USA TODAY'S coverage of the 2020 election continues this week as states begin to certify their vote counts after President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the hard-fought presidential race. President Donald Trump has yet to concede the race as Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris prepare to take office in January.
Be sure to refresh this page often to get the latest information on the election and the transition.
Agency clears way for Biden transition to officially begin
A key Trump administration appointee said Monday she would allow President-elect Joe Biden to begin his official transition – paving the way for his team to get access to briefings, office space, secure computers and other government services needed for the transfer of power.
It marked a formal recognition by the Trump administration that Biden won the Nov. 3 election, even though the president has refused to concede and continues to make false allegations of voter fraud.
Emily Murphy, the Trump appointee who holds the keys to transition funds and tools, had delayed issuing an official determination that Biden won election as the Trump campaign filed a flurry of lawsuits challenging the results that show Biden with a clear electoral college victory.
– Deirdre Shesgreen
Michigan certifies Joe Biden’s election victory
Michigan’s elections board voted Monday to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state, avoiding a stalemate and a potential delay after three of four board members agreed they had a “legal duty” by state law to act.
The Board of State Canvassers, made up of two Democrats and two Republicans, voted 3-0 to certify results that show Biden defeating President Donald Trump by 154,187 votes in Michigan. One Republican board member abstained from voting.
The board’s vote, which followed three and a half hours of public comment, is usually a routine sign-off, but it was watched closely amid a climate of hyper-partisanship. Trump allies had urged Republican board members to block certification as the president levels baseless claims of voter fraud to falsely claim the election was stolen from him. Around 30,000 people tuned in on YouTube to watch the proceedings.
“We must not attempt to exercise power we simply don't have,” said Aaron Van Langevelde, the board's Republican vice chairman who broke with his GOP colleague. “In this case the law is absolutely clear. We have a clear legal duty to certify the results of the election as shown by the returns that were given to us. We cannot and should not go beyond that."
The vote followed a two-week period of double-checking vote tallies in Michigan's 83 counties, where some inaccuracies in the unofficial numbers, as is normal, were found and corrected. In Michigan’s Senate race, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat, defeated Republican John James by just over 92,000 votes.
Jonathan Brater, director of the Michigan Bureau of Elections, told the board no evidence showed widespread irregularities in Michigan, including in Detroit. He called it an “extremely well run and secure election."
But allies of Trump and James, as well as the Republican National Committee and Michigan Republican Party, pushed the board to postpone certification for two weeks. Laura Cox, chairwoman of the state party, said “too many questions” need answering and the state needs to first remove the “sense of procedural disenfranchisement felt by many Michigan voters.”
Chris Thomas, Michigan’s former director of elections of 36 years and widely respected by both parties, advised the board not to delay: "You're mandated to certify when you have the complete results. There's no reason to sit on it for 40 days. What would you be waiting for?”
The Trump team has suffered several losses in court as they've taken aim at election results in Michigan, Pennsylvania and other battleground states in a barrage of lawsuits.
Trump's legal advisor Jenna Ellis downplayed Michigan's election certification as "simply a procedural step" and vowed the Trump team would "continue combating election fraud around the country as we fight to count all the legal votes."
Trump allies wanted GOP members to block the vote to allow for an audit of ballots in heavily Democratic Wayne County, which includes Detroit.
The board's two Democrats, chairwoman Jeannette Bradshaw and Julie Matuzak, joined Van Langevelde in voting to certify.
Republican board member Norman Shinkle, who abstained from voting, made clear he wouldn’t vote to certify. He pressed Detroit city officials about the number of votes cast in Detroit being off by about 600 votes from pollbooks – discrepancies that are normal in elections – and argued Detroit didn't have enough Republican poll watchers.
But Jeff Timmer, a onetime executive director of the Michigan Republican Party and Trump critic who previously served on Michigan board of canvassers, said the board has “no discretion” and must certify the results. “It is mandatory.”
He called it a “routine administrative function” and noted the board certified election results “without fanfare” in 2016 despite Biden beating Trump in Michigan by a margin “15 times greater" than Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Biden, who won the election with a projected 306 electoral votes, did not need Michigan and its 16 electoral votes to win the presidency. But his Michigan victory marks an important showing for Democrats who sought to reclaim the former “blue wall” in the upper Midwest.
Had a stalemate ensued, Democrats were expected to ask the state court of appeals to intervene and order the board to carry out its constitutional responsibility and certify the election.
Last week, the Wayne County Board of Canvassers certified election results of Wayne County, Michigan's largest county that voted overwhelmingly for Biden, but only after the two Republican initially declined to certify.
At the Michigan Board of State Canvassers, Shinkle said prior to the meeting that he has many concerns, ranging from election equipment used in Michigan to the absentee voting process, to transparency issues, and he was leaning toward seeking a delay in certification. Shinkle's wife, Mary, was a Republican poll challenger at a voting center in Detroit and signed an affidavit used by the Trump campaign in a federal lawsuit that has since been withdrawn.
Last Friday, Michigan Republican state legislative leaders met with Trump in the White House. Trump’s legal team has increasingly floated a dubious legal strategy of asking GOP-controlled state legislatures in battleground states like Michigan to ignore the popular votes in their states and appoint a slate of electors for Trump.
In a joint statement afterward, Michigan’s Republican legislative leaders said they had “not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan.”
– Joey Garrison and Detroit Free Press
After progressive outrage over Barrett hearings, Feinstein won’t lead Judiciary Committee for Dems
Sen. Dianne Feinstein will not lead Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee next year after being slammed over her handling of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
The California Democrat, who served as the committee’s ranking member – meaning its top Democrat — since 2017, announced Monday she would not continue to lead the panel.
“After serving as the lead Democrat on the Judiciary Committee for four years, I will not seek the chairmanship or ranking member position in the next Congress,” Feinstein said in a statement. “California is a huge state confronting two existential threats – wildfire and drought – that are only getting worse with climate change. In the next Congress, I plan to increase my attention on those two crucial issues.”
Feinstein was heavily criticized by progressives after Barrett’s confirmation hearings last month to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. While Democrats excoriated Republicans over their quick push to confirm Barrett just days before the election and frequently called the hearings a sham, Feinstein praised the proceedings. She thanked Sen. Lindsey Graham, the top Republican leading the panel, over his “fairness” during the hearings.
"This has been one of the best Senate hearings I have ever participated in," Feinstein said at the conclusion of the proceedings.
Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, a progressive group that had called for Feinstein's ouster, said in a statement the senator's decision was a "necessary step" for Democrats if they wanted to "meaningfully confront" Trump's changes to the judiciary.
Feinstein will continue to serve on the panel, but it was not immediately clear who might replace her as the ranking member.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Monday night he would seek the position as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Although Durbin is a member of Senate Democratic leadership, he can also serve as the top Democrat on a committee.
“I have served on the Committee for 22 years, and I am its most senior member who does not currently serve atop another Senate Committee,” he said. “We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work on undoing the damage of the last four years and protecting fundamental civil and human rights.”
– Christal Hayes and Nicholas Wu
GOP Sens. Capito and Alexander says Biden/Harris should be able to start transition
In statements, Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., and Lamar Alexander joined a growing list of GOP lawmakers calling on the Biden/Harris team to be able to begin the transition.
More on transition: The GOP lawmakers who have called on Trump to acknowledge Biden win
Capito stated that despite voting for Trump, “Unfortunately, election results from around the country indicate that our fellow Americans chose differently" and she does "firmly believe in our electoral system and in the power of the voice of the people."
“I have been clear that President Trump—like any candidate for office—has the right to request recounts and to raise legal claims before our courts. However, at some point, the 2020 election must end," she continued, stating there is no indication of widespread fraud.
She said they "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 January 20."
Alexander echoed this sentiment, saying it is his “hope President Trump will take pride in his considerable accomplishments, put the country first and have a prompt and orderly transition to help the new administration succeed.”
“When you are in public life, people remember the last thing you do,” Alexander concluded.
– Savannah Behrmann
Biden picks Janet Yellen to lead Treasury
President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Janet Yellen, the first woman to lead the Federal Reserve, to become the first woman to lead the Treasury Department, if she is confirmed.
Yellen became the first female chair of the Federal Reserve System in February 2014 during the Obama administration, after serving more than three years as vice governor. She previously served as head of the Council of Economic Advisers to President Bill Clinton.
She argued in August that Congress needed to approve additional stimulus to spur growth amid the coronavirus pandemic, as she wrote in an op-ed in the New York Times and told National Public Radio. As a member of the Climate Leadership Council, she supported taxing carbon emissions as the most efficient way to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
– Bart Jansen
Biden meets with mayors
President-elect Joe Biden met Monday with members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris spoke with about 50 mayors – including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti – by video conference from The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden spoke about the importance of tackling the coronavirus pandemic, as more cities and states adopt tighter restrictions to curb the spread of infections.
“Today is not a one-off meeting. It’s just a start,” he said. “We just have to come together as a country.”
Harris told the mayors she looked forward to being a “strong partner with you as we move forward.”
The meeting continued a series of online meetings with elected officials and outside experts as Biden prepares to take office Jan. 20, and as President Donald Trump continues to challenge the election results.
Biden met Friday with congressional Democratic leaders, Thursday with a partisan group of governors, Wednesday with frontline emergency workers and Tuesday with national security experts.
– Bart Jansen
Biden keeps to campaign pledge with diverse Cabinet picks
President-elect Joe Biden made good on his campaign commitment to have his appointments reflect the diversity of the U.S. population with several of his early picks for senior administration positions on Monday.
Biden announced he was nominating Alejandro Mayorka, a Cuban American who came to the U.S. in 1960 with his parents, to head the Department of Homeland Security. If confirmed, Mayorkas would be the first Latino to run the department since it was established in 2003. He would also be the first immigrant to head DHS, which has been at the center of several of President Donald Trump's controversial immigration policies.
Biden picked Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who served as the top U.S. diplomat overseeing African affairs in the Obama administration, to be his ambassador to the United Nations. She is expected to bring a markedly different tone and presence to the international body, which the Trump administration has derided and denigrated.
He also tapped Avril Haines to serve as director of national intelligence. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to head the U.S. intelligence community.
Biden also announced former Secretary of State John Kerry would serve as a special envoy on climate change. And Biden named Jake Sullivan, who served as his national security adviser during his tenure as vice president, to again fill that role for him as president.
– Bart Jansen and William Cummings
Grassley plans return to Senate after COVID-19 diagnosis
U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who tested positive for the coronavirus last week, said Monday he was doing well and plans to return to work in the Senate after Thanksgiving.
Thx for the continued support. I’m still feeling good + am keeping up on my reading & work from home I look fwd to being back in the Senate next wk after Thanksgiving
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) November 23, 2020
"Thx for the continued support," the Iowa Republican wrote in a tweet Monday morning. "I'm still feeling good + am keeping up on my reading & work from home I look fwd to being back in the Senate next wk after Thanksgiving."
Grassley's spokesman, Michael Zona, said the senator was reading several Iowa newspapers, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.
Grassley, 87, is in isolation at his Washington, D.C.-area home.
– Brianne Pfannenstiel, Des Moines Register
GSA to brief members of Congress on election transition
The General Services Administration, a normally obscure governmental agency thrust into the spotlight because of its refusal to grant transition resources to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, would brief lawmakers about the presidential transition on Nov. 30, according to a copy of the agency’s response to lawmakers obtained by USA TODAY.
In a letter sent last Thursday, House Democratic lawmakers summoned the agency’s administrator, Emily Murphy, to brief lawmakers by Monday. Democratic lawmakers have slammed the agency for its delay in formally recognizing Biden as the president-elect.
In its response to lawmakers, the agency said its Deputy Administrator, Allison Brigati, would hold a 30-minute video conference in the morning of Nov. 30 for the chairmen and ranking members of four different House committees – the House Oversight Committee and its Government Operations Subcommittee, and the House Appropriations Committee and its Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee.
The Democratic chairs of the committees, Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Nita Lowey, Gerry Connolly and Mike Quigley, replied to the agency and said they wanted a briefing tomorrow instead.
“We cannot wait yet another week to obtain basic information about your refusal to make the ascertainment determination," they wrote in a letter.
The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The GSA also offered an in-person briefing for the staff of the Senate Appropriations, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Environment and Public Works Committees later in the afternoon in the agency’s auditorium.
Democrats expressed concern the planned in-person briefing could pose health risks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee aide.
– Nicholas Wu
Biden names 2 staffers to help negotiate Congress
President-elect Joe Biden chose two staffers of top Democratic leaders in Congress to help his administration negotiate legislation, as he continues to fill out his White House staffing.
Reema Dodin and Shuwanza Goff were each named deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs.
Dodin works for Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the assistant minority leader. Goff works for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and became the first Black woman to serve as floor director, helping set the Democrats' legislative agenda and determining which bills reach the floor.
“The American people are eager for our Administration to get to work, and today’s appointees will help advance our agenda and ensure every American has a fair shot,” Biden said in a statement. “In a Biden administration, we will have an open door to the Hill and this team will make sure their views are always represented in the White House.”
– Bart Jansen
2 more members of Congress test positive for COVID
Reps. Bryan Steil, R-Wisc., and Joe Courtney, D-Conn., announced separately Sunday that they had tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the list of members of Congress who have contracted the virus to nearly three dozen.
“Last week, I learned that I was inadvertently exposed to someone who would later test positive for COVID-19, although they weren’t aware of their positive status at the time,” Courtney said in a statement. “Upon learning of that initial exposure, I immediately began following the strict isolation guidelines laid out by the CDC and by my doctor while I waited to get a coronavirus test. After my first test came back negative, I continued to isolate but began to experience mild symptoms. I got another test and, this evening I was notified that the second test came back positive."
Courtney said the experience reinforced his belief that "we’ve got to remain vigilant about wearing masks, social distancing, and the basic essentials like washing our hands frequently."
Steil said in a statement that he tested positive after he began to experience mild symptoms over the weekend. He said he would begin "immediately quarantining" but plans to continue to work from home.
– William Cummings
Biden to tap longtime adviser Blinken for secretary of state
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden will name Antony Blinken, a veteran foreign policy official and longtime confidant, as his secretary of state.
Blinken, who held top-level national security and State Department positions during the Obama administration, has worked side-by-side with Biden on foreign policy issues for nearly two decades.
The 58-year-old Blinken was Biden's staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for six years, starting in 2002. When Biden became vice president, Blinken became his national security director – before President Barack Obama elevated him to higher positions, including the No. 2 job at the State Department.
– Deirdre Shesgreen
Trump campaign disavows attorney Sidney Powell after controversy over conspiracy theories
After a week of media appearances in which she was pressed on her repeated claims of an international conspiracy to rig the presidential election without providing evidence, officials from the Trump campaign distanced themselves from attorney Sidney Powell, who had helped in the campaign’s lawsuits.
"Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity," Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Trump campaign attorney Jenna Ellis said in a statement on Sunday.
Though Giuliani said Powell is not a member of the legal team, she recently spoke alongside him at a news conference for the campaign where she alleged several election fraud conspiracies.
President Donald Trump recently included Powell in a tweet listing several attorneys he described as "a truly great team" working with Giuliani in his election lawsuits.
I look forward to Mayor Giuliani spearheading the legal effort to defend OUR RIGHT to FREE and FAIR ELECTIONS! Rudy Giuliani, Joseph diGenova, Victoria Toensing, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis, a truly great team, added to our other wonderful lawyers and representatives!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2020
In a series of media appearances, Powell has made numerous unfounded allegations about the presidential election. She has baselessly alleged that "thousands" of poll workers were secretly complicit in a conspiracy against Trump that included the CIA, Venezuela's deceased leftist leader Hugo Chavez, the Chinese government and unspecified forces of international communism. There is no evidence to support any of her claims.
During a NewsMax interview on Saturday, Powell added Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to her list of conspirators after he said the law required him to certify election results showing Joe Biden won the state. She claimed, without evidence, Kemp had received a payoff from a voting software company prompting former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to tell ABC News' "This Week" that Powell's behavior was "outrageous conduct by any lawyer."
"The president's legal team has been a national embarrassment," Christie said.
– Matthew Brown
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Election 2020 updates: Michigan certifies results showing Biden win