Biden says Trump not conceding ‘an embarrassment’: Election news

The president-elect ratchets up his criticism of Trump, who continues to make unfounded claims of election fraud.

President-elect Joe Biden has said nothing will stop the transition of power when Trump's term ends [Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo]
  • United States President-elect Joe Biden called Donald Trump’s refusal to concede in the presidential election “an embarrassment” but said nothing would stop the transition of power after his term ends.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, when asked on Tuesday if he was cooperating with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, said “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration”.
  • President Trump has reportedly ordered US agencies to, for the time being, block the transition to the Biden administration, again bucking election norms.
  • The Biden team has threatened legal action if the government agency that can unlock transition funds and office access continues to not recognise his victory.
  • There are 71 days until Trump’s term ends on January 20, and 34 days until the Electoral College officially votes on the president based on state results.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the US elections. This is Joseph Stepansky.

Biden announces agency review teams

Joe Biden has released the names of his agency review teams, the groups of transition staffers who are typically afforded access to key agencies in the current administration to help smooth the transfer of US presidential power.

Biden’s transition team released the names of hundreds of people on the teams. They will collect and review information ranging from budgetary and staffing decisions, pending regulations and other work in progress from current staff at the federal departments.

It remains unclear, however, how much engagement the Biden transition staffers will have with their counterparts at the various government agencies because the Trump administration has yet to formally recognise Biden as the president-elect. A formal recognition from the General Services Administration is needed to allow Biden’s transition staff access to federal workers and much of the information they will need.

Intelligence agencies cannot yet brief Biden

The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) has said it can not begin engaging with Biden’s team until a federal agency starts the process of transition, which the Trump administration is delaying.

DNI, which oversees all US intelligence agencies, said it must follow the Presidential Transition Act, which requires the General Services Administration to first “ascertain”, or recognise, the winner of the election that Trump is contesting.

Intelligence agencies have given general intelligence briefings – minus information on covert operations and sources and methods – to presidential nominees since 1952, according to the Associated Press. Biden started receiving them soon after he became the Democratic presidential nominee. It is unclear whether he is still getting them.

Some presidents have allowed their successors to receive the President’s Daily Brief, containing the nation’s most sensitive intelligence information. Trump would have to authorise Biden to receive that brief.

Democrat Cunningham concedes to Republican Senator Tillis in North Carolina

Democrat Cal Cunningham has conceded to incumbent Republican Senator Thom Tillis in North Carolina on Tuesday, saying “the voters have spoken” and it was clear Tillis had won, although the Associated Press had still considered the race too close to call.

With Cunningham’s concession, all eyes turned to Georgia, where two Senate runoff races in January are likely to determine the balance of the US legislature’s upper chamber.

A Senate race in Alaska was still too early to call on Tuesday, but Republican Senator Dan Sullivan is favoured to win against Al Gross, an independent running as a Democrat. If Sullivan wins, the chamber will be tied 48-48 going into the Georgia runoffs.

“I just called Senator Tillis to congratulate him on winning re-election to a second term in the US Senate and wished him and his family the best in their continued service in the months and years ahead,” Cunningham, who had raised more funds than Tillis, said on Tuesday. “The voters have spoken and I respect their decision.”

Thom tillis
Senator Thom Tillis has won re-election in North Carolina [Tom Williams/The Associated Press]

Biden says he told world leaders ‘America is back’

President-elect Joe Biden has spoken with the leaders of Ireland, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Canada and is spreading the message that “America is back”.

“I’m letting them know that America is back. We’re going to be back in the game. It’s not America alone,” Biden said, in a rebuke to Trump’s “America first” policy.

Biden added that he would begin to put forward names for cabinet positions by the US Thanksgiving holiday on November 26.

Biden says Trump refusal to concede ‘an embarrassment’

President-elect Biden, addressing the country on Tuesday, said Trump’s failure to acknowledge his victory and concede “does not change the dynamic” of his transition planning, but called it “an embarrassment” that will “not help the president’s legacy”.

He added that Trump instructing agencies to block his transition is “not of much consequence”, but added that federal funds he will receive when his victory is recognised by the General Services Administration would be helpful.

“We’re going to be going moving along in a consistent manner, putting together our administration, White House, and reviewing who we’re going to pick for cabinet positions. And nothing’s going to stop that,” Biden said. “And and so I’m confident that the fact that they’re not willing to acknowledge we won at this point is not of much consequence in our planning and what we’re able to do between now and January 20th.”

He added that nothing would stop the transfer of power after the election.

US President-elect Joe Biden speaks on Tuesday [Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press]

Harris: Each vote for Biden was a statement on Obamacare

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has said that each vote for President-elect Joe Biden was in support of the Affordable Care Act he helped craft during the administration of US President Barack Obama.

During remarks Tuesday in Wilmington, Delaware, Harris said that Biden “won the election decisively”, and that “every vote for Joe Biden was a statement that healthcare in America should be a right, not a privilege.”

Harris also noted that, if the Affordable Care Act is dismantled, “communities of colour would be hit particularly hard … because they are at a greater risk for pre-existing conditions,” as well as complications from the coronavirus.

The US Supreme Court on Tuesday began hearing the latest challenge to the legislation.

McConnell says he does not expect interrupted presidential transition

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he does not expect an interrupted transition from the administration of Trump, who is contesting Biden’s victory in several legal challenges across the country.

“I don’t think we’re going to have an interrupted transition to whoever is the next administration,” the Republican McConnell told reporters. “I think we ought to quit all the hand-wringing and not act like this is extraordinary. We’re going to get through this period and we’ll swear in the winner on January 20th, 2021, just like we have every four years since 1793.”

Republican Senator Portman says Biden leading in enough states to win presidency

Biden is leading in enough states to win the US presidency, and Trump’s campaign must produce evidence to support allegations of election fraud, Republican Senator Rob Portman said in a statement on Tuesday

The Ohio lawmaker added that Trump has the right to pursue legal challenges on the results, including seeking recounts, but must produce evidence to support any allegations of widespread fraud.

He added that he hoped states and courts would move “expeditiously” to resolve the matter.

To date, only a handful of Republican elected officials have publicly acknowledged Biden’s victory, as Trump continues to refuse to concede.

Pompeo says ‘there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration’

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, when asked on Tuesday if the Department of State is preparing to coordinate with the Biden transition team, and at what point a delay hampers national security, responded: “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration”.

He added: “The world should have every confidence that the transition necessary to make sure that the State Department is functional today, successful today, and successful with the president who’s in office on January 20th, a minute after noon, will also be successful.”

Pompeo would not say whether he believed the leads held by Biden in states the Trump campaign wants to dispute would dissipate with any recounts or legal challenges. Biden has been named the winner of the election by the Associated Press and many other news organisations, receiving at least 290 electoral votes, above the 270 needed to be declared the winner. Vote counting has not concluded in the states of Georgia, North Carolina and Alaska.

Pompeo would not answer a question on whether foreign leaders should be calling President-elect Biden at his juncture. He bristled when asked if Trump’s refusal to concede discredits efforts by the State Department to encourage officials in elections around the world to accept the results of free and fair elections: “That’s ridiculous. And you know it’s ridiculous,” Pompeo said.

“We often encounter situations where it’s not clear about a particular election. We work to uncover facts. We work to do discover, to learn whether in fact the outcome, the decision that was made reflected the will of the people,” he added. “We want every one of those votes to be counted in the same way that we have every expectation that every vote here in the United States will be counted … it is totally appropriate.”

Trump to make first public appearance on Wednesday since Biden win

Trump will visit Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday, the White House has said, in what would be the president’s first public appearance since the presidential contest was called for Biden on Saturday.

Trump and first lady Melania Trump will visit the cemetery to mark Veterans Day, White House spokesman Judd Deere told Reuters.

President Donald Trump has not made a public appearance since Biden claimed victory, but has made two trips to the golf course [Steve Helber/The Associated Press]

Macron, Merkel speak to Biden

The offices of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both said on Tuesday that the leaders had spoken to US President-elect Biden.

Macron told Biden he was ready to work together on climate, health and the “fight against terrorism”, his office said.

Merkel stressed to Biden the need for a transatlantic partnership, her office said.

Trump pressured Georgia Senate candidates to discredit election official: Report

Trump and his top allies pressured Georgia Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue into calling for the resignation of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, despite no evidence of wrongdoing, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The president and his allies threatened to make negative public statements against the senators, who are both running in special elections in January, if they did not comply. Those statements could threaten the support of Trump’s base in what are expected to be tight races.

The Republican candidates, in a statement on Monday, said Raffensperger “has failed the people of Georgia, and he should step down immediately”. Local Republican officials, including the state’s Governor Brian Kemp, have also criticised Raffensperger, despite there being no evidence of widespread fraud or voting irregularities in the state.

Biden currently leads Trump by a narrow margin in Georgia, which is all but assured to be heading for a recount. Such recounts rarely yield overturns in overall results.

Senator Kelly Loeffler and Senator David Perdue were reportedly pressured by Trump to call for the resignation of Georgia’s secretary of state [Evan Vucci/The Associated Press]

Money donated to Trump legal challenge fund now going to his PAC: Report

The Trump campaign has been urging supporters to donate to a fund to support its various, long-shot legal challenges to election results in various key states.

The campaign has been sending emails urging supporters to donate “defend” the integrity of the election and continuing to push unfounded allegations of widespread fraud. However, those emails initially contained a small print that said 60 percent would go to pay off debts the campaign had accumulated.

On Tuesday, as reported by The New York Times, that fine print changed to say 60 percent of donations would go to the Save America political action committee, which Trump’s campaign treasurer registered on Monday. The PAC can pay for Trump’s own travel, polling and political team extending beyond when he leaves office, according to the newspaper. It can also be used to support other candidates.

UK PM Johnson says he has spoken to Biden

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a tweet on Tuesday that he had spoken to US President-elect Biden.

Johnson had congratulated Biden shortly after the election was called on Saturday. It is the first known time that Johnson has spoke to Biden since he became president-elect.

Johnson said he looked forward to working on “shared priorities – from tackling climate change, to promoting democracy and building back better from the pandemic”.

Only 180 ballots in question in Trump Arizona election challenge: Report

The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County in Arizona last week alleging that poll workers ignored procedures designed to give voters a chance to correct ballot mistakes.

The lawsuit specifically targets “over votes”, or instances where voters mark more candidate options than is allowed. Voters can either correct their ballots or submit them as is. The lawsuit alleges that voters who chose the latter option were denied a subsequent manual inspection of their ballots, to which they are entitled.

However, a lawyer for the county on Monday said that, of 155,860 votes cast, only 180 were identified as “potential over votes”, a paltry amount that is extremely unlikely to change the result in the presidential election in the state, the Arizona Republic reported.

The lawyer added that it was also unclear how many of those ballots were wrongly tabulated, but that it was highly unlikely that all those needing correction would favour Republicans.

Trump plans political action committee: Report

Trump is planning to launch a leadership political action committee (PAC) that will raise funds for federal elections and help him maintain influence over the Republican Party after he leaves office, officials told The New York Times.

The newspaper reported that Trump is expected to make an announcement later this week. The leadership PAC would only be able to accept donations of $5,000 per individual, but can accept those donations from an unlimited number of people and other political action networks, the Times reported.

A Trump campaign spokesman told the newspaper that Trump had “always planned to do this, win or lose … so he can support candidates and issues he cares about, such as combating voter fraud”.

Turkey’s Erdogan congratulates Biden after days of silence

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulated  Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on their victory in the 2020 presidential election, a day after saying he would wait to comment until the result is finalised.

In his message, Erdogan reiterated Ankara’s “determination to work closely with the US Administration” in the coming period, adding that “the strong cooperation and alliance” between the two countries would continue to contribute to world peace.

Read more about what Biden’s victory means to Turkey here.

Supreme Court begins to hear challenge to Obamacare

The conservative-majority US Supreme Court has begun to hear arguments in a challenge by Republican-governed states that is backed by President Donald Trump’s administration and that aims to invalidate a foundational component of the so-called “Obamacare” healthcare law.

President-elect Biden has criticised Republican efforts to throw out the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as the law is formally known, amid the coronavirus pandemic and hopes to buttress legislation after taking office on January 20.

In 2018, Texas-based US District Court Judge Reed O’Connor ruled that the legislation was unconstitutional as currently structured in light of a Republican-backed change made by Congress in 2017. In 2019, the New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals partially upheld that ruling, saying the law’s “individual mandate,” which required people to obtain insurance or pay a financial penalty, ran afoul of the US Constitution. The ruling stopped short of striking down the law.

The case represents the latest Republican legal attack on the 2010 law, which was the signature domestic policy achievement of former President Barack Obama, under whom Biden served as vice president. The Supreme Court in 2012 and 2015 ruled against previous Republican challenges to the healthcare legislation.

Read more about what’s at stake here.

Top DOJ lawyer resigns after Barr directive

A top lawyer at the US Department of Justice has resigned in protest after Attorney General William Barr gave a directive to prosecutors to “pursue substantial allegations” of irregularities of voting and the counting of ballots, which critics say fuels the flames of President Donald Trump’s so-far unfounded claims of widespread fraud.

Barr told prosecutors in a letter on Monday that “fanciful or far-fetched claims” should not be a basis for investigation. His letter did not indicate the Justice Department had uncovered voting irregularities affecting the outcome of the election.

The directive prompted Richard Pilger, who for years has served as director of the Election Crimes Branch, to resign from his post, citing in an internal email “the new policy and its ramifications”.

The previous Justice Department policy, designed to avoid interjecting the federal government into election campaigns, had discouraged overt investigations “until the election in question has been concluded, its results certified, and all recounts and election contests concluded”.

White House instructs agencies to block Biden transition: Report

The White House has instructed officials at government agencies to block cooperation with Biden’s transition team, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

News organisations called the election for Biden on Saturday, but Trump has refused to concede. The General Services Administration (GSA), which can give access to transition funds and office space to Biden’s team, has so far not recognised Biden’s victory as the Trump campaign launches a raft of long-shot legal challenges to state vote counts.

Government officials told The Washington Post that they were instructed by the White House on Monday not to cooperate with Biden’s team until the election results were made official by the government.

In the US, it is the norm for media outlets to declare a victor in the election after it is clear one candidate no longer has a path to victory. The winner is not officially decided until electors from each state, who in most cases pledge to vote for the winner of the popular vote in their state, vote on December 14 and those votes are approved by Congress on January 6.

It is common for the GSA to recognise a candidate after he or she is projected the winner and for the outgoing administration to coordinate with the incoming administration in the months before the January 20 presidential inauguration.

Read all the updates from yesterday (November 9) here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies