Transition Live Updates: Formally President-Elect, Biden Looks Ahead to Stimulus

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Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times

In affirming Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the president-elect on Monday, members of the Electoral College firmly denied President Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of a free and fair election by using legal challenges and political pressure on his Republican allies.

The process took place smoothly. But the president’s unrelenting efforts to discredit the election that he lost by more than seven million popular votes and more than 70 electoral votes have left the Republican Party fractured.

While Mr. Trump spent Monday tweeting about a “Rigged Election!” and “massive fraud,” — allegations that were quickly flagged by Twitter as “disputed” — Mr. Biden, speaking from Wilmington, Del., just hours after the Electoral College formally cast its votes, forcefully condemned Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept the election results.

“‘We the people’ voted,” Mr. Biden said. “Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact. And so, now it is time to turn the page, as we’ve done throughout our history. To unite. To heal.”

In another positive development for Mr. Biden, who has pushed repeatedly for a bipartisan compromise on another economic stimulus to address the fallout from the coronavirus, a group of centrist members of Congress on Monday presented a pair of compromise measures totaling $908 billion intended to break the stalemate in negotiations.

The rare news of bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill came as some Republicans separated themselves on Monday from Mr. Trump’s charged complaints about the election. A Michigan congressman who voted for President Trump this year announced that he was severing ties with his party over its refusal to accept the president’s election defeat, while a Georgia elections official angrily denounced violent threats and harassment directed at elections workers and urged the president to “stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence.”

The president has increased his pressure campaign on members of his party in recent weeks, many of whom have fallen in line behind him out of fear for their political careers. On Monday, Attorney General William P. Barr, who had affirmed Mr. Biden’s victory, became a casualty as Mr. Trump announced that he would depart the Justice Department next week.

Despite a tenure where Mr. Barr had displayed a willingness to advance the president’s political agenda, he fell out of favor with the president in recent weeks after acknowledging that the Department of Justice had found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

The president’s closest allies in the House of Representatives are still eyeing a challenge to the Electoral College’s votes when Congress officially tallies them in a joint session on Jan. 6. The members of Congress, led by Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, have their sights set on challenging five states — Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and Wisconsin — where they claim that widespread voting fraud occurred, despite the fact that all five states have certified that the results are valid and that there is no evidence of any widespread impropriety.

Constitutional scholars and even members of the president’s own party say the effort is all but certain to fail. But the looming battle is likely to culminate in a messy and deeply divisive spectacle that could force Vice President Mike Pence into having to declare once and for all that Mr. Trump has indeed lost the election.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, in the Capitol on Monday.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Breaking with President Trump’s drive to overturn his election loss, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader and the most powerful Republican in Congress, said on Tuesday that the Electoral College’s vote had removed any doubt that Joseph R. Biden Jr. would be the next president.

“Many of us hoped that the presidential election would yield a different result, but our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on Jan. 20,” Mr. McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor, after weeks of declining to recognize Mr. Biden’s win. “The Electoral College has spoken. So today, I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.”

He also congratulated Senator Kamala Harris of California, referring to her as the vice president-elect.

“Beyond our differences, all Americans can take pride that our nation has a female vice president-elect for the very first time,” Mr. McConnell said.

The majority leader did not directly address Mr. Trump’s continued and baseless allegations of widespread voting fraud or fantastical claims that he had won the election by a wide margin. Instead, Mr. McConnell effusively praised the president for his four years of service, spending several minutes listing what he said were important achievements in domestic and foreign policy before he ever mentioned Mr. Biden’s name.

“The outsider who swore he would shake up Washington and lead our country to new accomplishments at home and abroad proceeded to do exactly that,” he said.

The Pentagon’s original lockup, Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, last year.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The incoming Biden administration has yet to lay out plans for the Guantánamo Bay military prison on the U.S. Navy base where leftover fragments of the Bush administration’s most disputed responses to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks remain unresolved three presidencies later.

In the past year, prisoners have told their lawyers about sloshing raw sewage in their cells, flickering power, extreme water temperatures and other problems wrought by tropical rain inside the prison complex’s most secretive and highest-security facility, called Camp 7, which houses the 14 former C.I.A. detainees who were brought to the base starting in 2006 from overseas black site prisons.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is not expected to repeat President Barack Obama’s splashy but ultimately unmet promise in 2009 to close the prison within a year, according to people familiar with transition deliberations. A law prohibits bringing detainees to a domestic prison, as Mr. Obama had proposed doing, and Mr. Biden said during his campaign that congressional consent is needed to close Guantánamo.

But the new administration will be forced to confront several difficult decisions, such as what to do about the deteriorating building holding the 14 prisoners and how soon the State Department will resume negotiations to find secure arrangements for detainees who are approved for transfer to other countries.

Of the 40 prisoners currently at Guantánamo, nine have been charged with or convicted of war crimes, six have been recommended for transfer with security conditions in the receiving country, and the rest remain in indefinite detention, uncharged but deemed too dangerous to release.

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. speaks about the Electoral College vote certification in Wilmington, Del.
Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. declared that it was “time to turn the page” on the 2020 election in a speech Monday evening, just hours after the Electoral College formally cast its votes for him to replace President Trump on Jan. 20.

Just over a month before he will be inaugurated as the 46th president, Mr. Biden hailed the record-breaking turnout in the presidential campaign, calling it “one of the most amazing demonstrations of civic duty we’ve ever seen in our country” and saying that it “should be celebrated, not attacked.”

Mr. Trump has sought for weeks to reverse the outcome of the election, offering baseless and unproven accusations of voter fraud in the swing states that delivered the victory to Mr. Biden. The president has refused to concede while he and his allies have undermined faith in the country’s democratic system of governance.

Mr. Biden denounced the attacks on voting by the president and his allies, calling them “unconscionable” and saying that no election officials should ever face the kind of pressure they received from Mr. Trump in recent weeks to falsely proclaim the election to be fraudulent.

Anticipating potential complaints from Republicans, the president-elect noted that Mr. Trump and his legal team were “denied no course of action” as they challenged the legitimacy of the election before Republican-appointed judges, with Republican legislatures, and in desperate conversations with Republican officials at the state and local levels.

None wavered in their determination that the election was fairly conducted, Mr. Biden said.

In his speech, he expressed confidence that the defining feature of American democracy — its electoral process — would survive Mr. Trump’s assault.

“What beats deep in the hearts of the American people is this: Democracy,” Mr. Biden said. “The right to be heard. To have your vote counted. To choose leaders of this nation. To govern ourselves. In America, politicians don’t take power — people grant power to them.”

As he has for weeks, Mr. Biden kept his focus on the raging coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 300,000 people in the United States. Though emergency medical workers and others have begun receiving the first doses of a vaccine, Mr. Biden warned that the months ahead will be difficult.

“There is urgent work in front of us,” he said. “Getting this pandemic under control and getting the nation vaccinated against this virus. Delivering immediate economic help so badly needed by so many Americans who are hurting today — and then building our economy back better than it ever was.”

He also called for unity on a day in which electors in many states performed their duties under threat of violence.

“The flame of democracy was lit in this nation, a long time ago,” Mr. Biden added. “And we now know nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame.”

Immigration groups have called for Alejandro N. Mayorkas, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s pick for homeland security secretary, to roll back some Trump administration policies.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Alejandro N. Mayorkas, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security, will immediately face the challenge of rolling back President Trump’s restrictive immigration policies, while balancing demands from the left for more lenient policies with those of the moderates who see any show of tolerance as an instigator to an uptick in illegal migration.

While Mr. Trump’s approach to legal and illegal immigration has been more extreme than that of several previous administrations, the balancing act is a challenge Mr. Mayorkas has faced before.

“Many have taken great issue with the administration’s removal of individuals who have not qualified for refugee status or asylum status in the United States and our practice of removing those who have not qualified for relief under law,” Mr. Mayorkas said during a 2016 address at Georgetown Law when he was the deputy secretary of the department under former President Barack Obama. “Whether we expand the basis of which we seek to welcome these individuals fleeing for a better life is a question that is answered by thinking of who we want to be as a country.”

Many of the Trump administration’s policies cannot be immediately undone, and Mr. Biden is likely to face an early test of human consequences, as indicators suggest that migration will swell at the southwestern border with Mr. Trump’s pending departure.

In November, border officials apprehended a child crossing the border alone 4,467 times. That is a slight drop from the 4,661 in October, but a stark increase from the 712 recorded in April, when various countries imposed national lockdowns and the Trump administration invoked a public health emergency rule to put new border restrictions in place.

According to the Kremlin, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sent President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. a congratulatory telegram on Tuesday.
Credit…Pool photo by Alexei Nikolsky

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia’s tepid and tardy congratulation to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Tuesday — took place as Washington grapples with a massive hack of federal domestic and national security agencies attributed to malefactors in Moscow.

Mr. Putin, who has kibitzed frequently with President Trump by phone, waited nearly six weeks to offer his well wishes, and did so by telegram.

“Oh, how nice,” wrote Michael McFaul, President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Russia, on Twitter.

The two developments this week — the discovery of a major cyberattack followed by Mr. Putin’s perfunctory jab at the reset button — defined the expected trajectory of U.S.-Russia relations under Mr. Biden, a longtime Putin skeptic far less warm and welcoming than Mr. Trump.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2014, Then-Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. unsuccessfully pressed President Obama to increase arms sales to Kyiv to make Moscow “pay in blood and money” for its aggression.

In his 2017 memoir, Mr. Biden described a testy meeting with Mr. Putin at the Kremlin in which he wise-cracked, “I’m looking into your eyes. I don’t think you have a soul,” referencing President George W. Bush’s famous claim that Mr. Putin did indeed have one.

On Tuesday, after the Electoral College confirmed Mr. Biden’s victory, the Kremlin ended its wait and announced that Mr. Putin had sent the former vice president a “congratulatory telegram” marking his “victory in the United States presidential election.”

“Vladimir Putin wished the president-elect every success and expressed confidence that Russia and the United States, which bear special responsibility for global security and stability, can, despite their differences, effectively contribute to solving many problems and meeting challenges that the world is facing today,” the Kremlin’s statement said.

Mr. Putin had been one of the last major holdouts among world leaders in sending Mr. Biden the sort of congratulatory message that is routine in international diplomacy, even among adversaries. China congratulated Mr. Biden on Nov. 13, 10 days after Election Day.

President Andrzej Duda of Poland similarly waited until this week to congratulate President-elect Biden.

The Kremlin had said that since Mr. Trump had not conceded, it was waiting for an “official announcement” of the American election result. The delay in recognizing Mr. Biden as president-elect also allowed Russian state media to underline, for its domestic audience, what it cast as the chaos and illegitimacy of American democracy.

But the Kremlin also recognizes that it would need to work with Mr. Biden — not least on nuclear arms control, with a major treaty limiting American and Russian nuclear warhead numbers expiring on Feb. 5. Both Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin have signaled that they would like to extend the treaty, but they will not be able to make it official until after Mr. Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell all but ignored the Electoral College proceedings on Monday, but other Senate Republicans begrudgingly accepted the results.
Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Support for President Trump’s attempt to overturn his election loss began to collapse in the Senate on Monday after the Electoral College certified President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, with many of the chamber’s top Republicans saying the time had come to recognize results that have been evident for weeks.

While they insisted that Mr. Trump could still challenge the results in court should he wish, the senators said the certification should be considered the effective conclusion of an election that has fiercely divided the country. And after weeks of silence as Mr. Trump and others in their party sought to overturn the results in increasingly extreme ways, they urged their colleagues to move on.

“I understand there are people who feel strongly about the outcome of this election, but in the end, at some point, you have to face the music,” Senator John Thune of South Dakota, Republicans’ No. 2, told reporters in the Capitol. “And I think once the Electoral College settles the issue today, it’s time for everybody to move on.”

Even Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who initially fanned Mr. Trump’s claims of fraud in key battleground states, said he now saw only “a very, very narrow path for the president” and had spoken with Mr. Biden and some of his likely cabinet nominees.

“I don’t see how it gets there from here, given what the Supreme Court did,” he added, referring to the justices’ decision on Friday to reject a long-shot suit by Texas seeking to overturn the results in a handful of states Mr. Biden won.

The comments amounted to a notable and swift sea change in a body that for weeks has essentially refused to acknowledge the inevitable, although the shift was far from unanimous.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, stayed conspicuously silent on Monday, declining to acknowledge Mr. Biden’s victory. He dedicated his only public remarks to stimulus negotiations and ignored a question about the Electoral College proceeding shouted by a reporter in the Capitol.

It was unclear on Monday if those who relented were a harbinger of a larger shift by elected Republicans to accept Mr. Trump’s defeat, or a sign of a growing rift within the party between those willing to accept reality and those — a loyal core in the Senate and the vast majority in the House — who appear ready to follow him wherever he leads.

Mr. McConnell’s allies said that he would honor the election outcome come January, but did not want to pick a fight with Mr. Trump now, for fear of damaging Republicans’ chances in a pair of January Senate runoff elections in Georgia that will decide control of the chamber.

He is also concerned, they said, that doing so could jeopardize a string of year-end legislative priorities that will require the president’s signature, including a catchall spending measure and the stimulus package to address the continuing toll of the pandemic.

Mr. Biden defeated Mr. Trump by more than seven million votes, but the election wasn’t fully over until the Electoral College weighed in on Monday.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory was affirmed by the Electoral College on Monday, despite President Trump’s relentless promotion of conspiracy theories and attacks on the integrity of the results.

Here are four takeaways on the longer-term effects of Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept the outcome, Mr. Biden’s victory and the future of the democratic process in the United States.

Biden wins. Again.

Mr. Biden defeated Mr. Trump by more than seven million votes, but the election wasn’t fully over until the Electoral College weighed in, and that took place on Monday. The question now is how Republicans who have refused to acknowledge the election outcome will respond to this unsurprising news.

Many, including Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, had argued that the race had simply been called by the news media, and not yet by the Electoral College. Such an argument is now, of course, far more difficult to make, and support for Mr. Trump’s attempts to overturn the results began to collapse among Senate Republicans Monday evening.

Democracy prevailed, but at a great price.

Democracy is fragile, and built upon public trust. And while the outcome of this year’s race has been affirmed, the acid messaging of Mr. Trump and his allies threatens to weaken the pillars of the institutions that run America’s elections.

“The greatest danger to America is the naïve belief that there is something unique that guarantees America will remain a democratic civil society,” Stuart Stevens, a longtime Republican strategist turned vocal Trump critic, said on Twitter. “Much of a major party has turned against democracy. It’s foolish to believe that doesn’t have consequences.”

There are some dissenters. Representative Paul Mitchell of Michigan, who is retiring and served in House Republican leadership, said on Monday that despite voting for Mr. Trump last month, he was quitting the party for the remainder of his term, turned off by the efforts to overturn the election.

“I believe that raw political considerations, not constitutional or voting integrity concerns, motivate many in party leadership to support the ‘stop the steal’ efforts, which is extremely disappointing to me,” he wrote in an open letter to party leaders.

The system survived the messy 2000 recount and two presidents elected in the 21st century despite them losing the popular vote. The great unknown is the cumulative impact of those past bouts and this year’s further erosion of democratic norms on the next inevitably close and contested election.

We learned what Electoral College meetings actually look like.

One of the many unusual things about this election was that Americans were able to see what is usually a postscript to Election Day. The proceedings were carried by live video streams or even on television, and the country could see the solemnity and ceremony that accompany the process. The appointment of the officers for the day. The distribution of the secret ballots. The wait for the official count.

Republicans are (still) resisting reality.

Inside the Georgia Capitol, while Democratic electors gathered in the State Senate to cast their votes, elsewhere in the Capitol, a group of Republicans gathered for a shadow ceremony, anointing their own slate of pro-Trump electors. David Shafer, the Georgia Republican Party chairman, explained the vote of the nonelectors as a bid to keep Mr. Trump’s legal options open.

The Republican goal posts for when the election will be fully decided keep moving. The latest circled date is Jan. 6, when Congress has its final say on the election. Some Trump allies are organizing a floor challenge to Mr. Biden’s victory.

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