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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8:55 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Biden turns 78 today and is set to become the oldest president in US history 

From CNN's Arlette Saenz and Eric Bradner

Carolyn Kaster/AP
Carolyn Kaster/AP

President-elect Joe Biden turns 78 today, and when he is sworn in as president in January, he will be the oldest person in US history to have the job. 

He will beat, by eight years, the record set by President Trump when he was elected in 2016 at age 70. 

Biden was among the youngest men ever elected to the Senate in 1972, and in his third bid for the presidency, his life story of overcoming personal tragedy met the moment of a nation in the grips of health and economic crises. 

Vice-president elect Kamala Harris will also be making history when she takes office. She will become America's first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president.

8:37 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Biden will meet with Pelosi and Schumer in Delaware today

From CNN's Jessica Dean and Arlette Saenz

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speak at a news conference on Thursday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speak at a news conference on Thursday. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden will meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in Wilmington, Delaware, today, according to a transition official.

This will be the first in-person meeting for the trio since Biden won the election.

The meeting comes as Covid-19 cases continue to surge in the country and another stimulus deal is yet to be reached in Congress. More than 2,000 American deaths were recorded by Johns Hopkins University on Thursday — the highest number since early May.

Some of the last remaining stimulus programs for the unemployed, renters and student loan borrowers are set to expire by the end of December unless Congress or President Trump takes action.

While Congress moved swiftly to deliver trillions of dollars in pandemic relief programs when the country first shut down in March, a lot of those benefits have already lapsed.

Despite bipartisan support for another stimulus package, lawmakers have failed to come to any agreement for months, and there is little confidence that a deal could be reached in the lame-duck session.

8:41 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

"It's clear" we should recognize Biden as President-elect, says former head of agency tasked with transition

From CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi

David Barram was the head of the General Services Administration during the 2000 election.
David Barram was the head of the General Services Administration during the 2000 election. CNN

The former head of the General Services Administration during the 2000 election said Thursday that he would ascertain the 2020 results and begin the formal transition to a Joe Biden presidency, which the current administrator has yet to do.

"To me, it's clear that we should be recognizing Joe Biden as the President-elect," David Barram, the former GSA administrator appointed by Bill Clinton, told CNN's John Berman on "New Day."

The current GSA administrator, Emily Murphy, still has yet to acknowledge Biden's victory — as President Trump refuses to concede — and sign a letter to release funds to the Biden transition team through a process called ascertainment. Without the GSA's signoff, Biden and his team are stuck in limbo, barred from access to federal agencies during the Covid-19 pandemic and classified intelligence briefings.

Barram confirmed to CNN that he and Murphy spoke over the phone before the Nov. 3 election, saying it was a "very cordial conversation" and that Murphy had asked him about his experiences in the GSA.

"I'm very sympathetic to her. It's a tough spot to be in. I just think she has to finally come to a decision and like I say, I'm sympathetic for her. I think it will make everything work when she finally does," Barram said.

Barram said that the current situation is "dramatically different" than the GSA's delay in ascertainment during the 2000 standoff between George W. Bush and Al Gore, which came down to Florida and 537 votes that separated the two candidates.

"Both George Bush and Al Gore, and all of their team, they knew exactly what the deal was. It was whoever would win Florida would win the election. And that's all we were dealing with. And so it was not settled in Florida. And it was clearly not settled in Florida until the Supreme Court ruled. And then when the Supreme Court ruled, Al Gore immediately conceded," Barram said.

Barram had eventually ascertained Bush as the 2000 election winner after the Supreme Court ended the Florida recount.

Biden leads Trump by thousands of votes in several states in which the Trump campaign has filed lawsuits and is attempting to delay states' certifications of the results. Biden is also on track to net 306 electoral votes to Trump's 232.

Read more here.

8:15 a.m. ET, November 20, 2020

Here's how states certify election results — and why it matters more than ever this year

From CNN's Marshall Cohen and Kelly Mena

Though states finalize and certify their results after every election, the process of confirming the winner of the general election has taken on new significance this year, as President Trump continues to contest his loss.

Here are key things to know about the process:

  • Starting a week after Election Day, states began to certify their results after reviewing disputed ballots, conducting post-election audits, and double-checking numbers for accuracy. Federal, state and local election officials from both political parties have said there was no widespread fraud or irregularities in the 2020 election.
  • Certifying election results is typically a formality, but the process has become the latest battleground in Trump's longshot attempt to cling onto power. His campaign is trying to block or delay certification in key states in hopes of overturning Biden's victory through the Electoral College.
  • The idea is that if there's no certification, then Republican-run state legislatures in a few key states could appoint pro-Trump slates of presidential electors, even though Biden won the popular vote in their state. Senior GOP lawmakers in key states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have already rejected this idea, and some states have laws explicitly ruling out this option.
  • Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, a Republican, told reporters earlier this month that lawmakers don't have the legal grounds to appoint their own electors. While a spokesperson for Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, another Republican, also poured cold water on the idea of appointing electors that didn't support the winner of the statewide vote.
  • The scheme essentially becomes impossible if key states certify their presidential results before Dec. 8, which is known as a "safe harbor" deadline under federal law.
  • When Congress tallies the electoral votes in January, it must accept electors that were certified before the deadline. If a state missed the deadline, then Congress can consider disputed slates of electors.

Read more here.