Biden's transition moves ahead

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

Updated 8:01 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020
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6:22 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Expect a "flurry" of pardons before Trump leaves office, source says

From CNN's Jim Acosta

Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Sipa USA
Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Sipa USA

The public should expect a "flurry" of pardons before President Trump leaves office, as has happened at the end of previous administrations, a source close to the White House said.

This source, familiar with discussions on the matter, also said some of the President's advisers believe that it would perfectly fine for Trump to pardon his family members and other associates preemptively, even though they haven't been charged with any crimes. 

The source pointed to the case of Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon who resigned during the Watergate scandal. Nixon had not been charged with a crime when he was pardoned.

The source went on to say some of the President's advisers believe that Trump could legally pardon himself, an assertion that's disputed by some constitutional scholars. But it's an indication where the President's head may be on what would be an unprecedented use of the pardon power. 

CNN's Jim Acosta reports:

6:02 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Biden holds virtual roundtable with workers and small business owners impacted by pandemic 

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

Biden Transition Team
Biden Transition Team

President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday afternoon held a virtual roundtable with workers and small business owners who have been affected by the economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I know times are both tough, but I believe that with the right policies we can fundamentally change things,” Biden said during the event. “And my hope is that we'll be able to help in a short order, but that depends a lot on our friends in Congress, the other side, who are prepared to take the action has to be taken.”

Biden heard from Lorie Alexander, a school crossing guard in Chicago; Karen Coffey, a server in Michigan; Dan Jacobs, an owner in the hospitality business in Wisconsin; and Jessica Gavin, a stagehand in Georgia. All spoke about the challenges and uncertainty they have faced in the pandemic.

“I'm going to be completely blunt with you,” Biden said after hearing from some of the participants. “My ability to get you help immediately does not exist. I'm not even in an office for another 50 days. And then I have to get legislation passed through the United States Congress to get things done.”

But, he said, his transition team has already been working on what he will put forward in the next Congress to address the economic crisis and the response to the coronavirus pandemic. He also spoke about readying plans to distribute a vaccine across the nation once one becomes available. 

In the meantime, the President-elect called on Congress to come together and immediately pass a robust package of relief to address Americans’ urgent needs, including providing states and citifies with necessary funding. He spoke about the importance of providing economic assistance to workers and businesses and helping businesses open safely.

Biden criticized the Trump administration for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the early weeks and months. 

The President-elect also issued a stern warning about holiday travel. “You cannot be traveling during these holidays, as much as you want to,” Biden said. He spoke of his own small Thanksgiving dinner and urged Americans to heed the advice of medical experts and forego big gatherings around the holidays to protect against the spread of the virus.

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4:37 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Georgia Secretary of State's office will start releasing recount results soon 

From CNN’s Jason Morris and Tori Apodaca

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia's voting implementation manager.
Gabriel Sterling, Georgia's voting implementation manager. Pool

Georgia Secretary of State’s office will start posting recount results to its website within the hour, according to Gabriel Sterling, the state's voting implementation manager.

Of Georgia's 159 counties, 132 have finished recount efforts.

“The bottom line is so far that of the 132 that we reviewed, there’s no substance of changes. The outcome remains the same,” Sterling said, speaking from the state capitol during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.  

Sterling said that their office made an “executive decision” this afternoon to wait until now to start to put the results out.   

“If we put out the election night voting for the recount, guess what the small counties are done first, so what does that mean when we make it live? President Trump would have a big lead. And they would say, oh look it’s happening again. Yes, it’s happening again because it is basically you are watching the repeat of the same movie,” Sterling said.   

Results from the 132 counties will be seen immediately when they are uploaded to the secretary of state’s website. As the counties continue to upload the results, the secretary of state will continue to upload them on their website.    

“They all will get done by tomorrow and meet the deadlines of Friday to recertify and the state will meet its deadline of recertifying by Friday afternoon, “ Sterling said. “The governor will do his ascertainment and send the paperwork back to DC."  

To note: There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Georgia, which Biden won by more than 12,000 votes. Nearly 5 million votes were cast statewide.  

3:51 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Biden is holding a virtual roundtable with small business owners

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

Biden Transition Team
Biden Transition Team

President-elect Joe Biden is participating in a virtual roundtable in Wilmington, Delaware, with workers and small business owners impacted by the economic crisis.

The event comes a day after Biden introduced key members of his economic team at an event, including Janet Yellen, who would be the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary.

Biden stressed the need to help businesses and schools open safely, and deliver immediate economic relief to the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs in the pandemic.

The President-elect said his transition team "is already working on what I'll put forward in the next Congress to address the multiple crises we are facing, especially our economic and Covid crises."

2:48 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

How the Pentagon is facilitating transition efforts with Biden's incoming administration

From CNN's Jamie Crawford

AF{/Getty Images/FILE
AF{/Getty Images/FILE

The Defense Department has provided office space to personnel from the incoming Biden-Harris administration and they “were given a brief tour of their office spaces this week,” Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough said in a statement Wednesday.

In addition, the department's transition task force has also accommodated the “processing of temporary badges, non-disclosure agreements and other administrative matters,” as well as “preparing responses to the initial requests for information” from representatives of the incoming administration, and “coordinating requested interviews” between current Pentagon officials and the incoming team.

“DOD is committed to fulfilling our statutory requirements and supporting the Agency Review Team process in a professional, orderly, efficient and transparent manner, while also ensuring that we implement the National Defense Strategy," Gough said in a statement.

The spokesperson also noted that the DOD Agency Transition director and key members of the DOD Transition Task Force held their first virtual meeting with the Agency Review Team leadership on Nov. 25. 

1:29 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

FDA commissioner says he's not heard from Biden team and is "not expecting" to stay in his job

From CNN’s Virginia Langmaid

U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn testifies at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on June 30 in Washington, DC.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn testifies at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on June 30 in Washington, DC. Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images

US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn on Wednesday said he has not heard from “anyone” from President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

“We will be completely cooperative with any information that’s required to promote and protect the public health,” Hahn told CBS, adding that he has not heard from any administration member or from Biden himself.

Hahn confirmed he attended a meeting at the White House on Tuesday, but declined to say who he met with.

Asked whether he thought he would stay on in his position under a Biden administration, Hahn said, “I am not expecting that.”

1:31 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

White House press secretary mum on Trump's reported 2024 reelection plans

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany listens during a briefing at the White House on December 2 in Washington, DC.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany listens during a briefing at the White House on December 2 in Washington, DC. Evan Vucci/AP

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters on Wednesday that she’s not aware of reported efforts President Trump may be making to pursue a reelection bid in 2024.

McEnany said she was not aware of the President planning to announce his 2024 candidate before or on Inauguration Day at the White House.

“I have not heard any discussions of that. I’m aware of the reporting, but the President’s campaign is currently pursuing active litigation and that is the focus, at least, at the moment,” McEnany said during the White House press briefing.

McEnany also said she hadn’t spoken to the President about comments related to what he said Tuesday night, presumably at a reception talking about “another four years.” 

She redirected the reporter asking about the 2024 run to the campaign.

1:45 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

Hispanic lawmakers gather signatures for letter urging Biden to select a more diverse Cabinet

From CNN's Daniella Diaz

A group of Hispanic lawmakers in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are gathering signatures for a letter to send to President-elect Joe Biden asking him to appoint either Xavier Becerra, current attorney general of California, or Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, to serve as the US Attorney General in his Cabinet. 

This is part of an effort by the CHC to put pressure on Biden to select a more diverse cabinet.

The group is still gathering signatures and has not yet submitted the letter.

CNN also obtained a letter for Jeffrey Zients, the co-chair of the Biden transition, from CHC leadership, sent Nov. 19 asking Biden to appoint five Latinos to his initial Cabinet and to appoint at least one Latino to one of the top four Cabinet positions.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham meanwhile is the leading contender to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, people familiar with the matter tell CNN, and is expected to be nominated for one of the most critical roles in Biden's Cabinet.

Members of the CHC had publicly pushed Biden to pick Lujan Grisham, sending a letter to Biden's transition team lobbying for her selection.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Dan Merica, Kristen Holmes and Jeremy Herb contributed reporting to this post.

12:34 p.m. ET, December 2, 2020

NAACP requests meeting with Biden on importance of Black nominees within the administration

From CNN's Jessica Dean and MJ Lee 

The NAACP, along with other civil rights groups, has requested time with President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to discuss among other things the importance of appointing Black nominees to the Biden administration, NAACP spokesperson Marc Banks told CNN.

While they have not heard back from the transition team about their request, Banks said they are optimistic about getting a meeting scheduled for the near future.

These groups are also eager to discuss the issues that are important to communities of color, like environmental and social justice matters and the accessibility of safe drinking water for vulnerable communities, Banks added.

This comes as the Biden transition team is facing lobbying from multiple directions as he builds out his administration to appoint more people of color to senior roles. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, for example, wrote a letter to the transition team asking that New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham be nominated to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. 

A Biden transition official told CNN that they had been engaged with the NAACP LDF and the National Urban League.