USA TODAY’s coverage of the 2020 election and President-elect Joe Biden’s transition continues this week as he rolls out more of his picks for top jobs in his administration and the final states certify their vote counts before the Electoral College ballots are officially cast on Dec. 14.
President Donald Trump has cleared the way for Biden’s team to use federal resources and get briefings during the transition, although Trump has yet to formally concede the race.
Be sure to refresh this page often to get the latest information on the election and the transition.
Rudy Giuliani tests positive for COVID-19
Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, has tested positive for COVID-19. Trump shared the news by tweet, writing “Get better soon Rudy, we will carry on!!!”
Since the presidential election, Giuliani, 76, has traveled the country challenging the election results and integrity of the electoral system itself. During much of his travels, Giuliani was seen not wearing a mask and flouting social distancing guidelines.
It is unclear from the president’s tweet where Giuliani is being treated or if he is currently in quarantine.
Along with a cadre of lawyers affiliated with the Trump campaign, Giuliani has held regular news conferences claiming, without evidence, various conspiracy theories and baseless allegations of mass voter fraud.
The former New York City mayor has had an eventful year. Prior to the election, Giuliani was central to a story alleging criminal intent on the part of President-elect Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. Giuliani was also briefly featured in the sequel to the movie “Borat” in a sordid scene he later called “a hit job.”
– Matthew Brown
Supreme Court moves deadline on GOP Rep. Mike Kelly’s emergency request in Pa. election suit
The Supreme Court on Sunday changed a key deadline in Republican Rep. Mike Kelly’s lawsuit seeking to overturn the results of the presidential election in Pennsylvania from Wednesday to Tuesday. That schedule change was significant because Tuesday is the cutoff for states to resolve any election disputes, known as the “safe harbor” deadline under federal election law.
The safe harbor deadline also holds that Congress cannot challenge any electors named under state law by that date. Some had interpreted the originally scheduled date after that deadline as a sign the high court had no intention of ruling on the appeal.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, on Nov. 24 certified the election results for Biden over Trump. Kelly’s longshot appeal claims that the 2019 state law that authorized universal, no-excuses mail-in voting is unconstitutional and that only an amendment to the state constitution would have made universal mail-in voting legal in Pennsylvania.
Kelly and seven other Republicans sued to get the mail-in ballots invalidated or have the courts direct the GOP-controlled Pennsylvania General Assembly to pick Pennsylvania’s 20 presidential electors, who all favor Biden as a result of the election.
On Saturday, the state Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Kelly’s case, ruling he waited too long to challenge the 2019 law, which the General Assembly passed with bipartisan support.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, an appointee of Republican George W. Bush, filed the scheduling order. He handles emergency requests that originate in the states that make up the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
– Ed Palattella, Erie Times-News
Manchin: Dems tagged with inaccurate slogans like ‘defund the police’
When asked why Democrats across the nation fared worse than President-elect Joe Biden in the November election, Sen. Joe Machin, D-W.V., claimed the party had been inaccurately connected to slogans like “defund the police.”
“The bottom line is that we’ve been identified is something we are not,” Manchin argued. “I’m a proud West Virginia Democrat and I don’t know of any Democrat who would ever defund the police.”
He said that “extreme” ideas were not who Democrats were as a party, “but we were tagged with that,” he said.
Manchin listed a series of principles the senator contended were Democratic “bedrocks,” including, “how do we protect workers, how do we protect families, how do we give people opportunity, how do we have inclusion, income inequality,” arguing that those issues were lost in most Americans’ idea of the Democratic Party.
“The message we have is not for all Americans,” Manchin said. “If you’re a Democrat, why are you a Democrat? I tell people, ‘I am fiscally responsible and socially compassionate.’ Can’t you be both?” Manchin asked. “Do you want to give everything away without any accountability? It’s not who I am. It’s not the Democrats I was raised with. And that’s basically what we have lost: who we are.”
The West Virginia senator’s comments as Democrats face a reckoning over their underperformance in the 2020 election. Moderate Democrats have largely echoed Manchin’s assertion that the party was caricatured by attacks on progressive ideas, while the party’s left wing blames poor messaging and organizing for its shortcomings.
“We’re trying to bring everyone together with the same opportunities,” Machin argued. “We’re not explaining in a way that the average American understands and we’re allowing other people to tag us. And that’s just unfair.”
– Matthew Brown
Georgia Republican Lt. Gov. Duncan reiterates that Biden won state
Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan underscored that there was no malfeasance in the Georgia November election during a Sunday interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
While Duncan voted and campaigned for President Donald Trump in the Peach State, he said “unfortunately, President Trump did not win the state,” a reality that many Georgia voters and the president himself have not acknowledged.
“If I had the chance to spend five minutes with every single person in Georgia that doubted the election results, I think I’d be able to win their hearts over,” Duncan said.
While he is disappointed in the election results, “on Jan. 20 Joe Biden will be sworn in as president of the United States and the Constitution is still in place. This is still America,” Duncan underscored.
“As Lieutenant Governor and as a Georgian, I am proud that we are able to look up after three recounts and watch and be able to see that this election was fair,” he argued. “Was it perfect? Absolutely not. I don’t know if any election was perfect in the history of this country. But certainly it’s only been nominal changes since we’ve had three recounts.”
The lieutenant governor’s comments come as Republicans and Democrats in the state are seeking to rally their bases for an upcoming Senate runoff on Jan. 5 that will determine control of Congress. Some Republican strategists worry that accusations of election fraud from Trump and Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue may hurt turnout.
Duncan poured water on the idea Gov. Brian Kemp was not going to call a special session of the Georgia Legislature to overturn the election results, an unprecedented move that Trump reportedly asked Kemp to perform in a phone call.
The lieutenant governor said Trump’s “fanning of the flames around misinformation” at his rally in Valdosta, Georgia, was “concerning” and that “the mountains of misinformation are not helping.”
– Matthew Brown
HHS Secretary Azar dismisses Biden vaccine ‘nonsense,’ doesn’t call him president-elect
Alex Azar, head of the Health and Human Services Department, called President-elect Joe Biden “the vice president” during an interview on “Fox News Sunday” and demurred to amend his statement when pressed by moderator Chris Wallace.
Asked about Biden’s call for the public to wear a mask for 100 days to contain the spread of coronavirus juxtaposed with Trump’s refusal to wear one, Azar responded “I welcome Vice President Biden to the club.”
The comment is in line with those in President Donald Trump’s close orbit, who continue to ignore or deny Biden’s victory in the presidential election.
Azar blamed rising coronavirus case numbers on Americans growing tired of public health measures like social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Colder weather has also played a part, he noted.
During an interview on ABC News’ “This Week,” Azar declined to call for stricter coronavirus measures as are being re-implemented in some parts of the country, arguing that “we need to build trust in these measures again” and that “all our interventions need to be science and evidence-based.”
Azar expressed hope about HHS’s vaccine approval process, stating that if a vaccine was approved on December 10, the expected date for an independent review to be published, the department would deploy millions of doses within 24 hours. Hundreds of millions would be available going into 2021, Azar predicted.
He also denounced speculation from Biden that the COVID-19 vaccine approval process was being influenced by the Trump administration, calling the comments “nonsense.” The administration has been criticized for interference in messaging and coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention throughout the pandemic.
– Matthew Brown
Dr. Birx expresses worry over Americans ‘parroting’ Trump misinformation
Dr. Deborah Birx said she was concerned about the large numbers of Americans who “parrot” incorrect public health claims they have heard from President Donald Trump during an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”
In response to a question about Trump and other administration officials flouting rules and downplaying the threat posed by the virus, Birx, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, noted that in her travels around the country she hears “community members parroting back” similar talking points, “parroting back that masks don’t work, parroting back we should work towards herd immunity, parroting back that gatherings don’t result in super-spreading events.”
The top infectious disease expert said it is “our job is to constantly say, ‘those are myths.'”
Birx also expressed frustration with Sun Belt leaders for inaction, arguing that “not only do we know what works” but that “governors and mayors used those tools to stem the tide in the spring and the summer,” actions they are now avoiding amid a worse surge of the virus.
Birx’s comments come as the USA enters another brutal wave of the pandemic. While governments and pharmaceutical companies prepare to deploy coronavirus vaccines across the country, more than 2,000 Americans on average are dying each day.
“This is not just the worst public health event, this is the worst event that this country will face,” Birx, a career public health bureaucrat who worked as U.S. global AIDS coordinator under President Barack Obama, warned.
Birx also expressed optimism, noting “we know what behaviors will change the spread and we know how to change those behaviors,” contending that it is a matter of public resolve in the face of the disease.
“Only we can save us from this current surge. And we know precisely what to do.”
– Matthew Brown
Trump focuses on his own unfounded election gripes at Georgia rally for GOP incumbent senators
Faced with possible Republican loss of the Senate, President Donald Trump spent more time at a campaign rally Saturday ranting about his election loss and ripping Georgia Republican leaders who refused his demands to subvert the results in the Peach State.
Trump did promote incumbent Georgia Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler – whose Jan. 5 re-election bids will decide control of the Senate – but framed most of the rally around his own legacy and false allegations about the election.
The 100-minute rally came just hours after he re-inserted himself into Georgia politics by again trying – and again failing – to reverse his loss in the state by pressuring the Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and the state legislature.
Kemp rejected Trump’s request to call a special legislative session to approve the appointment of a pro-Trump slate to the Electoral College, earning repeated rebukes from Trump during an airport rally in Valdosta, Ga., that lasted 100 minutes.
“We just need somebody with courage to do what they have to do,” said Trump, who has pressured legislators in several Biden states to push for pro-Trump electors, despite the fact that state officials lack the legal authority to do that in defiance of their states’ voters.
While Trump falsely claimed he really “won” the presidential election, he tacitly admitted at times that Biden will become president and Kamala Harris will become vice president on Jan. 20.
At one point, he described Perdue and Loeffler as the “last line of defense” for the Republican Senate, but Democrats can only take control when Biden and Harris take office.
Trump, who has discussed another presidential campaign in 2024 with his aides, joked in Valdosta that doesn’t want to run in four years because “we’re gonna win back the White House” in the next several weeks.
– David Jackson
Trump ally’s Georgia election appeal rejected by federal court
A federal appeals court rejected attorney L. Lin Wood’s request to block the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Georgia. The judges found Wood “lacks standing to sue because he fails to allege a particularized injury,” upholding a lower court ruling.
Wood sued Georgia election officials seeking “extraordinary relief” to block Georgia officials from certifying election results and establish new rules for the two Senate runoff elections that will occur Jan. 5. In his lawsuit, Wood claimed that the absentee ballot and recount procedures violated state laws and his constitutional rights.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit agreed with the district county’s decision to deny Wood’s motion, stating the attorney fails to explain how the absentee ballot and recount procedure personally affected him.
The court also said that Wood’s requests are “moot” because Georgia already certified its election results.
U.S. District Judge Steven Grimberg, a Trump nominated judge, previously said that there was no evidence of irregularities in the election process that would have affected a substantial number of votes.
“It harms the public interest in countless ways, particularly in the environment in which this election occurred. To halt the certification at literally the 11th hour would breed confusion and potentially disenfranchisement that I find has no basis in fact or in law,” Grimberg said during the case’s hearing.
In addition to his failed lawsuit, Wood made news last week when he encouraged Georgia Republicans not to vote in the Jan. 5 runoff as a form of protest in response to state GOP officials’s refusal to change the election results based on unsubstantiated fraud claims.
– Sarah Elbeshbishi
Trump legal team’s Michigan hearing gets ‘SNL’ treatment
“Saturday Night Live” wasted no time spoofing the hearing that took place before the Michigan State Senate on Tuesday.
During the episode’s cold open, a farting Rudy Giuliani (played by Kate McKinnon) called on his star witness, Melissa Carone (Cecily Strong), to discuss baseless voter fraud allegations.
Carone went viral shortly after her appearance for her eyebrow-raising testimony.
“I personally saw hundreds if not thousands of dead people vote,” she said. “I remember because I was walking out and they were walking out and they gave their votes to Democrats.”
Strong’s Carone maintained she wasn’t lying, saying she “signed an after-David” as opposed to an affidavit.
“David signed and then I signed right after David,” she explained.
– Sara M Moniuszko
Sen. Loeffler campaign staffer killed in car wreck
A University of Georgia student who was working as a field staffer on Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s election campaign was killed in a car wreck Friday.
Harrison Deal, 20, who expected to graduate from UGA in 2022, worked in the Athens office for the Loeffler campaign.
Deal was killed about 10 a.m. in a fiery three-vehicle crash in the eastbound lane of Interstate 16 in Chatham County near Pooler Parkway, according to police. Three other people sustained minor injuries.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, whose daughter Lucy Kemp called Deal her “best friend,” canceled his plans to attend a rally in Savannah Friday with Vice President Mike Pence.
The Kemp family said in a statement: “Today we lost a member of our ‘Kemp Strong’ family and words cannot express how much Harrison Deal’s life, love and support meant to us. He was a person of deep faith, unmatched in integrity and incredible kindness. Harris was the Kemp son and brother we never had.”
President Donald Trump offered his condolences to Deal’s family during his rally for Loeffler and Sen. Perdue Saturday in Valdosta, Georgia, calling him “an incredible, magnificent young man.
“I just want to say our prayers are with his friends and loved ones, and we will keep his memory in our hearts,” Trump said.
– Wayne Ford and Will Peebles, Athens Banner-Herald