Political

Trump-Biden transition live updates: Biden introduces key climate, energy picks

Bill Chizek/iStock

By LIBBY CATHEY and MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump is slated to hand over control of the White House to President-elect Joe Biden in 33 days.

Here is how the transition is unfolding. All times Eastern:

Dec 19, 1:15 pm
Nearly 50 years after death of wife and daughter, empathy remains at Joe Biden’s core

In November 1972, Joe Biden made headlines as the 29-year-old lawyer who pulled off an upset win against Sen. Caleb Boggs to represent Delaware in the Senate — one of the youngest people ever elected to the body. But it was a different headline a month after the election that would forever change his life: “Biden’s wife, child killed in car crash.”

“I was down in Washington hiring staff and I got a phone call from a first responder. They put a pretty young woman on the phone. She was so nervous, she said, ‘You gotta come home. There’s been an accident. A tractor trailer hit your wife and your three children while they were shopping,'” Biden recalled at a campaign event in Newton, Iowa, last August.

“My wife was killed and my daughter was killed,” he continued. “And my two boys, but for the jaws of life, and a rescue crew saving their life, would not have been around either.”

Friday morning, on the 48th anniversary of the accident, the president-elect refrained from public events, instead visiting the graves of his late wife, Neilia, and daughter, Naomi, at Brandywine Roman Catholic Church with his wife, Jill, near his home in Wilmington, Delaware.

The anniversary comes, as it did in 1972, as Biden is preparing for a new role in public life — this time the presidency. The role caps off a lifetime in politics that almost ended before it began. Biden had initially decided to stay in the Senate for only six months following his wife and daughter’s deaths and in order to care for his injured sons.

Despite his initial unwillingness to serve, Biden remained in the Senate and public life, turning his grief into a way to connect with others through empathy — a trait that has perhaps most defined his career.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Dec 19, 11:09 am
Biden to introduce key members of climate, energy team

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will introduce key nominees and appointees for their climate and energy team Saturday in Wilmington, Delaware.

The nominees and appointees attending the event will include secretary of interior nominee Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M.; secretary of energy nominee former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm; E.P.A. administrator nominee Michael Regan; Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality nominee Brenda Mallory; national climate adviser appointee Gina McCarthy and deputy national climate adviser Ali Zaidi.

Dec 18, 5:18 pm
McCarthy dodges question on challenging Electoral College vote

Asked whether he will join with other House Republicans to formally object to the certification of the Electoral College results on Jan. 6, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., laughed and told reporters, “We’ll watch and see,” per the pool reporter on Capitol Hill.

McCarthy hasn’t formally taken a position on the long-shot effort, which still lacks Senate Republican support needed to force debate and vote on the results of the election, nor has he recognized Biden as the president-elect.

The Electoral College affirmed Biden’s victory on Monday without any faithless electors. Trump won 232 electoral votes to Biden’s 306.

-ABC News’ Benjamin Siegel

Dec 18, 4:47 pm
White House doesn’t give timeline for Trump to receive vaccine

White House deputy press secretary Brian Morgenstern told reporters Friday that the president remains willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine when the time is right, while noting that Trump has already been infected with the virus.

When asked directly if there are concerns about him being vaccinated too close to receiving the monoclonal antibody cocktail, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends waiting 90 days between the two, Morgenstern said, “I don’t know about concerns.” But he added Trump is “perfectly willing to get it, and if the advice is that it is fine — it will be effective if he takes it sooner rather than later — he’ll do that.”

The response comes ahead of Biden being slated to receive the first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine on Monday and following Vice President Mike Pence’s public vaccination Friday morning.

Morgenstern was also asked to explain why the public has not heard from Trump all week.

“There’s a lot of work that goes on that isn’t necessarily public, but he is hard at work, and when it’s the appropriate time for him to come speak publicly, of course that’s his right, his prerogative to do,” he said. “But at this point the administration continues to work very hard behind the scenes, and to the extent we have to speak publicly we do that. But the work is being done whether or not he’s coming in front of you.”

-ABC News’ Elizabeth Thomas

Dec 18, 3:04 pm
Biden transition says pause in DoD briefings was not ‘mutually agreed upon’

The Biden transition team is pushing back on Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller’s statement earlier Friday that there was a “mutually agreed upon holiday break” between the Pentagon and Biden officials, stressing the Biden team felt it was important to keep conversations going over the holiday.

Miller had denied reporting earlier in the day that there had been a halt to transition meetings with the Biden team, saying, “After the mutually-agreed upon holiday pause, which begins tomorrow, we will continue with the transition and rescheduled meetings from today.”

However, the Biden transition disputed Miller’s claim on a call briefing reporters Friday afternoon.

“Let me be clear: There was no mutually agreed upon holiday break. In fact, we think it’s important that briefings and other engagements continue during this period, as there’s no time to spare, and that’s particularly true in the aftermath of the ascertainment delay,” said transition official Yohannes Abraham.

Abraham added it was the team’s expectation that meetings would continue “immediately.”

Biden’s team did not answer when asked if Miller was lying in his statement, instead saying the press could make its own judgments based on the information provided.

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle and Luis Martinez

Dec 18, 3:03 pm
Biden transition warns against ‘unnecessary provisions’ in COVID-19 relief deal

Incoming Biden-Harris national economic adviser Brian Deese released a statement on congressional relief negotiations Friday warning against “unnecessary provisions” that might hamper efforts on the Hill.

“While we are encouraged by the bipartisan effort underway to provide critical relief to millions of Americas, the package should not include unnecessary provisions that would hamper the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve’s ability to fight economic crises,” Deese said.

A Democratic aide told ABC News earlier Friday a relief deal was in sight — “until Sen. Toomey and Republicans inserted an 11th hour purely political, unrelated provision to tie Biden’s hands and risk throwing the economy into a tailspin.”

“The Toomey provision would be an unprecedented change to the law to strip the Fed chair of one of their most important tools to quickly respond to any future economic crisis,” the aide said.

The $900 billion package currently on the negotiating table — the largest package in history behind the relief bill passed in March — is expected to include additional funding on expanded federal unemployment benefits and stimulus checks to millions of Americans below a certain income level.

With government funding set to expire at midnight, negotiators are working to strike deals on both government spending and COVID-19 relief in order to avoid a government shutdown.

Dec 18, 12:56 pm
Obama featured in 3 Georgia digital ads backing Rev. Raphael Warnock

The Warnock campaign released a trio of short digital ads in which former President Barack Obama urges voters to send Rev. Raphael Warnock to the Senate.

One of the ads, titled “Act,” pays homage to the late Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

“John Lewis wrote that ‘Democracy is not a state. It is an act.’ Georgia, the time to act is now. Let’s send Raphael Warnock to the Senate to make progress for all of us,” Obama says.

The move to invoke Lewis’s legacy in association with Warnock serves as a politically savvy way to counter the Loeffler campaign, which has labeled him a “radical.”

In another ad, Obama echoes the message delivered by Biden when he stumped for Democrats in Georgia, saying Warnock needs to be elected in order for the incoming president “to get things done.”

The final ad captures a viral moment in which Obama was caught shooting a basket and casually joking, “That’s what I do!”

“And voting? That’s something we do. If we want Joe Biden to succeed in tackling this virus and getting folks back to work, we need Raphael Warnock in the Senate,” Obama says in the ad.

Early voting in Georgia for the Jan. 5 runoff races — which will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate — kicked off on Monday. Warnock is vying for Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s seat.

-ABC News’ Alisa Wierseman


Dec 18, 12:37 pm
Defense secretary pushes back on report Pentagon halted Biden transition meetings

Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller is pushing back on the Axios report that there’s been a halt to transition meetings between the Pentagon and the Biden team.

“At no time has the Department cancelled or declined any interview,” Miller said in a statement Friday. “After the mutually-agreed upon holiday pause, which begins tomorrow, we will continue with the transition and rescheduled meetings from today.”

Miller said the Defense Department has supported 139 interviews sessions with more than 250 officials, complied with 161 requests for information and disclosed thousands of pages of non-public and classified documents, “exceeding prior transitions.”

-ABC News’ Luis Martinez


Dec 18, 12:15 pm
Biden announces additional members of White House communications and press staff

Biden announced additional members of his White House communications and press shop on Friday, a slate of 16 names that include many people who served on the press team for his successful presidential campaign.

“Restoring faith in government by speaking honestly and directly to the American people will be a hallmark of my administration,” Biden said in a statement announcing the hires.

-ABC News’ John Verhovek


Dec 18, 12:10 pm
Ivanka Trump to campaign for Georgia Senate candidates on Monday

On the same day Vice President-elect Kamala Harris plans to visit Georgia to campaign for Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, Ivanka Trump will be there to campaign for their GOP opponents, Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Purdue, the Georgia GOP announced in a tweet.

“Excited to welcome @IvankaTrump to Georgia on Monday to campaign for @Perduesenate & @KLoeffler!” the party tweeted, sharing an article by Atlanta’s Fox station that says the president’s daughter and adviser is scheduled to make three stops focusing on the Atlanta suburbs, including Milton, Suwanee and Walton County.

Both Republicans and Democrats have homed in on the runoff election as it will determine which party holds power in the U.S. Senate.

-ABC News’ Ben Gittleson

Dec 18, 11:47 am
Harris to campaign for Georgia Senate candidates on Monday

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will travel to Suwanee and Columbus, Georgia, on Monday in a show of support for Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock ahead of their runoff races on Jan. 5.

The visit will fall nearly a week after Biden traveled to Atlanta to stump for the candidates.

Trump chose Georgia as the location of his first and only rally since the election to air his grievances with the presidential election and stump for sitting GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Purdue. Vice President Mike Pence has already made two trips to the Peach State this month, calling Georgia the GOP’s “last line of defense.”

The runoff election will determine which party holds power in the U.S. Senate.

-ABC News’ Beatrice Peterson

Dec 18, 10:53 am
Washington brings rare rays of hope for the holidays: Analysis

It would qualify as audacious to expect hope in anything other than small packages this dismal year.

So it is surprising that Washington heads into the holidays with some of the best news it’s been able to deliver in some time.

COVID-19 vaccine development has brought historic breakthroughs, as dramatized Friday morning when Vice President Mike Pence received his first shot live on television.

Bitter post-election fights over the integrity of the vote are sputtering to a close, with Monday’s Electoral College vote providing a pivot point for Republicans to accept former Vice President Joe Biden as president-elect.

And Congress is closing in on deals to keep the government open and provide new rounds of COVID-19 relief, though not without some drama that could drag things close to Christmas.

There are more than enough reasons for despair as a long winter begins. Few, least of all Biden and his team, are mistaking positive signs for a breakthrough of bipartisanship — certainly not so long as Trump’s grip on the GOP continues.

Something else that made this week stand out: Trump has said almost nothing in public. He’ll make plenty of noise over the next month, but a post-Trump world might be coming into view.

-ABC News’ Political Director Rick Klein


Dec 18, 10:51 am
Biden recognizes anniversary of the death of his first wife and daughter

Biden on Thursday morning attended Mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church, where the Bidens worship and where the remains of Biden’s first wife, Neilia, and two children, Naomi and Beau, are buried in the church’s adjacent cemetery.
 
It’s the 48th anniversary of the death of his wife and his infant daughter who were struck by a tractor-trailer as Neilia took the kids to pick out a Christmas tree. The tragedy occurred shortly after Biden was elected to his first term in the U.S. Senate.

Biden’s son Hunter and late son Beau, ages 3 and 4 at the time, were also seriously injured. The Senator-elect ultimately took his oath of office from from his children’s beside at a Delaware hospital.

The president-elect has no other public events scheduled for Friday.

Dec 18, 10:51 am
Overview: Biden builds Cabinet of firsts, Trump continues to challenge vote

With about a month to go until the inauguration, Biden is continuing to meet with transition advisers and build out what he’s calling a Cabinet “full of firsts.”

Biden officially announced new members of his climate team Thursday evening. New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland was chosen for interior secretary and would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary, if confirmed. Michael Regan, current head of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, was picked as EPA administrator and, if confirmed, would be the first Black man in the position. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm rounded out the climate Cabinet posts with Biden nominating her as secretary of energy.

In addition to the Cabinet-level posts, Biden has also nominated Brenda Mallory to serve as chair of the Council on Environmental Quality. She would be the first African American to hold the position since its creation, if confirmed. Gina McCarthy was tapped to serve as the first-ever National Climate Advisor, heading up the newly formed White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy to “drive an “all of government” approach to combating climate change.” Along with McCarthy is Ali Zaidi, who helped draft the Obama administration’s climate plan following the Paris Climate Agreement, to serve as deputy national climate adviser.

Trump, meanwhile, continues to challenge the vote behind closed doors, limiting his public appearances since the election. On Thursday evening, Trump praised incoming Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, former Auburn football coach, after reports surfaced that the freshman lawmaker may join Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks’ Electoral College challenge, calling Tuberville “a great champion and man of courage.”

“More Republican Senators should follow his lead,” Trump tweeted.

Trump’s pressure campaign on the GOP comes ahead of Congress convening a joint session to certify the election results on Jan. 6. The ceremonial proceeding, led every four years by the vice president, could represent Trump’s last attempt to overturn his loss and disrupt the electoral process in protest.

Under federal law, a member can challenge the Electoral College results from any state if a member of the Senate backs the effort, forcing the House and Senate to separate for up to two hours of debate and a vote on whether to accept a slate of electors. A majority of both chambers would have to support the motion to successfully challenge a given slate of electors.

Trump, tagging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, on Friday tweeted at Republican Senators to “get tougher or you won’t have a Republican Party anymore.”

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