Political

Election 2020 updates: Biden warns of ‘dark winter,’ pushes masks in pandemic plan

ABC NewsBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, MORGAN WINSOR, LIBBY CATHEY, ADIA ROBINSON, LAUREN KING, EMILY SHAPIRO, IVAN PEREIRA and MARC NATHANSON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — Joe Biden is set to become the 46th president of the United States, capping a tumultuous and tension-filled campaign during a historic pandemic against President Donald Trump. ABC News characterized Joe Biden as the apparent winner of his home state of Pennsylvania, putting him over the 270 vote threshold needed to capture the presidency.

The hard-fought battle against the president was set against the backdrop of racial unrest and the coronavirus pandemic and bitter divisions among the electorate.

Trump had falsely declared on election night, when he held a lead in several key states, that he won the contest and alleged without evidence, after the count started to swing the other way, that the election was being stolen from him and that fraud had been committed.

Painting the election as a “battle for the soul of the nation,” Biden won on a message of unity over division, compassion over anger, and reality over what he called Trump’s “wishful thinking” as the coronavirus pandemic cast a heavy shadow over the campaign.

The 2020 election has shattered voting records with votes totalling 147 million and counting, surpassing the 138 million who voted in 2016.

Here’s how the election is unfolding. All times Eastern:

Nov 09, 10:01 pm
DOJ official resigns as director of election crimes branch over AG’s memo

A Justice Department official confirmed Monday evening that Richard Pilger, a career official who was serving as director of the Elections Crimes Branch, has resigned from his role in the division because of the attorney general’s memo authorizing U.S. attorneys to “pursue substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities,” despite little evidence surfacing thus far of any widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Pilger has stepped back into a role in the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section.

The New York Times reported that Pilger wrote to colleagues in an email this evening, “Having familiarized myself with the new policy and its ramifications, I must regretfully resign from my role as director of the Election Crimes Branch.”

A DOJ spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on Pilger’s resignation.

When ABC News sought a response from Pilger, an automatic reply to the email said, “I am no longer the Director of the Election Crimes Branch, and have stepped back to the line at the Public Integrity Section.”

Nov 09, 8:47 pm
No full intel briefings for Biden yet

The Biden transition team will not receive full intelligence briefings until the General Services Administration officially “ascertains” the former vice president to be the winner of the presidential election, according to a statement from the Office of Director of National Intelligence on Monday.

“ODNI follows the statutory direction provided in the Presidential Transition Act, which requires ascertainment of the candidate by the administrator of GSA prior to supporting a potential presidential transition. ODNI would not have contact with any transition team until notified by the GSA Administrator,” an ODNI spokesperson said in a statement.

Meanwhile, outside government watchdogs are already warning that a continued delay in briefings could carry grave national security implications for the incoming administration.
 
Aaron Scherb, the legal director at Common Cause, told ABC News on Monday that the “petty and unproductive” decision by GSA to withhold key resources to the Biden transition could have the “potential for catastrophic results.”

“By GSA not signing off on this, there is certainly some classified intelligence information that the incoming administration would not have access to — and would potentially not be fully prepared on day one to be able to counteract ongoing efforts from our adversaries like all previous incoming administrations have,” Scherb said.
 
“If the Biden transition team doesn’t have access to some of the documents and information,” he continued, “there are national security concerns.”

Nov 09, 7:22 pm
Barr authorizes investigations of credible allegations of election irregularities

Attorney General William Barr sent a memo to U.S. attorneys Monday evening authorizing them to “pursue substantial allegations of voting and vote tabulation irregularities,” despite little evidence surfacing thus far of any widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

In the memo Barr says that such inquiries “may be conducted if there are clear and apparently-credible allegations of irregularities that, if true, could potentially impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual State.”

But Barr emphasized in the letter that this should not be taken as the DOJ believing there was widespread fraud — a baseless claim being made by attorneys for Trump and the RNC. Rather, he’s doling authority out to U.S. attorneys in the event they might uncover any such credible evidence of a fraud conspiracy that might affect vote tabulations before election results are certified.

“Nothing here should be taken as any indication that the Department has concluded that voting irregularities have impacted the outcome of any election,” Barr wrote. “Rather, I provide this authority and guidance to emphasize the need to timely and appropriately address allegations of voting irregularities so that all of the American people, regardless of their preferred candidate or party, can have full confidence in the results of our elections.”

“While it is imperative that credible allegations be addressed in a timely and effective manner, it is equally imperative that Department personnel exercise appropriate caution and maintain the Department’s absolute commitment to fairness, neutrality and non-partisanship,” Barr said in the memo. “While serious allegations should be handled with great care, specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries.”

Nov 09, 7:17 pm
Biden to talk about Obamacare, case being heard in Supreme Court

Biden is slated to give remarks focused on the Affordable Care Act and the Trump administration’s lawsuit to overturn it. Biden will talk about his own plan “to expand access to quality, affordable health care.”

The event in Wilmington, Delaware, is slated for 2 p.m.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments at 10 a.m. in the case brought by Trump and 18 Republican-led states asking that the Affordable Care Act be eliminated in its entirety.

Nov 09, 6:22 pm
Ga. senators blast Republican secretary of state

Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are now attacking Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, also a Republican, for his “mismanagement and lack of transparency” with this election and have called on him to resign.

“While blame certainly lies elsewhere as well, the buck ultimately stops with the Secretary of State. The mismanagement and lack of transparency from the Secretary of State is unacceptable,” the senators said in a statement. “Honest elections are paramount to the foundation of our democracy. The Secretary of State has failed to deliver honest and transparent elections.”

“He has failed the people of Georgia, and he should step down immediately,” the statement continued

In response, Raffensperger said that he will not resign.

“I know emotions are running high. Politics are involved in everything right now. 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,” Raffensperger, the state’s top elections official, said in a statement. “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.”

Nov 09, 6:13 pm
Pence: ‘it ain’t over til it’s over.. and this AIN’T over!’

The vice president is publicly standing by the president’s side, tweeting from his personal account that he told his staff Monday: “it ain’t over til it’s over.. and this AIN’T over!”

In addition to the vice president’s tweet, a senior administration official said the vice president has been very involved in the ongoing legal fight, participating in a fundraising call for the campaign’s legal fund on Friday, after meeting with advisers at both the White House and campaign headquarters last week.

“The vice president has been very actively engaged with senior staff both from the campaign and the White House in discussing strategy with regard to both the recount and legal efforts,” the official said.

Nov 09, 2:58 pm
Trump campaign appeal in Michigan not accepted, called ‘defective’

The Trump campaign suffered another set-back in their effort to mount a legal challenge to the presidential election — this time in Michigan.
 
On Friday, the campaign filed an appeal to an earlier ruling that denied their complaint regarding the access poll observers were getting to watch mail-in ballot processing. But on Monday, the Michigan Court of Appeals said they still have not accepted the appeal, calling it “defective” because it lacked key documents.
 
John Nevin, the communications director for the Michigan Supreme Court, told ABC News that the appeal will not be considered by the court until the missing documents, which include a copy of the judgement order, a copy of the registrar of actions, a copy of the transcript and — most importantly — a copy of the brief, have been filed.
 
“It’s missing the most important part,” Nevin said.

Mark F. Hearne II, the lawyer on the case, did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
 
In this suit, the campaign was seeking to have Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson direct local clerks to allow election challengers to observe the vote processing and counting process and to view the video records of ballot drop boxes.

The task of opening mail-in ballots is largely completed, the court had noted in its ruling, but the Trump campaign argued in the appeal that their effort is not pointless “because review and certification of election results continues… (and) review of absent uniformed services voter or overseas voter ballots is ongoing. Review of these ballots must be performed by bipartisan teams of election inspectors.”

The court had also ruled that, even if relief was warranted, the campaign sued the wrong person — Secretary Benson does not have the authority to tell local polling officials what to do and the campaign would instead have to go directly to each jurisdiction.

In their reply, which has not yet been accepted by the court, the Trump campaign attorneys argued that it would be unreasonable to expect them to file individual lawsuits in dozens of Circuit Courts against each of the 1,603 county and local election officials in Michigan, the appeal states.

Contrary to the Court of Claims order, Michigan law provides that the Secretary of State is the “chief elections officer” responsible for overseeing the conduct of Michigan elections, the appeal said.

Notably, the appeal did not address the court’s issue with the evidence presented in the case, which the judge had called hearsay “at best.”

Nov 09, 12:52 pm
Biden warns of ‘dark winter,’ pushes masks in COVID plan

Biden warns of ‘dark winter’ ahead as he lays out COVID-19 plan, calls for unity on masks

President-elect Joe Biden in his first solo remarks to Americans since his victory speech over the weekend reminded Americans of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as cases and hospitalizations rise across the country, and said the country is “still facing a very dark winter” before offering his plan to combat it.

“We are ready to get to work addressing the needs of the American people. Today, that work begins,” Biden said from The Queen Theater in Wilmington Delaware, following a briefing with his newly-announced COVID-19 advisory board. “It starts with doing everything possible to get the COVID-19 under control, so that we can reopen our businesses safely and sustainably, resume our lives, put this pandemic behind us.”

While he praised the announcement from Pfizer Monday morning that the company has a vaccine in trial that looks “90% effective in preventing COVID-19,” Biden reminded that even if the vaccine is approved, it will not be widely available for months. He went on to urge all Americans, regardless of whether they voted for him, to “end the politicization of basic responsible public health steps.”

“This election is over. It’s time to put aside the partisanship and the rhetoric that’s designed to demonize one another,” Biden said, reminding Americans to keep social distancing and wearing a mask.

“Doesn’t matter who you voted for, whether you stood, where you stood before election day, doesn’t matter your party, your point of view. 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,” he added. “A mask is not a political statement but it is a good way to start pulling the country together.”

After pledging to rejoin the World Health Organization on “Day One,” Biden also said his advisory board will include experts on global health security, “so that we can restore U.S. global leadership to fight this pandemic” — in sharp contrast to Trump’s isolationist approach to the virus and general policy.

Nov 09, 11:23 am
Biden, Harris meet with COVID-19 advisory board

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris met with their newly-announced COVID-19 advisory board via Zoom Monday morning at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, for a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic — a signal of Biden’s primary focus as he prepares to take office in 72 days.

“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,” Biden said in the release announcing the board which he says will guide his approach to managing spikes, distributing safe vaccines and protecting at-risk populations.

As previously reported, the team will be led by 3 co-chairs: former Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, and former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Dr. David Kessler, along with Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a professor of medicine at Yale University.

In total, 13 co-chairs and members comprise the board, including former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), Dr. Rick Bright, who made headlines earlier this year when he resigned from his role at the National Institute of Health and filed a whistleblower complaint over “an abuse of authority or gross mismanagement” at the Department of Health and Human Services on the COVID-19 response.

Aside from their victory speeches Saturday night, this is the first public event for the Biden and Harris since being projected as the winners of the 2020 election.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Nov 08, 8:55 pm
Trump surrogates continue to allege fraud in Nevada

Two Donald Trump associates held a news conference in Las Vegas alleging voter fraud in the state, but they provided little proof and didn’t announce any legal actions.

Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt and American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp spoke outside the Clark County Election Department, providing a number of anecdotal stories of voter fraud.

Among the unverified allegations were repeated complaints about the machine used to verify voter signatures and charges that Republicans were denied the right to vote.

The pair also claimed that hundreds of dead people voted in Clark County.

Laxalt and Schlapp said they had no legal action to announce at the briefing.

Two days ago, a Clark County judge denied a request by the GOP to halt the use of the signature verification machines, saying the devices were lawful and that observers were watching the count. The judge also criticized GOP representatives for not providing any evidence of wrongdoing.

Nov 08, 8:36 pm
Vote count continues in several states

The election count is continuing in several states. Here is a breakdown, including the percentage of expected vote that has been counted in each state:

Georgia (99% EV in)
Biden: 2,465,781 (49.5%)
Trump: 2,455,428 (49.3%)
Biden’s edge: +10,353 votes

Based on ABC News’ reporting, there are approximately 14,200 ballots still to be counted, including overseas/military and provisional ballots plus any other outstanding absentee ballots that were cured by the deadline.

Arizona (97% EV in)
Biden: 1,633,181 (49.5%)
Trump: 1,613,833 (48.9%)
Biden’s edge: +19,348

There are about 99,399 ballots left to tabulate, 44,668 of which are provisional ballots.

North Carolina (98% EV in)
Biden 2,658,274 (48.6%)
Trump: 2,733,681 (50.0%)
Trump’s edge: +75,407

Approximately 95,000 voters who requested an absentee ballot have not yet returned theirs before the state’s Nov. 12 deadline. This number does not yet account for voters who requested an absentee ballot but voted in person on Election Day instead.

Nov 08, 4:06 pm
Trump golfed on Sunday

The president was back Sunday at Trump International Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia. Trump was also there on Saturday when ABC News characterized Biden as the apparent winner in Pennsylvania, giving the former vice president the electoral votes he needs to capture the presidency.

Nov 08, 3:44 pm
Pa. AG tells Supreme Court all counties segregating late ballots, as directed

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro has informed the Supreme Court that, contrary to Republican concerns, all of the state’s counties have been complying with the Secretary of State’s guidance to segregate late-arriving mail ballots.

“At the time Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar filed her Response in Application to the Republican Party of Pennsylvania’s Emergency Application for Injunction earlier yesterday, 63 of Pennsylvania’s counties had affirmatively confirmed their understanding and intention to follow the Secretary’s October 28, 2020 and November 1, 2020 guidance, as noted in the Response,” he wrote. “The Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth has confirmed that the remaining four Pennsylvania counties have similarly confirmed their understanding and intention to follow that guidance. We would appreciate if you would circulate copies of this letter to the Justices of the Court. “

Shapiro seems to suggest that Justice Samuel Alito’s order late Friday was not necessary given that the counties were already doing the segregation, notwithstanding the unfounded GOP speculation that they might not have been.

Nov 08, 3:18 pm
George W. Bush, world leaders congratulate Biden

Former President George W. Bush said in a statement that he spoke with Biden and congratulated him on the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Bush said in the statement that he also spoke with Kamala Harris, who he congratulated for “her historic election to the vice presidency.”

“Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man, who has won this opportunity to lead and unify our country,” the statement read.

On Sunday, several more world leaders, such as South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the Saudi royal family and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, also congratulated Biden on his apparent win.

Nov 08, 3:00 pm
Iran hopes the US will rejoin the nuclear deal

Ahead of Election Day in the United States, the biggest question for Iran was the future of the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The current Iranian government, led by President Hassan Rouhani and his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, have indicated they are willing to revive the deal and assemble the current signatories to negotiate a new agreement.

Looking ahead to a Biden administration, Rouhani said Sunday, “the next U.S. administration should use the opportunity to make up for the past mistakes against Iran.”

Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reported that just the day before, Rouhani expressed hope that the new administration would rejoin the nuclear deal.

Rouhani said the Iranian people faced “economic terrorism” in the past three years and showed “competent resistance and patience.”

He said Iran will continue its “patience” and “resistance.”

“We hope that conditions alter in a way that those who have imposed sanctions will come to realize that they have moved along a wrong path, and that they will not attain their goals at all as they should take a lesson from this 3-year experience,” he continued.

Nov 08, 2:54 pm
What does Puerto Rico’s vote for statehood mean for the island

A majority of Puerto Ricans voted Tuesday on a referendum that would admit the island as an official U.S. state, however experts say the issue will not be resolved anytime soon.

This is the sixth time Puerto Ricans had a choice to make on statehood since 1967, but Republican commissioner, Jenniffer González, said she is ready to take this year’s referendum results to Congress.

“We’re gonna push for this now, but we’re gonna push for this in January, as well. … It doesn’t matter who is the president-elect,” she told ABC News on Wednesday.

Political scientist and researcher Carlos Vargas Ramos told ABC News he’s doubtful that Congress will take up the referendum.

In the 2012 and 2017 referendums, statehood prevailed. But the legitimacy of the results were questioned due to the confusing configuration of the status question and voter turnout.

Vargas Ramos said the referendum was non-binding and turnout is still an issue.

For this year’s vote, 1.2 million people out of the island’s 2.3 million eligible voters on cast a ballot on the referendum, according to the election commission’s website.

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