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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4:56 p.m. ET, November 16, 2020

Two Georgia counties finish recounts without finding any issues

From CNN's Amara Walker and Jason Morris

At least two small counties in Georgia finished their presidential recounts without finding any discrepancies. 

CNN projected that President-elect Joe Biden won Georgia and its 16 electoral votes. Unofficial results put Biden ahead of President Trump by about 14,000 votes, or about 0.3%. But due to the tight margin, state officials decided to use the pre-planned audit process to recount every ballot in the presidential race. 

Bacon County, a small county in southeast Georgia, completed its hand recount on Monday and the results were “exactly the same” as the initial tally, according to Jean Hilton, an assistant to the county’s election supervisor Ann Russell. A total of 4,668 people voted in the county – Trump won 87% and Biden got 13%. 

Early County, a small county in southwest Georgia on the border with Alabama, also completed its hand recount “early,” according to Claire Moseley, the county’s elections director. The county tallied 5,217 ballots, with Trump taking 53% and Biden taking 47%, which was the same exact outcome as the initial results.

“We are pretty tiny, so this was quick and easy,” Moseley said. “We were thrilled and shocked.”  

The results from these counties are not surprising, and experts say it would be impossible for Trump to overcome his 14,000-vote deficit in a recount. The audit process is expected to finish in the coming days, and Georgia’s secretary of state says he plans to certify the official results by Friday, as required by state law.

4:55 p.m. ET, November 16, 2020

GOP senators shrug off Trump's conspiracies over election results  

From CNN's Manu Raju and Ali Zaslav

Sen. Deb Fischer
Sen. Deb Fischer Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg/Getty Images/FILE

Top Senate Republicans seemed unmoved Monday by President Trump's baseless charges that the election was "rigged" and his false assertions that he actually won the election, even though the results show he lost the race despite his efforts to sow distrust over a cornerstone of US democracy.

As Democrats reacted with alarm to Trump's weekend Twitter rants, Republicans shrugged it off.

"He can say whatever he wants," said Sen. Deb Fischer, a Nebraska Republican who advises Senate GOP leadership.

Asked if she were bothered by Trump's comments, Fischer said, "If I was bothered by everything that everyone around here says, I couldn't come back."

While a growing number of Republicans say that the formal transition process should begin, that Biden should get classified intelligence briefings, and are skeptical that Trump's legal challenges will succeed, few are willing to challenge Trump's lies that the election was stolen from him, an allegation rejected by GOP and Democratic election officials across the country.

The indifference marks a familiar pattern through four years of Trump’s presidency: He stokes a major controversy, and Republicans on Capitol Hill largely ignore it. But this time, Trump is launching one conspiracy theory after another that many fear could sow unrest and have lasting ramifications about trust in US elections and faith in democracy.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the most senior Senate Republican who supports Biden getting classified briefings, downplayed Trump’s false claims that he won the election and baseless charges that the election was rigged.

Asked Monday if Trump should be making such comments, Grassley said, “All that'll be settled by December the 14th,” referring to when electors meet in their state capitals to cast their ballots.

“There’s no sense worrying about anything else except just the number of electors, and whoever got 270 electors is going to be the next president,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said that Trump is within his legal rights to challenge the election, sought to reassure the public last week that the transition would not be interrupted. But on Monday, McConnell was silent when asked if he agrees with Trump’s false claims that he “won the election.”

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Monday that he has no concerns that Trump is sowing doubt in the democratic process, arguing it’s “fair game” for him to claim victory because “we don’t know yet” who won, despite election results clearly showing Biden on track for an Electoral College victory.

“I’m not concerned about the President saying that he thinks he won the election,” Hawley said. “I think that’s totally fair game. He can go out and make his argument.”

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.