Biden begins transition plans as Trump refuses to concede

By Melissa Macaya and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 8:51 p.m. ET, November 20, 2020
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2:20 p.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Georgia secretary of state's office says certification still underway after announcing it was complete

From CNN's Marshall Cohen

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference in Atlanta, on November 11.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference in Atlanta, on November 11. Brynn Anderson/AP

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office said Friday that he hasn't yet certified the results of the presidential election, one hour after issuing a press release announcing it was complete.

The certification will formalize the razor-thin presidential results after a statewide audit confirmed that Joe Biden got more votes than President Trump and would be a major blow to Trump's longshot efforts to overturn the outcome of the election.

"Numbers don't lie," Raffensperger said during a news conference earlier Friday. "As Secretary of State, I believe that the numbers that we are presented today are correct."

Raffensperger's office then issued a press release at 12:26 p.m., saying, "The Georgia Secretary of State Office today certified the results for the November 3, 2020 General Election." But it sent a "correction" at 1:06 p.m. saying, "Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger today will certify the results for the November 3, 2020 General Election."

Certifying election results is typically a formality, but the arcane process has become the latest battleground in Trump's longshot attempt to cling to power. His campaign is trying to block or delay certification in key states in hopes of overturning Biden's victory through the Electoral College.

Read more here.

This story has been updated following Raffensperger's announcement the results have not been certified.

12:36 p.m. ET, November 20, 2020

White House denies there's been any pressure on agency to recognize Biden's victory

From CNN's Betsy Klein

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington DC, on November 20.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington DC, on November 20. Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany denied that there was any pressure on the head of the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, to ascertain the results of the election and begin the official presidential transition, again baselessly claiming the election has not been decided.

“Absolutely not. GSA will make the determination of ascertainment at the right moment. Right now there’s a constitutional process that’s being played out, there are questions being asked in court. But the GSA will determine when ascertainment is reached,” she said.

Pressed on concerns from members of Congress that the Biden transition should have access to transition resources, including communication with agencies, she said the Trump administration was doing what was required by the Presidential Transition Act.

“There is a Presidential Transition Act that determines exactly what an admin needs to do in advance of an election and we have done everything statutorily required and we will continue to do that,” McEnany said.

She said she had “never” been instructed not to engage with members of Biden’s team and had “never heard of an instruction to that end,” despite reporting to the contrary.

12:36 p.m. ET, November 20, 2020

White House claims Trump's meeting with Michigan GOP lawmakers not "advocacy meeting"

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez, Annie Grayer and Caroline Kelly

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington DC, on November 20.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington DC, on November 20. Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany confirmed during Friday’s press briefing that President Trump will be meeting with Michigan lawmakers, as the President continues his longshot effort to attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Asked what the President would discuss and whether he would ask the state legislature to appoint preferential electors, McEnany said, “So he will be meeting later on. This is not an advocacy meeting. There will be no one from the campaign there. He routinely meets with lawmakers from all across the country.”

CNN previously reported that the meeting between Trump, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield will be at the White House at 4 p.m., according to a source familiar.

Some background: Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other allies have suggested that GOP state legislatures in battleground states Joe Biden won should try to use a delay in certification to appoint their own slate of electors and ignore the states' popular votes for Biden.

It's not clear what Trump's message to the Michigan GOP lawmakers will be. Both Shirkey and Chatfield have said that they will honor their state's popular vote and not stray from the process of how electors in Michigan are selected. 

Two sources told CNN there are also discussions currently underway with the President about inviting Republican state legislators from Pennsylvania to the White House. The deadline for counties in Pennsylvania to certify their totals is Monday.

11:36 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Behind the scenes, some alarmed GOP senators are considering more forceful pressure on Trump

From CNN's Dana Bash

Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images
Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

A GOP Senate source told CNN that the combination of Rudy Giuliani’s news conference yesterday and the President meddling in the Michigan election process has some GOP senators reconsidering their silence.

This source says most had hoped that Trump’s tirade would have worked itself out by now, but his actions in the last 24 hours make that hope seem more and more distant.

The source didn’t want to speak on the record because of the sensitivity of the topic.

This source said that a handful of GOP senators are talking about whether and how to interject in a way that will be most effective with the President.

There is some talk of trying to talk to the President and trying to implore him to go out on a high note by touting wins in the House, and helping win the two outstanding Georgia seats — not to mention taking credit for the vaccine movement and other accomplishments.

The source emphasized, however, that this is not a leadership position right now – more rank and file Republicans.

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.

12:05 p.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Biden announces more members of White House senior staff

From CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, Arlette Saenz and Sarah Mucha 

President-elect Joe Biden has announced another round of White House staff that demonstrate he intends to continue acting on his pledge to make his administration reflect the diversity of the country. The staff positions announced today will be filled by longtime aides to the Bidens. 

Louisa Terrell, who served as Executive Director for the Biden Foundation, will become Director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. She comes to the position with experience that includes acting as the Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs in the Obama-Biden administration. 

As CNN reported Thursday, Carlos Elizondo will be White House Social Secretary. 

Elizondo worked in the Obama administration as social secretary for then-vice president Joe Biden and Second Lady Jill Biden. He will be only the second man to serve as White House Social Secretary and will inherit a unique dynamic as the White House adapts its activities to the age of coronavirus. He is the third Latino to be named to the East Wing. Earlier in the week, Anthony Bernal was named as a senior adviser to Jill Biden and Julissa Reynosa Pantaleon was tapped as her chief of staff.

Ambassador Cathy Russell will assume the role of Director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. Russell served at the White House and the State Department for both of President Barack Obama's terms, and she currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Biden-Harris Transition Team. Prior to that, se served as Vice Chair of the Biden-Harris Campaign.

Future First Lady Jill Biden's Policy Director will be Mala Adiga, who served as her senior advisor and a senior policy advisor on the Biden-Harris campaign. Adiga — who will work for a First Lady who has said she intends to prioritize education and military families in her portfoli — previously worked at the Biden Foundation as Director for Higher Education and Military Families. 

11:09 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Conversations underway about inviting Pennsylvania lawmakers to the White House

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

A Marine stands outside the entrance to the West Wing of the White House, signifying that President Donald Trump is in the Oval Office on November 10.
A Marine stands outside the entrance to the West Wing of the White House, signifying that President Donald Trump is in the Oval Office on November 10. Evan Vucci/AP

Two sources tell CNN there are discussions currently underway with the President about inviting Republican state legislators from Pennsylvania to the White House.

It's not clear if those invitations have been extended yet, but President Trump has expressed interest in doing so as he tries to insert himself into the vote certification process.

This would be another brazen step on the heels of Trump meeting with lawmakers from Michigan this afternoon. The deadline for counties in Pennsylvania to certify their totals is Monday.

10:57 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Biden's senior advisor on Trump legal effort: "There is harm being done to the Democratic process"

From CNN's Jessica Schneider

Biden for President Senior Advisor Bob Bauer warned in a 30-minute Zoom call with reporters that “there is harm being done to the democratic process” and he slammed the Trump legal effort.

“The harm is real,” Bauer said. “There is no chance Donald Trump can be successful in what he is trying to do.”

In particular, Bauer blasted Rudy Giuliani’s takeover of the Trump legal effort ridiculing Giuliani’s performance in federal court in Pennsylvania this week, calling it a “spectacle” where Giuliani showed up completely unprepared for the case.

Bauer said that all of the Trump campaign’s efforts to stop the certification process in battleground states will fail, as well as any efforts to convince state legislators to elect a slate of pro-Trump electors.

“The election is over,” Bauer stated. “Everyone knows the election is over.”

10:50 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

There will be a White House press briefing today

From CNN's Betsy Klein

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

There will be a press briefing with White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany later today, an official confirms to CNN. The briefing is scheduled for noon ET.

The last time McEnany briefed reporters from the White House briefing room podium was Oct. 1, the Thursday before President Trump — and then, McEnany herself — tested positive for Covid-19.

Questions about the election and the coronavirus pandemic will likely come up.

10:49 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Biden expected to make first Cabinet announcements next week

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has expedited the selection of his Cabinet and is planning to make the first of several key announcements next week, an official said, as part of a concerted effort to show that he is moving forward despite President Trump's increasingly brazen attempts to sabotage the election.

On Thursday, Biden said he has settled on his choice for Treasury secretary, but officials said he's also reached a decision — or is on the cusp of doing so — on other critical Cabinet posts, a few of which are expected to be announced before Thanksgiving.

Monday and Tuesday are being eyed as tentative days for the first introductions of members of Biden's Cabinet, an official said, with others coming later.

Lael Brainard, a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, is seen as the top contender to lead the Treasury Department. If selected, she would become the first woman to serve in that position, a move that would help Biden to start to deliver on his pledge to name a diverse Cabinet.

But three officials close to the Biden transition declined to say whether Brainard was the final choice, saying it is a closely held decision that the President-elect would likely reveal right after Thanksgiving.

But Biden could announce his choice for secretary of State as soon as next week, officials said, along with another Cabinet post.

While Biden is well-known for his deliberate and often slow decision-making, particularly on personnel matters, the timeline of some Cabinet decisions is being accelerated because of a desire to move quickly to form a new government in the wake of Trump's intransigence about the election.

Read more here.