Biden begins transition plans as Trump refuses to concede

By Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020
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7:32 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Arizona judge skeptical of GOP arguments in election case that could delay state certification of ballots 

From CNN’s Erica Orden

An Arizona state judge said he will issue a written ruling Thursday in the Arizona Republican Party’s lawsuit against Maricopa County, as he expressed skepticism in a case that could delay the state’s certification of ballots.

On Wednesday, the judge heard oral arguments in the Arizona Republican Party’s lawsuit against the recorder of Maricopa County, the most populous county in the state, which alleges the Secretary of State’s manual violated state law because its hand count of a random sampling of ballots was conducted based on polling places, not precincts.

Judge John Hannah expressed skepticism of the arguments made by a lawyer for the party, pointing out that an audit already found no errors. “How is this re-audit that you’re advocating for going to make a difference in the outcome of the election or create any type of tangible difference in the real world?” the judge asked a lawyer for the party, John Wilenchik.

When Wilenchik replied that “if there were to be some hacking of machines, it would be done by precinct,” the judge questioned him, saying, “What evidence is there of that?”

An attorney for the county, Joseph LaRue, said the party waited too long — until Nov. 12 — to file its lawsuit, given that it was aware as early as 2012 of the wording of the Secretary of State’s election procedures manual. “Waiting a few days to file a lawsuit isn't a big deal in most litigation, but it is in election litigation,” LaRue said.

The county’s deadline for certifying ballots is Monday and a delay, LaRue has said, could impact the state’s ability to meet the Electoral College deadline. The state certification deadline is Nov. 30. The Electoral College votes on Dec. 14.

5:16 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Biden and Harris will meet virtually with National Governors Association tomorrow

From CNN's Sarah Mucha

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will meet virtually with the bipartisan National Governors Association’s executive committee in Wilmington, Delaware, on Thursday. 

CNN previously reported that Biden would participate in the call, which is expected to focus on the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden and Harris will deliver remarks after the meeting, according to the transition team. 

5:07 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Lingering divide remains in Senate GOP over whether Biden transition process should begin

From CNN's Manu Raju 

Republicans continue to be divided about when the transition period to a Joe Biden presidency should officially begin.

"Let me just say, the transition work should begin," said Sen. Pat Toomey.

Sen. Kevin Cramer said President Trump's legal challenges are a "worthwhile pursuit," but added, "It's certainly likely he's not going to be sworn in as president."

Cramer said he spoke to Trump for a few minutes on Nov. 10, and Trump told him, "If it doesn't work out, we'll see what happens in a few years."

Cramer added that as Trump pursues his legal remedies, "I think GSA (General Services Administration) and whoever else should help facilitate the transition."

When asked if the GSA should sign off on the requisite paperwork, Sen. Ted Cruz, like other Republicans, said, "The legal process needs to conclude first. The results of the election are being contested and we have courts of law to resolve legal and factual issues of that nature."

5:21 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Georgia will announce election recount results around noon on Thursday

From CNN's Wes Bruer 

Georgia plans to announce the results of the statewide audit around noon on Thursday, said Gabriel Sterling, the state's voting systems implementation manager.

The Secretary of State plans to post county-by-county tallies with a timestamp, so the public can view the results of the audit. 

Sterling said that the state has finished auditing virtually all ballots from the presidential race. About 5 million Georgians voted, and President-elect Joe Biden won by about 13,000 votes. Election officials have said the audit hasn’t found widespread fraud and will affirm Biden’s win. 

Watch Jake Tapper's interview with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for more:

4:08 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Sen. Graham says he would urge Trump "to give intel briefings to Biden"

From CNN's Ali Main 

Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on November 17.
Sen. Lindsey Graham speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on November 17. Chip Somodevilla/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally, urged the President to allow President-elect Joe Biden to receive classified intelligence briefings on Wednesday, as Trump continues to wage legal challenges in an attempt to delay the certification of election results.

Asked to respond to concerns about whether Biden was being briefed adequately on vaccine efforts by the Trump administration, Graham responded, "you know, the President is contesting the election, and I would urge him to give intel briefings to Biden."

"How much further to go, I don't know. We're going to be fine at the end of the day. This thing will work itself out. It always has and it will here," he added.

He did not say whether he had personally spoken with the President on the matter.

Last week, Graham said he thought Biden should be receiving intelligence briefings. He told CNN he had not expressed his thoughts with the White House but said, "I hope so," when asked if he expects Biden to get the briefings soon.

3:22 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Biden optimistic about battling Covid-19, but criticizes Trump administration for not sharing information

From CNN's Sarah Mucha

Biden Transition
Biden Transition

President-elect Joe Biden criticized the Trump administration for failing to ascertain the election so his transition could receive access to necessary information to be prepared to tackle the pandemic beginning on day one.  

During a roundtable with frontline workers, Biden cited as one example that his team does not know the depths of the personal protective equipment stockpiles and noted that the sharing of information is critical to vaccine implementation and distribution.

“Soon we’re going to be behind by weeks and months being able to put together the whole initiative relating to the biggest promise we have with two drug companies coming along and finding 95% effectiveness, efficiency in the vaccines, which is enormous promise,” he said.

He added, “So I just want to tell you that that's the only slow down right now that we have.”

Remember: Trump has refused to concede the race and blocked his administration from taking any of the administrative steps typically taken in a transfer of power.

This includes allowing the General Services Administration to declare that there is a president-elect  — a move that triggers the transition process.

Watch the moment:

3:45 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Biden hears emotional testimony from ICU nurse during roundtable

From CNN's Sarah Mucha

Mary Turner speaks during a virtual roundtable with frontline health care workers and President-elect Joe Biden.
Mary Turner speaks during a virtual roundtable with frontline health care workers and President-elect Joe Biden. Biden Transition

President-elect Joe Biden grew emotional, wiping away a tear after hearing an intensive care unit nurse describe her experience on the frontlines battling Covid-19.

Mary Turner, head of the Minnesota Nurses Association, recounted that she has held the hands of dying patients who cried out for family members they weren't able to see, and that she has taken care of co-workers who fought for their lives on a ventilator.

Turner said that the nurses in her unit have had to reuse N-95s many times to the point that "sometimes the masks literally fall off our faces."

After noting that she has yet to be tested for Covid-19, Biden spoke for the first time, interjecting, "You're kidding me." 

As she finished, Turner apologized for being emotional, to which Biden replied, "No, you got me emotional."

Watch Minnesota nurse Mary Turner describe her life as a frontline worker:

2:53 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Biden officials still confident that Georgia recount will affirm victory in the state

From CNN’s Sarah Mucha

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

Officials on Joe Biden’s campaign expressed on a press call Wednesday afternoon that they believe the Georgia recount will finish today and that it will affirm Biden’s victory in the state. 

“That process is consistent with our expectations that the outcome following this hand recount will be the same outcome as the initial results indicated: that President-elect Biden has won the state of Georgia,” said Patrick Moore, who serves as legal counsel on the campaign. 

Moore noted that while there have been a handful of discrepancies in the totals, this is normal.

“These developments are entirely consistent with what you would see in any full hand recount,” he said. "Because human error happens, the administration of elections is complicated, but through diligence it’s uncovered and addressed. And that's exactly what has happened here."

He added, “We continue to agree with the secretary of state that there is no reason to believe that any widespread irregularity has occurred.” 

Marc Elias, an election expert, addressed the last pending lawsuit filed last week which called for a temporary restraining order, calling it “frivolous.” He added, like he said last week, that this was a bipartisan agreement that was struck between his clients. 

Asked if they’ve considered any other routes the Trump campaign might pursue following certification, Elias dismissed the possibility.

“There isn't any amount of recounting of these ballots that's going to change [that Joe Biden won.] All it's going to do is waste the taxpayers money of Georgia,” he said.  

2:24 p.m. ET, November 18, 2020

Biden tested negative for Covid-19 today

President-elect Joe Biden tested negative for coronavirus today.

"President- elect Biden underwent PCR testing for COVID-19 today and COVID-19 was not detected," Biden's office said. 

Biden is currently participating in a virtual roundtable with frontline health care workers.