Political

Trump-Biden transition updates: Dominion employee files defamation lawsuit against Trump, Giuliani, Powell

Bet_Noire/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump is slated to hand over control of the White House to President-elect Joe Biden in 29 days.

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

Dec 22, 11:57 pm
Dominion employee files defamation lawsuit against Trump, Giuliani, Sidney Powell, more

A Dominion Voting Systems employee has filed a defamation lawsuit against President Donald Trump, attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, among others, alleging they helped elevate a “false and baseless” conspiracy theory about him as part of their election rigging claims against the voting machine company.

The suit marks the start of what could be an onslaught of litigation against the president and his allies, who mounted challenges to the election based on false allegations of fraud and fierce conspiracy theories. Some conservative outlets in recent days have begun airing retractions as the threat of litigation looms.

Eric Coomer, the director of Product Strategy and Security for Dominion, says he has faced death threats and harassment as a result of the “baseless and unequivocally false” conspiracy theory about him, which claimed he had admitted to rigging Dominion machines against Trump on an “Antifa conference call.”

“Without concern for the truth or the consequences of their reckless conduct, Defendants branded Dr. Coomer a traitor to the United States, a terrorist, and a criminal of the highest order,” Coomer wrote in his complaint. “While this theory has been thoroughly rejected, its immediate and life-threatening effects remain very real.”

The suit, filed in state court in Colorado, is separate from the heavy legal challenge Dominion as a company is expected to mount on its own against Sidney Powell.

In his complaint, Coomer says the threats have escalated to the point where he had to leave his home and “sever ties” with friends and family to stay in seclusion after the theory — part of a broader conspiracy theory that the Dominion voting machine company rigged the election for Biden — went viral on social media.

Dec 22, 11:33 pm
Biden agriculture secretary nominee meets with Black farm organizations following criticism of his nomination

President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Department of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, met virtually with Black farm organizations and activists on Tuesday, the transition announced.

The meeting comes after his nomination was criticized by many hoping for a more diverse pick and those that hoped Rep. Marcia Fudge, who is now Biden’s nominee to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, would be tapped for the role.

Per the transition, the meeting centered on “ensuring fairness and equity for Black farmers as they recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic, providing necessary resources to tackle the ongoing systemic issues they face and expanding access to nutrition for communities across the country.” It also touched on the need to address the discrimination Black farmers have faced at the hands of the USDA.

Among the participants in the meeting was Shirley Sherrod, the former head of USDA rural development in Georgia, who was forced out of her job when Vilsack led the department during the Obama administration over a deceptively edited video pushed by right-wing news sites.

Both Vilsack and the White House later apologized for pushing Sherrod out of her job.

Dec 22, 8:03 pm
Biden officially names Miguel Cardona as Education secretary pick

Biden officially announced Tuesday evening that he will nominate Miguel Cardona to be his secretary of education, as reported by ABC News earlier.

“In Miguel Cardona, America will have an experienced and dedicated public school teacher leading the way at the Department of Education — ensuring that every student is equipped to thrive in the economy of the future, that every educator has the resources they need to do their jobs with dignity and success, and that every school is on track to reopen safely,” Biden said in a statement.

Cardona is currently Connecticut’s commissioner of education.

-ABC News’ John Verhovek

Dec 22, 7:35 pm
Trump says he won’t sign COVID relief bill unless Americans get $2,000 payments

President Donald Trump is now saying he won’t sign the COVID-19 relief bill sent for his approval after representatives from the Trump administration worked to get a bill the president was willing to sign.

Trump tweeted Congress should amend the $900 billion stimulus package and send it back to him. In a video, he asks them to amend the $600 direct payments to $2,000 and to get rid of the “wasteful” items before he signs it.

 

 

“Send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package. And maybe that administration will be me,” the president says in the video.

Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate had debated the relief bill for months along with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. The secretary had even said the direct $600 payments would be coming to Americans starting next week.

Dec 22, 4:03 pm
Meadows attempts to observe signature match audit in Georgia

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows was in Georgia Tuesday hoping to observe the signature match audit underway in Cobb County, Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs confirmed to ABC News.

Fuchs said that she didn’t allow Meadows to enter the room where this was happening, but allowed him to stand with her in the doorway. She said that when Meadows arrived, the people doing the audit were about to go to lunch anyway, and the supplies and ballot envelopes had been packed away for that.

Still, according to Fuchs, Meadows told her they had “a good meeting” and that whatever information she was able to provide to him, he would report back to President Trump.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced on Dec. 14 that Cobb County would conduct this audit, saying there was a “specific allegation” that signature matching wasn’t done properly in the June primary. A statistically significant number of absentee envelopes (not every ballot) from both the June and November elections are being looked at as part of this audit. Fuchs said the secretary’s office is urging the county to finish by Monday.

-ABC News’ Quinn Scanlan and Ben Gittleson.

Dec 22, 3:21 pm
Biden addresses COVID-19 relief, cyberattack and more in wide-ranging remarks ahead of Christmas

Just days before Christmas, the president-elect addressed the nation in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday.

Joe Biden reflected on the past year that was marked in the U.S. by a pandemic, racial reckoning, wildfires and more hardships.

“Jill and I send our prayers, as I’m sure all of you do, to all who are facing this dark winter with an empty seat at the dinner table,” Biden said. “Our hearts go out to all of you who have fallen on hard times, through no fault of your own, I might add.”

Biden reflected on how his family’s Christmas will be different this year, saying they usually have up to 25 people over for dinner and 14 family members “coming down the stairs on Christmas morning.”

“But not this year,” he said. “Like we did over Thanksgiving, we all have to care enough for each other that we have to stay apart just for a little bit longer.”

The president-elect urged Americans to remain vigilant, wear masks, stay socially-distant and avoid large gatherings.

“We need to work in a bipartisan way, that’s the only way we’re going to get through, this in tough times,” he said.

Biden applauded lawmakers for passing the COVID-19 relief package.

“In this election, the American people made it clear: They want us to reach across the aisle and work together on matters of national concern, to get something done,” he said.

He noted the relief bill is “far from perfect” and is just the “first step” in addressing the crises the U.S. is in.

Finally, Biden warned that, “Our darkest days in the battle against COVID are ahead of us, not behind us, so we need to prepare ourselves.”

Biden also addressed the cyber attack that hit government agencies and U.S. companies.

“There’s still so much we don’t know, including the full scope of the breach, or the extent of the damage it has caused,” Biden said. “This attack constitutes a grave risk for our national security, it was carefully planned and carefully orchestrated.”

“Foreign actors have been working on this breach since at least last year,” he added. He accused the Trump administration of failing to prioritize cybersecurity.

Biden noted that initial indications suggest that Russia is responsible, but called on the Trump administration to make an official attribution.

Biden pledged his administration would prioritize cybersecurity.

The president-elect closed by urging Americans to remain hopeful and united during the holiday season.

“As a nation, we’ve certainly been shaken to our depths this year,” he said. “Now it’s time to awaken, to get moving, time for hope.”

Dec 22, 1:59 pm
Newsom taps Secretary of State Padilla to fill remainder of Harris’ Senate term

California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom will appoint California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill the remainder of Sen. Kamala Harris’ Senate term.

A statement of organization for a Senate campaign was made in his name this morning. Padilla will be the first Latino to represent California in the Senate.

Newsom said he will “be a Senator for all Californians.”

“Now, he will serve in the halls of our nation’s Capitol as California’s next United States Senator, the first Latino to hold this office,” said Governor Newsom. “Through his tenacity, integrity, smarts and grit, California is gaining a tested fighter in their corner who will be a fierce ally in D.C., lifting up our state’s values and making sure we secure the critical resources to emerge stronger from this pandemic. He will be a Senator for all Californians.”

-ABC News’ Meg Cunningham

Dec 22, 1:21 pm
Pence urges conservative crowd in Florida to ‘stay in the fight in our election’

Vice President Mike Pence gave remarks at a giant, potential superspreader event in Florida Tuesday that was attended by thousands.
 
Pence delivered remarks before the group Turning Point USA, which has been meeting this week at a West Palm Beach convention center.

Pence told the crowd that, “It’s really is great to be here with so many friends during such a special week in the life of our nation.”
 
“In this season of hope, hope is on the way,” Pence said. “And thanks to your president and incredible American ingenuity, under Operation Warp Speed, we have come to the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a medical miracle, and a promise made and a promise kept.”
 
As he has done for weeks, Pence toed the line in terms of expressing support for President Trump’s attempts to subvert the election, mixing ambiguity on Trump’s moves — and implicit endorsement of them — with a push to defend Republicans’ Senate majority.
 
“Come January 5th, we’re gonna hold the line in the United States Senate when we re-elect Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue to a Republican majority on Capitol Hill,” Pence said, as the crowd chanted “four more years.”
 
He continued, “our election contest continues.”

“We’re going to keep fighting until every legal vote is counted,” Pence said to cheers. “We’re going to keep fighting until every illegal vote is thrown out.”
 
Finally, he urged the enthusiastic, young attendees to “stay in the fight in our election” as they chanted, “stop the steal.”

Dec 22, 1:15 pm
Latest data on early voting for Georgia runoffs

Tuesday marks two weeks until the Jan. 5 runoffs in Georgia that will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate.

So far, at least 1,678,624 Georgians have voted, according to Georgia Votes’ analysis of the secretary of state’s absentee voter files, which include data for all voters casting absentee ballots by mail, as well as all in-person early voters.

Compared to this point ahead of the general election, turnout is down 7%, according to Georgia Votes.

Of the total votes, 621,098 are absentee by mail — which is down 21% compared to this point ahead of the general — and 1,057,526 are in-person early- voted ballots — which is up 5% compared to this point ahead of the general.

While turnout is slightly down, nearly 50,000 voters (49,118) who’ve participated in the runoff election didn’t vote at all in the general election, according to Georgia Votes.

Dec 22, 11:34 am
Biden expected to name Miguel Cardona, Conn. schools chief, as his pick for education secretary

President-elect Joe Biden is expected to name Miguel Cardona, who currently serves as Connecticut’s education commissioner, as his pick for secretary of education, sources familiar with the decision told ABC News on Tuesday.
 
Throughout his presidential campaign Biden pledged to select a schoolteacher to lead the department, and Cardona fulfills that pledge, having started his career nearly two decades ago as an elementary school teacher in Connecticut, serving 10 years as a school principal and eventually rising through the ranks to become the state’s top education official last year.
 
“First thing, as president of United States — not a joke — first thing I will do is make sure that the secretary of education is not Betsy DeVos, [and that] it is a teacher. A teacher. Promise,” Biden, who regularly criticized Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, said at a National Education Association forum in July of 2019.

Cardona’s background and deep experience in the nation’s education system presents a striking contrast with DeVos, a wealthy, long-time Republican donor and political activist who has drawn sustained ire from Democrats and teachers unions throughout her tenure.
 
Cardona, whose parents moved from Puerto Rico to Connecticut, would be the third Latino, and the first of Puerto Rican heritage, that Biden has named to serve in his Cabinet thus far, following Alejandro Mayorkas named to head the Department of Homeland Security and California Attorney General Xavier Beccera to head the Department of Health and Human Services.

A spokesman for the Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News on Cardona’s potential nomination.

Dec 22, 9:30 am
Biden applauds relief package, says ‘work is far from over’

After lawmakers finally approved a COVID-19 relief package on Monday evening, the president-elect welcomed the news on Twitter.

‘I applaud this relief package, but our work is far from over,’ Biden wrote. ‘Starting in the new year, Congress will need to immediately get to work on support for our COVID-19 plan.’

He continued: ‘My message to everyone out there struggling right now: help is on the way.’

The $900 billion COVID-19 rescue package now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature.

Dec 22, 8:59 am
Biden expands senior staff, names longtime aide Bruce Reed deputy chief of staff

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris announced additional members of the White House senior staff on Tuesday, including positions that will be key to how the West Wing operates over the next four years.

The names announced Tuesday include Bruce Reed, a longtime aide to Biden who advised him on policy during the campaign, and someone who some progressives sought to block from getting a more prominent position in the administration, accusing him of being a deficit hawk out of step with their priorities. Reed was named deputy chief of staff.

The other appointees announced Tuesday include Anne Filipic as White House director of management and administration; Ryan Montoya as White House director of scheduling and advance; Gautam Raghavan as White House deputy director of the office of presidential personnel; Vinay Reddy as director of speechwriting; and Elizabeth Wilkins as senior advisor to the chief of staff.

“These experienced individuals are joining my administration to carry out policies that will put our nation on a path to building back better than ever before. They are respected leaders whose values and priorities align with my own and who will dutifully execute their roles to serve the American people. Their dedication to overcoming the challenges facing our country are rooted in their diverse backgrounds and experiences, helping deliver the change America needs in these difficult times,” the president-elect said in a statement.

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