The Latest: Aide says Biden will appoint ‘COVID coordinator’
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President-elect Joe Biden (all times local):
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain says President-elect Joe Biden will appoint a “COVID coordinator” who will lead the administration’s pandemic response.
Klain, speaking on MSNBC Thursday night, says the individual will have “direct access” to the president and will brief him daily on the pandemic. They will also have a team of people underneath them, who will coordinate vaccine distribution, address supply chain disruptions and improve access to testing.
Klain served in a similar role in 2014 under President Barack Obama, when he was the administration’s Ebola response coordinator.
His comments illuminate how the incoming Biden administration is considering addressing the pandemic when Biden enters office next year. This week, he announced a panel of doctors and public health experts tasked with turning his campaign trail proposals for tackling COVID-19 into actionable plans.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN’S TRANSITION TO THE WHITE HOUSE:
President-elect Joe Biden says he’s not worried that President Donald Trump has broken with tradition by not letting him read the ultra-secret daily brief containing the nation’s most sensitive intelligence before inauguration. Biden says he can’t make national security decisions yet anyway so he doesn’t need it.
— Biden’s plea for cooperation confronts a polarized Congress
— Trump’s silent public outing belies White House in tumult
— Few legal wins so far as Trump team hunts for proof of fraud
— Biden chooses longtime adviser Ron Klain as chief of staff
— Military wary that shakeup could upend its apolitical nature
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:
A Pennsylvania judge has sided with President Donald Trump’s campaign and ordered counties not to count a small number of mail-in or absentee ballots for which the voter didn’t submit valid identification within six days after the Nov. 3 election.
The injunction issued Thursday by Commonwealth Court Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt deals with an as-yet unknown number of ballots that may number a few thousand or fewer.
While the Trump campaign’s general counsel, Matt Morgan, called the order a “win,” the ballots affected may not have been tabulated and are unlikely to affect the outcome in Pennsylvania.
The Associated Press called the presidential contest for Democrat Joe Biden on Saturday after determining the remaining ballots in Pennsylvania would not allow Trump to catch up.
Biden held an approximately 55,000-vote margin Thursday night. But Trump has refused to concede, and his campaign and Republican allies have several lawsuits pending.
The court order affects a subset of about 10,000 ballots that arrived within three days of polls closing, a period allowed by the state Supreme Court because of concerns over the pandemic and delays in the U.S. Postal Service.
Former President Barack Obama says he’s troubled by the Republican officials who are “going along with” President Donald Trump’s baseless accusations of widespread voter fraud.
Obama made the comment in an interview Wednesday with CBS News. The full interview is set to air Sunday on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
Obama is promoting his new book, “A Promised Land.” The release date comes just days after Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden, was elected president over Trump.
Obama says the false claims about voter fraud are “one more step in delegitimizing not just the incoming Biden administration, but democracy generally.” He says it puts the U.S. on a “dangerous path.”
Trump has refused to concede the election to Biden. Obama says the false claims of voter fraud appear to be motivated by Trump not liking to lose.
President-elect Joe Biden has spoken with the top two Democrats in Congress — but not their Republican counterparts yet.
Biden’s transition team announced Thursday that he spoke by phone with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, thanking them for their congratulations and expressing “his commitment to uniting the country after a hard-fought campaign.”
The three spoke about “intensifying” the country’s coronavirus response and coping with the economic fallout the pandemic has inflected. They also discussed the “urgent need” to use the lame duck congressional session to approve bills on slowing the spread of COVID-19, as well as economic relief for “working families and small businesses, support for state and local governments trying to keep front-line workers on the payroll,” expanded unemployment insurance and expanded access to affordable health care.
Biden said Tuesday that he had not spoken to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, though the two have been friends for years.
Joe Biden is heading to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, for some time with his family for his first break from transition work since he became president-elect last weekend.
The Bidens own a vacation home in Rehoboth Beach, a small beach town about 90 miles from his house in Wilmington. It’s a favorite retreat of the Bidens, and the president-elect has returned there to mull over major decisions in the past. He spent time holed up in his Rehoboth home in August, while he considered his vice presidential pick.
Biden is not expected to have public events until at least Saturday night, when he returns to Wilmington, though aides say he’s expected to continue private transition meetings.
Biden’s transition work continued this week, with the announcement of his agency landing teams, groups of staff and volunteers tasked with gathering information at the federal agencies to help smooth the transition of power. Biden is expected also to review options for top-level staff and Cabinet appointees in the coming weeks.
President-elect Joe Biden has spoken by phone with Pope Francis as he continues to talk with leaders around the world.
Biden’s campaign said in a statement that the president-elect thanked the pontiff for “extending blessings and congratulations and noted his appreciation” for Francis’ “leadership in promoting peace, reconciliation, and the common bonds of humanity around the world.”
Biden also said he’d like to work with the pope to further “a shared belief in the dignity and equality of all humankind on issues such as caring for the marginalized and the poor, addressing the crisis of climate change, and welcoming and integrating immigrants.”
Biden is just the second Catholic to be elected president in U.S. history, and the first after John F. Kennedy. He has spoken openly about the importance of faith in his life and attends Mass near his home in Wilmington, Delaware, nearly every week.
Biden has spoken this week with several foreign leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Lewandowski recently traveled to Pennsylvania to assist Trump’s efforts to contest the state’s election results. He said Thursday he believes he was infected in Philadelphia and he’s not experiencing any symptoms.
Lewandowski appeared with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani at an event last Saturday outside a landscaping company and lobbed unfounded accusations of voter fraud as the race was called for Trump’s challenger, now-President-elect Joe Biden.
Lewandowski was also at the election night party at the White House last week linked to several virus cases.
Numerous White House and campaign officials have tested positive in this latest wave of infections, including Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows.
Republican and Democratic election officials nationwide have said publicly the election went well. International observers confirm there were no serious irregularities.
The group of prominent former leaders founded by Nelson Mandela says President Donald Trump’s continued assertions of election fraud without any compelling evidence convey “a lack or respect” for the integrity of U.S. institutions and “could have far-reaching consequences.”
The group is known as The Elders. It said Thursday in a statement Trump “should follow the example set by his predecessors and declare himself willing to accept the verdict cast” by voters.
Former Irish president Mary Robinson chairs The Elders and says it’s “shocking to have to raise concerns about U.S. democratic processes” as the group has done in Kenya, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.
The group calls on Republican leaders “to act responsibly in the interests of their country by supporting a smooth transition” to Democrat Joe Biden’s presidency.
Trump has insisted without evidence the election was stolen from him even though Republican and Democratic election officials nationwide have said publicly the election went well and international observers confirm there were no serious irregularities.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who was just reelected in South Carolina, says he’s donating $1 million of his campaign money to help two GOP senators win runoff races in neighboring Georgia.
Graham told Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” on Thursday that Republicans need to counter a “tsunami of liberal money” flowing into Georgia ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff elections, which will determine whether Republicans or Democrats control the Senate. Democrats already control the House, and Democrat Joe Biden is the president-elect after beating President Donald Trump in their White House contest.
In the Georgia runoffs, Democrat Jon Ossoff is looking to unseat Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Raphael Warnock is facing off against Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler.