President-elect Joe Biden forged ahead Monday with the presidential transition, unveiling a task force for fighting the pandemic and laying the groundwork for a flurry of first-day executive actions. The transition team is now considering legal options if the Trump administration continues to stall on transferring power.
"We believe that the time has come for the GSA administrator to promptly ascertain Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president-elect and vice president-elect," an unidentified Biden-Harris transition official said Monday night on a telephone briefing with reporters, referring to the head of the government agency who must formally kick off the transition process.
President Trump again didn't make any public appearances, but tweeted falsely that he won Georgia and alleged the FDA delayed announcing the vaccine news until after the election. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tried to insist at a press conference, "This election is not over. Far from it." But she offered no evidence of voter fraud, and said she was speaking in her personal capacity.
Attorney General William Barr has authorized U.S. attorneys across the country to "pursue substantial allegations" of voting irregularities before the 2020 election is certified, according to a memo released Monday. Barr offered no evidence of fraud stemming from last week's election in the document.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday took a victory lap on the Senate floor, even though the balance of power won't be determined until Georgia's January 5 runoff. He also backed Mr. Trump's refusal to concede, saying the president is within his right to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his options.
Mr. Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper over Twitter on Monday, less than a week after the election, ousting his third defense secretary months after a public dispute over deploying U.S. troops on American soil to tamp down on protests.
Biden team considering legal options if Trump administration keeps stalling the transition
The Biden-Harris transition team is considering pursuing legal action if the head of the federal agency overseeing the mechanics of a transfer of power doesn't move in the coming days to free up funding and access to agencies.
"We believe that the time has come for the GSA administrator to promptly ascertain Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president-elect and vice president-elect," an unidentified Biden-Harris transition official said Monday night on a telephone briefing with reporters.
When asked if the transition team would possibly consider legal action to hasten the mechanics of the transition, the official replied: "There are a number of options on the table, legal action is certainly a possibility, but there are other options as well that we're considering,"
Trump tweets on vaccine and exit polling
Despite his public silence since President-elect Biden was projected the winner of the election, President Trump sent out a flurry of tweets on Monday night about the potential vaccine and exit polling.
Mr. Trump baselessly alleged the FDA and the Democrats didn't want him to have a "vaccine WIN," hence the announcement about the vaccine five days after Election Day. He also claimed that if Mr. Biden had already been in office, the vaccine wouldn't have been approved as quickly.
"As I have long said, @Pfizer and the others would only announce a Vaccine after the Election, because they didn't have the courage to do it before. Likewise, the @US_FDA should have announced it earlier, not for political purposes, but for saving lives!" Mr. Trump tweeted.
Mr. Trump also falsely claimed that he won Georgia, where a winner has not been projected. In another tweet, he attacked media polls, writing, "they were so far off in their polling, and in their attempt to suppress - that they should be called out for Election Interference."
Trump campaign announces another lawsuit in Pennsylvania
The Trump campaign announced a new lawsuit in Pennsylvania Monday, alleging disparate voter treatment that violated the Equal Protection Clause under the 14th Amendment. Trump campaign counsel Matt Morgan cited "a violation of equal access based on a lack of meaningful observation and transparency, particularly in Democrat-controlled counties," and "a violation of Equal Protection based on disparate treatment between Republican voters and Democrat voters."
Morgan claimed that while Philadelphia proactively notified voters to fill out provisional ballots if they failed to use the inner secrecy envelope when sending in their absentee ballot, other Republican-heavy counties did not.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called it the "latest meritless lawsuit" against the state's election, which had been "overseen by bipartisan election officials and was lawful, fair and secure." He said that "the vast majority of these lawsuits have been dismissed and found to have no merit by Courts at all levels, and this one is no different."
Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel alleged voting irregularities in her state of Michigan, where she claimed election officials had been instructed to backdate absentee ballots, but she provided no evidence to support her claim and called for more time to provide proof.
Chris Thomas, senior adviser to Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, explained in a tweeted statement that the ballot envelopes that had clerical errors that had to be remedied in order to process the absentee ballots, and none of them "were received after 8 p.m. on Election Day," and none of the ballots were backdated.
Asked about specific evidence of widespread voter fraud, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, speaking in what she referred to as her personal capacity, told reporters, "What we are asking here for is patience."
"This election is not over. Far from it," she said.
Lawsuits filed in Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Michigan, however, have been thrown out by judges, and President Trump's campaign has yet to provide evidence of widespread fraud.
Biden spoke with Trudeau this afternoon about key issues
President-elect Biden spoke Monday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. According to a readout of the call, Mr. Biden "reaffirmed the close bonds between the United States and Canada," and the president-elect indicated that he wants to work closely with Trudeau on several key issues, including combating COVID-19.
Trudeau was one ofMr. Biden on Saturday after he was projected the winner of the presidential election.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court to hear poll watchers case
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case over whether poll watchers were unlawfully kept too far away from ballot counting in Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia Board of Elections asked the Pennsylvania high court to review the case after the Commonwealth Court on Thursday sided with the Trump campaign and ruled that poll watchers must be allowed within six feet of all ballot canvassing. As a result of the ruling, poll watchers were moved from about 10 feet away to about six feet, officials said.
President Trump weighed in with a tweet: "Pennsylvania prevented us from watching much of the Ballot count. Unthinkable and illegal in this country." Twitter responded by slapping a warning label on it that said, "This claim about election fraud has been disputed."
Georgia's GOP senators say Republican secretary of state should resign
Georgia Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler called on its secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, to step down from his post "immediately" due to what they claim is "mismanagement and lack of transparency" in its elections this year.
"The management of Georgia elections has become an embarrassment for our state. Georgians are outraged, and rightly so," the two said in a statement. "We have been clear from the beginning: every legal vote cast should be counted. Any illegal vote must not. And there must be transparency and uniformity in the counting process. This isn't hard. This isn't partisan. This is American."
The two Republicans, whose Senate races are likely heading to runoff elections after they failed to garner 50% of the vote in their respective races, said Raffensperger has "failed to deliver honest and transparent elections," and failed Georgia voters.
"There have been too many failures in Georgia elections this year and the most recent election has shined a national light on the problems," Perdue and Loeffler said. "While blame certainly lies elsewhere as well, the buck ultimately stops with the secretary of state."
Perdue and Loeffler did not expand on the failures they allege, though the state has taken days to report its results, likely due to an influx of mail-in ballots. The presidential race in the Peach State remains a toss-up, CBS News estimates, but Mr. Biden currently leads Mr. Trump by 11,590 votes.
Raffensperger rejected the senators' calls to resign, saying "the voters of Georgia hired me, and the voters will be the one to fire me." He also called the general election Tuesday a "resounding success" in terms of election administration, noting the low wait times at the polls and the number of Georgians who cast ballots.
"I know emotions are running high. Politics are involved in everything right now," he said. "If I was Senator Perdue, I'd be irritated I was in a runoff. And both senators and I are all unhappy with the potential outcome for our president. But I am the duly elected secretary of state. One of my duties involves helping to run elections for all Georgia voters. I have taken that oath, and I will execute that duty and follow Georgia law."
McConnell says Trump is "100% within his right" to wage legal fight
In his first remarks since Mr. Biden was projected the winner of the presidential election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell defended Mr. Trump as he refuses to concede and raises allegations of election fraud in several key states despite no evidence that widespread fraud occurred.
"The core principle here is not complicated," McConnell said during a speech on the Senate floor. "In the United States of America, all legal ballots must be counted. Any illegal ballot must not be counted. The process should be transparent or observable by all sides, and the courts are here to work through concerns. Our institutions are actually built for this."
McConnell, who won reelection to the Senate, said the president is "100% within his right to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options."
The Kentucky senator also criticized Democrats for their condemnations of Mr. Trump for refusing to acknowledge Mr. Biden's win, saying they "should have no reason to fear any extra scrutiny."
"We have the tools and the institutions we need to address any concerns. The president has every right to look into allegations and to request recounts under the law," McConnell said. "And notably, the Constitution gives no role in this process to wealthy media corporations."
Trump campaign claims voter fraud in Nevada but hasn't filed complete complaint
Though Mr. Biden continues to open up his lead over Mr. Trump in Nevada, a state he has already been projected to win, the Trump campaign and Republicans continued to publicly release what it says is evidence of voter fraud, though the state's attorney general says it has yet to receive a formal complaint.
The case of an individual named Fred Stokes has been repeatedly cited by the state party and Trump campaign allies as an example of alleged fraud in recent days.
A man named Fred Stokes Jr., a World War II navy veteran born on in 1925, died in 2017 and was buried at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery. Clark County voter registration files show a Fred Stokes Jr. had been registered to vote at an address in the 89130 zip code.
The county's online ballot tracker shows a ballot mailed to a voter matching Stokes' birthday and address was apparently cast this year.
While the office of Nevada's attorney general says it has received a report about a deceased voter, spokesperson Ashley Forest said the report is incomplete.
"This morning, we received a redacted Affidavit that does not contain the individual's name, signature or contact information," Forest said in a statement. "As it stands, our office has not yet received a formal complaint and cannot conduct an investigation without such critical details."
She added that the state attorney general works with election officials "to investigate and prosecute voter fraud when warranted by the evidence," and she said that complaints of voter fraud may be reported on the "complaint tab" on the attorney general's website.
Trump fires defense secretary less than a week after election
Mr. Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper over Twitter on Monday, less than a week after the election, ousting his third defense secretary months after a public dispute over deploying U.S. troops on American soil to tamp down on protests.
"Mark Esper has been terminated," Mr. Trump wrote. "I would like to thank him for his service."
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows called Esper on Monday shortly before the president's tweet to tell him he was fired, a defense official told CBS News. Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he was installing Christopher Miller, the head of the National Counterterrorism Center, as acting secretary, effective immediately. Miller was spotted entering the Pentagon Monday afternoon.
Esper fell out of favor with the president months ago, and reports have swirled for several weeks that Mr. Trump was preparing to fire him after the election. An NBC News report last week that Esper had prepared a letter of resignation prompted a denial by the Pentagon, with a spokesperson saying he had no plans to step down.
The defense chief publicly contradicted Mr. Trump over the administration's response to protests against racial injustice over the summer, saying in June that he did not support invoking the Insurrection Act to deploy active-duty military troops to the streets to quell unrest.
Read more here.
David Bossie, Trump adviser leading legal challenges, tests positive for virus
David Bossie, the longtime conservative activist and Trump adviser, has tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday, a senior Trump campaign official tells CBS News.
Bossie had recently been selected to coordinate the campaign's legal challenges to election practices in several states, and was at the White House for an election night party with hundreds of others in close proximity. Bloomberg News first reported Bossie's diagnosis.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson also tested positive, along with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and four unidentified White House staffers. Carson and Meadows were also at the White House election night event.
Republican state AGs back Pennsylvania GOP's challenge to ballot deadline
Several state Republican attorneys general plan to back the Pennsylvania state GOP's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court against extending the deadline to receive mail ballots until three days after Election Day, a case in which the Trump campaign has also intervened.
Mail ballots in the Keystone State have come predominantly from Democrats, and the GOP appeal looks to disqualify some that haven't yet been included in tallies. If those ballots are disqualified, separate categories of ballots cast in Pennsylvania that have not been counted yet could potentially bring the race close enough to trigger an automatic recount.
As of Monday afternoon, Mr. Biden is leading Mr. Trump in Pennsylvania by 45,246 votes, a margin of 0.7%. CBS News projected Saturday that he would win the state, clinching the presidency with its 20 electoral votes. Biden was later projected as the winner of Nevada, too, increasing his overall tally to 279, where it currently stands.
The president's campaign appears to be counting on other ballots to bring the margin to or below a 0.5% difference, which would trigger an automatic statewide recount.
Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said Thursday that in the three days following the state's primary, about 60,000 ballots came in, but she did not expect to see that many in the general election. The Pennsylvania Department of State has not released an updated number, but the mail ballots counted so far have come in at a 2.7-to-1 ratio in favor of Democrats over Republicans.
The ballots the Trump campaign is depending on come from three categories: provisional ballots, ballots set aside because they were flagged for various issues, and military and overseas citizens' ballots.
There are over 100,000 provisional ballots, but each must be reviewed to determine whether it will count. Some will be rejected because they came from voters who also cast a ballot by mail but worried that it might not arrive on time, so they showed up to vote in person on Election Day. The Pennsylvania State Department has not responded to questions about whether any of these ballots have yet been included in tallies.
There is also a batch of ballots with various mistakes or issues, and there are no available statewide numbers on these. These ballots are currently set aside for election officials to judge individually.
And overseas and military ballots will be accepted until Tuesday, with no total yet available.
Together, these three categories might skew toward Mr. Trump, and could in theory chip away at Mr. Biden's lead enough to make the ballots received during the three-day extension matter, though it does not seem likely. Even if a recount were triggered, tens of thousands of ballots would have to emerge to erase the margin between the president and Mr. Biden.
Susan Collins extends congratulations to Biden and Harris
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine offered congratulations to Mr. Biden on his "apparent victory," and said he and Harris "should be given every opportunity to ensure they are ready to govern" once inaugurated.
"He loves this country, and I wish him every success," Collins said in a statement.
The Maine senator, who was reelected to a fifth term in last week's election, also said Mr. Trump should have the opportunity to challenge the results in certain states, noting there are mechanisms in place for those claims to be heard.
"I know that many are eager to have certainty right now," Collins said. "While we have a clear direction, we should continue to respect that process. I urge people to be patient. The process has not failed our country in more than 200 years, and it is not going to fail our country this year."
Biden implores Americans to wear masks ahead of difficult winter
After receiving a briefing from his new COVID-19 advisory board, Mr. Biden said his work on combating the coronavirus pandemic "begins today" and urged Americans to wear a mask, calling it an easy step the nation can take to come together.
"We can save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months. Not Democrat or Republican lives — American lives," Mr. Biden said. "I implore you, wear a mask, do it for yourself, do it for your neighbor. A mask is not a political statement but it is a good way to start pulling the country together."
The president-elect delivered remarks on the coronavirus crisis from Wilmington, Delaware, after convening the first meeting of his COVID-19 advisory board.
"There is a need for bold action to fight this pandemic. We're still facing a dark winter," he said.
Mr. Biden announced earlier Monday his own coronavirus task force, which will create a blueprint for tackling the pandemic that can be executed once he and Harris are sworn in January 20. Priorities for his advisory board, which may grow in ranks, include making testing more widely available, building an army of contact tracers, developing guidance for school and businesses and addressing disparities in the populations hurt most by the pandemic.
"I will spare no effort to turn this pandemic around once we're sworn in January 20, to get our kids back to school safely, our businesses growing and our economy running at full speed again, and to get an approved vaccine manufactured and distributed as quickly as possibly to as many Americans as possible free of charge," he said. "We will follow the science."
Mr. Biden urged the nation to stop the partisan rhetoric now that the election is over and said public health measures such as mask-wearing and social distancing should no longer be politicized.
"As we work toward a safe and effective vaccine, we know that the single most effective thing we can do to stop the spread of COVID is wear a mask," Biden said, holding up his own face covering.
Biden team calls on Trump administration to begin transition process
As Mr. Biden prepares to assume the presidency, his team is calling on the Trump administration, specifically the General Services Administration (GSA), to take the official steps to kick off the transition process.
The GSA is a little-known federal agency that oversees office space, supplies and other services for the government. Emily Murphy, appointed to lead the GSA by Mr. Trump in 2017, must first determine that Mr. Biden is the apparent winner of the presidential election, which would unlock access to certain services and money from the federal government for his transition team.
But the GSA said in a statement that an ascertainment has not yet been made.
"GSA and its administrator will continue to abide by, and fulfill, all requirements under the law," the agency said in a statement. The administrator has discretion to make the determination under a 1963 law that governs the transition process.
A spokesperson for the Biden transition team said it looks forward to Murphy "promptly ascertaining" Mr. Biden and Harris as the president-elect and vice president-elect, respectively, as the Democratic ticket is projected to win the states needed to secure a majority in the Electoral College.
"America's national security and economic interests depend on the federal government signaling clearly and swiftly that the United States government will respect the will of the American people and engage in a smooth and peaceful transfer of power," the spokesperson said.
The bipartisan advisory board of the Center for Presidential Transition, meanwhile, urged the administration "to immediately begin the postelection transition process and the Biden team to take full advantage of the resources available under the Presidential Transition Act," the 1963 law.
"While there will be legal disputes requiring adjudication, the outcome is sufficiently clear that the transition process must now begin," the advisory board, which is made up of four former government officials who served in Republican and Democratic administrations, said in a statement.
The board's members are: Josh Bolten, former White House chief of staff and director of the Office of Management and Budget; Michael Leavitt, former secretary of Health and Human Services, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and governor of Utah; Thomas McLarty, former White House chief of staff; and Penny Pritzker, former secretary of Commerce.
How Trump and Biden are spending Monday
Even as Mr. Trump refuses to concede the election and claims he has won a second term in the White House, Mr. Biden is charging full speed ahead with the transition.
Afterhis 13-member COVID-19 advisory board earlier Monday, Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are scheduled to receive their first briefing from the new task force in Wilmington, Delaware. Following the briefing, Mr. Biden is expected to make remarks on his plans to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and revive the economy, which was devastated by the public health crisis.
Mr. Biden and Harris are then set to hold briefings with transition advisers.
Mr. Trump, meanwhile, has no public events on his agenda, according to the White House schedule. He spent Saturday and Sunday playing golf at his club in Sterling, Virginia.
Money raised for Trump's election fights would help cover campaign debt
The president and his campaign are soliciting donations from supporters for an "election defense fund" designed to "defend the integrity" of the election.
But the fine print shows that the full amount contributed to help the Trump campaign does not go toward efforts to ensure all votes are legally counted. Instead, at least half of each donation will go to paying off the campaign's debts, donation pages state.
For each contribution made to the Trump campaign's joint fundraising committee with the Republican National Committee, 60% will be deposited into the campaign's general election account for retirement of debt, or into the campaign's Recount Account if that debt has been paid off. The remaining 40% will go to the Republican National Committee's Operating account. Any additional money would be deposited in the party's Legal Proceedings Account or Headquarters account.
For donations to the Trump campaign specifically, 50% of each will go toward paying off its debt and the remaining 50% will be deposited into its Recount account.
The most recent federal campaign finance records available showed the Trump campaign with $60 million cash-on-hand at the beginning of October. The campaign would go on to spend upwards of $160 million on television ads in the final month before the election.
Read more here.
Biden rolls out COVID-19 advisory board
Mr. Biden's COVID-19 Advisory Board comprises 13 doctors and scientists and will be led by Dr. David Kessler, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Dr. Vivek Murthy, former U.S. surgeon general, and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a professor at Yale University. Among the other members of the task force are Dr. Rick Bright, the former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, and Dr. Atul Gawande.
Bright, a vaccine expert, was removed from his post as director of BARDA earlier this year and filed a whistleblower complaint outlining the Trump administration's missteps in handling the coronavirus. He claimed top administration officials failed to heed warnings about the virus and retaliated against him after he opposed COVID-19 treatments touted by Mr. Trump.
"Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the most important battles our administration will face, and I will be informed by science and by experts," Mr. Biden said in a statement announcing the panel. "The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations."
Coronavirus cases are rising in more than three dozen states, and the number of confirmed infections in the U.S. is approaching 10 million, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 237,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the U.S.
Read more here.
How CBS News projected Biden as the winner of the presidential election
CBS News elections and surveys director Anthony Salvanto breaks down the process of projecting a winner in the presidential race and explains why some states have still not been called:
Kamala Harris' historic election as vice president celebrated in ancestral village in India
Firecrackers erupted and prayers were held in Thulasendrapuram, the village where Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' maternal grandfather was born and raised, after she made history by becoming the first woman, the first Indian American and the first Black woman to win the second-highest U.S. office.
Residents wrote "Congratulations Kamala Harris. Pride of our village" in colorful powder in front of their homes and celebrated by handing out buckets of freshly made traditional sweets and playing music, according to Reuters. At the village temple, a priest performed a special prayer in celebration of Harris' win. Some residents waved posters featuring a photo of Harris, while others set off firecrackers.
Villagers had also assembled at a temple for a ritual and prayed for a Biden-Harris victory in the days leading up to the election.
Read more here.