Political

Trump-Biden transition updates: Trump pressures Pence in public over electoral vote count

Bet_Noire/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump is slated to hand over control of the White House to President-elect Joe Biden in 16 days.

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

Jan 05, 12:23 am
Trump pressures Pence in public over electoral vote count

At a rally billed as a last-minute push to save Republicans’ control of the Senate on the eve of two crucial runoff elections in Georgia, President Donald Trump spent the majority of his time on stage Monday continuing to push baseless and debunked voter fraud claims about the presidential election, despite losing reelection over two months ago.

“I don’t concede,” Trump said Monday.

Then, he stunningly put pressure on Vice President Mike Pence ahead of Wednesday’s certification of the Electoral College vote.

“I hope Mike Pence comes through for us, I have to tell you. I hope that our great Vice President — our great Vice President comes through for us. He’s a great guy. Of course, if he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him quite as much,” Trump said Monday night. “No, Mike is a great guy. He’s a — he’s a — he’s a wonderful man and a smart man.”

Pence will be tasked Wednesday with overseeing a joint session of Congress at which the Electoral College vote will be certified, officially and finally determining former Vice President Joe Biden to be the president-elect.

Jan 04, 9:34 pm
Trump addresses rally in Georgia ahead of state’s runoffs

Trump arrived in Georgia Monday night to campaign for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue ahead of state’s runoff elections on Tuesday.

“There’s no way we lost Georgia. There’s no way. It was a rigged — that was a rigged election,” the president said after taking the stage at a rally in Dalton.

Trump’s visit to Georgia comes after his call this weekend in which he asked Georgia’s top election official to “find” enough votes for him to overturn the state’s election results. The call has threatened to exacerbate a schism among top Republicans — and has put a renewed focus on Vice President Mike Pence who will preside over the certification of the Electoral College votes Wednesday.

“I hope Mike Pence comes through for us. I have to tell you. I hope that our great vice president comes through for us. He is a great guy. Of course, if he doesn’t come through, I won’t like him quite as much,” Trump told the crowd.

Jan 04, 5:26 pm
Biden to Georgians on eve of Senate runoffs: ‘The power is literally in your hands’

Biden stumped for Democratic Senate candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff at a drive-in rally in Atlanta on Monday afternoon — on the eve of runoff races which will determine which party holds power in the U.S. Senate.

“Georgia, the whole nation is looking to you to lead us forward, for real,” Biden said. “The power is literally in your hands. Unlike any time in my career — one state — can chart the course, not just for the next four years, but for the next generation.”

Illustrating the immediate impact of the races, Biden argued greater coronavirus pandemic relief is dependent on Democrats winning both seats and, thus, granting Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the power to cast tie-breaking votes in the Senate.
 
“If you send Jon and the Reverend to Washington, those $2,000 checks will go out the door, restoring hope and decency and honor for so many people who are struggling right now. And if you send Senators Perdue and Loeffler back to Washington, those checks will never get there,” Biden argued. “It’s just that simple.”

“You have two senators who think their loyalty is to Trump, not to Georgia. You have two senators who think they’ve sworn an oath to Donald Trump, not to the United States’ Constitution,” Biden continued. “And as President, I don’t believe your United States’ Senators are gonna work for me. They work for the people of Georgia.”

Though Biden didn’t directly comment on Trump’s phone call in which he pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the exact number of votes he would need to overturn election results in the state, Biden did take a swipe at Trump’s work ethic.

“The president spends more time whining and complaining than doing something about the problem,” Biden quipped. “I don’t know why he still wants the job. He doesn’t want to do the work.”

Trump is scheduled to headline a “victory rally” for GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Dalton, Georgia, in the evening.

Jan 04, 4:43 pm
Georgia election official debunks fraud theories Trump raised on call with Raffensperger

Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling, a Republican, at a press conference on what he called “anti-disinformation Monday,” ran through major voter conspiracies pushed by Trump, his allies and far-right media outlets and debunked them one-by-one in an effort to restore faith in Georgia’s election system.

“The reason I’m having to stand here today is because there are people in positions of authority and respect who have said their vote didn’t count and it’s not true,” Sterling said, stressing to Georgians that their votes count ahead of critical runoffs in the state which will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

“It’s Whac-A-Mole again. It is Groundhog Day again. I’m going to talk about the things I’ve talked about repeatedly for two months, but I’m going to do it for one last time,” Sterling said, adding he “screamed” at the radio upon hearing audio of the phone call between Trump and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger because theories Trump questioned have already been “thoroughly debunked.”

For example, Sterling, responding to those who claim there were roughly 2,500 people who voted without being registered, said, “Let’s just be clear about this: you can’t do it!” He said, “So that number is zero,” going on to debunk other theories.

Asked if he believes, as some have said, that Trump’s phone call was an attack on democracy, Sterling said he’d leave others to make that decision before adding he felt it was “out of place.”

“I found it to be something that was not normal — out of place — and nobody I know who would be president would do something like that to a secretary of state,” Sterling said.

Asked about Raffenperger’s desire to have the phone call recorded and whether he was concerned about anything improper being said or needing to release it later, Sterling said it was recorded “out of an abundance of caution”

“I think given the environment we’re in right now, the political situation that we’re in, the history of the president, knowing that he sometimes doesn’t necessarily characterize things as they might have actually occurred, it was out of abundance of caution,” Sterling said.

“I’m sure the president’s side may have recorded it, too. They may have been the ones who leaked part of that, too,” he added.

Jan 04, 3:39 pm
NAACP slams Trump’s call with Georgia official as a ‘racist attack’

NAACP President Derrick Johnson is slamming Trump’s phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and, in a new statement Monday, calls on the Fulton County District Attorney to investigate any state law violations committed by Trump after he “pressured” Raffensperger to recalculate votes in his favor.

“This is a racist attack on Black voters. President Trump’s desperate and futile attempts to invalidate and falsify votes cast by Georgia voters add to a growing list of criminal acts that must be addressed,” Johnson said in a statement.

Trump, in an hour-long phone call with Raffensperger on Saturday, falsely claimed it was “not possible” for him to have lost in The Peach State, and asked the secretary to “find” the exact number of votes he would need — just one vote over the margin that he trailed Biden by — so he could be declared the winner of an election that three separate counts confirmed he lost.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, in statement earlier Monday, did not rule out the possibility of filing state charges against Trump or his aides involved in the call, saying that it is her understanding Raffensperger’s Elections Division has been requested to investigate the call and that, upon the conclusion of their investigation, the matter can be referred to both her office and the state’s attorney general Chris Carr for potential charges.

Jan 04, 3:37 pm
Biden heads to Atlanta in final campaign push ahead of Senate runoffs

Biden is headed to Georgia on Monday afternoon where the Senate’s balance of power — and the president-elect’s subsequent hopes to pass the big ticket legislation he campaigned on — hangs on a pair of Senate runoff elections.

The Georgia races have drawn national attention with both parties mobilizing their supporters ahead of the Jan. 5 election date. While Biden stumps in Atlanta Monday for Democratic contenders Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, Trump headlines an evening rally in Dalton for sitting GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

If Democrats win both races, the partisan make-up of the Senate will be 50-50, including the independents who caucus with Democrats, and Vice President Kamala Harris would serve as the tie-breaking vote in the Congress’ upper chamber.

More than three million Georgians voted early in the races — a record for statewide runoff elections in the Peach State.

Jan 04, 3:36 pm
Pence urges focus on Georgia runoffs, says ‘our day in Congress’ will come

Vice President Mike Pence, stumping for GOP Georgia senators on the eve of runoff elections there, vowed Republicans will have “our day in Congress” to contest the Electoral College results while urging supporters to put their immediate focus on defending the party’s majority in the Senate.

“I know we’ve all got our doubts about the last election,” Pence told hundreds of mostly maskless supporters inside a church in Milner, Georgia. “And I want to assure you I share the concerns of millions of Americans about voting irregularities. And I promise you, come this Wednesday, we’ll have our day in Congress. We’ll hear the objections. We’ll hear the evidence. But tomorrow it’s Georgia’s day.”

Recent polls show tight races between sitting GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and Democratic contenders Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock — forcing star power to the Peach State on the eve of the election including visits from Trump and Biden later on Monday.

Jan 04, 3:34 pm
Fulton County district attorney suggests Trump may face investigation over election call

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis in a statement Monday does not rule out the possibility of filing state charges against President Trump or his aides involved in the Saturday phone call where Trump pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” votes to help him overturn the state’s election.

Willis said in the statement that it is her understanding Raffensperger’s Elections Division has been requested to investigate the call and that upon the conclusion of their investigation the matter can be referred to both her office and the state’s Attorney General Chris Carr for potential charges.

“Like many Americans, I have found the news reports about the President’s telephone call with the Georgia Secretary of State disturbing. It is my understanding from news reports that a member of the State Election Board has requested that the Secretary’s Elections Division investigate the call, after which the Board can refer the case to my office and the state Attorney General,” she said in the statement.

“As I promised Fulton County voters last year, as District Attorney, I will enforce the law without fear or favor. Anyone who commits a felony violation of Georgia law in my jurisdiction will be held accountable. Once the investigation is complete, this matter, like all matters, will be handled by our office based on the facts and the law,” she continued.

Willis’ statement follows Raffensperger telling ABC’s Good Morning America Monday morning that he believed the Fulton County district attorney’s office could be the most appropriate venue to investigate whether Trump and others on the call may have broken the law given potential conflict of interest concerns within his own office.

Jan 04, 2:32 pm
340 DC National Guardsmen to help DC police around Electoral College demonstrations

At District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser’s request, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy has activated about 340 unarmed D.C. National Guardsmen to assist local law enforcement with the demonstrations taking place on Wednesday pegged to the Electoral College certification.

“We think it’s helpful to have our D.C. Guardsmen, who are our Guard, that I have requested from the Secretary of the Army to assist MPD [Metropolitan Police Department] with traffic management” Bowser said Monday. “It absolutely frees up more officers.”

The D.C. Guard is unique in that any call-ups have to be made by the army secretary and not the jurisdiction’s top elected official — as is the case with state governors. Additionally, more focus has been given to the call-ups since the controversial presence of D.C. Guardsmen and the use of D.C. Guard helicopters during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations last summer.

“They will be deployed to assist us with crowd management, as well as traffic control in our nation’s capital that will allow for the police officers to focus on anyone who’s intent on instigating agitating or participating in violence in our city,” said D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee. He also labeled any possibility of violence surrounding the protests as “unacceptable” and repeated that carrying firearms is not allowed under D.C. law.

A senior defense official said Bowser put in the request for Guardsmen on Dec. 31 and that it was approved Monday morning. Beginning Tuesday through Thursday, the 340 personnel will help man 30 traffic control checkpoints around the northern side of the downtown area close to the National Mall.

“No one’s going to be armed or body armor or anything like that,” said the official. “What they need is traffic control.”

Jan 04, 12:38 pm
Perdue, still quarantining, says he hopes to participate in Trump rally virtually

In an interview on Fox News Monday morning, Republican senatorial candidate David Perdue said that while he and his wife have “repeatedly” tested negative for coronavirus, he is still quarantining after coming into “close contact” last week with a campaign staffer who tested positive and hopes to participate in
 
“I’m going to participate hopefully tonight by virtually in this rally, but I’m so excited that President Trump is coming again,” Perdue said, going on to paint the dire picture of the country if Democrats win.
 
Asked what he wants to hear the president say Monday, Perdue said: “First of all this is the last opportunity we will have to protect everything that we’ve accomplished in the last four years. The second thing is the last line of defense to stop the Democrats from perpetrating this radical socialist agenda. It’s as simple as that.”
 
As he did Sunday, Perdue blasted disclosure of the call between Trump and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and defended the president.
 
“To have a state-wide elected official, regardless of party, tape unknowing — to tape without disclosing a conversation — private conversation of the president of the United States and then leaking it to the press is disgusting,” Perdue said.

When asked if he was concerned that GOP voters may be discouraged from participating in the aftermath of a general election Republicans continue to contest, Perdue said, “Well that’s what the Democrats want.” Trump himself acknowledged post-election chaos may hinder turnout in the runoffs during his call with Raffensperger Saturday — and blamed the secretary for it.

Jan 04, 12:36 pm
Cheney argues an Electoral college challenge sets an ‘exceptionally dangerous’ precedent

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., a member of House GOP leadership and one of the first prominent Republicans to acknowledge Biden’s victory, sent a 21-page memo to her conference making the case against a challenge to the Electoral College certification process on Wednesday, arguing that it would improperly overrule states’ authority over elections, and set a “dangerous precedent” down the line for future elections and sessions of Congress.

“By objecting to electoral slates, members are unavoidably asserting that Congress has the authority to overturn elections and overrule state and federal courts. Such objections set an exceptionally dangerous precedent, threatening to steal states’ explicit constitutional responsibility for choosing the President and bestowing it instead on Congress,” Cheney wrote.

“This is directly at odds with the Constitution’s clear text and our core beliefs as Republicans. Democrats have long attempted, unconstitutionally, to federalize every element of our nation — including elections. Republicans should not embrace Democrats’ unconstitutional position on these issues,” she added.

Cheney raises questions about the proposal from some Republicans to set up a commission to investigate concerns about the election, calling it a “problematic” set up that would take much longer than ten days to wrap up, and potentially delay the inauguration. The memo also exhaustively summarizes the court rulings against the president’s legal efforts in the six states Republicans plan to target on Wednesday: Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Jan 04, 12:34 pm
House Dems ask FBI to open criminal probe into Trump’s call with Raffensperger

Two House Democrats are asking FBI Director Christopher Wray to open a criminal probe into Trump after a phone call revealed him pleading with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn his loss in the state’s presidential election.

“As Members of Congress and former prosecutors, we believe Donald Trump engaged in solicitation of, or conspiracy to commit, a number of election crimes,” Reps. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., and Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., wrote in a letter to Wray on Monday. “We ask you to open an immediate criminal investigation into the president.”

“The evidence of election fraud by Mr. Trump is now in broad daylight. The prima facie elements of the above crimes have been met. Given the more than ample factual predicate, we are making a criminal referral to you to open an investigation into Mr. Trump,” the lawmakers continued.

Jan 04, 12:33 pm
Trump targets senators unsupportive of Electoral College challenge

Trump has targeted Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who has been unwilling to join at least a dozen of his GOP Senate colleagues in saying they will challenge Electoral College results on Wednesday, with a tweet Monday morning warning Republicans “never forget.”
 
“@SenTomCotton Republicans have pluses & minuses, but one thing is sure, THEY NEVER FORGET!” the tweet read.

Trump followed up the attack by calling those lawmakers who do plan to certify the Electoral College vote on Wednesday members of the “Surrender Caucus,” tweeting that they will “go down in infamy as weak and ineffective ‘guardians’ of our Nation.”
 
It comes after Cotton said in a statement Sunday night that his colleagues’ plans to object to Biden’s win oversteps the body’s ceremonial role and warned that if the GOP prevailed, it “would essentially end presidential elections and place that power in the hands of whichever party controls Congress.”

“Objecting to certified electoral votes won’t give him a second term — it will only embolden those Democrats who want to erode further our system of constitutional government,” Cotton said in the statement.
 
Cotton’s not the first Republican senator Trump has targeted for opposing GOP plans to object on Wednesday. On New Year’s Day, he tweeted that he hoped Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., would be primaried in 2022, after Thune also said he did not support the long-shot bid to challenge Electoral College results.

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