By LIBBY CATHEY, LAUREN KING and ADIA ROBINSON, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — President-elect Joe Biden is moving forward with transition plans, capping a tumultuous and tension-filled campaign during a historic pandemic against President Donald Trump, who still refuses to concede the election nearly two weeks after Biden was projected as the winner.
Trump has largely hunkered down inside the White House since the election while his administration stonewalls recognizing Biden as the president-elect. Biden, however, is forging ahead and stepping into the presidential spotlight, meeting virtually with the National Governors Association’s executive committee in Wilmington, Delaware, Thursday.
A growing number of Republican senators have called on the administration to start giving Biden classified intelligence briefings, a sign that support for Trump’s refusal to concede the election may be waning among his allies on Capitol Hill.
Though Trump has alleged widespread voter fraud, he and his campaign haven’t been able to provide the evidence to substantiate their claims with the majority of lawsuits already resulting in unfavorable outcomes.
Here is how the transition is unfolding. All times Eastern:
Nov 19, 12:53 pm
Michigan sec. of state confirms plans for a statewide risk-limiting audit
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson confirmed plans for a statewide risk-limiting audit of the election and local performance audits of individual jurisdictions in a statement Thursday.
Benson said the audit is “typical, standard procedure” and not a response to the claims of fraud or irregularities in the election, which she asserted have “no basis in fact.”
“Audits are neither designed to address nor performed in response to false or mythical allegations of ‘irregularities’ that have no basis in fact,” she said.
The announcement comes after the two Republican members of the Wayne County board of canvassers signed affidavits on Wednesday saying they were rescinding their vote to certify.
The two Republicans initially agreed to a certify in a compromise vote on Tuesday night — which involved in part, a commitment to an independent audit which was offered as a last-minute compromise on Tuesday night by the Democratic vice chair Jonathan Kinloch — before seeking to revoke that vote by Wednesday.
-ABC News’ Kendall Karson
Nov 19, 12:24 pm
Trump spoke with 2 GOP canvassers in Michigan on Tuesday night: Sources
The evening before two Republican canvassers on the Wayne County elections board signed affidavits seeking to rescind their votes to certify the election results, Trump spoke with both on Tuesday, sources tell ABC News.
It’s not immediately clear if their latest moves to reverse their votes were discussed. ABC News has reached out to both canvassers — Monica Palmer and William Hartmann.
Palmer, who is the chair of the board, told the Detroit Free Press that she spoke with the president about the threats to her safety.
“He was checking to make sure I was safe after seeing/hearing about the threats and doxxing,” she said, without saying if she discussed her decision on Wednesday to rescind her final vote.
-ABC News’ Katherine Faulders, Will Steakin and Kendall Karson
Nov 19, 10:51 am
Trump has dropped Michigan lawsuit — makes false claim that votes were not certified
The Trump Campaign has just voluntarily dismissed one of its lawsuits in Michigan before a judge was able to rule on it, citing the ongoing drama over the certification of election results in Wayne County — but falsely claiming the campaign got what it wanted.
The suit had sought to halt certification of results in the state, and the Trump campaign motion to dismiss incorrectly stated that “the Wayne County board of county canvassers met and declined to certify the results of the presidential election,” which is not true.
As ABC has reported, the two Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers late Tuesday night filed affidavits seeking to rescind their votes to certify the results, after they had already voted to approve.
A spokesperson for Michigan’s secretary of state has already shot down the idea that the two Republican members can change the certification.
The two affidavits were attached in the campaign’s filing dismissing its own suit.
In a statement, Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani said, “This morning we are withdrawing our lawsuit in Michigan as a direct result of achieving the relief we sought: to stop the election in Wayne County from being prematurely certified before residents can be assured that every legal vote has been counted and every illegal vote has not been counted.”
When reached by ABC News, an assistant for Mark Hearne, the lawyer on the case, referred all questions back to the White House.
The campaign has one other lawsuit pending in Michigan, which is being appealed.
Biden leads in the state by over 148,000 votes.
-ABC News’ Matthew Mosk and Olivia Rubin
Nov 19, 10:44 am
Wayne County Republican canvassers ask to ‘rescind’ their votes certifying election results
Michigan’s election certification process just got messier. The two Republicans on the Wayne County board of canvassers are now seeking to rescind their decision to certify their county’s results, a day after the deadline, in a pair of affidavits signed late Wednesday night.
Both Monica Palmer, the Republican chair of the county board, and William Hartmann, a Republican member, said after they initially voted against certifying the results, they were “enticed” Tuesday into affirming the election results after they said they were given assurances by the board’s vice chairman, Jonathan Kinloch, that the votes would be independently audited.
When asked late Tuesday night if she would commit to a comprehensive audit, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, hedged and only said she would look into it.
Kinlock confirmed to ABC News that he gave this assurance but added that he had been unable to reach the secretary of state on Tuesday night to get her commitment.
A spokesperson for the secretary of state is shooting down the possibility of the two Republican members rescinding their vote, saying it is out of their hands at this point.
“There is no legal mechanism for them to rescind their vote,” the spokesperson said. “Their job is done and the next step in the process is for the Board of State Canvassers to meet and certify.”
The number of votes at issue is too small to influence the outcome of the election. Biden currently holds a substantial edge over Trump in Michigan, leading by nearly 150,000 votes, which is almost 15 times the president’s margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016. In Wayne County, the state’s largest, Biden is ahead by over 300,000 votes with nearly 70% of the vote.
-ABC News’ Kendall Karson
Nov 19, 10:11 am
Damage from Trump’s defiance grows
The Trump campaign legal challenges — or what’s left of them — are no longer realistically about changing the outcome of the presidential election.
Instead, they appear to be about something even Trumpier than hanging on to the presidency. If the goal is to delay, sow confusion, raise doubts and thus keep questions lingering over the election in perpetuity — to maintain the fight for its own sake — the strategy begins to make sense.
So it is that Trump’s loyalists soldier through the end of the state-ordered recount in Georgia that will still leave Biden comfortably ahead; a Trump-backed recount in just [two Wisconsin counties], with no real hope of changing the statewide outcome; and continued challenges at various levels in Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Michigan, without evidence that Trump got more lawful votes in any of those states.
A cascading series of deadlines will almost certainly lead to Biden becoming president Jan. 20, whether Trump admits it or not.
In the meantime, threats aimed at election officials have become nearly commonplace — and bipartisan, as the secretaries of state in Arizona and Georgia attest. Polls are showing widespread Republican mistrust for the fairness of the election, while most Republican senators still hesitate before labeling Biden the president-elect.
In the view of a growing number of Democrats, Trump and his campaign are feeding misinformation that both delays the Biden transition and positions the president to lead the GOP going forward — regardless of the facts of this election.
“This is malicious speech, designed to damage and disenfranchise,” Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman said Wednesday on ABC News’ “Powerhouse Politics” podcast.
The impact would be real even in times of relative health and prosperity. These are not those times.
-ABC News’ Political Director Rick Klein
Nov 19, 9:56 am
Overview: Trump behind closed doors, Biden to meet with governors
Thursday brings another day for Trump hunkered down in the White House with no public events and another for Biden without access to federal resources allocated for the transition of power.
Biden has warned that his team could be “behind by weeks or months” on a vaccination program if coordination between the Trump administration and his transition does not begin soon, but even as the U.S. surpasses 250,000 coronavirus deaths, Trump refuses to concede and his political appointee GSA chief remains silent.
With a cascading series of deadlines approaching, the Trump team is running out of time to find a way to forgo Biden the presidency. The deadline to certify election results has already passed in 10 states, and in one week’s time, that number ticks up to 27 and will include the battlegrounds of Michigan — where GOP state leaders are brushing off idea to hand Trump election by replacing electors — and of Pennsylvania — where Trump’s bid for the Supreme Court to intervene hasn’t yet materialized.
In Georgia, the secretary of state’s office is expected to release the results of the statewide full hand audit around noon, ahead of a Friday certification deadline, but officials have maintained they expect Biden will keep his narrow lead. The Trump campaign has also filed for a partial recount in Wisconsin targeting two predominately-Black counties, but it’s highly unlikely to change the election outcome.
Though the campaign’s remaining legal challenges will not significantly change the election results — who got more votes — in any state, Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, manning the team’s legal efforts, will hold a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. at noon to push what they’re framing as a “legal path to victory” for Trump.
Pushing forward with their transition despite Trump’s roadblocks, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are meeting with some of the nation’s governors on Thursday to discuss the surging pandemic. It’s unclear how many Republicans will dial into the event, but Biden has long maintained he will need bipartisan support to implement mask mandates as a key tool to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, progressives are piping up to demand their voice isn’t shut out of the incoming Biden White House. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and a handful of new House members will hold a rally at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee to push the Biden administration for a “corporate-free” Cabinet and a focus on the threat of climate change.
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