The latest on Biden's transition

By Meg Wagner, Fernando Alfonso III and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020
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7:24 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

Biden spokesperson not surprised by Supreme Court decision on Texas lawsuit

From CNN's Arlette Saenz

A spokesperson for President-elect Joe Biden's campaign said today's Supreme Court decision to reject a bid to block the ballots of millions of voters in battleground states was "no surprise." 

"The Supreme Court has decisively and speedily rejected the latest of Donald Trump and his allies’ attacks on the democratic process," campaign spokesperson Mike Gwin said.

He added: "This is no surprise — dozens of judges, election officials from both parties, and Trump's own Attorney General have dismissed his baseless attempts to deny that he lost the election. President-elect Biden's clear and commanding victory will be ratified by the Electoral College on Monday, and he will be sworn in on January 20th."

Some background: The court's move to dismiss the challenge is the strongest indication yet that President Trump has no chance of overturning election results in court that even the justices whom he placed there have no interest in allowing his desperate legal bids to continue.

The lawsuit, brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a staunch Trump ally, sought to sue Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and Wisconsin — which all went for Biden — and invalidate their election results. And this week, with his options narrowing, Trump, accompanied by the support of several Republican attorneys general and GOP lawmakers, cranked up pressure to have the Supreme Court weigh in.

7:28 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

Supreme Court rejects lawsuit from Texas and Trump to overturn the election

From CNN's Ariane de Vogue 

Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather outside of the US Supreme Court on Friday, December 11.
Supporters of US President Donald Trump gather outside of the US Supreme Court on Friday, December 11. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

The Supreme Court acted with unusual speed to reject a bid from Texas’ attorney general— supported by President Trump — to block the ballots of millions of voters in battleground states that went in favor of President-elect Joe Biden.

The court’s move to dismiss the challenge is the strongest indication yet, that Trump has no chance of overturning election results in court that even the justices who he placed on the Supreme Court have no interest in allowing his desperate legal bids to continue.

The court did not provide a vote count but there were no dissents to the order. Justice Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas would have allowed the case to be filed with the court, but emphasized they would grant no other relief.

“All of the justices end up in the same place, which is that Texas’ lawsuit cannot go forward. The only disagreement is as to why. Justice Alito and Thomas would have granted Texas permission to bring the suit but gone no further; the rest of the court declined to even go that far,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and University of Texas Law professor.  

“The separate statement from Justices Alito and Thomas is reiterating a longstanding objection that they both have to how the court handles lawsuits between states, and is not specific to this dispute,” he said.

Vladeck said the court’s unsigned order is “the closest possible thing to the last nail in the coffin for election-related legal challenges.”

“Not only did the Court reject Texas’s effort to challenge the results in four battleground states, but it did so on a ground that will prevent any other states from doing so. And even Justice Thomas and Alito, who might otherwise have been sympathetic to these challenges, went out of their way to express that they would grant no relief on the merits,” he said. “From a legal perspective, the fat lady has sung.”

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro reacted on Twitter to the Supreme Court decision saying, "Texas vs. Pennsylvania has been DENIED by the Supreme Court."

"Our nation’s highest court saw through this seditious abuse of our electoral process. This swift denial should make anyone contemplating further attacks on our election think twice," he tweeted.

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul told CNN's Wolf Blitzer today's decision is "great news for democracy and for the rule of law."

"None of the justices who the President appointed to the Supreme Court noted a dissent, and he had made a big show of the fact that he said he needed to have justices on the Supreme Court for the election, but that's not how the rule of law works. Justices decide based on the facts and the law and not based on the parties in the case," he said. "Today's decision vindicates that principle."

Watch CNN's Jessica Schneider report:

5:02 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

Biden’s Covid-19 equity task force chair says Covid-19 exposed a "crisis of discrimination" in health care 

From CNN's Nicole Chavez 

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who has been selected to serve as the chair of President-elect Biden's Covid-19 equity task force, is displayed via video during an event at The Queen theater in Wilmington, on Tuesday, December 8.
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, who has been selected to serve as the chair of President-elect Biden's Covid-19 equity task force, is displayed via video during an event at The Queen theater in Wilmington, on Tuesday, December 8. Susan Walsh/AP

Hospitals and health care facilities across the United States are a clear reflection of the social inequities and the country must not remain complacent, said Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, chair of President-elect Joe Biden’s Covid-19 equity task force. 

“Health care free of racism and discrimination is a right and not a privilege,” Nunez-Smith said Friday in a web briefing hosted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Morehouse School of Medicine’s Satcher Health Leadership Institute. “It is our societal obligation to ensure equitable access to high-quality health care during the pandemic and beyond." 

Earlier this week, Nunez-Smith was introduced as a key member of Biden’s health team. She had previously been appointed as a co-chair of the Transition Covid-19 Advisory Board with former US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. David Kessler and former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy. 

“We realized, we must really not become comfortable with the fact that over 70% of African Americans and 60% of Latinx Americans personally know someone who has been hospitalized, or died from Covid-19,” she said. 

As health care experts in the US look into 2021, Nunez-Smith says, one of the nation’s priorities should be to collect high-quality data on race and ethnicity and commit to increasing the number of health care workers of color and those in leadership positions.

 

3:47 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

Michigan's Supreme Court denies Trump campaign's request to appeal

From CNN's Jessica Schneider

The Michigan Supreme Court's Hall of Justice in Lansing, Michigan on January 17.
The Michigan Supreme Court's Hall of Justice in Lansing, Michigan on January 17. Carlos Osorio/AP

Michigan’s Supreme Court on Friday denied efforts by the Trump campaign to appeal a lawsuit that was slapped down by two lower state courts.

The state’s Court of Appeals had previously said the case was “moot” since the vote has already been certified. The Trump campaign’s lawsuit initially asked to halt the counting of absentee ballots.  

This was the case where the lower court judge dismissed the affidavits filed in support as hearsay.

3:45 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

Biden introduces more Cabinet nominees and top administration roles

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, arrives to introduce nominees to his incoming administration on December 11, in Wilmington, Delaware.
U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, arrives to introduce nominees to his incoming administration on December 11, in Wilmington, Delaware. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden introduced several Cabinet nominees and other top administration picks on Friday at an event in Wilmington, Delaware.

"Some are familiar faces. Some are new in their roles. All are facing new circumstances and challenges. That's a good thing," Biden said at the event. "They bring deep experience and bold new thinking. Above all, they know how government should and can work for all Americans."

Biden this week announced Denis McDonough, President Barack Obama's former chief of staff, as his pick for secretary of Veterans Affairs; Tom Vilsack, a former agriculture secretary, as his nominee for agriculture secretary; and Marcia Fudge, an Ohio congresswoman, as his pick for secretary of housing and urban development.

The President-elect also named Susan Rice, former national security adviser during the Obama administration, as his director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Katherine Tai, who oversaw trade enforcement for China during the Obama administration, as his nominee for United States Trade Representative.

More context: The President-elect's picks were officially announced on Thursday by his transition team. McDonough, Vilsack, Fudge and Tai will all require Senate confirmation to serve in their roles. Rice will not.

McDonough served as chief of staff during Obama's entire second term and also worked as deputy national security adviser. He developed a close relationship with Biden while serving in both positions. He also chaired the National Security Council's Deputies Committee, which is responsible for formulating the administration's national security and foreign policy.

Vilsack served as agriculture secretary for the entirety of Obama's time in the White House. He was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate in January 2009. Vilsack is also the former governor of Iowa, and served from 1999 to 2007. He was the first Democrat elected governor of the state in more than 30 years.

3:35 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

Biden nominates Tom Vilsack for secretary of Agriculture

Tom Vilsack speaks at a campaign stop for President-elect Joe Biden at the LOFT on Jefferson, in Burlington, Iowa on January 31.
Tom Vilsack speaks at a campaign stop for President-elect Joe Biden at the LOFT on Jefferson, in Burlington, Iowa on January 31. Andrew Harnik/AP

President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Tom Vilsack as secretary of Agriculture, a position he once held before.

"For secretary of agriculture, I nominate Tom Vilsack, an outstanding two-term governor of Iowa," Biden said during a news conference this afternoon. "The best secretary of agriculture I believe this country has ever had. He was there when the great recession was pummelling through America. Over eight years, he saw a record-breaking investment to bring us back. He implemented the recovery act to help rural communities recover and rebuild. Tom helped expand markets around the world for American farmers. He improved our food safety standards. He helped millions of children and families receive healthy meals."

Watch President-elect Joe Biden make the announcement:

3:46 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

Some Republican senators slam Texas lawsuit after more than 100 House GOP members sign on

From CNN's Manu Raju and Daniella Diaz

Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., is seen in the basement of the Capitol on Wednesday, December 2.
Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., is seen in the basement of the Capitol on Wednesday, December 2. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Several Republican senators on Friday weighed in on a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the results of the election.

More than 100 House GOP members signed on to an amicus brief backing Texas. The signatories include several lawmakers from the four states from which Trump and Texas are trying to throw out millions of votes: four from Georgia, four from Michigan, seven from Pennsylvania and one from Wisconsin.

Moderate GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she was disappointed by the Texas lawsuit to overturn the election.

"I am really surprised and disappointed that 43 days before everything is to be certified that there would be an effort by members, effort by states that are not even impacted in the sense of the challenges," she said. 

She added she would be surprised if she got a petition sent to her office.

"I don't think they would send one to my office. I would certainly hope not. Because that meant they haven't seen my statements which I have clearly said President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris are going to be beginning a new administration in January," she said.

Asked about his House GOP colleagues joining the amicus brief, including Rep. Steve Scalise, Sen. John Cornyn asked, "Did they read it?" before laughing.

"I'm for people seeking recourse," he said, adding that he looks forward to seeing the Supreme Court decision when it happens.

When asked if he’s aligning himself legally with the lawsuit, close Trump ally Sen. Mike Braun responded, “I just haven’t made my mind up yet.”

“You know I’ve all along said that I want the process to play out and I’m just watching it, observing, not sure what’s going to happen, I’m anxious to see if the Supreme Court is going to hear it, I think they should,” he said.

When asked about the Texas lawsuit, retiring GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander said, "I’m never surprised by the House of Representatives" and laughed. 

And Sen. Joni Ernst dodged questions on if she's supportive. "I think it's important all vote be counted," she said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Steve Daines told CNN he was supportive of the lawsuit.

"Montana has joined it and I'm glad to see why," Daines said, adding he supports it. "I have great confidence in the United State Supreme Court ... and we'll wait to see what the Court rules."

11:15 a.m. ET, December 11, 2020

Biden and Harris were named Time Person of the Year. Here's how the President-elect is reacting.

From CNN’s Sarah Mucha

President-elect Joe Biden said he's honored to be named Time magazine's Person of the Year alongside Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. He tweeted that he's "grateful" to be on a list with "so many extraordinary folks."

Earlier today, Time magazine announced it had named Biden and Harris 2020's Person of the Year.

The two made history on November 7 when they beat Trump in a bitter election that put him in a small club of presidents who served only one term. Harris on that day became the country's first female, first Black and first South Asian vice president-elect.

Meanwhile, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan was named Businessperson of the Year. The video chat service spiked in popularity amid a health crisis that forced people to work and learn from home.

In the category of Guardians of the Year, Time named activists Assa Traoré, Porche Bennett-Bey and racial-justice organizers; frontline health workers fighting the pandemic; and Dr. Anthony Fauci.

3:46 p.m. ET, December 11, 2020

Texas files response to Supreme Court, meaning the justices may rule at any time

From CNN's Dan Berman

The Supreme Court building is seen on December 7.
The Supreme Court building is seen on December 7. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Texas on Friday filed its reply to the Supreme Court, defending its lawsuit against the four states that voted for President-elect Joe Biden. 

The move now means that the Justices can act on the lawsuit at any time.

Some background on this lawsuit: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed the lawsuit Tuesday. The President on Wednesday filed a motion to intervene — basically a request to join the lawsuit, asking for the same result. Seventeen GOP states are backing the effort as well.

The Republicans want, essentially, to swing the election to Trump. They're asking for the court to block the electors from Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, pushing Biden back under the magic 270-vote total to win.