, per Johns Hopkins data. It was the fastest the US has added one million new cases since the pandemic began.

On Friday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that hospitalization rates are significantly higher among the Black, Latino and Alaska Native or Native American populations in the US compared to Asian and White people. Hospitalization rates are about four times higher among Blacks and Latinos than Whites.

Watch Vice president-elect Kamala Harris here:

3:12 p.m. ET, November 16, 2020

Michelle Obama reflects how she "put her anger aside" for a peaceful transition

From CNN's Kate Bennett

Michelle Obama meets with Melania Trump for tea in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House on November 10, 2016.
Michelle Obama meets with Melania Trump for tea in the Yellow Oval Room of the White House on November 10, 2016. Chuck Kennedy/The White House

Former first lady Michelle Obama has weighed in on the refusal of President Trump and Melania Trump to move forward with the transition of power.

Obama reflected on where she was four years ago, and how though the process of ceding responsibility to the Trumps was difficult, she persisted. 

“I was hurt and disappointed – but the votes had been counted and Donald Trump had won,” writes Obama on her Instagram account. “My husband and I instructed our staffs to do what George and Laura Bush had done for us: run a respectful, seamless transition of power – one of the hallmarks of American democracy.”

Obama added she and President Barack Obama invited Trump staff to their offices and staff provided detailed memos and insight from their experiences.

Obama confessed, “none of this was easy for me. Donald Trump had spread racist lies about my husband that put my family in danger. That wasn’t something I was ready to forgive.”

The former first lady said it took “strength and maturity to put my anger aside.”

In doing so, she proceeded to invite Melania Trump to the White House. Obama said she answered Trump’s questions about, “the heightened scrutiny that comes with being a first lady to what it’s like to raise kids in the White House.”

As CNN reported several days ago, Melania Trump has yet to invite first lady-elect Jill Biden to the White House to continue the tradition.

“This isn’t a game,” Obama warned of the ongoing denial of Trump to concede to President-elect Joe Biden. She warned of the dangers of prolonging a democratic and peaceful transfer of power, not only to national security, but also to the stability of American politics.

“Our democracy is so much bigger than anybody’s ego,” Obama said.
1:41 p.m. ET, November 16, 2020

Biden and Harris will deliver remarks soon on the economy 

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice president-elect Kamala Harris will deliver remarks soon on the economy from Wilmington, Delaware. 

Earlier today, Biden and Harris received an economic briefing from a group of CEOs, including from Microsoft, Target and Gap, and union leaders like Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO.

Despite President Trump's refusal to concede, Biden is moving ahead with transition plans and begun to announce who will serve in top roles in his administration.

Last week, Biden's team announced that Ron Klain, one of Biden's most trusted campaign advisers, had been tapped to serve as his incoming chief of staff. 

1:43 p.m. ET, November 16, 2020

Speaker Pelosi urges Democratic unity and need to "build consensus" within party

From CNN's Kristin Wilson, Clare Foran, Manu Raju and Daniella Diaz

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill, Friday, November 13 in Washington, DC.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill, Friday, November 13 in Washington, DC. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a new "Dear Colleague" letter to members of her caucus, and subtly pressing them to “be advocates for unity in the Democratic party.”

There have been signs of fractures between the various member groups within the caucus, highlighted in a contentious conference call between members shortly after the election that was made public.

“Our Caucus draws strength from the ongoing conversations that we continuously have to build consensus and ensure that the legislation we put forward is respectful of the thinking and values of all Members,” Pelosi wrote in the letter.

A defiant Pelosi said Friday that she doesn't take responsibility for suffering losses in House races last week, while dismissing the notion that she would now have to compromise on her party's agenda since she will preside over a slimmer majority in the next Congress.

House leadership elections are set to take place this week. Pelosi is expected to hold onto her position as speaker.

1:07 p.m. ET, November 16, 2020

Maryland's Republican governor to President Trump on conceding: "The time has come"

From CNN’s Dan Merica

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks during a press conference on July 22 in Annapolis, Maryland.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks during a press conference on July 22 in Annapolis, Maryland. Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan said that “the time has come” for President Trump to accept that he has lost the election, telling an interviewer from The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation on Monday that Democrat Joe Biden notched a “pretty overwhelming victory” against Trump.

Hogan said that he agrees that the country needs “to make sure every vote is counted” and that a process to challenge irregularities should be followed, but that, so far, “there hasn’t been any evidence and (Republicans) haven’t won any cases.”

“It loses credibility,” Hogan said of Trump’s continued baseless claims. “More and more Republicans are coming out every day. We are in the middle of twin crises. Covid-19 is spreading all over the country… and our economy is collapsing, and the President is tweeting all day and night about beating Joe Biden instead of focused on let’s have a really successful next couple months and focusing on these problems.”

When asked directly about when Trump should concede, Hogan said: “I mean, tomorrow will be two weeks since we haven’t seen anything. The time has come. More and more people, very close supporters and friends of the president are all giving him that advice. He is just not listening.”

Hogan added that while recounts and challenges could flip upward of a few hundred votes, Trump’s claims aren’t going to come close to closing the gap.

“We are not going to make up for five million votes in all of those states,” Hogan said. “It was a pretty overwhelming victory at this point.”

This question and answer session came after a speech by the Republican governor and frequent Trump critic.

“The truth isn’t always easy to hear,” Hogan said in the speech, but “divisive rhetoric and toxic politics are alienating large parts of the country and no one will listen to our message if they don’t believe that we are listening to them.”

He added: “Are we going to be a party that can’t win national elections again or are we willing to do the hard work of building a durable coalition that can once again shape our nation’s destiny?”

12:46 p.m. ET, November 16, 2020

Georgia's second largest county predicts recount will be completed today

From CNN's Amara Walker and Kevin Conlon

People hand count ballots at the Gwinnett County Voter Registration office on November 13 in Lawrenceville, Georgia
People hand count ballots at the Gwinnett County Voter Registration office on November 13 in Lawrenceville, Georgia Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Georgia's Gwinnett County election supervisor, Kristi Royston, says the audit underway is “moving along nicely” and she predicts that the hand counting portion will conclude this evening.

The results would be uploaded into the state’s server well ahead of the Wednesday 11:59:59 p.m. deadline. Royston estimated 200,000 ballots out of the 416,000 cast remain to be audited. 

The election official said the county – Georgia’s second largest – does not track discrepancies between the initial results and the audited results.

The secretary of state’s office tracks and compiles that data and previously said it would only release the results when all counties have completed the audit.  

Asked about President Trump’s baseless claims of fraud in the state, Royston said, “I have not seen anything that would concern me,” and that she “trusts the system.” 

As for the Trump tweet calling the recount “fake” because elections officials are “not allowing signatures to be looked at and verified,” Royston explained that doing so would be impossible in any audit or recount because there is no way to tie an absentee ballot back to the envelope it arrived in – and that is by design. 

“Signature verification is completed before that ballot is ever opened and scanned the first time,” she said. “That ballot does not go back with the envelope because then you would lose voter secrecy.”

Remember: Georgia's secretary of state announced last week that the state would conduct an audit of the 2020 presidential race, recounting by hand the millions of ballots cast in the state. CNN, alongside other major news outlets, projected Biden will win the 2020 presidential election. On Friday, CNN projected Biden will win Georgia.