Biden's transition moves ahead

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 2035 GMT (0435 HKT) December 9, 2020
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11:49 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Biden is expected to announce some domestic Cabinet picks Friday

From CNN's Arlette Saenz

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to announce some domestic Cabinet picks on Friday, a source familiar with the matter says, with the official rollout of retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the former commander of US Central Command, for Defense Secretary likely coming later on Tuesday.

The source also provided insight into Biden’s decision to select Austin, pointing to their long working relationship together along with his experience as a reason for the selection. The President-elect has developed a long standing trust and comfort level with him, including spending time in the Situation Room, the source added.

The selection would make Austin one of the most prominent members of Biden's Cabinet and incoming administration, and if confirmed, he would become the first Black man to lead the Pentagon.

Here's a look at who Biden has selected for his Cabinet so far:

11:27 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

House Republican proposes resolution to condemn lawmakers who urge Trump to "concede prematurely"

From CNN's Daniella Diaz, Kristin Wilson and Manu Raju

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

Rep. Alex Mooney, a Republican from West Virginia, offered a resolution on a Republican conference call Tuesday morning that would condemn any lawmaker who urges President Trump to “concede prematurely before these investigations are complete,” according to a source familiar with the call.

This resolution was not adopted by the conference Tuesday after it was proposed, per a source on the call.

This source says: “Mooney submitted it, but, per Conference rules, only the Leader and a Leader’s designee can submit a resolution for immediate consideration. The resolution was referred to committee. Mooney said specifically that the resolution was not targeting any member individually and that he didn’t think it applied to any member.”

President-elect Joe Biden's victory was projected by major news organizations over a month ago, and at least 46 states and DC have now certified their presidential election results. The Electoral College votes on Monday, and Congress will hold a joint session to finalize results in early January.

CNN's latest reporting on more House Republican efforts can be found here.

11:28 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Biden's Defense secretary pick would become the first Black man to lead the department if confirmed 

From CNN's Jake Tapper, Kate Sullivan and Zachary Cohen

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden has selected retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the former commander of US Central Command, to be his secretary of Defense, two sources familiar with the decision told CNN on Monday.

If confirmed by the Senate, Austin would be the first Black man to lead the Department of Defense.

Biden reached out to Austin over the weekend to offer the job, according to the source, and he accepted. Austin emerged as the leading candidate last week, the source said. Politico was first to report on Biden's selection of Austin.

Biden will likely announce the retired Army general as his nominee on Tuesday, a source familiar with the matter told CNN. The President-elect is also expected to announce some domestic Cabinet picks on Friday, the source said.

The selection would make Austin one of the most prominent members of Biden's Cabinet and incoming administration. The secretary of defense is in control of the nation's largest government agency, commanding troops around the world and the complicated internal workings of the Pentagon that make it one of the world's most formidable bureaucracies.

It also means Austin's political chops would be put to the test, juggling calls to cut defense spending, as some in Congress want, while still funding innovative future technology and prioritizing the challenges posed by Russia and China — all while maintaining military deterrence against Iran, North Korea and ISIS.

Austin has a long history of working within the Pentagon, and has worked with Biden closely in the past.

When he was vice president, Biden worked with Austin in a variety of positions, most prominently when he was commander of CENTCOM from 2013 to 2016, during which they had discussions on a range of issues including the Middle East and Central and South Asia.

Before that, but still during Biden's time as vice president, Austin was vice chief of staff of the Army and commanding general of US forces in Iraq.

Read more here.

Jessica Dean reports:

10:13 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Texas files desperate bid with Supreme Court asking justices to allow lawsuit against battleground states

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the Supreme Court late Monday night to take up a lawsuit against Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, arguing that the battleground states exploited the Covid-19 pandemic to justify ignoring federal and state election laws. He seeks to block election results from the states. 

It is the latest long shot petition to reach the high court challenging election results and faces tough odds before the justices.

If a state seeks to sue another state it can go directly to the Supreme Court but it would take five justices to agree to take up the matter. 

“This is an unextraordinary, unprecedented and offensive filing,” said CNN legal analyst Steve Vladeck. “The state of Texas has no business telling other states how to conduct their elections."

In the new filing, which has yet to be docketed at the high court, Paxton said that a “dark cloud” hangs over the 2020 Presidential election. 

“Lawful elections are at the heart of our constitutional democracy,” Paxton argued. He said that “using the Covid-19 pandemic as a justification” officials in the battle ground states “usurped their legislatures’ authority and unconstitutionally revised their state’s election statutes.” He said they did so through “executive fiat”. He pointed specifically to mail in ballots which he said were placed “in drop boxes,” with “little to know chain of custody” which weakened signature verification and witness requirements which he called “the strongest security measures protecting the integrity of the vote.”

9:50 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Lawyers for Pennsylvania blast Republican lawsuit seeking to nullify election certification results

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue

Lawyers for Pennsylvania told the Supreme Court Tuesday morning that a lawsuit brought by Republicans in the state seeking to block election certification results is “fundamentally frivolous” and represented one of the most “dramatic disruptive invocations of judicial power in the history of the Republic.”

“No court has ever issued an order nullifying a governor’s certification of presidential election results,” argued J. Bart Delone, the state’s Chief Deputy Attorney General, who also said “the loss of public trust in our constitutional order resulting in this kind of judicial power would be incalculable.”

The response came as the court is considering a petition from Rep. Mike Kelly and other state republicans asking the justices to nullify the certification of Pennsylvania election results, the latest desperate attempt on the part of republicans to challenge Joe Biden’s victory.  

Kelly challenges the Commonwealth’s “no-excuse” absentee ballot scheme that was passed in October of 2019. 

The effort faces steep odds at the Supreme Court, particularly because the dispute turns mostly on issues of state law. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed the challenge holding that Kelly and others failed to file their challenge in a timely manner.

“It is beyond cavil that petitioners failed to act with due diligence” in presenting the case, the court held noting that they filed the suit more than one year after the enactment of the law at issue. 

Remember: Pennsylvania certified its results on Nov. 24, and it came after the state's 67 counties certified precinct results to the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Kathy Boockvar.

10:46 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Biden’s inauguration ceremony likely will be 75% to 80% virtual

From CNN's Chris Boyette and Sarah Mucha

President-elect Joe Biden on Dec. 4, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.
President-elect Joe Biden on Dec. 4, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. Andrew Harnik/AP

President-elect Joe Biden will take the oath of office on Jan. 20 in a 75% to 80% virtual inauguration mixing traditional ceremony with virtual festivities, co-chair of the Biden Presidential Inaugural Committee Rep. Jim Clyburn told CNN’s John Berman on New Day Tuesday. 

“If anybody saw our convention, the Democratic Convention, I think you saw a bit of what you will see for this inauguration … I think the President will be sworn in in a traditional way, but 75-80% of this inauguration will probably be virtual. I was impressed with the production of our national convention,” the South Carolina congressman said.

CNN reported yesterday that Biden could return to the nation's capital for his inauguration ceremony the way he long bridged his life at home and his job in politics: On an Amtrak train from Wilmington, Delaware, to Washington, DC.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris announced last month the senior leadership of the committee charged with planning and executing what will be an unprecedented presidential inauguration.

The committee, which is charged with fundraising and organizing inaugural events, promises that in its planning, it will prioritize "keeping people safe and preventing the spread of COVID-19 while engaging all Americans."

Watch Rep. Clyburn:

8:57 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Biden and Trump will hold dueling events today on their Covid-19 responses 

Analysis by Stephen Collinson

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday at 1:40 p.m. ET will introduce the scientists and doctors he says will finally defeat the pandemic — but for now, his team can only watch as a wave of infection and death deepens the crisis he will face after Jan. 20.

As Biden will give his most significant preview yet of his plan to tackle the worst health challenge in 100 years, President Trump — whose dereliction of duty has contributed to the alarming winter surge — will hold his own pandemic event.

He will pitch for credit for the swift development of Covid-19 vaccines and sign an executive order prioritizing their supply for Americans during a vaccine summit that is expected to begin at 2 p.m. ET.

The dueling events — one in Biden's hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, and other at the White House — will showcase the vastly different approaches to the pandemic between Trump and Biden.

The President has repeatedly downplayed the disaster as he concentrates instead on false claims that last month's election was stolen from him. Biden, whose own campaign was an exercise in demonstrating social distancing and masking, is pledging to put science back at the center of the fight against the virus.

In the meantime, the tragedy of the pandemic is being exacerbated by the political vacuum in Washington. Trump, in his last weeks in office, has the power and presidential megaphone that could go a long way toward convincing Americans to take precautions, but has no inclination to do so.

Biden has the plans and a fresh team of experts who could make a difference, but he has no real power to shift American behavior and policies until he is inaugurated next month.

Read more here.

8:28 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Operation Warp Speed will meet with Biden transition team Thursday, White House vaccine chief says

From CNN's Naomi Thomas

Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser of the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, said on Tuesday that they have a meeting planned on Thursday with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team.

“We look forward to, you know, sharing all the information and working together,” Slaoui said on “Good Morning America.” 

“Our objective has always been outside of politics and making sure we make available these vaccines for the US people, and that’s what we’re doing,” Slaoui added.

The meeting will be held the same day as the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, a panel of independent experts, will meet to review Pfizer's data and make a recommendation to the FDA about whether to authorize the vaccine.

8:27 a.m. ET, December 8, 2020

Election results are locked in today thanks to "safe harbor." Here's what to know about the date.

Analysis from CNN's Paul LeBlanc and Zachary B. Wolf

President Trump's legal team for weeks has worked to delay the certification of Joe Biden's election win in a long-shot effort to create an opening for Trump stay in power.

On Tuesday, that small window for subversion officially closes.

That's because Tuesday is the "safe harbor" deadline under federal law. What that means is that when Congress tallies the electoral votes in January, it must accept electoral results that were certified before the deadline.

Most states have already certified their results. Missouri is set to certify on Tuesday. Others, like Hawaii, have delayed their formal procedures, but none of the battleground states that Trump's team was hoping to hold up will be in play after Tuesday.

CNN legal analyst Elie Honig puts it this way: The arrival of the safe harbor date should effectively extinguish any dying embers of hope even for the last few remaining election denialists. And what an utter disaster — legally and otherwise — the Trump team's effort to contest the election in the courts has been.

Trump's team sees the writing on the wall. There is a sense developing within Trump's legal team and what remains of his campaign staff that their efforts to overturn or delay the results of the election are coming to an end, multiple sources tell CNN.

But there's still room for drama. It's now up to the Electoral College to make Biden's victory completely official. 

On Dec. 14, electors will meet in their states to cast their votes for president and vice president. Those votes are later transmitted to officials and counted in a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6.

A version of this story appeared in CNN's What Matters newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.