Biden begins transition plans as Trump refuses to concede

By Meg Wagner and Melissa Macaya, CNN

Updated 0313 GMT (1113 HKT) November 10, 2020
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7:58 p.m. ET, November 9, 2020

Biden will deliver remarks on Affordable Care Act tomorrow as SCOTUS hears arguments

From CNN's Arlette Saenz

President-elect Joe Biden will deliver remarks on the Affordable Care Act Tuesday afternoon as the US Supreme Court is set to begin hearing arguments on attempts to overturn President Barack Obama’s signature health care initiative.

The event will take place around 2 p.m. ET in Wilmington, Delaware, and Vice-President elect Kamala Harris will join Biden.

Some context: Tuesday's case, California v. Texas, centers on the consequences of Congress' action in 2017 zeroing out the tax penalty for Americans who failed to obtain minimum insurance coverage. That individual mandate was intended to encourage more people, especially young, healthy individuals, to buy insurance and spread out the costs of care.

The ACA was upheld by the US Supreme Court in 2012 when it was broadly challenged as a violation of Congress' power to regulate commerce. Chief Justice John Roberts cast the crucial fifth vote to uphold it, saying the individual insurance requirement as part of Congress' taxing authority.

Now that the penalty was taken out, the new arguments are being brought by a group of Republican attorneys general, led by Texas and backed by the Trump administration.

7:58 p.m. ET, November 9, 2020

Top Republicans skeptical that Trump's court challenges will change election outcome

From CNN's Manu Raju and Ted Barrett

Senator Lindsey Graham  speaks to members of the media at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Monday, November 9.
Senator Lindsey Graham speaks to members of the media at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Monday, November 9. Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Despite their public rhetoric backing President Trump's fight against the election results, top Republicans recognize there is little chance the outcome can be changed — and hope that the court fights will be resolved quickly.

Several senior Republicans told CNN Monday evening that Trump is within his rights to make his case court. But senators all were either doubtful about Trump's chances of overturning tens of thousands of votes in several key states — or wouldn't say if they agreed with the President that there was mass voting fraud.

“He’s got every right to go through the process," said Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican and member of GOP leadership. "Right now it looks like an uphill climb for him to be sure. ...This could be over pretty quickly.”

Asked if Trump should concede if his lawsuits fall short, Cornyn said, "Unless he’s got some evidence that would change the numbers. The numbers are pretty compelling. But I don’t think we’re there yet.”

“I personally haven’t seen any," said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the most senior Senate Republican when asked about widespread voting fraud that could change the election. "But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been some. I would have no way to go beyond what I know and I just know that I haven’t seen any. But there could be fraud.”

The message was consistent among a number of Republicans, who don't want to break with the leader of their party who won more than 71 million votes. But they also see the reality that Joe Biden is on his way to the White House.

"We are going to scrutinize the system," Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham said of mail-in voting. "We're going to accept the results of court decisions and vote totals. But we're not stopping."

When asked if Trump would accept a loss in the courts, Graham only said, "I will."

Graham also said he spoke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to set up a joint committee to investigate mail-in voting. "We need to put this new way of voting under a lot of scrutiny. .. [McConnell] said it's something to think about — but he's more worried about keeping the Senate."

The President's uphill legal fight has put Republicans in awkward spot, especially as some in their party — like former President George W. Bush — have begun to refer to Biden as "President-elect."

"I think I've said all I'm going to say about that," said Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican and member of GOP leadership, when asked if Biden should be called "President-elect."

8:22 p.m. ET, November 9, 2020

Attorney General Barr tells federal prosecutors to look into unsupported allegations of voting irregularities

From CNN's Evan Perez

Attorney General William Barr reminded federal prosecutors Monday that they should examine allegations of voting irregularities before states move to certify results in the coming weeks, though the nation's top federal law enforcement official didn't provide any indication that the Justice Department has come up with evidence to support President Trump's claim of massive fraud in last week's election. 

In his memo, Barr notes that while "most allegations of purported election misconduct are of such a scale that they would not impact the outcome of an election and, thus, investigation can appropriately be deferred, that is not always the case."

"Furthermore, any concerns that overt actions taken by the Department could inadvertently impact an election are greatly minimized, if they exist at all, once voting has concluded, even if election certification has not yet been completed," he wrote.

Barr's letter to criminal prosecutors broke a days-long silence that has been awkward as Trump and his campaign lawyers have previously held news conferences and filed lawsuits that have been devoid of any evidence of widespread fraud. Trump says voting irregularities explain why he is behind in states he would need to win reelection. Trump has refused to concede defeat to Joe Biden, the clear winner based on vote tallies.

A Justice official says no one asked or directed Barr to issue his memo. 

The purpose of Barr's memo is unclear, since prosecutors already know their responsibilities to investigate vote fraud and other irregularities. But it could serve to provide the President some indication that Barr and the Justice Department are working to find the evidence that Trump and his campaign so far haven't produced. 

Barr told prosecutors in his Monday memo: "I authorize you to pursue substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities prior to the certification of elections in your jurisdictions in certain cases, as I have already done in specific instances."

In his memo, Barr notes that in most cases, alleged fraud isn't widespread enough to make a difference in an election, as election law experts have noted is the case in last week's vote. 

Barr has been described by some Justice officials as obsessed with the idea of vote fraud in recent weeks. He has repeatedly inquired on efforts by prosecutors to look for signs of fraud, justice officials say. He also inquired about the possibility of sending federal officers to polling stations, though he was advised that federal law prohibited sending armed federal officers to guard the polls. 

7:09 p.m. ET, November 9, 2020

Biden allies are realizing they will have to fight more during transition period

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

President-elect Joe Biden has told his allies over the weekend that he wanted to give Republicans — and President Trump — a little time to accept the results of the election. But more than 48 hours later, two officials say, reality is setting in that this transition may be more difficult than many inside Biden world assumed.

The statement from the General Services Administration's administrator today — comparing this election to the 2000 Bush v. Gore race — triggered worry that this is going to be a fight.

So for all of the calls of unity from Biden — echoed in statements from former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush — there is an increasing sense they will have to fight more to preserve the legitimacy of the election outcome.

What we know: Look for Biden allies to start escalating their rhetoric on this and looking for more people to start making the case on TV and beyond, the officials said.

7:26 p.m. ET, November 9, 2020

Control of the Senate will likely come down to Georgia. Here's how the runoff races will work.

From CNN's Caroline Kelly

Jon Ossoff will likely face incumbent Davide Perdue in a runoff on January 5.
Jon Ossoff will likely face incumbent Davide Perdue in a runoff on January 5. Getty Images

Election Day may have come and gone, but the race for control of the US Senate continues in Georgia, as its voters are on track to vote again in January for its two senators. 

Under Georgia's laws, a Senate candidate needs to hit 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff. Neither of the state's Republican senators – David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler – have so far reached that cutoff, meaning both contests will likely go to a runoff Jan. 5.

For Georgians wondering about the schedule, here are some key dates to remember as the second round of the races kick off, according to the Georgia Secretary of State's website:

  • Nov. 18: Earliest day for a registrar to mail an absentee ballot for the general election runoff
  • Dec. 7: Voter registration deadline to vote in the federal runoff election
  • Dec. 14: Advanced in-person or early voting begins for the general election runoff for federal offices
  • Jan. 5: Federal runoff election day

Loeffler, who was appointed late last year to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson, faced multiple candidates in her race, including the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and GOP Rep. Doug Collins, depriving her of enough votes to win outright. 

Loeffler and Warnock advanced to the runoff, CNN projected last week. CNN has not yet made a projection in the Perdue race, which featured three candidates. But Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff looks to be pulling Perdue below the 50% threshold, making it almost certain that the pair will also meet in the Jan. 5 election, as both candidates are already campaigning for the runoff.

Both GOP senators have followed President Trump's lead in making unfounded claims questioning the election's integrity.

On Monday, the pair asserted that "the management of Georgia elections has become an embarrassment for our state" and called for Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to resign. Raffensperger, a Republican, assured that such a move "is not going to happen." 

Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, also a Republican, said Monday his office has not seen any evidence of widespread voter fraud or irregularities in his state.

7:12 p.m. ET, November 9, 2020

President-elect Biden is not receiving national security briefings yet, intel office says

From CNN's Alex Marquardt and Zachary Cohen

 Office of Director of National Intelligence
Office of Director of National Intelligence

One of the first rights of a presidential candidate after winning the election is access to the same highly-classified intelligence briefings about pressing national security issues that their soon-to-be predecessor has been offered daily.

But with the election not yet ascertained by the General Services Administration (GSA), President-elect Joe Biden and his senior advisers are not yet receiving the Presidential Daily Brief, as it’s known. 

"ODNI follows the statutory direction provided in the Presidential Transition Act, which requires ascertainment of the candidate by the administrator of GSA prior to supporting a potential presidential transition,” the Office of Director of National Intelligence said in a Monday evening statement. “ODNI would not have contact with any transition team until notified by the GSA Administrator.” 

The statement is a clear indication that the Biden transition team is not getting the same briefings that president-elects typically receive. What remains unclear, however, is whether in fact the race needs to be ascertained before the President-elect can legally receive the briefings. 

What this means: “Ascertainment” is granted by the administrator of the General Services Administration and until she signs a letter, presidential-level intelligence briefings are one of the key components of the transition on hold.

“Past practice was that the president-elect would receive the PDB daily,” said the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who briefed Trump after he won. “It was, as I recall, identical to what the President received.” 

Once Biden became the Democratic nominee, he was granted expanded intelligence briefings and his campaign was offered more specific briefings on threats to the election, both by the Office of Director of National Intelligence.

“It should change when you have a president-elect because it’s not theoretical anymore. You need to be ready for North Korea issue ‘A’ or Iran issue ‘B,’” said Robert Cardillo, a former PDB briefer to President Barack Obama.

But giving more access to Biden and his top advisers “would imply that you’re accepting the results,” according to Cardillo, whose name has been mentioned for a potential senior intelligence position in the Biden administration. “To me it would be highly, highly unlikely. No one would want to face the wrath of the current president.”

Transition put the fiercely apolitical intelligence community in an awkward position, says Clapper, who has been highly critical of Trump.

“The IC has to serve, essentially, two Presidents at the same time,” Clapper said. “I know [during the Obama-Trump transition] we discussed whether any particularly sensitive articles should be excluded from the President-elect’s version, but don’t believe we actually did so.”

6:47 p.m. ET, November 9, 2020

Trump adviser: The President is beginning to see "path to losing"

From CNN's Jim Acosta

President Trump is beginning to come to grips with the reality that he will lose the election, a Trump adviser said based on conversations inside the campaign and with the President. 

Trump sees a “path to losing,” the adviser said. 

He has already begun to discuss with aides the prospect of running in 2024, as CNN reported last week.

6:47 p.m. ET, November 9, 2020

Trump campaign files lawsuit attempting to block results of Pennsylvania election

From CNN's Katelyn Polantz

Luzerne County workers canvas ballots as vote counting in the general election continued on Friday, November 6 , in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Luzerne County workers canvas ballots as vote counting in the general election continued on Friday, November 6 , in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Mary Altaffer/AP/FILE

The Trump campaign is attempting to block the Pennsylvania Secretary of State from certifying Joe Biden's win and the 20 electoral votes he is set to obtain there, according to a new federal lawsuit they've filed in the state that attacks absentee voting as illegal. 

State and federal courts had already confirmed absentee voting as a legitimate voting method before the election – though this exact request hasn't been before a federal judge in the state before. 

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called the Trump campaign’s latest lawsuit “meritless” and said he is confident “Pennsylvania law will be upheld and the will of the people of the Commonwealth will be respected in this election.”

Experts say the newest Trump case is very unlikely to succeed, especially because it seeks to invalidate millions of votes cast in good faith in Pennsylvania.

Steve Vladeck, a CNN legal expert, called the suit a "Hail Mary," adding "our entire system would be unlawful if they're right."

Another CNN legal expert, Ben Ginsberg, echoed called the effort to block the votes an act of "desperation."

"This is the sort of desperation, throw the kitchen sink at the wall and see what sticks strategy. They're asking the courts to disenfranchise all the Pennsylvania voters because of mistakes officials made, and courts frown about that," Ginsberg said. "This appears to be an attempt to bollox up the certification of results so there's no winner declared, and that lets the Pennsylvania legislature name the slate of electors."

6:40 p.m. ET, November 9, 2020

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse congratulates Biden

From CNN's Ted Barrett

 Hilary Swift/Pool/Getty Images/FILE
 Hilary Swift/Pool/Getty Images/FILE

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse has offered his congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in a statement to the Omaha World-Herald.

“Melissa and I congratulate the next president, Joe Biden, and the next vice president, Kamala Harris,” the Nebraska lawmaker said in a statement to the paper. “Today in our house we pray for both President Trump and President-Elect Biden, that both would be wise in the execution of their respective duties during this important time in our nation.”

The statement to the paper also said: “Despite the policy differences many of us will have with the incoming administration, every American’s civic responsibilities are the same: root for every president’s success, work together where we can, and debate passionately and respectfully.”

More on this: Sasse is the fourth Republican senator to acknowledge the President-elect's victory. Maine Sen. Susan Collins issued a statement earlier today and offered congratulations to Biden and Harris. Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney has vocally congratulated the Biden-Harris ticket, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski also released a statement this weekend congratulating them.