Trump-Biden transition updates: Trump files to join lawsuit against four states
By LIBBY CATHEY, LAUREN KING and ADIA ROBINSON, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump is slated to hand over control of the White House to President-elect Joe Biden in 42 days.
Here is how the transition is unfolding. All times Eastern:
Dec 09, 9:29 pm
Pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell loses third straight case
Pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell has just lost her third straight case in her conspiracy-fueled bid to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, this time in Arizona.
As in the earlier cases, the judge did not look kindly on the unfounded claims that filled Powell’s lawsuit. Judge Diane Humetewa, an Obama appointee, wrote in her dismissal Wednesday night that Powell’s allegations might “find favor in the public sphere of gossip and innuendo,” but they “cannot be substitute for earnest pleadings and procedure in federal court.”
“They most certainly cannot be the basis for upending Arizona’s 2020 General Election,” Humetewa wrote.
Powell saw swift defeat in two cases Monday, with federal judges in Michigan and Georgia dismissing or denying her efforts there within hours of each other. Both of those rulings have since been appealed. Only Powell’s Wisconsin case remains. A ruling is expected soon.
Dec 09, 9:21 pm
Former Ohio state senator poised to run for Fudge’s House seat
Less than 24 hours after the news broke that Biden would nominate Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, to serve as his secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a high-profile figure within the progressive left appears poised to launch a bid for her House seat.
On Wednesday, candidacy paperwork bearing the name of former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner was filed with the FEC for Fudge’s 11th Congressional District seat. Sources close to Turner told ABC News to expect an announcement from Turner herself “soon.”
While far from a national name, Turner is immensely popular within the Sen. Bernie Sanders-led progressive left after serving as a campaign surrogate and adviser during Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns. In between, she served as president of Our Revolution, the political action organization founded in the wake of Sanders’ first campaign.
A Turner run would be noteworthy for the amount of money she could potentially raise. Given their close relationship, it’s likely Turner would be granted access to Sanders’ massive email list, of which many subscribers are already familiar with Turner via her charismatic stump work on the senator’s behalf.
Already a resident of the 11th Congressional District, Turner served on the Cleveland City Council prior to being appointed to the state Senate in 2008. She was the Democratic nominee for Ohio secretary of state in 2014, but was defeated by nearly 25 points. Such a defeat would be unlikely in the heavily blue 11th district where the Democratic primary is tantamount to election.
Dec 09, 9:12 pm
Georgia secretary of state’s office opens investigation into how Coffee County handled recount
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office announced Wednesday it has opened an investigation into Coffee County’s handling of the election recount.
Raffensperger re-certified the statewide election results on Monday afternoon, after reporters had been told the re-certification would be done the prior Friday. Coffee County was the reason the certification had to be pushed.
While the county’s hand audit was off by one vote compared to the county’s original results, the machine recount was off by 51 votes. It was possible that the same batch of 50 ballots was inadvertently scanned twice, but the county’s election director, Misty Martin, could not say for sure, according to Raffensperger’s office.
The county issued a letter that “blamed the voting system for the 51-vote discrepancy, but Ms. Martin could not specify what machine problems were encountered.”
The secretary of state’s office told Martin she needed to figure out the issue, resolve it, and, if necessary, re-certify the results, but Martin said she wanted to use the election night results, which was not the protocol.
On Friday afternoon, Chris Harvey, the elections director in Raffensperger’s office, called Martin, who told him she was experiencing an issue with the scanners. Harvey dispatched a Dominion tech.
Later, when Harvey tried to call Martin back to check on the progress, he couldn’t get a hold of her, and later learned from Dominion that the county Board of Elections told Martin to go home and resume working Monday.
On Monday, Raffensperger’s office told Martin and the county they needed to resume counting as soon as possible — not noon as they planned — because the state needed to re-certify. Martin did that.
“Every other county was able to complete this task within the given time limits,” the press release said. “In some cases, counties realized they made mistakes in scanning ballots and had to rescan, or realized they neglected to scan some ballots and had to correct that error. But nonetheless, those counties completed the recount on time.”
Dec 09, 5:30 pm
Trump files motion asking to formally join Texas lawsuit against 4 battleground states
Trump filed a motion with the Supreme Court Wednesday night asking to formally join Texas’ lawsuit against four battleground states in a bid to overturn the 2020 election.
“The number of ballots affected by illegal conduct of state elections officials greatly exceeds the current margin between Plaintiff in Intervention (Trump) and his opponent in the election for the Office of President (Biden) in each of the respective Defendant States, and the four Defendant States collectively have a sufficient number of electoral votes to affect the result of the vote in the Electoral College for the Office of President,” Trump attorney John Eastman wrote in the filing. “Proposed Plaintiff in Intervention therefore clearly has a stake in the outcome of this litigation.”
The accompanying complaint offers a distorted portrayal of Trump’s electoral performance, repeating an array of unfounded claims and innuendo.
“It is not necessary for (Trump) to prove that fraud occurred,” Eastman argued in the filing, “it is only necessary to demonstrate that the elections in the defendant States materially deviated from the ‘manner’ of choosing electors established by their respective state Legislatures.”
“By failing to follow the rule of law, these officials put our nation’s belief in elected self-government at risk,” he added.
This is not the first time that Trump has tried to join an election case before the court. In November, he asked the justices to intervene in the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s case challenging tabulation of late-arriving mail ballots. The court ignored his request.
-ABC News Senior Washington Reporter Devin Dwyer
Dec 09, 5:12 pm
Republican House member writes colleagues to support Trump in SCOTUS filing
Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., emailed his Republican colleagues in the House and Senate Wednesday morning, rounding up support for an amicus brief for the Texas attorney general’s attempt to get the Supreme Court to intervene in the presidential election, according to an email obtained by ABC News.
The source who provided the email said he believed it was sent to all congressional Republicans, though that couldn’t be confirmed by the text of the email.
Johnson wrote that he spoke to Trump on Tuesday night and that the president asked him to reach out to other members.
“He specifically asked me to contact all Republican Members of the House and Senate today and request that all join on to our brief,” Johnson wrote in large, underlined red letters.
“He said he will be anxiously awaiting the final list to review,” he added.
“The simple objective of our brief is to affirm for the Court (and our constituents back home) our serious concerns with the integrity of our election system,” Johnson wrote in the email. “We are not seeking to independently litigate the particular allegations of fraud in our brief (that is not our place as amici).”
“We will merely state our belief that the broad scope of the various allegations and irregularities in the subject states merits careful, timely review by the Supreme Court,” he added.
The president and his allies have mounted more than four dozen lawsuits in state and federal courts, most of which have been defeated.
-ABC News’ Rick Klein
Dec 09, 4:25 pm
Cobb County, Georgia, adds two more locations during last week of early voting
Cobb County, Georgia, announced Wednesday it will add two more early voting locations during the last week of advance voting before the Senate runoffs there, bringing the total of open locations open during that time to seven.
The county will also no longer have early voting at the Ward Recreation Center, moving it to the Ron Anderson Community Center in Powder Springs. A spokesperson for the county said they thought this was a better/more accessible location.
The changes follow a letter from several organizations, including Georgia NAACP, Black Voters Matter, All Voting is Local Georgia and ACLU Georgia outlining the importance of maintaining 11 advance voting locations for the January runoff elections.
Stacey Abrams’ organization, Fair Fight, joined those organizations’ call Monday afternoon. Early voting in Georgia’s runoff elections begins Monday.
-ABC News’ Quinn Scanlan
Dec 09, 3:59 pm
Georgia Republicans recruit more than 4,000 early voting poll watchers
While some elections officials in Georgia grapple with difficult logistics surrounding the upcoming Senate runoff races, the state’s GOP appears to be in full swing with its poll watcher recruitment efforts.
According to Abigail Sigler, a spokesperson for the Georgia Republican Party, Republicans across the state — including the Georgia Republican Party, sitting Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee – have over 4,000 volunteers signed up to serve as poll watchers during the early voting period. This number was also confirmed to ABC News by the NRSC.
Sigler said it is “the largest number in Georgia history and many more than during the general election.”
The state’s Senate runoffs on Jan. 5 will determine which party holds the majority in the incoming Congress’ upper chamber.
-ABC News Alisa Wiersema
Dec 09, 2:50 pm
Biden’s nominee for defense secretary stresses he’d come to role as ‘civilian leader’
When retired four-star Gen. Lloyd Austin took the lectern for brief remarks, he stressed the importance of civilian leadership at the Pentagon in an attempt to squash looming concerns that it hasn’t been seven years since he hung up his uniform as required by law for the post.
“When I concluded my military service four years ago, I hung up my uniform for the last time and went from being General Lloyd Austin to Lloyd Austin. It is an important distinction. And one that I make with utmost seriousness and sincerity,” he said.
“I come to this new role as a civilian leader. With military experience to be sure, but also with a deep appreciation and reverence for the prevailing wisdom of civilian control of our military,” he continued. “As secretary of defense, my priority will always — always — be the men and women, military and civilian, who make up the department, and their families.”
Austin spoke of his prior relationship with Biden as he was in charge of operations in Iraq leading the withdrawal of all American troops from that country in December 2011, when Biden served as vice president.
“We’ve gotten to know each other under some intense and high-pressure situations. And sir, you can expect that, as secretary of defense, that I will give you the same direct and unvarnished counsel that I did back then,” he said.
He also took the time to thank the leaders who have come before him, including the Tuskegee Airmen and the Montford Point Marines, as well as those who have mentored him throughout his career, including former Secretary of State and fellow retired four-star Gen. Colin Powell. He also referenced his time commanding Biden’s late son Beau when he served in the military.
Dec 09, 2:08 pm
Biden introduces Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense nominee
Biden is formally introducing retired four-star Army Gen. Lloyd Austin as his nominee as secretary of defense. If confirmed, Austin would be the first African American to helm the Pentagon.
“He’s been breaking down barriers and blazing a trail forward in this nation for many years now — for more than 40 years. And he has a long way to go. He’s gonna do it again,” Biden began. “You’re a friend, but I wanna thank you, General Austin, for once more stepping forward to serve your nation.”
“This is not a post he sought, but I sought him,” Biden added.
Austin, the former commander of U.S. Central Command — with jurisdiction over military activities in the Middle East — retired in 2016 after more than four decades of military service, including a stint leading U.S. forces in Iraq and the campaign against the Islamic State.
Because it has not been seven years since he’s been out of uniform, Austin would require a waiver to serve in the top post, required to help ensure civilian control of the military.
Trump’s first defense secretary, retired Gen. James Mattis, received enough votes to obtain the waiver, but it’s unclear if Austin will have the same fate, as some Democrats have expressed hesitation in, again, breaking from the norm. Biden addressed those concerns head on, saying he wouldn’t have made the nomination if the moment didn’t call for it.
“So just as they did for Sec. Jim Mattis, I ask the Congress to grant a waiver for Secretary-designee Austin,” Biden said. “Given the immense and urgent threats and challenges our nation faces, he should be confirmed swiftly.”
Biden revealed his decision to tap Austin as defense secretary in an op-ed published in The Atlantic Tuesday and echoed his praise on Wednesday, calling Austin “the definition of duty, honor, country.”
Dec 09, 1:19 pm
Road ahead could be bumpy for Biden’s pick to helm Defense Department
Retired four-star Gen. Lloyd Austin could have a bumpy path to nomination as Biden’s defense secretary — and not necessarily because of GOP opposition, but rather, opposition from Democrats.
While some praise his qualifications, they are against waiving the requirement that military brass be at least seven years post-retirement for that position. Others have said they are open supporting the nomination.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday said he’s going to have to “study” the waiver in this case.
“Bottom line is that Austin’s a very good nominee, and we’ll figure out where to go from there,” Schumer told reporters. “I haven’t talked to my colleagues yet about that I want to see what they have to say.”
Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, signaled he’s open to the waiver in a statement Wednesday despite previously saying he wouldn’t consider one again after voting in favor of the waiver for Trump’s first defense secretary, retired Gen. James Mattis.
“It is the obligation of the Senate to thoroughly review this nomination in the historic context it is being presented and the impact it will have on future generations. Indeed, one cannot separate the waiver from the individual who has been nominated,” the statement said. “I will carefully review this nomination and look forward to meeting with General Austin.”
But Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, has already told reporters he would not support the waiver, joining Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and John Tester in expressing opposition. All three voted against granting the waiver to Mattis.
“I have the deepest respect and admiration for General Austin and this nomination. It is exciting and historic, but I believe that a waiver of the seven-year rule would contravene the basic principle that there should be civilian control over a nonpolitical military,” Blumenthal said Tuesday. “I think, has to be applied unfortunately in this instance.”
-ABC News’ Trish Turner
Dec 09, 12:38 pm
Hoyer expresses concern about margin in Congress
House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters Wednesday morning that he’s concerned about the slim Democratic majority heading into the next session of Congress, given Biden’s decision to pluck certain members for his administration.
Rep. Cedric Richmond was tapped as a senior White House adviser and Rep. Marcia Fudge as secretary of Housing and Urban Development, according to sources.
Hoyer said he told Biden’s team to be “very careful” in terms of who it selects to join the team. Democrats are breathing easier knowing that Richmond and Fudge’s respective seats are relatively safe Democratic seats — but special elections take time, so the margins in the House will be incredibly tight in the coming weeks and months ahead.
“I’m certainly concerned by the slimming of the majority. I indicated to the administration very early on that I wanted them to be very careful in terms of the members that they appointed from Congress given the closeness of our majority,” Hoyer said.
“I think, frankly, we’re going to be a very unified caucus, as we were this past Congress,” Hoyer added. “The American people are confronting two great crises: one a health crisis and the other an economic crisis, and they expect us to come together as a Congress on their behalf.”
-ABC News’ Mariam Khan
Dec 09, 10:45 am
Cabinet rumblings preview intra-party fights for Biden: Analysis
Intra-party rumblings about diversity and experience are more than background noise as Biden builds out his governing team. The relatively drama-free transition has masked concerns about whether Biden’s decisions can meet his commitments — with implications for governance after Jan. 20.
Biden’s choice of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead Health and Human Services puts a Latino in a high-profile spot, though Biden’s stumble over his last name wasn’t the best introduction to the country.
Rep. Marcia Fudge at Housing and Urban Development in the Cabinet, and Biden’s choice of retired Gen. Lloyd Austin — who will be introduced by Biden and Vice-president-elect Kamala Harris Wednesday — would put a Black man in charge of the Pentagon for the first time ever.
Still, coming out of Biden’s meeting with prominent Black leaders Tuesday night, some want Biden to create a new high-ranking advisory job — and Black and Latino activists and advisers are focused on the attorney general’s job as well.
The choice of Austin is also leaving Democrats worried about preserving civilian control over the Defense Department. For some, that will mean explaining why a Trump appointment of a recently retired general shouldn’t have gotten a legal waiver to serve in the role, while a Biden one should.
Just last week, Biden re-set his high bar: “I promise you, it’ll be the single most diverse Cabinet based on race, color, based on gender, that’s ever existed in the United States of America,” he told reporters.
He is making picks that move him in that direction. But the unity Democrats have found in opposing the Trump White House is showing signs of strain as names roll out — to say nothing of policy.
-ABC News’ Political Director Rick Klein
Dec 09, 10:43 am
Trump vows to intervene in Texas election lawsuit to SCOTUS
Trump has vowed to intervene in a long-shot lawsuit filed by the state of Texas directly to the Supreme Court Tuesday seeking to toss out ballots in four states where Biden won as he continues his campaign to overturn the results of the presidential election.
“We will be INTERVENING in the Texas (plus many other states) case. This is the big one. Our Country needs a victory!” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.
The state of Texas filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia, arguing that those states “exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to justify ignoring federal and state election laws and unlawfully enacting last-minute changes, thus skewing the results of the 2020 General Election.”
Justices have not said whether they’ll weigh the case, but legal experts say it’s is unlikely to succeed.
Trump provided no details on how he would intervene.
The tweet comes after the Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request from Trump allies to stop the certification of Pennsylvania’s election results — a case Trump said had “nothing to do with him” on Wednesday.
Notably, before the Supreme Court’s denial came in, Trump called on the justices to have the “courage” to intervene at an event on coronavirus vaccines at the White House.
“Now, let’s see whether or not somebody has the courage — whether it’s a legislator or legislatures, or whether it’s a justice of the Supreme Court or a number of justices of the Supreme Court. Let’s see if they have the courage to do what everybody in this country knows is right,” he said Tuesday.
-ABC News’ Devin Dwyer
Dec 09, 10:32 am
Overview: Biden to introduce Pentagon pick, Trump faces legal blow
Biden is slated to introduce his nominee to lead the Defense Department, retired four-star Gen. Lloyd Austin, from Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday. But the nomination of the first African American to the helm the Pentagon is facing some resistance.
Because defense secretaries are legally required to have been retired from active duty for at least seven years to ensure civilian control of the U.S. military, and Austin retired in 2016, he would require a waiver to hold the position. Congress approved the waiver for retired Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s first defense secretary, but some Democrats, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Richard Blumenthal, have expressed a desire to return to normal protocols in a Biden administration despite the historic nature of Austin’s nomination.
Biden is also expected to name former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as secretary of Agriculture and Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, as secretary of Housing and Urban Development as he continues to build out his Cabinet — one he says will be the most diverse in American history.
Fudge’s appointment, however, would shave another slice away from House Democrats’ already razor-thin majority — giving them just two extra votes on top of the 218 needed to pass a bill through the chamber. Special elections are expected to bump Democrats back up to 222 seats, but those take time. And if Congress can’t pass more relief aid in the lame duck session, the Biden administration will want a solid House majority to pass a package from the onset.
As the president-elect rolled out his health team Tuesday, he also spelled out specific steps toward getting the coronavirus under control in his first 100 days in the White House, including a mask campaign and executive order requiring one be worn on federal properties, at least 100 million vaccinations “into the arms of the American people” and making reopening schools a “national priority.”
While Biden is pushing forward, Trump isn’t backing down. He continued to falsely claim he won the election in key swing states where Biden actually was victorious at a self-congratulatory vaccine “summit” Tuesday.
With the passing of the “safe harbor” deadline when Congress considers states’ results conclusive and the Supreme Court’s denial of an 11th-hour attempt by Trump’s allies to block certification of the election results in Pennsylvania, time is running out for the Trump’s long-shot legal challenges with the Electoral College meeting in less than a week. The Supreme Court could still weigh in on a Texas filing against Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to turn the election for Trump, but experts say it’s unlikely to gain traction.
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