Posts tagged with "President-elect Joe Biden"

In hourlong phone call, Trump entreats, bullies Georgia secretary of state to overturn election results

January 5, 2021

He lost the general election last November 3, but he refuses to accept the well-documented results. Indeed, on Sunday, January 3, President Donald Trump begged Georgia’s secretary of state to overturn the election results during an astounding hourlong phone call.

NBC News reports that the network has obtained a tape of the unprecedented phone conversation, during which the president offered a smorgasbord of false claims about voter fraud and repeatedly berated state officials.

“So look,” Trump told Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, “All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”

Excerpts of the call, which took place Saturday, were first published Sunday by The Washington Post.

The conversation is revealing in that it not only documents Trump’s threats against Raffensperger, but hints at what may have been said in talks between the president and other state and political officials nationwide since the POTUS lost the election to President-elect Biden by a decisive 7 million votes.

The phone call featured Trump, days before he is set to leave office, pleading with Raffensperger to alter the vote total and launching into a barrage of discredited conspiracy theories about the election. Trump even suggested that Raffensperger might face criminal consequences should he refuse to intervene in accordance with Trump’s wishes.

Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel, Ryan Germany, pushed back against Trump’s claims and said President-elect Joe Biden’s victory of about 12,000 votes in the State of Georgia was accurate.

“The people of Georgia are angry. The people in the country are angry,” Trump said in the call. “And there’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated.

“There’s no way I lost Georgia,” Trump said. “There’s no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes.”

Raffensperger responded, “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.”

“We now have irrefutable proof of a president pressuring and threatening an official of his own party to get him to rescind a state’s lawful, certified vote count and fabricate another in its place,” Biden Senior Adviser Bob Bauer said in a statement. “It captures the whole, disgraceful story about Donald Trump’s assault on American democracy.

At an event in Savannah, Georgia, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris referred to the call as “a bald, bald face, bold abuse of power by the president of the United States.”

Georgia has conducted multiple recounts and audits of the vote since November. Recently, an audit of signature matches in Cobb County found “no fraudulent absentee ballots,” Raffensperger’s office announced.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Biden admonishes Trump Administration over ‘obstruction’

December 30, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden said on Monday that his transition team had faced “obstruction” from the Defense Department—raising more concerns about the Trump Administration’s distinct lack of cooperation with the new White House denizens with just over three weeks until Inauguration Day, The New York Times reports.

“Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas,” Biden stated in Wilmington, Delaware, after he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were briefed about barricades put in place by agencies dealing with national security and foreign policy, like the Defense and State departments.

“It’s nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility,” Biden said.

In his remarks, the president-elect said that his team had “encountered roadblocks” from political leaders at the Defense Department as well as at the Office of Management and Budget. Biden emphasized the importance of a smooth transition, saying, “Right now, as our nation is in a period of transition, we need to make sure that nothing is lost in the handoff between administrations.”

“My team needs a clear picture of our force posture around the world and our operations to deter our enemies,” he continued. “We need full visibility into the budget planning underway at the Defense Department and other agencies in order to avoid any window of confusion or catch-up that our adversaries may try to exploit.”

In a statement on Monday, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, defended the department’s level of cooperation with the Biden team. He said the department was continuing “to schedule additional meetings for the remainder of the transition and answer any and all requests for information in our purview.”

 “Our D.O.D. political and career officials have been working with the utmost professionalism to support transition activities in a compressed time schedule, and they will continue to do so in a transparent and collegial manner that upholds the finest traditions of the department,” Miller said. “The American people expect nothing less, and that is what I remain committed to.”

As the Times notes, the Biden transition was hamstrung at the outset by the Trump Administration’s delay in formally designating Biden as the apparent winner of the election. The head of the General Services Administration did not take that step until November 23.

More recently, Mr. Biden and his team have complained about their dealings with the Pentagon in particular.

A week before Christmas, Yohannes Abraham, the executive director of the Biden transition, said that the president-elect’s team had encountered “isolated resistance in some corners, including from political appointees within the Department of Defense.” He expressed concern about what he described as “an abrupt halt in the already limited cooperation there.”

Miller had cited a “mutually agreed-upon holiday pause,” but Mr. Abraham said that no such agreement had been made.

And last week, during an event at which Biden criticized President Trump for playing down the Russian hacking of the federal government and private companies, Biden said, “The Defense Department won’t even brief us on many things.

The department responded by calling that claim “patently false.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Biden says Lindsey Graham is a ‘personal disappointment’ as a former friend and colleague

December 21, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden called Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) “a personal disappointment” when asked about his friendship with his former Senate colleague in an interview that aired on Friday, December 18, The Hill reports.

“Lindsey’s been a personal disappointment because I was a personal friend of his,” Biden told talk show host Stephen Colbert when asked whether he could patch things up with the Republican senator.

Biden and Graham served in the Senate together before Biden became vice president eight years ago.

Graham has previously spoken emotionally about his friendship with Biden, notably calling him “the nicest person I think I’ve ever met in politics” in a 2015 Huffington Post interview.

“If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, you’ve got a problem. You need to do some self-evaluation, ‘cause, what’s not to like?” Graham told the HuffPost at that time, calling Biden “as good a man as God ever created.”

Graham was also particularly critical of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at the time—calling him a “race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot.”

However, Graham’s tune has changed dramatically over the past four years. The South Carolina Republican is seen as one of the most vocal allies of the president, The Hill notes—and was initially slow to formally accept Biden’s presidential victory. 

Graham, along with a number of other Republican senators, said they accepted Biden’s win after the Electoral College vote on Monday.

Biden will face a bitterly divided Congress when he takes office next month but has touted his history of reaching across the aisle as a senator and vice president.

“I think I can work with Republican leadership in the House and the Senate,” Biden told Colbert.

“I think we can get things done, and I think once this president is no longer in office, I think you’re going to see an impact on the body politic fade, and a lot of these Republicans are going to feel they have much more room to run and cooperate.”

Research contact: @thehill

Biden asks Fauci to be his chief medical advisor—and Fauci says yes ‘on the spot’

December 7, 2020

Following their first meeting on Thursday, December 3, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), immediately agreed to be President-elect Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor when the new administration takes over on January 20.

Biden told CNN on Thursday that he had asked Fauci to take on the role. Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show on Friday that he had said yes “on the spot.”

Biden’s coronavirus team met with Fauci for the first time Thursdayand at that time, Biden told CNN, “I asked him to stay on the exact same role he’s had for the past several presidents, and I asked him to be a chief medical adviser for me as well, and be part of the COVID team.”

Biden unveiled his 13-person coronavirus advisory board in November. The panel will be led by three chairs: Vivek Murthy, a former surgeon general; Marcella Nunez-Smith, an associate professor of medicine at Yale University; and David Kessler, the former Food and Drug Administration commissioner.

Although the relationship between Fauci and President Donald Trump went south after the POTUS refused to take action on delivering PPE to the medical community or testing the American population during the pandemic-but he is expected to play a pivotal role on Biden’s team.

Trump has been reluctant to support mask mandates or restrictions that might cause economic damage, and he is said to have not attended a meeting of the coronavirus task force in five months, Fortune says.

Trump also helped stall the presidential transition, making it hard until recently for Biden’s team to communicate with Fauci and other public-health officials.

Fauci spoke out against this in November, saying said it would be “better” for public health if he and other health officials could begin working with the president-elect’s transition team.

Fauci also has accused the Trump campaign of “in effect harassing” him after using a clip of his praising the America’s coronavirus response out of context in a campaign ad.

The United States has recorded the most coronavirus cases and deaths of any country worldwide. Almost 14 million Americans have tested positive for the virus, and more than 273,000 COVID-19 deaths have been reported, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Fauci said Thursday marked the first day of “substantive discussions” about the transition between him and Biden’s team.

Research contact: @CNN

Biden to face test over access to sensitive information as he inherits Trump’s secret server

December 1, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden soon will have to decide whether to share transcripts of calls to and from foreign leaders with a broad, security clearance-holding audience—or to maintain a lockdown on official transcripts of the calls and other highly sensitive information imposed by the Trump Administration over concerns they might be leaked, CNN reports.

A person close to the Biden transition team told CNN that no decisions have been made about how these sensitive materials will be handled when the President-elect takes office on January 20, and that it’s likely they will maintain the Trump Administration’s close hold on such information, at least at first, until they are settled in and Jake Sullivan, Biden’s pick for national security adviser, can assess their information security needs.

A senior US official said that the Biden team will be given access to a secret server containing sensitive information related to President Donald Trump’s more controversial conversations with foreign leaders on a need-to-know basis and the Trump Administration is prepared to share any information that they deem to be relevant to their future decision-making process.

While Biden’s team will likely aim to be more transparent, much has changed since many of his senior appointees were in government and the politically charged atmosphere in Washington on the heels of the election has some officials urging caution in the early months—to prevent leaks, and assess the needs and boundaries of sharing sensitive information.

Back-to-back leaks of controversial remarks made by Trump during calls with leaders of Mexico and Australia in the early days of the Trump White House resulted from an unusually loose record-distribution policy, several officials tell CNN, prompting them eventually to resort to the use of a secret server to store records of calls involving leaders of Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Ukraine.

When H.R. McMaster took over as Trump’s second national security adviser, a month into the presidency in February 2017, the distribution lists grew smaller, officials told CNN—although a few individuals could still access records from the National Security Council’s traditional computer portal, which handled everything except CIA operational information, one official explained.

White House officials also moved to significantly limit the number of individuals who could listen in on many of Trump’s calls, or who could access the records after those calls were concluded, the people said.

The disclosure last year of a complaint by an unidentified whistleblower revealed concerns among White House officials over all—including the President’s July 2019 discussion with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which triggered the hearings that led to Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives.

“The fact is too many people probably had access when Trump came into office: In some ways it was good, but in some ways it can also be bad,” one former administration official close to the transition team said. “Given the politically charged environment we’re in right now, it’s probably wise to maintain some control over it, although maybe not in the form of a secret server.”

The official said that basic details pertaining to Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, only will be shared if they are relevant to a pending policy or national security matter.

“There’s a lot to cover,” the senior US official said. “We are going to share anything that’s relevant for them to come to grips with reality when the keys are theirs. If there was something like that that’s actually of note… things on the covert side, for example, we will highlight them very quickly.”

Research contact: @CNN

As Trump vows to ‘never concede,’ his administration officially authorizes Biden transition

November 25, 2020

After weeks of delay, the head of the General Services Administration informed President-elect Joe Biden on Monday, November 23, that the official governmental transition process has been approved, NBC News reports.

GSA Administrator Emily Murphy said in a letter that Biden, whom she referred to as “the apparent president-elect,” is now able to get access to millions of dollars in federal funds and other resources to begin his transition to power. In her letter, Murphy also denied that she had been under pressure from the White House to delay the process.

“I have dedicated much of my adult life to public service, and I have always strived to do what is right,” she said. “Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts. I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official—including those who work at the White House or GSA—with regard to the substance or timing of my decision.”

Trump vowed to continue his legal fight to contest the election results in a pair of tweets but said, “I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.”

Hours later, the president tweeted that he would “never concede to fake ballots and ‘Dominion,’” referring to a conspiracy theory that baselessly alleges a company that makes voting machines deleted millions of Trump votes.

The transition process had been stalled for weeks as Trump’s team waged a sputtering legal battle across the country to contest the results, leaving Biden out of the loop on the COVID-19 vaccine and other key issues, NBC News notes.

However, Trump and the GSA faced increasing pressure as a growing number of Republican lawmakers began to publicly call for Biden to be granted access, citing national security concerns. Democratic lawmakers had also begun calling for Murphy to testify before Congress.

Biden, on the other hand, began filling out his Cabinet and announcing personnel for other senior roles during the delay. He also held briefings with former top government officials and formed his own COVID-19 task force.

In a statement, Biden transition adviser Yohannes Abraham called the news “a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track.”

“This final decision is a definitive administrative action to formally begin the transition process with federal agencies,” he said. “In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration’s efforts to hollow out government agencies.”

In a statement later Monday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) called the GSA letter “probably the closest thing to a concession that President Trump could issue.”

“Let us all now — Democrats and Republicans, the Trump Administration and the incoming Biden Administration—unite together for a smooth and peaceful transition that will benefit America,” he said. “The nation faces multiple crises that demand an orderly transition, and I look forward to working with President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris to get things done to help the American people.”

Research contact: @NBCNews

Biden builds ‘war room operation’ for Senate confirmation battles

November 20, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden hasn’t nominated anyone for his Cabinet yet, but he’s assembling the team to get his future picks confirmed, Politico reports exclusively.

With Republicans favored to retain their majority in the Senate next year, Biden’s Cabinet is poised to become the incoming administration’s first big political battle. The confirmation votes will be an early test of the president-elect’s ability to maneuver in the Senate and work with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will maintain control of the chamber as long as Republicans win one of two Senate run-offs in Georgia.

To navigate those fights, Biden has tapped:

Biden also has dispatched his campaign’s rapid response director, Andrew Bates, for a leadership role respectively, on Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaigns, respectively.

Jorge Neri, a senior adviser to the Biden campaign, also will be the deputy outreach director on confirmations. The “war room” operation will expand over the next week with the addition of Biden campaign staff and volunteers from Capitol Hill, members of the transition team told Politico.

They will work with Stephanie Valencia, who is overseeing Biden transition outreach, plus Louisa Terrell, who is managing the transition’s congressional affairs—but the nominations team will have their own communications, outreach and legislative personnel to get Biden’s nominees over the finish line.

The new team is also looking to shake up some of the conventions of the Cabinet nomination process, including the code of silence that has traditionally surrounded nominees. Instead, transition staff intend to introduce Biden’s Cabinet picks to the American people before their Senate hearings, which could include media blitzes to build up public support. There’s a risk, however, that the increased exposure could lead to embarrassing gaffes or missteps by nominees.

In less polarized times, senators were more willing to cross party lines and confirm the president’s Cabinet choices. There is more uncertainty now. During the Trump administration, some Democrats with presidential ambitions saw an advantage in voting against as many of Trump’s nominees as possible: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) later bragged on the campaign trail that she voted against more of Trump’s nominees than any other Senate Democrat. A similar dynamic could play out in 2021, given the number of Senate Republicans eyeing a 2024 presidential run.

Biden, however, is intent on trying to restore some of the Senate’s erstwhile comity. The transition told Politico hat they “are operating under the belief that the Senate will be under substantial pressure from the public and voters across the country—as well as from their allies in the business community and throughout Washington—to take action on the economy and public health crises, to confirm nominees and rebuild federal agencies with competent public servants.”

Research contact: @politico

‘Biden’ his time: While president-elect remains chill, some Senate Republicans say he must get intel briefings

November16, 202o

Senate Republicans still aren’t acknowledging that Donald Trump lost the election. But they’re getting a little closer, Politico reports.

As Trump refuses to concede and continues to wage legal battles based on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, Senate Republicans are increasingly deferring to the presidential transition process— arguing it should at least begin so that President-elect Joe Biden can receive high-level intelligence briefings.

“Both of them have got to be ready to serve, if selected. We don’t know who the winner is. So keep the briefings going,” Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) said. “Ultimately, the president has to make this decision.”

According to Politico, Lankford, who chairs a Homeland Security subcommittee, noted that in 2000, then-President Bill Clinton allowed George W. Bush to begin receiving presidential-level intelligence briefings during the recount in Florida. Lankford added that he plans to question the government agency responsible for jump-starting the transition process if a certification is not made by Friday.

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, already has said that Biden should start receiving the Presidential Daily Brief, an intelligence report curated for the president and senior White House officials. Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missour), a member of the Intelligence Committee and the No. 4 Senate Republican, agreed on Thursday, November 12.

“Whether [Biden] actually gets the product itself, I think the information needs to be communicated in some way,” Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Intelligence Committee, told Politico, adding. “I don’t see it as a high-risk proposition, and if in fact he does win in the end, I think they need to be able to hit the ground running.”

Other Republicans were less committal, only saying that they would have no issue if Biden began receiving the briefings, Politico said.

“All trends look like he’s going to be the president of the United States,” Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) said.

“I see no problem with that,” added Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has said that the results of the election will be known in December when members of the Electoral College will meet. “I think there’s a process.”

Trump has continued to rail against the election results since Biden secured enough Electoral College votes on Saturday, November 7,  to take the White House, and Republicans this week have mostly stood by the president.

By law, the General Services Administration has the sole authority to kick-start a presidential transition by unlocking federal funds and allowing transition officials to have access to agencies and departments. But a Trump appointee who leads the GSA, Emily Murphy, has yet to certify that Biden is the president-elect, preventing his team from speaking with the government agencies it will soon run.

Without sign-off from the president, Biden also cannot receive the intelligence briefings that usually are afforded to the president-elect. The briefings hold increased importance now as the incoming president will need to be up-to-speed on multiple crises facing the nation, including skyrocketing coronavirus infections and other national-security matters.

Biden has been moving forward with the transition—talking to world leaders and lawmakers, and starting to fill staff positions. To date, he has not made the lack of high-level intel an issue.

Research contact: @politico

Biden set to deliver Obamacare speech as Supreme Court weighs law’s future

November 11, 2020

President-elect Joe Biden—who campaigned on a promise to keep and enhance Obamacare—was set to deliver a health care-focused speech on Tuesday. November 10, even as the Supreme Court heard a case that could overturn the law.

Earlier in the day, Supreme Court justices listened to oral arguments in a case that seeks to invalidate the landmark health reform law. They will likely take initial votes at their private Friday, November 13, conference and begin the process of writing opinions, though a decision isn’t expected until the first half of 2021.

According to a report by CNN, President Donald Trump’s administration is looking to undo former President Barack Obama’s signature health law. And even with Biden set to take office on January 20, there is little he can do: Even if his administration switches sides and argues in favor of Obamacare, the case will continue because the original lawsuit was brought by a coalition of Republican attorneys general.

Protecting Obamacare was a central theme of Biden’s campaign. During the Democratic primary, he argued for expanding the law by adding a “public option” that would allow Americans to buy into a government-run health insurance plan— and, by beefing up federal premium subsidies, that would make Affordable Care Act coverage more affordable. He opposed more progressive rivals’ push to scrap private insurance entirely in favor of a single-payer, “Medicare- for-all”-type system.

Trump’s administration and the Republican-led House and Senate failed to repeal Obamacare during Trump’s first two years in Congress, CNN noted. Trump and the GOP in late 2017 did enact a tax law that gutted Obamacare’s individual mandate by setting the penalty for not having insurance at $0.

Trump’s administration later joined the Republican-led states, which argued in court that Congress’ action rendered the individual mandate unconstitutional, and since it’s a linchpin of the Affordable Care Act, the entire law should be invalidated.

Tuesday’s speech comes as Biden’s transition becomes more contentious, with Trump refusing to concede and making a series of baseless claims that seek to undermine the legitimacy of the election. His administration has not yet taken the legal step necessary to allow the transition process to begin by giving Biden’s team access to $6.3 million set aside for the process, as well as access to federal agencies.

Research contact: @CNN