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Ultimate Resource For The Biden/Harris White House Transition

A Trump administration appointee is refusing to sign a letter allowing President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team to formally begin its work this week, in another sign the incumbent president has not acknowledged Biden’s victory and could disrupt the transfer of power. A Little-Known Trump Appointee Is In Charge Of Handing Transition Resources To Biden — And She Isn’t Budging

A Little-Known Trump Appointee Is In Charge Of Handing Transition Resources To Biden — And She Isn’t Budging

Updated: 11-23-2020

GSA Sends Letter To Biden Making Resources Available For Transition

Agency had held up federal resources amid Trump’s legal challenges.

President Trump said his administration would cooperate with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition to the White House, ending a delay that had come under increasing criticism from members of both parties as Mr. Trump’s long-shot effort to overturn the election foundered.

The General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy, who had been formally holding up the transition for more than two weeks citing uncertainty in the results, said Monday that her agency would provide Mr. Biden federal resources meant to assist in a smooth transfer of power.

Mr. Trump said he had instructed aides to cooperate with the transition approved by the GSA, though he pledged to continue his legal efforts to overturn the election result.

“I believe we will prevail!” he said. “Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same,” he said.

Michigan on Monday certified the results of the election, and legal setbacks piled up for Mr. Trump and his allies. No evidence of significant voter fraud has been produced, and Republican allies in Congress had signaled growing impatience with Mr. Trump and his team, though party leaders haven’t publicly pushed him to concede.

Mr. Trump has given no indication that he plans to give any kind of formal concession speech, but he has been polling advisers on what his options are for an exit strategy, according to administration officials.

Over the last week, according to one of the officials, the president has appeared increasingly resigned to the reality that he will no longer be in the White House past Jan. 20, asking one adviser in a recent conversation: “What do you think I should do next?”

Some advisers have urged him to talk up another presidential run in 2024, even if he doesn’t plan to follow through. The president also has privately indicated he wants to keep up the appearance of a fight until the bitter end, telling one adviser: “Everybody loves a fighter.”

Ultimate Resource For The Biden/Harris White House TransitionIn a letter to Mr. Biden, Ms. Murphy, the GSA administrator, cited recent legal developments and certifications of state election results in explaining her decision to stop blocking the resources.

“I have determined that you may access the postelection resources and services described” in presidential transition legislation, she wrote. “The actual winner of the presidential election will be determined by the electoral process detailed in the Constitution.”

The GSA letter to the Biden team was first reported by CNN.

Ms. Murphy had declined to name the apparent winner of the election, a technical designation that allows the federal government to begin cooperating with the president-elect, in the aftermath of the Associated Press’s Nov. 7 decision to declare Mr. Biden the winner of the election.

Without the GSA designation, formally known as an ascertainment, Mr. Biden’s team wasn’t allowed to receive high-level classified briefings and was denied more than $6 million in government funds. Mr. Biden’s transition operation also had been blocked from accessing federal agencies, where career government officials had prepared briefing books to ease the transition from one administration to the next.

“Today’s decision is a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track,” said Yohannes Abraham, the executive director of Mr. Biden’s transition team, adding that the transition would begin meeting in the coming days with officials from federal agencies.

“This is probably the closest thing to a concession that President Trump could issue,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said in a statement Monday night. “Let us all now—Democrats and Republicans, the Trump Administration and the incoming Biden Administration—unite together for a smooth and peaceful transition that will benefit America.”

Ms. Murphy, in her letter, said her decision was “not made out of fear or favoritism,” adding that she hadn’t received any direction or pressure from Mr. Trump or administration officials to delay her decision. She said she had received threats meant “to coerce me into making this determination prematurely.”

Mr. Trump thanked Ms. Murphy, saying she had been “harassed, threatened, and abused—and I do not want to see this happen to her, her family, or employees of GSA. “

The House has received the letter from Ms. Murphy, Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), said Monday.

Senior Democrats in both the House and Senate had ramped up pressure on Ms. Murphy on Monday to make the official election ascertainment.

While GOP leaders haven’t said Mr. Trump should concede, a slowly expanding group of Republicans had said Mr. Biden’s transition should begin immediately.

Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris “should begin receiving all appropriate briefings related to national security and Covid-19 to facilitate a smooth transfer of power in the likely event that they are to take office on Jan. 20,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.) said Monday. While Mr. Trump has a right to request recounts and raise legal claims, “at some point, the 2020 election must end,” she said.

Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) said in an opinion article in the Cincinnati Enquirer that the GSA should begin the transition process. “This is only prudent,” he wrote. “There is no evidence as of now of any widespread fraud or irregularities that would change the result in any state,” he said.

Mr. Trump should “put the country first and have a prompt and orderly transition to help the new administration succeed,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.), who is retiring. “When you are in public life, people remember the last thing you do.”

The mechanics of presidential transitions are governed by a 1963 federal law that leaves it to the administrator of the GSA to certify a winner and set the process in motion. Historically, the agency has accepted media projections of the winner as the basis for beginning the transition process.

However, the law is vague on what standard the GSA administrator should apply in making that determination—a potential barrier to any legal challenge by Mr. Biden. The law says only that the administration shall determine the “apparent” winner, with no instructions on what that should mean in the event of a dispute or a challenge.

In past elections, with the exception of the 2000 election, the GSA has ascertained a winner within hours or days of election night.

The administrator of the General Services Administration, the low-profile agency in charge of federal buildings, has a little-known role when a new president is elected: to sign paperwork officially turning over millions of dollars, as well as give access to government officials, office space in agencies and equipment authorized for the taxpayer-funded transition teams of the winner.

It amounts to a formal declaration by the federal government, outside of the media, of the winner of the presidential race.

But by Sunday evening, almost 36 hours after media outlets projected Biden as the winner, GSA Administrator Emily Murphy had written no such letter. And the Trump administration, in keeping with the president’s failure to concede the election, has no immediate plans to sign one.

This could lead to the first transition delay in modern history, except in 2000, when the Supreme Court decided a recount dispute between Al Gore and George W. Bush in December.

“An ascertainment has not yet been made,” Pamela Pennington, a spokeswoman for GSA, said in an email, “and its Administrator will continue to abide by, and fulfill, all requirements under the law.”

The GSA statement left experts on federal transitions to wonder when the White House expects the handoff from one administration to the next to begin — when the president has exhausted his legal avenues to fight the results, or the formal vote of the electoral college on Dec. 14? There are 74 days, as of Sunday, until the Biden inauguration on Jan. 20.

“No agency head is going to get out in front of the president on transition issues right now,” said one senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. The official predicted that agency heads will be told not to talk to the Biden team.

The decision has turned attention to Murphy, whose four-year tenure has been marked by several controversies involving the president, an unusually high profile for an agency little known outside of Washington.

“Her action now has to be condemned,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who leads a House oversight panel on federal operations. “It’s behavior that is consistent with her subservience to wishes of the president himself, and it is clearly harmful to the orderly transition of power.”

The delay has implications both practical and symbolic.

By declaring the “apparent winner” of a presidential election, the GSA administrator releases computer systems and money for salaries and administrative support for the mammoth undertaking of setting up a new government — $9.9 million this year.

Transition officials get government email addresses. They get office space at every federal agency. They can begin to work with the Office of Government Ethics to process financial disclosure and conflict-of-interest forms for their nominees.

And they get access to senior officials, both political appointees of the outgoing administration and career civil servants, who relay an agency’s ongoing priorities and projects, upcoming deadlines, problem areas and risks. The federal government is a $4.5 trillion operation, and while the Biden team is not new to government, the access is critical, experts said.

This is all on hold for now.

“Now that the election has been independently called for Joe Biden, we look forward to the GSA Administrator quickly ascertaining Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the President-elect and Vice President-elect,” a Biden transition spokesman said in an email. “America’s national security and economic interests depend on the federal government signaling clearly and swiftly that the United States government will respect the will of the American people and engage in a smooth and peaceful transfer of power.”

As the campaign wound down, President Trump gave signals that he would not easily hand over the reins to his successor, if there was one. But for people who have been through them, a presidential transition is a massive undertaking requiring discipline, decision-making and fast learning under the smoothest circumstances. Each lost day puts the new government behind schedule.

“The transition process is fundamental to safely making sure the next team is ready to go on Day One,” said Max Stier, president and chief executive of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service, which has set up a presidential transition center and shares advice with the Biden and Trump teams. “It’s critical that you have access to the agencies before you put your people in place.”

The Biden team can move forward to get preliminary security clearances and begin FBI background checks on potential nominees requiring Senate confirmation.

Another senior administration official who was not authorized to speak publicly said each agency has drafted detailed transition plans for a new administration, but they will not be released to the Biden team until a winner is formally declared.

Trump has been resistant to participating in a transition — fearing it is a bad omen — but has allowed top aides to participate as long as the efforts do not become public, administration officials said. He is unlikely to concede he has lost or participate in traditional activities, the officials said.

In a call on Friday with administration officials, Mary Gibert, the head of the presidential transition team at the GSA, told colleagues the agency was in a holding pattern and not to host people from Biden teams until there is “ascertainment.” She gave no specific timeline on when it was expected.

The delay has already gummed up discussions on critical issues, including plans to distribute a possible coronavirus vaccine, this official said.

GSA has been part of transition planning since the Presidential Transition Act was signed in 1963. Since then, the agency has identified the winner within hours or a day of media projections, and weeks before the results were made official by the electoral college.

Chris Lu, who served as former president Barack Obama’s transition director in 2008, recalled that after Obama was declared the winner over the late senator John McCain on Nov. 4, he went to sleep to get up early the next morning to open the transition office. He missed the call from GSA’s acting administrator, Jim Williams, informing him that he had signed over transition resources to the Obama team.

“Jim made the call at 1 a.m.,” Lu said. “There was simply no controversy involved.”

Robert C. MacKichan Jr., an attorney who served as GSA general counsel for presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, said that because Trump is contesting the election and the electors have not yet voted, it’s too early for Murphy to make a call. Once the administrator issues the letter, the funds can be spent and can’t be recouped.

“I don’t think, at this point, I would feel comfortable making that determination now,” MacKichan said. “It’s premature.”

MacKichan said he was confident Murphy would handle a difficult situation fairly. “As an attorney and as a procurement official, I think she has the highest standard of integrity,” he said.

Murphy has not sought the limelight during her tenure and was described by former colleagues as a by-the-book person. She’s regarded as well-qualified, an expert on contracting with experience both at the agency, where she had previously served as chief acquisition officer, and on Capitol Hill, where she had been a staffer for multiple committees. Heading a federal agency unknown to most Americans seemed like an ideal assignment.

But under Trump, two issues of personal importance to the president became almost constant sources of controversy for her: the lease Trump’s company holds with the agency for its D.C. hotel, located in the federally owned Old Post Office Pavilion, and the planned consolidation of the FBI headquarters.

Both projects have pressed Murphy into duty defending the president, and her actions elicited criticism from the agency’s watchdog as well as from congressional Democrats.

Trump’s hotel lease was signed with the agency before Trump took office, and he resigned his position with the company when he entered office. But he retained ownership of his business, allowing him to profit from the property while in office.

Democrats held repeated hearings to get a better explanation of how the agency decided to allow Trump to keep the lease given that the Constitution bar presidents from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments, which often patronize the hotel. Under Murphy, the GSA repeatedly declined to provide documents to House Democrats, including the monthly income statements it receives from Trump’s company.

Last year, the agency’s inspector general determined that GSA “improperly” ignored those concerns in allowing Trump’s company to keep the lease. GSA defended itself by saying that the investigation “found no undue influence, pressure or unwarranted involvement of any kind by anyone.”

Trump has personally intervened in the most prominent real estate project in the agency’s entire portfolio: the plan to build a new FBI headquarters that would allow the bureau out of the crumbling and insecure J. Edgar Hoover Building.

During his first year in office, Trump and the GSA abruptly canceled a bipartisan plan to build a new suburban headquarters for the agency, infuriating Democrats who had worked more than a decade on the project and who alleged that Trump canceled the project so a competing hotel could never be built in place of the Hoover building, a site down the street from his hotel. The White House said the president’s business had nothing to do with the decision.

Updated: 11-10-2020

Obama Officials Call For Transition To Begin

Former Obama administration officials argue the transition needs to start now. Turkey’s leader congratulated President-elect Joe Biden. And two teams of international observers say the U.S. elections went well.

Former Obama Officials Call For Transition To Begin

Former Barack Obama administration officials are calling for the Trump administration to begin transition work with Biden, warning that delays could hurt the fight against the coronavirus.

“We are losing vital time,” said former Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. “This is serious from a national security issue. This is serious from the health issue that we’re facing right now.”

The Biden-Harris transition team has assembled a coronavirus task force, but without an official designation from the General Services Administration that Biden is the apparent winner, the team can’t access agency officials and documents — including details about coronavirus vaccine research and supplies, said Leslie Dach, a senior Health and Human Services official under Obama.

Critical conversations among the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health cannot happen without the GSA determination, said Kathleen Sebelius, who was Health and Human Services secretary under Obama. She likened the delay to a “hostile takeover” by an administration reluctant to relinquish power and share information.

“What are those agencies missing right now” and what expertise is needed to prepare for a vaccination campaign? Sebelius asked. Biden and Harris’ coronavirus task force can get ready and develop recommendations, “but it can’t happen without a dialogue.” — Jennifer A. Dlouhy

Elections Experts Eye Dec. 8 as Next Key Date (10:30 a.m.)

Election experts are counting the days until Dec. 8, the deadline for legal challenges to be resolved.

Dec. 8 is the so-called “safe harbor” deadline, when any court challenges to the election results should be resolved in order for state electors to be automatically accepted by Congress. If a state misses that deadline, the process gets messy.

The safe harbor deadline could push judges, election officials and state lawmakers to resolve any outstanding questions. If they don’t, the states’ electors could be disputed in Congress, which hasn’t happened since the late 1800s.

The safe harbor deadline comes six days before the Electoral College meets on Dec. 14. The votes cast by electors on that day are then counted in Congress on Jan. 6.

Despite the ongoing challenges, legal experts anticipate the process will proceed on schedule.

Updated: 11-10-2020

Biden Taps Crypto-Savvy Former CFTC Chair For Transition Team

Gary Gensler will reportedly ensure a smooth transition with the Federal Reserve in addition to banking and securities regulators.

Less than four days after his official acceptance speech, Joe Biden has already begun assembling a team including the former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission as part of his transition to the 46th President of the United States.

According to a Nov. 10 announcement from the ‘Biden-Harris Transition’, Gary Gensler has volunteered to join President-elect Joe Biden’s team as a financial expert. The former CFTC chair will be the lead tasked with ensuring as smooth a transition as possible with the Federal Reserve and banking and securities regulators.

Gensler served as chairman for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or CFTC, under President Barack Obama from 2009 until 2014. He was known as a stringent regulator during his time as CFTC head, overseeing reforms to the $400 trillion financial derivatives market.

The new financial team lead has said that cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin (BTC) need regulation to grow, arguing that investors should be protected in the event of market manipulation.

In 2018, Gensler also stated that Initial Coin Offerings should be considered securities, placing them within the regulatory purview of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

In addition to his appointment on the transition team, Gensler is currently a senior advisor at the MIT Media Lab’s Digital Currency Initiative. The group conducts research on blockchain and digital currency with a goal of facilitating development and adoption of the technology.

Updated: 11-10-2020

Biden Says Standoff With Trump Administration Won’t Stop Transition

Without technical designation from the administration, president-elect’s team can’t view detailed classified information.

Joe Biden called President Trump’s unwillingness to concede the presidential election an “embarrassment” but said it wouldn’t impede his White House transition, despite a standoff with the administration that is preventing the president-elect’s team from accessing key resources.

The Trump administration hasn’t issued a typically routine technical designation that would allow Mr. Biden’s staff to view detailed classified information, send representatives to embed with government agencies and have the State Department facilitate calls with foreign leaders.

The delay could also hamper Mr. Biden’s selection of cabinet officials because the ability to conduct background investigations for security clearances is frozen.

Mr. Biden said Tuesday at a news conference in Wilmington, Del., that his team could manage without those resources, and he said he wasn’t planning to take legal action to try to force the Trump administration to identify him as the winner of the election.

“I’m confident that the fact that they’re not willing to acknowledge we won at this point is not that much consequence in our planning and what we’re able to do between now and Jan. 20,” he said.

“It would be nice to have it, but it’s not critical,” he said of the access to classified information that would come with an official administration designation. He also said his transition team could operate without millions in government funds that he would receive to set up a new administration.

“I just think it’s an embarrassment, quite frankly,” he said about Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede. “How can I say this tactfully? I think it will not help the president’s legacy.”

Mr. Biden said he has spoken to six world leaders, and on Tuesday afternoon, his team announced groups of people who will study each department, though they cannot yet embed at government agencies.

The president-elect said he would name “at least a couple” of choices for his cabinet before Thanksgiving. He is also expected to detail top White House positions including chief of staff in the coming days.

Three days after the Associated Press and other media outlets said Mr. Biden had won enough Electoral College votes to secure the presidency and declared him the winner of the 2020 election, Mr. Trump hasn’t conceded the race and many Republicans haven’t acknowledged Mr. Biden as the president-elect.

“Every American deserves to be able to trust that our elections are free, fair, safe, and secure. The President owes that to everyone who voted for him, and to those who voted for Joe Biden as well,” Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement.

Mr. Biden said he hadn’t spoken to the president or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican with whom he has a longstanding relationship from his time in the Senate and as vice president, since his victory was declared.

“I think that the whole Republican Party has been put in a position, with a few notable exceptions, of being mildly intimidated by the sitting president. There’s only one president at a time, he’s president,” Mr. Biden said.

“We’re going to have the Electoral College make their judgment in December. It will be announced in early January, but in the meantime I hope to get the chance to speak to Mitch.”

Mr. Biden, appearing with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, expressed confidence that Republicans would eventually recognize his win and work with his administration.

He also said his transition team already was fleshing out details of a health-care plan, which he hoped to work on with Congress right after he takes office.

Mr. Biden’s advisers are urging the federal General Services Administration to identify him as the winner of the election, arguing that Mr. Trump’s efforts to contest the results of the election have little chance of success. A GSA spokeswoman said Tuesday morning that the designation hadn’t been made.

In past elections, the GSA, an agency that manages real estate and other logistics, sent a letter identifying the winner within days of the AP and television networks calling the election, long before the results were made official by the Electoral College.

The only time the results of the election weren’t formalized quickly was in 2000, when the results of the election weren’t known until December.

Mr. Biden is leading Mr. Trump by more than 4.8 million votes nationally. The former vice president is projected to win at least 290 Electoral College votes, according to the AP’s tally.

At least 270 are required to win the presidency. The AP hasn’t yet called Alaska, Georgia and North Carolina. Mr. Trump is leading in North Carolina and Alaska, and Mr. Biden is leading in Georgia.

The Associated Press, which called the race on Saturday for Mr. Biden, and other major news networks have long made election projections. The AP has conducted vote counts in every presidential election since 1848.

Trump administration officials have instructed federal agencies not to move forward with transition activities with Mr. Biden’s team until a winner is formally identified by the GSA, according to people familiar with the matter.

Typically, in the weeks after an election the president-elect’s transition operation sends a team of people to embed in government agencies to plan how to take over.

According to a Trump administration official, agencies have begun preparing briefing documents for Mr. Biden but can’t hand them over until the GSA makes its determination.

Mr. Biden is also unable to receive the same intelligence briefings as the president without the formalization, according to a spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

As the Democratic nominee, Mr. Biden was given intelligence briefings, but they weren’t as detailed as what the president receives.

Mr. Trump is mounting a series of legal challenges to the election process. Asked on Tuesday whether the State Department is hampering a smooth transition to a Biden administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said with a smile, “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”

Mr. Pompeo added, “I’m very confident that we will do all the things that are necessary to make sure that the United States government will continue to perform its national-security function as we go forward.”

Mr. Trump tweeted on Tuesday, “WE WILL WIN!”

The Trump campaign said Tuesday night it was filing a federal lawsuit in Michigan seeking to block the certification of election results until a review of ballots could be conducted.

Biden legal adviser Bob Bauer said earlier Tuesday that the Trump campaign lawsuits were “noise, not really law,” and would have no effect on the outcome of the election.

Attorney General William Barr broke with longstanding policy on Monday when he authorized federal prosecutors to pursue “substantial allegations” of voting and vote-tabulation irregularities before the presidential election is certified, saying in a memo reviewed by The Wall Street Journal that investigations “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.”

No evidence of widespread voter fraud has surfaced.

“It is deeply unfortunate that the Attorney General Barr chose to issue a memorandum that will only fuel the ‘specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims’ he professes to guard against,” Mr. Bauer said. “Those are the very kind of claims that the president and his lawyers are making unsuccessfully every day, as their lawsuits are laughed out of one court after another.”

The Justice Department official who oversees investigations of voter fraud, Richard Pilger, stepped down from his post Monday night, telling colleagues in an email, reviewed by the Journal, that his decision was in response to Mr. Barr’s memo.

He will stay on as a prosecutor at the Justice Department in a nonsupervisory role, a person familiar with the matter said.

Although he hasn’t conceded defeat, Mr. Trump has started a political-action committee that would allow him to back candidates for office and exert financial influence in Washington once his presidency ends.

As of Tuesday, the Trump campaign’s joint fundraising operation was already using its email and text-message lists to direct contributions from supporters to the PAC, called Save America.

On Tuesday, the Republican National Committee began cutting staff, as is typical at the end of a campaign.

World leaders continued to reach out to Mr. Biden to congratulate him on his victory. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he spoke by phone with the president-elect on Tuesday.

Other foreign leaders have also phoned Mr. Biden to congratulate him and discuss the path forward, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Mr. Trump hasn’t made a public appearance since late last week and has no public events on his schedule on Tuesday. He is scheduled to visit Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday to mark Veterans Day.

Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to travel to Capitol Hill on Tuesday then will travel to Florida for vacation, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The GSA is given the power to ascertain the presidential election because of a 1963 federal law that leaves it to the administrator to certify a winner and set the process in motion. Historically, the agency has accepted media projections of the winner as the basis for beginning the transition process.

However, the law is vague on what standard the GSA administrator should apply in making that determination—a potential barrier to any legal challenge by Mr. Biden.

The law says only that the administrator shall determine the “apparent” winner, with no instructions on what that should mean in the event of a dispute or a challenge.

“It’s tough because it’s such a vague word,” said Jack Beermann, a law professor at Boston University who has studied presidential transitions.

Updated: 11-12-2020

Biden’s Transition Teams Sideline Industries Trump Put In Charge

President-elect Joe Biden has stocked his transition team with policy experts, academics and former Obama administration officials, a contrast with the industry-friendly figures President Donald Trump sent into the government upon winning office.

The roughly 500-person group Biden’s campaign announced on Monday will prepare federal agencies for the incoming administration and draft plans to overhaul their operations after four years under Trump. The president-elect’s team includes people who favor stronger government regulation than Trump — particularly for the financial and energy sectors — and greater consumer protections.

Four years ago, Trump stocked his so-called agency “landing teams” with conservatives from think tanks and advocacy groups — including people who had been openly hostile to the agencies they were charged to review. It foreshadowed an aggressive rollback of regulations under Trump’s watch.

Biden has taken a notably different tack with what he calls “agency review teams,” though some liberals have raised concerns about the participation of executives from companies, including Inc., Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc. and Airbnb Inc.

The groups of advisers that enter federal agencies ahead of Inauguration Day are a hallmark of presidential transitions, but their influence only goes so far. After the 2016 transition, some Trump “landing team” officials later complained their policy recommendations were ignored.

And in Biden’s case, they may not have much time to work. They cannot access office space or begin closely working with government officials until the administrator of the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, issues a finding that Biden is the incoming president. She has so far declined to do so as Trump fights the election results in several states and insists, falsely, that he won.

Biden says that won’t prevent his transition officials from beginning their planning.

Obama Veterans

Biden’s energy- and environment-focused transition teams feature a host of former Obama administration officials as well as some activists from advocacy groups.

The president-elect’s Environmental Protection Agency landing team draws heavily from veterans who served under former President Barack Obama, including former chief of staff Matt Fritz and enforcement head Cynthia Giles, climate adviser Joseph Goffman and former top water official Ken Kopocis. The head of the EPA team is Patrice Simms, a former agency lawyer who now serves as a vice president of Earthjustice, a group known for challenging federal environmental policy decisions.

By contrast, Trump’s EPA transition team was led by the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Myron Ebell, who accused the agency of relying on “junk science” to justify regulations, is skeptical of humanity’s contribution to climate change and sought a major reduction in agency staffing. Another adviser on Trump’s EPA team, Christopher Horner, had spent years relentlessly seeking agency emails, texts and other documents, even unearthing former administrator Lisa Jackson’s reliance on an alias account.

Arun Majumdar, a Stanford University professor who was Obama’s founding director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, is leading Biden’s Energy Department transition team. During his time in government, the agency funded experimental research projects on flying wind turbines and enzyme-based carbon capture technology. Majumdar is on the short list to be Biden’s Energy secretary, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The head of Trump’s Energy Department team was Tom Pyle, president of the non-profit American Energy Alliance, which has combatted government efforts to subsidize clean energy.

Shortly after they arrived at the Energy Department in 2016, Trump’s advisers delivered a lengthy questionnaire to Obama officials, seeking to root out the names of employees and contractors involved in climate policy and negotiations. The effort unsettled agency staff, and Democrats cast it as a witch hunt.

Biden’s Energy landing team also includes Brad Markell, a top AFL-CIO official who was involved in auto industry bargaining talks and negotiations over tailpipe emissions standards during the Obama administration. Maggie Thomas, who advised Democrats Jay Inslee and Elizabeth Warren on climate policy during their presidential campaigns, is also set to shape Interior Department policy on Biden’s review team.

Gensler’s Return

Biden pleased progressives this week by naming a slate of people to review U.S. financial watchdogs who’ve been critical of Wall Street, a stark contrast to the industry insiders and anti-regulation policy experts who populated Trump’s transition.

Among Biden advisers who will play a key role in picking leaders for agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission is Gary Gensler, a former Commodity Futures Trading Commission chairman who emerged as a bane of banks’ swaps trading desks after the 2008 financial crisis.

“The Treasury and financial regulatory landing teams seem to show an appreciation for the critique of Wall Street that the progressives have been trying to get across for several years,” said Jeff Hauser of the left-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

Trump’s landing teams at the financial regulatory agencies included Ralph Ferrara, a securities and white-collar defense lawyer, and Paul Atkins, a former Republican SEC commissioner known for his free-market views.

Among those examining the Treasury Department for Biden is Michael Barr, a University of Michigan law professor who was one of the main authors of the Dodd-Frank Act when he worked at Treasury during the Obama administration. Biden’s Treasury team is led by Don Graves, a former Obama administration official, who was head of corporate responsibility at KeyBank until he joined the campaign in September.

Also on Biden’s team is Better Markets President Dennis Kelleher, whose Washington trade group advocates for tougher rules and penalties for financial firms. Last month, Kelleher called Goldman Sachs Group Inc. a “recidivist lawbreaker” as it prepared to pay more than $2 billion to settle U.S. allegations that it helped facilitate a Malaysian bribery scheme.

Tech Executives

Progressives, however, have raised concerns about Biden’s team for the Office of Management and Budget, which includes Brandon Belford of Lyft, Mark Schwartz of Amazon Web Services and Airbnb’s Divya Kumaraiah. OMB houses an office which reviews regulations across the federal government, and they fear Biden’s appointments telegraph a light regulatory touch for tech giants.

Liberal activists are also wary of Bridget Dooling’s addition to the budget team. Dooling is a professor at George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center, which favors expanding the use of cost-benefit analysis in regulation — an approach that could curtail ambitious approaches to rule-writing.

Meanwhile, the Biden transition team for the Transportation Department signals another departure from Trump’s deregulation push, which froze or curbed numerous safety and consumer measures.

Voters in cities powered Biden to victory, and he rewarded them by stocking his transition team with transit veterans and labor leaders. The Transportation Department review team is led by Phillip Washington, CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Biden’s DOT team also includes leaders of transit and transportation planning agencies in New York, Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Bay area. Another member is Polly Trottenberg, commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation, who has been mentioned as a possible Transportation secretary in the Biden administration.

Biden’s team is peppered with figures from organized labor, which played a role in delivering critical swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. They include representatives of the Teamsters, United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters and the Transport Workers Union.

“I think there’s significant representation for working families,” Larry Willis, president of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department.

Trump’s team for the Transportation Department included critics of robust federal infrastructure spending like the late Shirley Ybarra, a former senior transportation policy analyst at Reason Foundation. Other members of the Trump transition’s DOT transition team came from the private sector.

Trump’s team for the Pentagon included former executives at defense contractors Boeing Co., Elbit Systems of America and Cubic Corp., as well as several retired Army officials. Trump’s presidency was marked by a steady increase in defense spending, which the president frequently touted on the campaign trail.

Biden’s team includes several Obama veterans who served in national security posts before decamping to left-leaning think tanks, like Center for a New American Security and New America, as well as RAND Corp. Kathleen Hicks, a former defense official under Obama now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is the team leader.

Women make up more than half of Biden’s Pentagon team, whereas there was only one woman among Trump’s Defense Department transition advisers.

Updated: 11-12-2020

Republican Senators Say Biden Should Get Intelligence Briefings

GOP lawmakers back Trump’s efforts to challenge election, but say president-elect needs to be prepared.

Some Senate Republicans backed giving President-elect Joe Biden access to classified White House intelligence briefings, saying such a step wouldn’t undercut President Trump’s efforts to challenge the election result.

Asked by reporters Thursday whether Mr. Biden should have access to intelligence briefings now, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) said: “I have no problem with that.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) said: “I think so,” in brief remarks in a hallway interview.

Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas.) said he supported Mr. Biden having access to intelligence information, even if it isn’t the presidential briefing.

“Whether he actually gets the product itself, I think the information needs to be communicated in some way,” he said. “If, in fact, he does win in the end, I think they need to be able to hit the ground running.”

So far GOP leaders have unified around Mr. Trump’s refusal to acknowledge Mr. Biden as the president-elect. While some centrists, retiring lawmakers and critics of Mr. Trump have congratulated Mr. Biden and urged the transition to begin, most Republicans have backed Mr. Trump’s efforts and not pushed back against his allegations of widespread voter fraud. No evidence of significant voter fraud has surfaced.

As of Thursday morning, the General Services Administration hasn’t issued a technical designation that would allow Mr. Biden’s staff to view detailed classified information, send representatives to embed with government agencies and have the State Department facilitate calls with foreign leaders.

The delay could also hamper Mr. Biden’s selection of cabinet officials because the ability to conduct background investigations for security clearances is frozen.

Earlier this week, Mr. Biden called Mr. Trump’s unwillingness to concede an “embarrassment” but said it wouldn’t impede his White House transition. On access to classified information that would come with an official administration designation, he said: “It would be nice to have it, but it’s not critical.”

Pointing to national security concerns, more than 160 former senior intelligence, military and diplomatic officials who worked for presidents of both parties sent a letter to Emily Murphy, the head of the GSA, urging her to designate Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris as the election’s winners and move forward with the transition.

Democrats said Republicans’ support for Mr. Trump’s efforts was fanning misinformation.

“Congressional Republicans are deliberately casting doubt on our elections for no other reason than fear of Donald Trump,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.). “These Republicans are all auditioning for profiles in cowardice.”

Republicans have signaled they are willing to give Mr. Trump several weeks to pursue his legal challenges to the presidential election. Some GOP lawmakers and aides said they hoped to have the fight concluded by Thanksgiving at the latest, while others looked to a pair of official state deadlines in December as the outer bounds of when Mr. Trump could continue his challenges.

“At an appropriate time, and I believe we’re close to that, the transition process will start and intelligence briefings will be a part of that,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R., N.C.), adding that could happen as soon as next week.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), while declining to say when briefings should begin, argued that providing them to Mr. Biden wasn’t at odds with Mr. Trump’s effort.

“You don’t lose any of your rights in court by making available to a potential successor the information they would need,” he told reporters.

White House officials and advisers to the president also expect the legal push to conclude by early December. Once the vote is certified, and if Mr. Biden is the winner, the White House will start the transition process, a White House official said. Many Trump advisers and administration officials privately say that they believe that Mr. Biden will be the next president.

There is no plan in place to either privately or publicly encourage Mr. Trump to accept his loss, according to Republican lawmakers and aides.

Currently, the Trump campaign is pursuing lawsuits seeking to block the certification of state results. Many Republicans believe the next several weeks will set the stage for Mr. Trump to concede the election, if lawsuits and recounts don’t call Mr. Biden’s win into question.

GOP lawmakers also said they hoped that the certification process, due in early December, would help bring a sense of finality to conservative voters who don’t trust media outlets to project the winner. Mr. Trump has repeatedly questioned election calls for his opponent.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), who is retiring in two years, said Mr. Biden was “likely to be certified as the president-elect relatively soon” after the legal disputes had been resolved. “That’s all part of this process. It’ll be done soon enough and I think the outcome will be clear,” he said in a video interview with the Washington Post on Wednesday.

GOP lawmakers, who chalk up their gains in the House and strong showing in the Senate contests to Mr. Trump’s presence on the ballot, aren’t eager to confront Mr. Trump, given his influence with voters and donors, and any showdown could split the party.

Adding to the challenge are the two early January Senate runoffs in Georgia, of which Republicans must win at least one to maintain control of the Senate. Republicans are wary of doing anything to depress turnout among Georgia’s GOP voters, many of whom are strong supporters of Mr. Trump.

States are supposed to resolve any outstanding issues about results by Dec. 8, the deadline for states to certify their electoral votes and the electors who will cast them in the Electoral College. The electors meet in the capitals of their respective states on Dec. 14 and vote to finalize their state’s election results.

Congressional Republicans are slowly and incrementally moving past refusal to acknowledge the outcome of the presidential election, with some backing the notion of taking initial steps in the transition process.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas was among the GOP lawmakers saying that President-elect Joe Biden should get presidential-level classified briefings, if not the Presidential Daily Brief itself.

“Whether he actually gets the product itself, I think the information needs to be communicated in some way,” Cornyn told reporters Thursday. “I think he should get the information.”

He and the others, however, stopped short of recognizing Biden as the winner of the election.

President Donald Trump has steadfastly rejected the outcome, making unsubstantiated accusations of vote fraud in key states that he claims will overturn results and keep him in the White House. With Trump still holding sway over GOP voters, Republicans in Congress have largely followed the president’s lead. Only four Republican senators have congratulated Biden on winning.

Biden said Tuesday that he had not been given access to classified information or to non-public non-classified information. He also said he wasn’t receiving the Presidential Daily Brief. However, he downplayed the impact.

“Obviously the PDB would be useful but it’s not necessary,” he said. “I’m not the sitting president now.”

Trump began getting access to the brief, a compilation of threat information and intelligence reports, about a week after the 2016 election. His opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, had already conceded the morning after the election.

Cornyn is a member of the Intelligence Committee and was just re-elected himself. “It’s part of the transition,” he said of the briefings. “If in fact he does win in the end, I think they need to be able to hit the ground running.”

Other Senate Republicans had similar comments, including Chuck Grassley of Iowa and James Lankford of Oklahoma.

Lankford said in a radio interview in his home state Wednesday that as of now it “looks like” Biden is winning and said he’d step in by Friday to try and ensure he gets full intelligence briefings.

He told reporters Thursday he’s still not conceding that Biden has won, noting states had not yet certified results and some are doing recounts. He said the process for challenging the results should be allowed to play out.

“Both sides need to have access to the information because we don’t know who the president is going to be,” Lankford said.

Republican Senator Mike Rounds said they have to work out transition issues soon because Biden has “a pretty good chance” of becoming president once vote counts are finished and certified.

Biden also has not had access to funding, office space and other resources normally turned over the president-elect during the transition. The Trump-appointed administrator of the General Services Administration, has not yet declared Biden as the apparent winner, a step necessary to unlock funding and access.

Susan Collins of Maine, one of the four Republican senators to congratulate Biden, along with Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Lisa Murkowski, said Biden should get transition assistance immediately.

“President-elect Biden should be receiving intelligence briefings right now,” she said. “In addition like any apparent winner, he should have access to office space, federal employees, materials, supplies whatever but the standard assistance that the apparent winner receives.” She said that wouldn’t stop Trump from pursuing a legal challenge but that “should not delay the transition.”

Trump’s allies, including Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson, are also on the prowl for any evidence that could help Trump’s case.

“My committee has jurisdiction over USPS and the federal workforce. I’m asking anyone who knows of irregularities related to mail-in or absentee ballots to contact our confidential whistleblower hotline,” he tweeted Wednesday.

Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, another Trump loyalist, has also been pursuing allegation of fraud, claiming on Fox News Thursday morning that signatures had not been properly verified on mail-in ballots in Nevada and perhaps other states.

Updated: 11-15-2020

Biden Turns Up Pressure For Administration Recognition

Government’s refusal to recognize election result imperils Covid-19 response, top Biden aide says.

President-elect Joe Biden’s top adviser said Sunday that a government agency’s delay in officially acknowledging his electoral victory could hinder his efforts to prepare for the distribution of a coronavirus vaccine, among other critical issues.

Ron Klain, named to become Mr. Biden’s White House chief of staff, said Sunday that the transition team would press the General Services Administration this week to issue a designation that would allow his aides to meet with Health and Human Services officials over the looming logistical hurdles of manufacturing and distributing a vaccine for Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“There are people at HHS making plans to implement that vaccine. Our experts need to talk to those people as soon as possible so nothing drops in this change of power we’re going to have on January 20th,” Mr. Klain said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

He also noted that Mr. Biden’s coronavirus advisory board can’t contact the White House coronavirus task force or Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, without that designation.

The Trump administration hasn’t issued a typically routine technical designation that would allow Mr. Biden’s staff to view detailed classified information, send representatives to embed with government agencies and have the State Department facilitate calls with foreign leaders.

The delay could also hamper Mr. Biden’s selection of cabinet officials because the ability to conduct background investigations for security clearances is frozen.

The GSA designation has become the focal point in the polarized debate around whether President Trump should concede after Mr. Biden earlier this month secured the electoral votes necessary to become the next president, according to the Associated Press and major media organizations.

While Senate Republicans have largely backed Mr. Trump’s legal challenges to the election’s outcome, an increasing number have called for Mr. Biden to receive intelligence briefings as part of a transition.

An aide to Mr. Biden’s transition team said they hoped to “continue a dialogue” with the GSA about the certification but didn’t elaborate on what other measures are under consideration to compel the matter. Mr. Biden’s team has said legal action is a possibility, but aides are hoping to resolve the issue absent litigation.

Dr. Fauci said in a CNN interview Sunday that the government’s public health officials “of course” would be more effective if they could work with Mr. Biden’s incoming team.

Mr. Trump didn’t comment directly on the issue Sunday, but he retweeted a post about veterans from Emily Murphy, the head of the GSA, saying, “Great job Emily!”

In past elections, the GSA, an agency that manages real estate and other government logistics, has sent letters identifying the winner within days of the election being called by the AP and other major news organizations, before the results were made official by the Electoral College. The only time the results of the election weren’t formalized quickly was in 2000, when the results of the election weren’t known until December.

Mr. Biden has been meeting with transition advisers daily and is expected to announce more senior staff in the coming week. On Monday, he will deliver remarks on the economy from Wilmington, Del. Mr. Biden will be joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Mr. Trump hasn’t conceded the election, but has made recent comments suggesting he believes Mr. Biden won. On Sunday morning, referring in a Twitter message to Mr. Biden, said: “He won because the Election was Rigged.”

But he quickly reversed himself, saying later on Twitter that Mr. Biden “only won in the eyes of the FAKE NEWS MEDIA. I concede NOTHING!”

Mr. Trump continues to make allegations of widespread voter fraud. No evidence of significant voter fraud has surfaced, and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf last week said the presidential contest was “the most secure election in U.S. history.”

More than 10,000 backers of Mr. Trump rallied in Washington on Saturday, many supporting his assertions about the elections. The demonstrations led to violence between pro-Trump and anti-Trump activists who skirmished around the city into the night.

Mr. Trump’s campaign also sent out a fundraising email Sunday arguing that the election had been rigged against Mr. Trump. “Biden did not win, he lost by a lot!” Mr. Trump said in the email.

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, said Sunday on Fox News that Mr. Trump wasn’t conceding the election.

“No, far from it,” Mr. Giuliani said of the president. “He’s contesting it vigorously in the courts.”

Democrats said Mr. Trump’s tweet should pave the way for the GSA designation to proceed.

“Trump tweeted this morning that ‘Joe Biden won.’ There is absolutely no excuse for the General Services Administration not to ascertain President-elect Biden’s victory in the 2020 election and initiate a peaceful transition of power,” Rep. Don Beyer (D., Va.) said Sunday on Twitter. “This should have happened a week ago.”

Mr. Trump’s effort to press legal challenges to the election outcome has faced setbacks. A state judge in Michigan on Friday denied a bid to stop certification of Detroit’s election results, while campaign lawyers moved to drop an Arizona legal effort seeking the same outcome in Phoenix. Judges in the Philadelphia area rejected requests from the Trump campaign to throw out almost 9,000 mail-in ballots over minor errors, such as a missing printed name or address.

Updated: 11-15-2020

Biden Fills Economic Posts With Experts On Systemic Racism

Previous administrations haven’t made race scholarship such a clear priority.

When it comes to economic policy, President-elect Joe Biden is putting racial disparities high on the agenda as he assembles his administration.

The incoming president tapped Mehrsa Baradaran, whose book “The Color of Money” is a key reference on the racial wealth gap, to prepare the Treasury Department for the transition. She’s joined by Lisa Cook, an economist at Michigan State University, on the “landing team” for the Federal Reserve and banking and securities regulators. They are among more than 500 experts who will focus on race as they shape Biden’s policies on issues like housing, health and small-business lending. Baradaran declined to comment, and Cook referred questions to the Biden team.

Observers say they’ve never seen expertise about race figure so prominently in economic roles.

“It’s an incredible signal to the Black community,” said Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman, co-founder of the Sadie Collective, a nonprofit working to get more Black women in economics. “This administration is going to be focused on thinking about: ‘How do we build up Black wealth? How do we close this racial wealth gap?’”

Disparities in economic opportunity and achievement have been a prominent topic in the U.S. this year, since the summer’s widespread demonstrations against racism and police brutality. Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Raphael Bostic, the first Black Fed president in the central bank’s 106-year history, has said systemic racism is both an economic and a moral issue.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are emphasizing diversity as they prepare to assume power next year. Women comprise more than 50% of the new administration’s landing teams, according to the transition team, and more than 40% of advisers are from groups that are historically underrepresented in the federal government, like racial minorities, people with disabilities and those who identify as LGBTQ.

“Having these individuals who are representative of their community in the actual room where they can voice their perspective and have their perspective actually translate to policy — it matters more than you think,” Opoku-Agyeman said. Next, she said, she will watch to see whether progressive-leaning advisers can drive policy change.

Among Biden’s Other Experts On The Racial Wealth Gap Are:

* Don Graves, who leads the Treasury landing team. He’s a former Obama administration official and was head of corporate responsibility at KeyBank until he joined the campaign in September.

* Bill Bynum, who will advise the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. He’s chief executive of the Hope Credit Union.

* Tene Dolphin, who will serve on the Commerce Department’s landing team. She’s the first executive director for the Greater Washington Black Chamber of Commerce.

Such personnel decisions hint at the incoming administration’s emphasis on addressing disparities.

“Inequality in our economy causes a lot of problems,” said Ben Zipperer, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute. “There’s a growing awareness that we can actually do something about it.”

Updated: 11-16-2020

Biden Turns To A New Generation For Economic Advice

His transition team is progressive and has some big ideas, but they’ll also be practical.

To prepare for his transition of power, President-elect Joe Biden has created agency review teams tasked with understanding the operations of various government bureaucracies. Those appointments provide clues to how he might govern.

In the case of economic policy, Biden looks set to empower a younger generation of empirically-minded progressive economists who take a pragmatic view toward fighting recessions and inequality.

Biden’s review team for the Council of Economic Advisers consists of three economists: Martha Gimbel of the philanthropic foundation, Schmidt Futures; Damon Jones of the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago; and Jay Shambaugh of George Washington University.

Shambaugh has the most experience in the world of government and policymaking, having served two previous stints at the Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama and also as the director of the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project. Though his academic research deals with trade and exchange rates, Shambaugh has written on a large number of big policy issues — the COVID-19 pandemic, wage growth, automatic stabilizers, climate change, and many more.

Jones, the most academically oriented of the group, has written papers on a broad array of public policy programs including education, basic income, Social Security, retirement plans, tax refunds. Gimbel has spent most of her career in the private sector and has primarily focused her work on jobs and employment.

The lineup hints at the dismaying breadth of challenges the Biden administration will be facing. Covid-19 is still raging, and the recession it spawned threatens to outlast the pandemic for years. Wage stagnation, rising inequality and increasing precarity have plagued the U.S. economy for decades. Behind it all looms the dread specter of climate change.

Picking experts with enormous breadth like Shambaugh and Jones suggests that Biden will be thinking very hard about how to allocate political capital and decide which problems to attack first. The inclusion of Gimbel, though, suggests that getting the U.S. out of its pandemic-induced recession will probably be job No. 1.

The team also offers clues to Biden’s economic policy orientation and ideology. They’re supporters of more activist government, for both recession-fighting and in terms of addressing longer-term issues such as wage stagnation. Nor are they the neoliberal tinkerers of the 1990s, obsessed with targeted programs, clever incentives and fiscal limitations;

These economists are likely to advocate big, simple, powerful interventions. This approach reflects a changing consensus on the center-left — a realization that small tweaks won’t cut it against the big challenges of the new century.

But it’s also a very empirically driven group. Unlike many leftists whose positions are guided by a combination of high theory and pure ideology, these economists are extremely data-oriented and pragmatic.

They represent not the rejection of mainstream economics that leftists would like, but rather a shift within the profession — a movement away from free-market theory and toward empirical analysis that often (though not always) shows the effectiveness of government intervention.

There’s more than just the CEA transition appointments for sussing out Biden’s inclinations on economic policy, with teams assessing the Treasury Department, the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of the United States Trade Representative and more.

It’s difficult to draw conclusions from people with such a broad array of backgrounds, from tech companies to regulators to academia, but the selections generally telegraph a combination of pragmatism and progressivism.

And there are a few more clues here and there. The trade team includes Council on Foreign Relations economist Brad Setser, who has tirelessly railed against trade imbalances and currency manipulation by foreign exporters. That appointment strongly suggests that Biden will not be returning to the free-trade consensus of the pre-Trump era, but will instead take a harder line against Chinese competition in particular.

Lily Batchelder, a specialist on taxation who has suggested an innovative new type of inheritance tax, is on the Treasury team, suggesting that the Biden administration is thinking about taxing the very wealthy at higher rates.

This sort of tea-leaf reading can’t answer the question of what Biden will actually be able to accomplish. Pushing through big changes will be a tall order with a probable Republican-controlled Senate and a number of conservative Democrats, and Biden will probably be forced to resort to small-bore executive action in many cases.

But it’s clear that Biden will preside over a new type of Democratic administration — one that’s at least willing to aim high and contemplate bold action against a variety of problems, rather than contenting itself with small tweaks and competent management. That’s the kind of administration the U.S. could use more of.

Updated: 11-20-2020

Biden Adds More Experienced Hands To White House Senior Staff

President-elect Joe Biden is beefing up his White House staff with experienced officials, naming four senior members who are veterans of either the Obama administration or the former president’s campaign.

Campaign Vice Chair Cathy Russell, who serves on the Biden transition advisory board, will be the director of the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. She worked in President Barack Obama’s White House for 8 years.

Louisa Terrell currently leads legislative affairs for the Biden-Harris transition team and will continue in that role in the White House as director of the Office of Legislative Affairs. In the Obama administration she served as special assistant to the president for legislative affairs and previously served as Biden’s chief of staff when he was in the U.S. Senate.

Carlos Elizondo will become White House social secretary. He was special assistant to the president and social secretary to Joe and Jill Biden for all eight years of the Obama administration, and was the first Hispanic person to serve in the role.

Mala Adiga will become policy director for Jill Biden. Adiga was a senior adviser to Jill Biden and a senior policy aide on the Biden-Harris Campaign.

In a statement, Biden said he was “proud” of the staffing additions and the perspectives they bring to the role.

“Their dedication to overcoming the challenges facing our country today are rooted in their diverse backgrounds and experiences,” Biden said. “They will serve the American people and help build back better, creating a more just, equitable, and united nation.”

Biden is building his administration even as President Donald Trump delays the official transition process by refusing to concede.

Updated: 11-22-2020

Trump Continues To Challenge Election Results As Legal Options Dwindle

Some Republicans signal a need to end the fight; Biden camp prepares to govern.

A defiant President Trump continued efforts to contest the outcome of the election, as his legal options narrowed and a number of Republicans expressed frustration with his refusal to acknowledge defeat.

Despite pressure to concede, Mr. Trump’s team over the weekend sought fresh avenues to reverse his loss to President-elect Joe Biden. They pledged to appeal a federal ruling in Pennsylvania that dismissed one of their lawsuits and filed a recount petition in Georgia after the election results were certified with Mr. Biden the winner.

The president continued to allege election fraud in a series of tweets on Saturday and Sunday—no evidence of widespread fraud has emerged—but his campaign faced dwindling options to contest the outcome of the Nov. 3 election. Michigan is scheduled to certify its results Monday, which is also the deadline for Pennsylvania counties to do so.

Many members of the president’s political party have supported his attempts to contest the results in court since Mr. Biden was declared the winner. The General Services Administration also hasn’t issued a typically routine technical designation that would allow the president-elect and his team to access key resources.

But while no representatives from the president’s campaign or legal team appeared on the Sunday talk shows to discuss their strategy, some Republicans took to the airwaves to signal that it was now time for the fight to end.

“The voters spoke,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R., Mich.) on “Inside Politics” on CNN. “In Michigan, it’s not a razor-thin margin, it’s 154,000 votes. You’ve got to let those votes stand.” He added: “It’s over.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that Mr. Trump’s efforts to pressure state legislators in Michigan to overturn the election results were “completely outrageous.”

“We’re beginning to look like we’re a banana republic,” Mr. Hogan said. “It’s time for them to stop the nonsense.”

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said on ABC that he was a supporter of the president, but “elections have consequences and we cannot continue to act as if something happened here that didn’t happen.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) said on Twitter that Mr. Biden should get intelligence briefings. And Sen. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.) argued on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he supported letting the legal process play out, though he also said it was acceptable to allow the transition process to begin.

“I informed my staff well over a week ago they have to cooperate with any transition outreach,” he said. “We want to be prepared.”

The president has responded by denouncing his fellow Republicans on Twitter. On Saturday, after Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming both issued statements expressing impatience with Mr. Trump’s legal moves and unwillingness to concede, Mr. Trump responded with false allegations of widespread voter fraud, and suggesting that Ms. Cheney and Mr. Toomey didn’t support him because they opposed his administration’s policies.

On Sunday, Mr. Trump continued to fire back at those who called on him to accept the election result, attacking Mr. Hogan on Twitter shortly after the governor’s television appearance.

“Hogan is just as bad as the flawed tests he paid big money for!” the president wrote, a reference to a report last week in the Washington Post that 500,000 Covid-19 tests Mr. Hogan acquired from South Korea during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic were faulty and never used.

Mr. Biden’s designated chief of staff accused the president of undermining the democratic process and warned that the refusal to start the transition process could have serious consequences. “A record number of Americans rejected the Trump presidency and since then, Trump has been rejecting democracy,” Ron Klain said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Mr. Klain made it clear that, despite a failure of the president to concede, the Biden transition team was making preparations to govern, and said the president-elect’s team would announce its first set of cabinet picks Tuesday.

Mr. Klain said the Biden team is moving forward with transition planning, working on policy plans and appointing staff, but said it was hampered by the GSA delay in acknowledging Mr. Biden’s victory. He also expressed concerns about coordinating on plans for distributing Covid-19 vaccines.

“Our transition isn’t getting access to agency officials to help develop our plans and there’s a lot of focus on that vaccine-rollout plan that’s going to be critical in the early days of a Biden presidency,” Mr. Klain said. “We have no access to that.”

Mr. Klain said the Trump administration’s “position is that we’re just supposed to trust them that this is going to work out. I think that’s a hard sell to the American people.”

He also said that Mr. Biden’s inauguration will have to be scaled back because of the pandemic. “Obviously, this is not going to be the same kind of inauguration that we had in the past,” he said.

Mr. Trump kept up defiant rhetoric on Twitter over the weekend, saying Saturday: “Hopefully the Courts and/or Legislatures will have the COURAGE to do what has to be done to maintain the integrity of our Elections, and the United States of America itself. THE WORLD IS WATCHING!!!”

In the Pennsylvania ruling Saturday, U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann said the Trump campaign had used the lawsuit to attempt to discard legally cast votes. Judge Brann said the lawsuit was marred by “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations…unsupported by evidence.”

The ruling marks a significant legal setback for Mr. Trump, who has pressed advisers to find victory in the courts before battleground states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania certify wins for Mr. Biden on Monday.

President Trump’s legal advisers said Saturday night that they disagreed with Judge Brann’s opinion and would make an expedited appeal to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in hopes of quickly getting a hearing from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Federal officials have confirmed no evidence of widespread fraud, and have said the election was conducted without interference and was secure from tampering or rigging.

Updated: 11-23-2020

Michigan Election Board Certifies Victory For Biden

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers on Monday certified the Nov. 3 election results, and Pennsylvania officials moved closer to ratifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, following efforts by President Trump and his supporters to delay final approval of the outcome.

Certifying the vote in the two states would help cement Mr. Biden’s victory and create new hurdles for Mr. Trump’s legal attempts to overturn the election results. The Trump campaign and its supporters have filed lawsuits and pressed election boards to halt or delay certifications in battleground states in what historians and election-law experts say amounts to an unprecedented effort to subvert the vote.

The Michigan board’s vote came after Republican pressure to take the extraordinary step of rejecting certified vote counts from the state’s 83 counties. The Republican National Committee had urged the board to delay certification to allow an audit of results in Wayne County, where questions were raised over clerical errors and access for observers to watch the mail-in ballot count.

In Pennsylvania, individual counties are scheduled to certify results Monday and send them to state officials, who then will finalize the vote totals.

A federal judge over the weekend dismissed a Trump campaign lawsuit seeking a delay in the certification. A federal appeals court granted expedited review to a Trump campaign request to make new arguments in that lawsuit, part of the president’s last remaining legal attempts to contest the election results

Mr. Biden leads by more than 80,000 votes in Pennsylvania.

Another battleground state, Nevada, is scheduled to certify results Tuesday, while Wisconsin is set to certify its vote count on Dec. 1, following a partial recount.

Certification is a step toward naming the slate of electors that each state sends to Washington to vote for president in the Electoral College, scheduled to meet on Dec. 14.

In Michigan, the usually obscure state canvassing board came under heightened scrutiny for a certification vote that typically is a formality.

Republicans had asked the board to look closely at Wayne County, where the local canvassing board initially deadlocked in its own certification vote over the concerns in Detroit. The two Republican members changed their vote but then unsuccessfully tried to change their vote again, asking for an audit.

Mr. Biden won 68% of the vote in Wayne County overall and 94% in the city.

The RNC’s request echoed a demand by John James, the Republican U.S. Senate candidate who lost to incumbent Democrat Sen. Gary Peters in unofficial results, to look into discrepancies in poll records for Detroit and surrounding Wayne County, and the processes Detroit officials used for counting a record number of mail-in ballots.

Mr. James’s campaign sent the state board 30 pages of arguments and affidavits from people who say they witnessed problems with absentee vote-counting at Detroit’s convention center during Election Week.

No evidence of widespread fraud has emerged in Michigan or other states. Federal officials have said the 2020 election was conducted securely and fairly.

Under the RNC’s plan, the audit would be finished on Dec. 7, just in time to meet a congressional deadline to choose Michigan’s electors for president.

Michigan and Detroit election officials have said the election was a success and that any irregularities were clerical in nature, common across the state and didn’t affect the outcome. They said Republicans had the same access as Democrats to watch mail-in-ballot counting in Detroit and that there were social-distancing rules in effect because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has said her office would conduct an audit of the results after they were certified.

Overall, the poll-book imbalances are likely to equal fewer than 1,000 votes out of the 878,102 cast in Wayne County, according to Chris Thomas, a former director of Michigan’s elections who served as a consultant to Detroit in the election.

Tensions at the convention center boiled over the day after Election Day, when dozens of poll challengers were locked out of the counting room. Groups of Trump supporters gathered outside the building, yelling “Stop the count.”

Wayne County and Detroit election officials said they had run up against capacity limits. Afterward, Republican poll watchers filed affidavits as part of state and federal lawsuits alleging they had witnessed misconduct and possible fraud.

“To simply gloss over those irregularities now without a thorough audit would only foster feelings of distrust among Michigan’s electorate,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and Michigan GOP chief Laura Cox said in a joint letter to the state canvassing board.

The Trump campaign has dropped a federal lawsuit to delay certification of Michigan’s results. And a state judge rejected a conservative group’s lawsuit seeking a delay in the results, saying its witnesses’ affidavits were insufficient to justify stopping certification; a subsequent appeal also was rejected.

One Republican, Norman Shinkle, said last week that he would consider voting not to certify the election if he saw credible evidence of irregularities or misconduct. Mr. Shinkle said he had received more than 1,000 emails from people across the political spectrum.

Detroit’s Black leaders have said Republicans were trying to disenfranchise a majority-Black city that votes for Democrats. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit last week against Mr. Trump on behalf of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and three Detroit residents. The suit alleges the president violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by pressuring state and local officials not to count or certify votes.

“Our action seeks to protect the integrity of the votes cast by Black voters in Detroit from the president’s attempts to overturn the will of voters expressed at the ballot box,” Sherrilyn Ifill, the Legal Defense Fund’s president and director-counsel said in a written statement.


From Wall Street To Congress, Trump Allies Want To Move On

President Donald Trump is facing rising pressure from business leaders and prominent Republicans to begin a transition to President-Elect Joe Biden — or even concede defeat — as Trump’s long-shot legal challenges fail to gain traction.

Several key allies for Trump appeared to lose their patience over the weekend. Blackstone Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman, Trump’s highest-profile supporter on Wall Street, said Monday that he considers Biden the president-elect, while a group of business leaders and several former national security officials released separate open letters urging the start of a transition.

Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota — one of Trump’s staunchest allies — on Sunday called for the transition to Biden to begin, while GOP Senator Pat Toomey congratulated Biden on his victory on Saturday after Trump suffered another legal defeat in Pennsylvania.

Another Republican senator, Rob Portman of Ohio, wrote in an op-ed on Monday that it was time to “move forward.”

The comments show a growing chorus acknowledging that Biden won the election — or is all but certain to — and that delaying the transition of power risks impeding critical programs like the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic. Still, only a minority of Republicans have spoken out, and several have taken a hedged stance that Trump should begin the transition while continuing his legal fight.

But even the court challenges are losing support. Longtime Trump adviser Chris Christie said Sunday the president’s legal team had become a “national embarrassment” after pushing conspiracy theories about voter fraud in a series of bizarre media appearances.

Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland — who’s an outspoken Trump critic — responded to an insult the president tweeted about him by telling Trump to “stop golfing and concede.”

Other national-level figures, most notably Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have declined to speak out so far.

On Monday, a group of over 100 leading GOP national security experts pressured Republican lawmakers to demand Trump concede the election and immediately begin the transition. “It has been clear for over two weeks that Joe Biden won the 2020 Presidential election,” they wrote.

The signers included former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, who served under President George W. Bush, former CIA Director Michael Hayden and John D. Negroponte, who served as director of national intelligence.

The president’s time is running out, as states including Michigan and Pennsylvania prepare to certify their election results as soon as Monday, sealing Biden’s victory. Pennsylvania Republicans filed another lawsuit on Sunday seeking to block certification.

“It’s past time to start a transition, to at least cooperate with the transition. I’d rather have a president that has more than one day to prepare, should Joe Biden, you know, end up winning this,” Cramer told Meet The Press on Sunday.

Cramer said the election is “very likely” over but isn’t yet over, and gave Trump leeway to keep up his legal fight. “I don’t know why we’re so easily offended by a president that’s carrying out all of his legal options in court,” he said.

More Republicans Say It’s Time For Trump To Start Transition

More than 100 executives plan to send a memo on Monday demanding that Emily Murphy, head of the General Services Administration, affirm that Biden has won the election and issue the paperwork required for his team to begin a transition.

“Every day that an orderly presidential transition process is delayed, our democracy grows weaker in the eyes of our own citizens and the nation’s stature on the global stage is diminished,” they write, according to a draft of the letter.

The memo was first reported by the New York Times, while the security officials’ letter was first reported by the Washington Post and Schwarzman’s public acknowledgment of Biden’s victory was first reported by Axios.

“I supported President Trump and the strong economic path he built,” Schwarzman said in his statement. “Like many in the business community, I am ready to help President-elect Biden and his team as they confront the significant challenges of rebuilding our post-Covid economy.”

Biden’s team has become more vocal in calling for the transition to start, warning that the delay could impede the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine and hinder other key government programs. Biden plans to begin naming his cabinet this week.

Trump has pursued a range of unconventional moves to undo the election result and has frequently claimed without substantiation that the vote was rigged. Trump has even pressured some state lawmakers to overrule voters and award their states’ Electoral College votes to him instead of Biden, a move that no senator has backed and Toomey called illegitimate.

Most senators, though, have stayed silent, avoiding the risk of angering the outgoing president who remains popular with Republican voters and who has a record of attacking those who cross him politically.

Angering Trump and his supporters risks suppressing GOP turnout in a pair of runoff elections in Georgia that will determine whether Republicans keep a majority in the Senate.

On Sunday, Senator David Perdue of Georgia backed Trump’s request for a third count of Georgia’s ballots, this time including a review of signatures on absentee ballot envelopes — even though the ballots have long since been separated from those envelopes to ensure voter privacy.

Trump has increasingly sparred with Republicans who demand proof of fraud, such as House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, or who say they think Biden won, such as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. The president is now openly stoking a primary challenge against DeWine.

Trump’s also racing ahead to lock in his policies, such as accelerating troop withdrawals from foreign posts and ratcheting up tension with China. He briefly took part in Group of 20 sessions this weekend, but left each day’s program early to head to his golf course.

Republican dissent had been growing before the weekend. Senator Mitt Romney said Trump is trying to “subvert the will of the people.” Retiring Senator Lamar Alexander said Friday that Biden “looks like he has a very good chance” of winning. Former president George W. Bush has also congratulated Biden.

Portman’s op-ed said that “there is no evidence as of now of any widespread fraud or irregularities that would change the result in any state” but stopped short of crowning Biden. “In the likely event that Joe Biden becomes our next president, it is in the national interest that the transition is seamless and that America is ready on Day One of a new administration for the challenges we face.”

But Trump’s attempts suffered another blow Saturday, when a federal judge in Pennsylvania threw out a lawsuit aimed at blocking certification of the state’s election results. Toomey said that Trump had “exhausted all plausible legal options” in Pennsylvania, and that it was time to concede that Biden had won.

Calls for Trump to either present evidence or concede have also grown in the aftermath of a press conference Thursday, featuring lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell.

They alleged a range of unspecified fraud, with Powell accusing Venezuela, China and George Soros of conspiring to defraud American voters and insisting that Trump had won. By Sunday, the Trump campaign had distanced itself from Powell. In a joint statement, Giuliani and Ellis said that Powell isn’t a lawyer for the Trump campaign or Trump personally.

Ellis had described the three lawyers as Trump’s “elite strike force team” at the news conference.

But even if legal challenges continue, many Republicans say the transition process should still be underway to ensure a smooth handover on critical issues like the coronavirus task force’s work fighting the pandemic.

“Clearly, it would be better if the Biden task force was able to coordinate, learn from and provide insight to and from the White House task force. It would just be better,” said Michael Leavitt, a former Utah governor who served in Bush’s cabinet, including as health secretary. He, like many Republicans, has argued that the legal fight doesn’t preclude a transition process from starting. “I’m one of those who believes these processes can be carried out simultaneously, and should be.”

Moncef Slaoui, one of the senior officials leading the Trump administration’s push to fast-track a vaccine, told Meet The Press on Sunday that he’d been instructed not to share any details with anyone not in the administration. He said he thought the process would go smoothly regardless.

“All the decisions are made. The train is running. Whether one administration or the other, it doesn’t frankly make a difference. I hope there is no disruption in any way,” Slaoui said.

Updated: 12-15-2020

McConnell Recognizes Biden As President-Elect After Holdout

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recognized Joe Biden as the winner of the U.S. election the day after the Electoral College confirmed his victory — a pivotal moment that further cements President Donald Trump’s defeat.

“The Electoral College has spoken,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “So today I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.”

McConnell also discouraged Republican senators during a conference call from joining any move to object to the Electoral College outcome when Congress convenes Jan. 6 to formally count the results.

Until Tuesday, McConnell had declined to acknowledge Biden’s win, saying the president was entitled to pursue his claims in court, even as Trump-backed cases were dismissed by numerous judges. The Supreme Court last week turned away an effort to toss out election results in states won by Biden.

Biden told reporters he called McConnell Tuesday to “thank him for the congratulations” and told him there are issues where they can work together.

“We’ve always been straight with one another and we agreed to get together sooner than later and I’m looking forward to working with him,” Biden said.

Yet even as McConnell and other Republicans are acknowledging the election results, Trump still refuses to concede. He continued to tweet unfounded claims of voter fraud in the Nov. 3 election after McConnell spoke.

McConnell later told reporters he had no advice to offer Trump but said the Electoral College vote was “determinative.” A person familiar with a GOP conference call Tuesday also confirmed a Politico report that McConnell urged colleagues not to sign on to a Jan. 6th challenge of the electors, which would force Republicans to take a tough vote.

Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said GOP senators on the call were encouraged “to accept the results” even if it wasn’t the outcome they wanted and “to try to do what’s best for the American people, which is to look forward.”

She told reporters at the Capitol that “there wasn’t any pushback to it. There wasn’t anybody saying ‘Oh, wait a minute.’”

A Trump ally in the U.S. House, Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, said he still plans to contest the electoral vote count next month. There is no chance the Democratic-led House would indulge any further attempts to overturn the election results. Even if a senator raises an objection, it’s clear from the comments from McConnell and others it would be doomed to fail.

Senior Republican senators began acknowledging Biden’s victory after the Electoral College voted on Monday, with retiring Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee urging Trump to put the country first and ensure a smooth transition to the incoming Biden administration.

Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of the GOP leadership, told reporters Tuesday afternoon that the message to senators was less “actively whipping” against contesting the election and more “explaining the futility of the situation.”

McConnell led into his public congratulations to Biden with a lengthy and laudatory recitation of Trump’s record, including “the bold leadership” that resulted in the distribution of a vaccine for the coronavirus faster than most experts had predicted.

He also cited the “once-in-a-generation” overhaul of the tax code, elimination of the individual mandate under Obamacare, increased U.S. energy production and his action on trade.
Working With Biden

After the Electoral College confirmed Biden’s victory on Monday, the president-elect told supporters that seven “mostly senior” Republican senators had called him, “saying they want to work with us.”

He didn’t name any of the lawmakers but predicted that “as Donald Trump’s shadow fades away, you’re going to see an awful lot of change.”

Several other GOP senators publicly recognized Biden’s victory on Monday. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters, “It’s time for everybody to move on.”

The No. 2 Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin of Illinois, thanked McConnell for his statement as well as the other Republicans who have now acknowledged Biden’s win. But Durbin said it was “sad and disappointing” for it to take six weeks after the election to do so with democracy under threat.

“I believe we have such a moment here that demands leaders of both parties to carry out their oaths of office and defend our treasured democracy,” Durbin said. “Quite simply, silence is unacceptable.”

Georgia Runoffs

Senate Republicans had hesitated to oppose Trump’s false claims about the election results in part because they need his base to show up for Georgia’s two Jan. 5 runoff elections. Those races will determine whether Democrats retake the Senate majority with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting tie-breaking votes.

Trump’s efforts to fight the election results have been backed by both Georgia senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who face challenges from Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

McConnell’s recognition of Biden’s win comes as Congress and Trump have yet to agree on an omnibus spending package to fund the regular operations of government, as well as more than $900 billion in additional relief for the coronavirus-battered economy.

Putin Acknowledges Biden’s U.S. Election Win For First Time

Russia’s president says he is ready to cooperate with the incoming Biden administration.

Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his election win after it was confirmed by the Electoral College, but some senior Russian officials said they were doubtful that the coming change in the White House would improve the antagonistic relationship between the two nuclear powers.

In a message to Mr. Biden on Tuesday, the Russian leader expressed confidence that Russia and the U.S. “which bear special responsibility for global security and stability, can, despite their differences, really contribute to solving many problems and challenges that the world is currently facing.” He added that he was “ready for interaction and contacts” with Mr. Biden.

His outreach came a day after the Electoral College formalized Mr. Biden’s win, confirming that he had secured more than the 270 votes needed to take office next month. It also followed the disclosure this week that Russia’s foreign-intelligence service is suspected of being behind hacks at several federal government agencies, including the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments. Moscow has denied the charges.

But some senior Russian officials remain skeptical that a Biden administration will usher in significant changes in relations between Moscow and Washington.

“We are not interested in personalities, we are interested in bilateral interaction in global issues,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told state news channel Zvezda TV on Sunday. “And, unfortunately, we do not see anything dramatic in terms of improving bilateral relations…from the change of people in the White House,” she said.

Moscow and Washington have been at odds in recent years over a raft of issues including Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, accusations of Kremlin-endorsed interference in the U.S. 2016 presidential election and Russia’s involvement in the war in Syria. The U.S. has imposed numerous sanctions on Moscow, exacerbating the mutual distrust between the two nations.

Russia’s initial hopes for renewed ties with the U.S. under the Trump administration fell flat over several issues, including Washington’s efforts to undermine Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project to Germany, although Mr. Putin did praise President Trump’s efforts to seal an oil deal that stabilized crude prices earlier this year.

A month before the U.S. vote, Mr. Putin noted what he described as then-presidential nominee Mr. Biden’s sharp anti-Russian rhetoric. Mr. Biden once referred to Mr. Trump as “Putin’s puppy.” At the same time, the Kremlin leader said he was encouraged by Mr. Biden’s stance on arms control.

The president-elect has said he would extend the New START treaty, a nuclear arms-reduction agreement that expires in February, and use it as a foundation for working out other arms-control arrangements.

China Is The Latest Foreign Country To Recognize Biden As President-Elect

After days of silence, China on Friday congratulated Joseph R. Biden Jr. on his election as president of the United States, signaling a start to its relations with the incoming administration after years of hostility and distrust under President Trump.

“We express our congratulations to Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a daily news conference, referring to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. “We respect the choice of the American people.”

China is the latest foreign country to acknowledge Mr. Biden’s victory in the past week. Several authoritarians who enjoyed mostly amicable relations under Mr. Trump have remained quiet, including President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil.

China’s Foreign Ministry had previously sidestepped the question of when it might comment publicly on Mr. Biden’s victory, saying it would respect American laws and procedures for determining the winner of the election — a line that Mr. Wang repeated on Friday after conveying China’s congratulations.

For China, relations with the United States have deteriorated to their lowest point in decades during the Trump administration, which has taken confrontational stances on trade, technology, human rights and a host of other issues.

While the tone from American officials may become less strident under Mr. Biden, few expect him to reverse Mr. Trump’s policies on China right away.

Mr. Biden’s views on China have hardened since he was vice president under President Barack Obama. On the campaign trail, Mr. Biden called the country’s top leader, Xi Jinping, “a thug,” and he has said that China’s rise represents the “greatest strategic challenge” to the United States and its allies.

After Extended Delay, Mexico’s Lopez Obrador Congratulates Biden

Mexico’s president on Tuesday congratulated U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on his election victory, ending weeks of waiting that generated sharp rebukes from allies of Biden who said the delay threatened to harm bilateral relations.

At his daily morning press conference, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he sent the incoming American leader a letter praising Biden’s “triumph” after he was certified on Monday as winner of the state-by-state Electoral College vote that officially determines the U.S. presidency.

The two-page letter, dated Dec. 14, was quickly published on social media by Mexican officials.

Lopez Obrador’s recognition of Biden’s win over President Donald Trump confirmed Reuters reporting from last week that the Mexican leftist would wait until the victory was affirmed by the electoral vote.

For weeks following the Nov. 3 U.S. election, Lopez Obrador was part of a shrinking club of world leaders who declined to recognize Biden, repeatedly arguing it was prudent to wait until Trump’s legal challenges ended.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin congratulated Biden just a few hours before Lopez Obrador. Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has yet to recognize Trump’s loss.

Mexico’s delay led to a growing chorus of criticism from U.S. Democrats, including high-ranking members of Congress, who said the Mexican leader’s caution could do long-lasting harm to relations.

In his letter, Lopez Obrador stressed Biden’s pro-immigrant stance and suggested working together on the thorny issue, following years of Trump’s unprecedented threats to do more to reduce the flow of U.S.-bound migrants from Mexico.

“I also want to express my recognition of your position in favor of Mexican and the world’s migrants, which will allow the continuation of our plan to promote development and well-being in southeast Mexico and among the countries of Central America,” Lopez Obrador wrote.

He also called for the two countries to work together while respecting each other’s sovereignty.

Updated: 12-28-2020

New York Post Tells Trump To ‘Give It Up’ Over Election Claim

President Donald Trump’s continued effort to overturn the Nov. 3 election results got a front-page rebuke from one his most loyal backers: the New York Post.

“Mr. President, it’s time to end this dark charade,” the New York City tabloid’s editorial board wrote in Monday’s edition. The paper, which endorsed Trump for president, tells Trump to “Give it up,” adding “for your sake and the nation’s.”

Trump is a regular reader of the New York Post. When he cut off White House subscriptions to certain newspapers last year, the Post wasn’t one of them. Paper copies have been delivered to the White House throughout his presidency.

Before the election, a columnist for the newspaper, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., called Trump an “invincible hero.”

The paper had also made a controversial decision to publish an expose on the contents of the laptop said to belong to President-elect Joe Biden’s son, Hunter — information the Post said was provided by Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Since Joe Biden’s victory, however, the Post has been backing away from Trump and his continued unfounded claims of fraud.

“You had every right to investigate the election. But let’s be clear: Those efforts have found nothing,” the Post said Monday. “To take just two examples: Your campaign paid $3 million for a recount in two Wisconsin counties, and you lost by 87 more votes. Georgia did two recounts of the state, each time affirming Biden’s win. These ballots were counted by hand, which alone debunks the claims of a Venezuelan vote-manipulating Kraken conspiracy.”

The paper goes on to criticize some of the advice he’s been receiving recently and some of the advisers. “Sidney Powell is a crazy person. Michael Flynn suggesting martial law is tantamount to treason,” the paper said, referring to the Texas lawyer and Trump’s disgraced former national security adviser. “It is shameful.”

The Post warned Trump that by focusing on Congress’s normally pro forma certification of the Electoral College results on Jan. 6 in an attempt to persuade lawmakers to throw out the election results, he’s taking attention away from the Jan. 5 run-off election for two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia that are key to Republican efforts to control the chamber.

If the GOP loses in Georgia, Trump’s legacy will be undone by a Democratic Congress, the paper said.

“Democrats will try to write you off as a one-term aberration and, frankly, you’re helping them do it,” the Post editorial said. “The King Lear of Mar-a-Lago, ranting about the corruption of the world.”

Updated: 12-28-2020

Republican Electors Cast Unofficial Ballots, Setting Up Congressional Clash

Pro-Trump electors pin hopes on House, Senate counting their alternative votes, a tactic constitutional scholars say is unlikely to work.

When Nevada Democrats gathered on Dec. 14 to cast Electoral College votes for Joe Biden, the winner of the state’s presidential election, Shawn Meehan and his fellow Silver State Republicans held their own meeting and voted for President Trump.

Mr. Meehan was among pro-Trump electors to cast symbolic ballots for the president in at least seven states he lost, hoping Congress will accept their votes—and not those cast by electors for Mr. Biden—on Jan. 6, when it officially counts the Electoral College votes.

“Trump won, and we have a duty to cast our votes,” said Mr. Meehan, 54 years old, a retired veteran of the U.S. Air Force. “We’re preserving our right while there’s ongoing litigation.”

Election-law scholars and historians say the effort is political theater and the votes hold no legal weight because they weren’t certified by state officials. Alexander Keyssar, professor of history and social policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, compared the GOP meetings to playing dress up.

“The slate might appear to be valid, but it isn’t being put forth by any governmental or legislative body,” said Mr. Keyssar, who has written books about the Electoral College.

When Americans vote for president, they are actually voting for a slate of electors who have pledged to support the candidate in the Electoral College, the official mechanism for choosing a president. Each state is given a number of electors based on its population. A candidate must win a certified popular vote in a state or, in some cases, a congressional district, for his or her slate to be recognized in Congress. Mr. Biden won the Electoral College, 306 to 232.

Some Trump supporters say the elections in swing states Mr. Biden won were so problematic that Congress should disregard the results and award the votes to Mr. Trump’s electors.

Many of the pro-Trump electors acknowledge that something would have to break Mr. Trump’s way in the next week-and-a-half—a favorable court ruling or a federal investigation—to make their votes meaningful or shift the official results in Mr. Trump’s favor.

Former Attorney General William Barr and other federal and state officials have said there was no evidence of voter fraud widespread enough to affect the election. The Trump campaign and other Republicans have lost multiple election challenges in several swing states.

Several Republican members of Congress have signaled they will support the 11th-hour attempt to undercut Mr. Biden’s victory at Congress’s Jan. 6 joint session, which Vice President Mike Pence oversees. Members of Congress can raise objections to one or more slates of electors.

If one representative and one senator object together, both chambers deliberate separately and vote on whether to accept it. The process could happen multiple times until Congress ascertains Mr. Biden has won at least 270 electoral votes, the threshold needed to win.

Mr. Biden has adequate support to prevail. The Democrats control the House and top Republicans who now control the Senate have discouraged any last-minute challenge to Mr. Biden’s electoral votes or supporting alternate electors.

The Biden transition team didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. In a Dec. 14 speech after the Electoral College vote, Mr. Biden denounced Mr. Trump’s ongoing efforts to overturn the election.

“President Trump was denied no course of action he wanted to take,” Mr. Biden said. “Respecting the will of the people is at the heart of our democracy, even if we find those results hard to accept.”

The Trump campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment. The White House declined to comment.

Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller, in a Dec. 14 Fox News interview, promised to fight for the pro-Trump slates. “We’ll make sure that those results are sent up side by side to Congress,” he said.

State Republican parties and the Trump campaign helped organize the alternate Electoral College meetings in six states: Wisconsin, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Mexico and Nevada.

In Michigan, the Republican Party’s state leaders were largely absent from a meeting where electors voted, according to Marian Sheridan, a Republican elector. Trump campaign attorney Shawn Flynn gave the group instructions and was responsible for sending the paperwork to Congress, she said.

“We’re not replacing the electors in Michigan. We’re supplying an additional list should things get shaken up,” said Ms. Sheridan.

The Republican effort highlights doubts some Americans feel about the election results. Despite assurances from state and federal officials that it was a clean election, 77% of Republicans said Mr. Biden’s win “was due to fraud,” according to a poll conducted last month by Monmouth University Polling Institute. Meanwhile, Democrat and independent voters’ confidence in the election increased from 68% to 90% and 56% to 60%, respectively, pre-election to postelection.

“There’s enough evidence out there to put in the minds of 74 million Americans that this election was stolen,” said Anthony Kern, a Republican member of the Arizona House of Representatives and state elector, referring to the number of votes Mr. Trump received across the country.

For guidance, Republicans have pointed to the 1960 presidential election, the last time a state had rival elector submissions.

After a close race in Hawaii, state officials certified Richard Nixon as the winner and Republican electors cast votes at the Electoral College and submitted them to Congress. A subsequent recount showed John F. Kennedy had won and Democrats submitted their own vote.

Mr. Nixon, then the vice president, suggested Congress accept the Kennedy electors at the joint session “in order not to delay the further count of the electoral vote,” but said the decision wasn’t meant to establish a precedent. Hawaii’s three electoral votes weren’t significant enough to change the race’s outcome. No member of Congress objected and the Kennedy slate was accepted.

“President Trump’s plan is supposed to replicate that, but it is not supposed to be a cognizable strategy,” said Edward Foley, an election-law professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. “You can’t retroactively change who the electors of the state are after they vote.”

Updated: 12-31-2020

Biden Inaugural Ceremonies To Include Memorial To Virus Victims

President-elect Joe Biden will honor those who died in the coronavirus pandemic during his inauguration ceremonies with lights ringing the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.

Biden’s inaugural committee is also asking communities around the country to light up buildings and memorials at 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 19 in a “national moment of unity and remembrance.”

“In the midst of a pandemic — when so many Americans are grieving the loss of family, friends, and neighbors — it is important that we honor those who have died, reflect on what has been one of the more challenging periods in the nation’s history, and renew our commitment to coming together to end the pandemic and rebuild our nation,” said inaugural committee spokeswoman Pili Tobar.

Biden’s inaugural planners have asked supporters not to travel to Washington for his swearing-in because of health and safety concerns during the pandemic. Congress is only making limited tickets available to members and one guest. The congressional luncheon after the swearing in has also been canceled.

Updated: 1-20-2021

President Joe Biden Calls For Unity In Inaugural Address

Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the U.S. shortly before noon ET. Minutes earlier, Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president, the first woman to hold that role.

Mr. Biden is emphasizing themes of unity and recovery in his inaugural address, messages that he returned to repeatedly on the campaign trail on his way to victory over President Trump. “We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue,” he said.

Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama were in attendance.

Mr. Trump didn’t attend the inauguration ceremony. Instead, he left White House this morning for Florida. Mr. Trump vowed a return to the public stage. “I will be watching. I will be listening,” he said. “We will be back in some form.”

Mr. Biden is expected to sign a range of executive orders. The actions include revoking a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, and reversing a travel ban from several largely Muslim and African countries.

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