USA TODAY’S coverage of the 2020 election and President-elect Joe Biden’s transition continues this week as he continues to roll out his picks for top positions in his administration and states continue to certify their vote counts.
President Donald Trump has yet to concede the race but his administration has cleared the way for Biden’s team to have access to federal resources and briefings during the transition.
Be sure to refresh this page often to get the latest information on the election and the transition.
Biden picks all women for White House communications team
President-elect Joe Biden on Sunday named his White House senior communications staff, choosing a team of all women led by Jen Psaki, a veteran of President Barack Obama’s administration, as his first press secretary.
Psaki, who wore many hats under Obama including White House communications director, has overseen the confirmations team for Biden’s transition team.
Biden also tapped top campaign aides Kate Bedingfield as White House communications director and Symone Sanders as senior adviser and chief spokesperson for Vice President Kamala Harris. Bedingfield worked as deputy campaign manager and communications director for the Biden-Harris Campaign. Sanders served as a campaign senior advisor.
Other communications hires are: Elizabeth Alexander, communications director for first lady Jill Biden; Ashley Etienne, communications director for Harris; Karine Jean-Pierre, principal deputy press secretary; and Pili Tobar, deputy White House communications director.
“I am proud to announce today the first senior White House communications team comprised entirely of women. These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better,” Biden said in a statement.
– Joey Garrison and Bart Jansen
Biden twists his ankle while playing with his dog
President-elect Joe Biden slipped and twisted his ankle on Saturday while playing with his dog Major.
“Out of an abundance of caution, he will be examined this afternoon by an orthopedist,” the president-elect’s team told reporters.
Biden is currently at the Delaware Orthopedic Specialists in Newark where he arrived a little after 4 p.m. EST. His office provided an update on his condition around 6 p.m., after not allowing reporters a view of the president-elect entering the facility.
According to a statement from his doctor, Kevin O’Connor, Biden sustained a sprain of his right foot and while “initial X-rays are reassuring that there is no obvious fracture,” he’ll be receiving a CT scan for further review.
“Follow-up CT scan confirmed hairline fractures of President-elect Biden’s lateral and intermediate cuneiform bones, which are in the mid-foot,” a statement from O’Connor reads.
The president-elect will likely need to use a walking boot for several weeks.
Biden was playing with Major, one of his two German shepherds, according to his office. The Biden family adopted Major in 2018, 10 years after acquiring their first dog, Champ.
The Bidens have said they plan to bring their dogs to the White House. Major, who was adopted from the Delaware Humane Association, will be the first rescue dog to live in the White House. The Bidens have also announced plans to get a cat when they move to the White House.
– Matthew Brown, USA TODAY and Brandon Holveck, Delaware News Journal
Kamala Harris laughs off question about facing President Trump again in 2024
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris waved away a question about whether she and President-elect Joe Biden “will be ready to face” President Donald Trump again in a 2024 redux of this year’s election.
“Please,” Harris said of the question, chuckling at a gaggle of reporters.
After a historically bitter political campaign that was at times overshadowed by a global pandemic and nationwide protests, 2024 may seem like a distant prospect for many Americans. Yet many Democrats and Republicans have made moves indicating they are already preparing for another acrid election in four years.
A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted Nov. 21-23 also found that 53% of Republican voters would vote for Trump again in 2024 if he chose to run. Various polls have also found that most Trump voters have not yet accepted the legitimacy of Trump’s loss.
An Economist/YouGov poll conducted after Biden’s victory was projected found that 86% of Trump voters did not think Biden’s win was legitimate.
Biden, 78, will be the oldest president ever to take office, which has fueled speculation he may not seek a second term. Harris, 56, would likely be seen as he early frontrunner for the Democratic nomination should Biden not seek reelection.
– Matthew Brown
Republican Congressman reclaims seat as GOP flips 11th House seat
Republican Congressman David Valadao defeated Democrat T.J. Cox in California’s 21st district, The Associated Press reported Friday. The victory is the 11th seat Republicans have wrested from incumbent Democrats in the House of Representatives in the 2020 election.
Valadao’s victory comes as down-ballot Republicans outperformed President Donald Trump across the country, even in solidly blue California
The district, primarily situated in the San Joaquin Valley, slightly favors Democrats, according to the Cook Political Report. Valadao won the seat by emphasizing agricultural issues, which are central to the district’s economy. Though he endorsed Trump in 2020, he is only tepid in his support for the president.
This year, Valadao won the district by a little under 2,000 votes. The district is one of at least three Republicans have reclaimed from the 2018 Democratic “blue wave” that swept the Golden State.
Cox, who won the seat in 2018 by 862 votes, has not yet conceded the election.
– Matthew Brown
Trump mocked for claim that ‘I came up with vaccines’
On his way out of office, President Donald Trump is going out of his way to take credit for emerging COVID-19 vaccines – to the point where he claims to have developed them himself.
“I came up with vaccines that people didn’t think we’d have for five years,” Trump said during his phone interview Sunday on Fox News, later adding that people would try to credit President-elect Joe Biden.
The Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” has helped, but doctors and drug makers have been the ones who developed the actual vaccines that should be available for public use soon.
Jonathan Reiner, professor of Medicine and Surgery at George Washington University, said Trump sometimes sounds like King Louis XIV proclaiming “‘l’état, c’est moi’ – the state is me.”
“The PfizerBioNTech and the Moderna vaccines were created by brilliant and dedicated scientists and clinical trial-ists, as well as thousands of people who volunteered to be vaccinated for the studies,” Reiner said. “The glory goes to them.”
– David Jackson
Sen. Blunt refuses to call Biden president-elect, echoes election misinformation
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., declined to acknowledge Joe Biden was “president-elect” during an interview Sunday with CNN’s “State of the Union.” The refusal came as President Donald Trump and many elected Republicans continue to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
“The president-elect technically has to be elected president by the electors. That happens in the middle of December,” Blunt correctly said, sidestepping the reality that there is no doubt the electors will choose Biden as the next president of the United States.
“There is no official job president-elect,” Blunt said, arguing that the distinction was a “straw man” created by the media. But in 2016, Blunt’s office published a press release “congratulating President-elect Donald Trump” the day after the election and long before the electors met.
Federal and state courts have found the Trump campaign’s claims of fraud to be unfounded. While Blunt’s comments casting doubt on Biden’s status as president-elect echo the Trump campaign’s attacks on the legitimacy of the election, he did not go so far as to claim the election was stolen, as Trump has baselessly contended.
“I don’t think it was rigged but I do think there was some things that were done that shouldn’t have been done,” Blunt said without specifying what potential election wrongdoing he was referencing. “And I think there was some element of voter fraud as there is in every election. But I don’t have any reason to believe that the numbers are there that would have made that difference.”
Election officials across the country have confirmed that there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the election. A USA TODAY investigation found no instances of voter fraud in the swing states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Claims elsewhere in the country were also investigated and debunked.
Blunt predicted Trump would remain active in Republican politics.
“I think there is a big role for President Trump. And I hope he embraces that and looks at how you move to whatever comes next for him, assuming that this election works out the way it appears it will,” he said.
– Matthew Brown
Donald Trump doesn’t know when his election protests will end
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump continued to protest the election during a broadcast interview Sunday, but again provided no proof – and would not say when he might drop election lawsuits and challenges that have met nothing but defeat.
Trump said his complaints might last past the Dec. 14 vote of the Electoral College and even the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
“My mind will not change in six months,” Trump told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures” during his first broadcast interview since Election Day.
A steady stream of judges and election officials across the country, including Republicans, have declared the elections fairly run, and criticized Trump’s legal team for filing specious complaints.
In rejecting a lawsuit in Pennsylvania, a federal appeals court said Friday that “charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”
Lawsuits and election challenges have met similar fates in Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Georgia.
In a Fox telephone conversation that lasted 46 minutes, Trump criticized Republicans who have disputed his claims of election fraud.
That includes Georgia, the site of two Senate run-offs that will determine control of the U.S. Senate. While Trump plans to campaign in Georgia for incumbent Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, even as he blasted GOP officials like Gov. Brian Kemp.
“The governor’s done nothing,” Trump said. “He’s done absolutely nothing. I’m ashamed that I endorsed him.”
Trump’s comments throughout the interview amounted to little more than rants, complaints, and evidence-free conspiracy theories.
“He’s all over the place,” said Bradley Moss, a national security attorney. “He’s got nothing, he knows it’s all ending and he’s ranting to anyone who will listen.”
Other analysts hit the softball questioning of Fox host Maria Bartiromo, some noting that Trump is reportedly thinking about buying his own news network.
“@MariaBartiromo auditioning for a job on Newmax this morning,” tweeted former President Bill Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart.
– David Jackson
Wisconsin recount ends, Biden gains net of 87 votes
MADISON, Wis. – A partial recount boosted President-elect Joe Biden’s victory by 87 votes Sunday, and President Donald Trump said he was preparing a lawsuit to overturn the results.
The completion of Dane County’s retallying of the vote came two days after Milwaukee County finished its recount.
Biden netted 132 votes in Milwaukee County, and Trump got 45 votes in Dane County. Taken together, that increased Biden’s statewide margin to 21,695.
Trump’s campaign paid $3 million to cover the cost of the recounts in Wisconsin’s two most Democratic counties so he could pursue a long-shot lawsuit to claim the state’s 10 electoral votes.
Trump on Saturday tweeted that he would file a lawsuit in Wisconsin by Tuesday, when the state Elections Commission is set to certify the results.
“The Wisconsin recount is not about finding mistakes in the count, it is about finding people who have voted illegally, and that case will be brought after the recount is over, on Monday or Tuesday,” Trump wrote.
– Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Retired Joint Chiefs chair: Iran scientist assassination weakens diplomacy
Retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen expressed concern on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that the recent assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist will “makes things much more challenging” for the incoming Biden administration to negotiate with the country.
Mullen – the nation’s highest-ranking military officer from 2007 to 2011 – called the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who oversaw Iran’s nuclear program for over a decade, “a significant event,” one that could significantly hobble U.S.-Iranian relations just as President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Mullen’s concerns were shared by retired Navy Adm. William McRaven, who told ABC News’ “This Week” that the move reinforces the “difficult challenge” Biden faces in negotiating with Iran.
Iran was already unlikely to be receptive to a new agreement with a Biden administration after its experience with President Donald Trump, who pulled out of an agreement negotiated during the Obama administration to slow Iran’s nuclear weapons development, McRaven said.
“Now by attacking their nuclear scientists and by really escalating this effort, the Iranians are going to be more compelled to get a bomb quicker,” and Iran will be more hesitant to join any future deal, McRaven predicted.
Mullen likened the move to Trump’s decision to assassinate Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. That move enraged the Iranian government and public alike, and led experts to fear the prospect of open war.
Fakhrizadeh was “not only the brains but also the passion behind” Iran’s nuclear program, Mullen said. Biden, who has said he’d reopen talks with Iran, will now likely face a country further embittered and resistant to diplomacy.
“I’m hopeful that President-elect Biden can actually reach in and calm the waters but I think this heightens tensions significantly,” Mullen said.
– Matthew Brown
Progressives aren’t going to give Biden a honeymoon
After helping to mobilize election turnout of young people and left-leaning Democrats, progressive leaders want to hold the Biden administration to promises made on the campaign trail: addressing climate change, combatting the COVID-19 pandemic and offering student debt relief.
“This isn’t 2015 anymore. This isn’t 2010 anymore. It’s not 2005 anymore,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic socialist from New York, said at a rally with progressives last week. “The movement got us here. You all got us a seat at the table.”
But as progressives lean into their policy demands, one roadblock remains: Who will control the Senate?
Two runoffs in Georgia will determine whether Republicans maintain control of the chamber when the new Congress is sworn in in January. If the Republican majority holds, not only will it be difficult for Democrats to pass legislation, it will likely mean the progressive wish list will be left on the backburner.
– Rebecca Morin