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Emily Murphy, head of the General Services Administration, said in a letter to President-elect Joe Biden on Monday that her office is ready to begin the formal presidential transition, after weeks of pressure from Democrats to allow the process to go ahead.

The letter came after a four-member canvassing board in Michigan certified that state’s election results, effectively awarding Michigan’s 16 electoral votes to Biden, who defeated President Trump with a margin of more than 155,000 votes.

Trump thanked Murphy in tweets Monday night and said he had recommended that she and her team “do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols.” But he also maintained, “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail!”

Earlier Monday, Biden announced several picks for top jobs in national security and foreign relations, and is also expected to name Janet L. Yellen as treasury secretary, according to three people in close communication with aides to the president-elect.

The nominations are: Alejandro Mayorkas to head the Department of Homeland Security, the first immigrant in that position; Avril D. Haines as director of national intelligence, the first woman in that position; and former secretary of state John F. Kerry as special presidential envoy for climate.

Here’s what to know:
  • Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris met virtually Monday with about 50 mayors.
  • Biden confirmed that he plans to name Antony Blinken as secretary of state, Jake Sullivan as national security adviser and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. See Biden’s picks so far for his Cabinet.
  • A group of leading GOP national security experts urged congressional Republicans to demand Trump concede the election and immediately begin the transition to the incoming Biden administration.
  • Four Republican senators — Rob Portman (Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Bill Cassidy (La.) — joined the ranks of those acknowledging Biden as the apparent winner and urging the Trump administration to allow the transition to go forward.
  • Former president Barack Obama, in a live interview hosted by The Washington Post, praised Biden’s national security and foreign relations picks, some of whom served in his administration as well.
1:34 a.m.
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Shrunken House majority has stark governing implications for Democrats

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, during his two decades as a senior Democratic vote-counter, has often preached to his fractious caucus about what he calls the “psychology of consensus.”

“I tell people: You may not always be on the team. There may be a time when you think, ‘I don’t agree with this. It’s not good for my district. I don’t think it’s good for the country,’ ” Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a recent interview. “We get that, but I want you to think consensus. I want you to think party unity.”

Come January, Hoyer and senior Democratic leaders might need a lot more than the power of positive thinking. Facing the tightest House majority in at least two decades, they are already sketching out ways to manage a legislature that will spend two years on a razor’s edge.

1:04 a.m.
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Four more Republican senators say Biden is apparent presidential winner, urge release of transition funds

Four GOP senators on Monday joined the ranks of other high-profile Republicans acknowledging Joe Biden as the apparent winner of the presidential race and urging the Trump administration to allow the transition to go forward.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), in an op-ed published Monday, called a Biden presidency a “likely event” and argued that transition funds being held up by the Trump administration should be released.

His piece, published by the Cincinnati Enquirer, suggests that Portman is among a growing number of Republicans who are willing to publicly acknowledge — or at least come close to it — that Trump has lost the election, despite the president’s continuing claims to the contrary.

“Based on all the information currently available, neither the final lawful vote counts nor the recounts have led to a different outcome in any state,” Portman wrote. “In other words, the initial determination showing Joe Biden with enough electoral votes to win has not changed.”

Later Monday, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) issued a lengthy statement in which she said that although Trump has the right to file lawsuits, “at some point, the 2020 election must end.”

“If states certify the results as they currently stand, Vice President Joe Biden will be our next president and Senator Kamala Harris will be our next vice president,” Capito said. “I will respect the certified results and will congratulate our nation’s new leaders, regardless of the policy differences I might have with them. As with any administration, I will look for common ground in the best interest of our state and our country.”

She added that in the meantime, Biden and Harris should be given “all appropriate briefings” related to national security and the coronavirus pandemic “to facilitate a smooth transfer of power in the likely event that they are to take office on January 20.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in a statement Monday night that the election “is rapidly coming to a formal end.”

“Since it seems apparent that Joe Biden will be the president-elect, my hope is that 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,” Alexander said. “When you are in public life, people remember the last thing you do.”

And Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said that after Michigan’s certification of its results, Biden “has over 270 electoral college votes.”

“President Trump’s legal team has not presented evidence of the massive fraud which would have had to be present to overturn the election. I voted for President Trump but Joe Biden won,” Cassidy said in a tweet. “The transition should begin for the sake of the country.”

Several other Republicans said over the weekend that Trump’s legal arguments had run their course and called on him to allow the presidential transition process to begin. Among them were former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.) and Sen. Kevin Cramer (N.D.).

In his statement Monday, Portman, who was a co-chair of Trump’s campaign in Ohio, counseled that the General Services Administration “should go ahead and release the funds and provide the infrastructure for an official transition, and the Biden team should receive the requested intelligence briefings and briefings on the coronavirus vaccine distribution plan.”

“This is only prudent,” he wrote. “Donald Trump is our president until Jan. 20, 2021, but 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.”

12:58 a.m.
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Sen. Feinstein announces she will not seek top Democratic spot on Judiciary Committee next year

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced Monday that she will not seek the top Democratic spot on the Senate Judiciary Committee, stepping down from a position she has held since 2017.

“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.

Feinstein, who at 87 is the oldest sitting senator, said she intends to remain a member of the panel as well as the Senate Intelligence, Appropriations and Rules committees. She cited the need to devote more attention to the fight against climate change as among the factors leading to her decision.

“California is a huge state confronting two existential threats — wildfire and drought — that are only getting worse with climate change,” Feinstein said in a statement. “In the next Congress, I plan to increase my attention on those two crucial issues. I also believe that defeating covid-19, combating climate change and protecting access to health care are critical national priorities that require even more concentration.”

The move comes as liberal groups have called for Feinstein’s ouster as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, arguing that she has been too passive in battling the Trump administration, particularly on judicial nominees.

Liberal activists have been irate about Feinstein’s praise of Republicans, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), for how they conducted the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) is next in line for the top Judiciary Committee spot after Feinstein. Durbin is also the Senate Democratic whip, which is the No. 2 position in the caucus and comes with its own security detail.

In a statement Monday night, Durbin thanked Feinstein for her “distinguished leadership on the Judiciary Committee during turbulent years” and announced that he intends to seek the top Democratic spot on the panel.

Read full story here.

12:43 a.m.
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GSA informs Biden it is ready to begin formal transition; Trump tweets that he recommended initial protocols

Emily Murphy, the embattled Trump appointee who held off declaring a winner in the presidential race for nearly three weeks while her boss tried to subvert the election results, declared Biden the victor in a letter Monday.

In a one-page letter to Biden, the head of the General Services Administration addressed the controversy that engulfed the country over her refusal to release more than $6 million in taxpayer-funded transition money and crucial access for his team to federal agencies. Using unusually personal language to describe the predicament she faced as Trump, baselessly alleging widespread voter fraud in battleground states, refused to concede the election, she wrote that she has “always strived to do what is right.”

“Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts,” she wrote. “I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official — including those who work at the White House or GSA — with regard to the substance or timing of my decision.”

News of the letter was first reported by CNN.

Murphy said she did not receive “any direction to delay my determination” but did receive “threats online, by phone, and by mail directed at my safety, my family, my staff, and even my pets in an effort to coerce me into making this determination prematurely.”

“Even in the face of thousands of threats, I always remained committed to upholding the law,” the letter said.

News of the letter was soon followed by tweets in which Trump thanked Murphy and said he had recommended initial protocols for the transition.

“I want to thank Emily Murphy at GSA for her steadfast dedication and loyalty to our Country,” Trump tweeted Monday night. “She has been harassed, threatened, and abused – and I do not want to see this happen to her, her family, or employees of GSA.”

He added: “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail! 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.”

Biden’s transition team welcomed the GSA’s move as “a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track.”

“This final decision is a definitive administrative action to formally begin the transition process with federal agencies,” Yohannes Abraham, executive director of the Biden-Harris transition team, said in a statement. “In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security, and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration efforts to hollow out government agencies.”

A Republican appointed by Trump in 2017, Murphy lamented vagueness in a law called the President Transition Act of 1963, which was supposed to guide her in making a declaration of the winner.

“Unfortunately, the statute provides no procedures or standards for this process, so I looked to precedent from prior elections involving legal challenges and incomplete counts,” Murphy wrote. “GSA does not dictate the outcome of legal disputes and recounts, nor does it determine whether such proceedings are reasonable or justified.”

And she said that “I do not think that an agency charged with improving federal procurement and property management should place itself above the constitutionally-based election process. I strongly urge Congress to consider amendments to the Act.”

12:08 a.m.
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Why Democrats face an uphill battle in Georgia’s Senate runoffs

Democrats need to win both of two Georgia runoffs to take control of the Senate. But despite Biden carrying the state, they’re fighting an uphill battle in both races — particularly given they took fewer votes than Republicans the first time around in each race.

Biden won Georgia by about 12,000 votes, a very slim margin in a state where nearly 5 million were cast but enough to become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1992. But now attention turns to the state’s runoffs. In those races, Biden received 100,000 more votes than Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in the regular Senate election. Biden also outperformed the eight Democratic candidates in the special Senate election by about the same amount.

10:20 p.m.
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Avril Haines would be first woman to be director of national intelligence

Biden’s intention to nominate Avril D. Haines as the next director of national intelligence marks a historic turn — she would be the first woman to hold the country’s top intelligence position — and a stabilizing one, with the national security expert expected to restore rigor and independence to an office that has been beset by political intrigue and mismanagement, current and former officials said.

For weeks, Haines had been an odds-on favorite to land the top post. She was also said to be considered for director of the CIA, where she served as the No. 2 during the Obama administration. News of her selection was greeted enthusiastically by career intelligence officers, who regard her as a sharp policy expert and attuned to the operational aspects of intelligence.

10:07 p.m.
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Court rejects Trump campaign push to discard thousands of mail ballots in Pennsylvania

More than 10,600 contested mail ballots were declared valid Monday by Pennsylvania's highest court, representing the latest failure by the Trump campaign to gain legal traction for its arguments that certain votes should be discarded in battleground states that Biden won.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected Trump campaign challenges to 8,329 mail ballots in Philadelphia and 2,349 in Allegheny County, finding that state law does not require election officials to toss out votes because of minor omissions or errors by the voter, such as failure to print their street address on the ballot envelope.

The court noted that “no fraud or irregularity has been alleged” by the Trump campaign for any of the ballots at issue. Each voter signed the declaration on their ballot envelope.

“Here we conclude that while failures to include a handwritten name, address or date in the voter declaration on the back of the outer envelope, while constituting technical violations of the Election Code, do not warrant the wholesale disenfranchisement of thousands of Pennsylvania voters,” the court wrote.

The ruling upheld previous decisions in favor of the Philadelphia ballots and reversed one that would have invalidated the Allegheny ballots. Biden beat Trump in Pennsylvania by roughly 80,700 votes.

Keith Newell and Aaron Schaffer contributed to this report.

9:52 p.m.
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Democrats reject GSA’s offer for Emily Murphy’s deputy to hold briefing next week on transition delay

A key group of House Democrats on Monday rejected a proposal by the General Services Administration to have its deputy administrator, Allison Brigati, brief lawmakers and staffers next week on the delay in the presidential transition.

In a letter Monday afternoon, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (N.Y.), Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (N.Y.) and two subcommittee chairmen, Reps. Mike Quigley (Ill.) and Gerald E. Connolly (Va.), called for the briefing to be held by Emily Murphy, the head of the GSA, on Tuesday, rather than by Murphy’s deputy next week.

“We cannot wait yet another week to obtain basic information about your refusal to make the ascertainment determination,” the Democrats wrote. “Every additional day that is wasted is a day that the safety, health, and well-being of the American people is imperiled as the incoming Biden-Harris Administration is blocked from fully preparing for the coronavirus pandemic, our nation’s dire economic crisis, and our national security.”

The move is the latest effort by House Democrats to press Murphy to brief them on why she has declined to certify Biden as the “apparent” winner of the presidential race. Such a designation is necessary for Biden to receive government funds and other resources typically afforded to the president-elect to ensure a smooth transition.

Meanwhile, Murphy ordered the agency’s Washington headquarters at 1800 F St. NW to close on Monday in anticipation of a protest of her decision not to declare Biden the winner of the election.

The protest, held at noon by a group called RefuseFascism.org, which has opposed Trump and his administration, was small and nonviolent. At most, 15 activists arrived at the headquarters entrance and tried to enter through the revolving doors to speak with Murphy but were blocked by security guards, said Sunsara Taylor, one of the organizers.

The group came with body bags to represent the loss of life during the coronavirus pandemic and stuck bags in the revolving door, which was not moving. The delayed transition is blocking Biden from implementing a plan to fight the virus, Taylor said.

Last week, House Democrats summoned Murphy, a Trump appointee, to brief them privately and threatened to bring her, her deputy, her chief of staff and her general counsel before Congress to testify at a public hearing.

“We have been extremely patient, but we can wait no longer,” Maloney and Lowey wrote last week.

The GSA sent its response to the lawmakers Monday, a spokesperson for the agency said in a statement first reported by the publication Government Executive. The spokesperson said Brigati would hold a 30-minute briefing next Monday with the four Democrats as well as the top Republicans on the panels.

The GSA also said it would host an in-person-only briefing the same day for staffers of three Senate committees — Appropriations; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; and Environment and Public Works — as well as for staffers of the Appropriations and Oversight committees.

But the Democrats fired back that the arrangement would be unacceptable. “In the spirit of accommodation, we are willing to host this briefing tomorrow at a time that is convenient for you,” they wrote Monday in their letter to Murphy, listing several possible times and requesting a response by 5 p.m.

A GSA spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Two other Democrats — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (Calif.) and Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the top Democrat on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions — also sent letters Monday urging Murphy to allow the transition to begin.

In her letter, Murray wrote that Murphy is “choosing to put political loyalty ahead of public health and safety by refusing to make a determination of ascertainment to begin a formal transition of power to the President-elect.”

Schiff wrote that Murphy bears “enormous responsibility for the harmful effects that will flow from your inaction.”

9:45 p.m.
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NATO secretary general congratulates Biden on win

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke Monday with Biden, congratulating him on his election and thanking him for being “a long-standing supporter of NATO and the transatlantic relationship,” according to a readout of the call by NATO.

During his tenure, Trump repeatedly clashed with the other NATO partners and threatened to quit the military alliance altogether.

Stoltenberg and Biden “discussed the importance of our transatlantic Alliance as the cornerstone of our collective security,” the NATO description of the call said. “The Secretary General told President-elect Biden that he looked forward to working very closely with him to further strengthen the bond between North America and Europe and to prepare next year’s meeting of NATO leaders.”

In its own readout of the call, Biden’s campaign said the president-elect “underscored the importance of NATO to U.S. and European security and highlighted the United States’ enduring commitment to NATO — including its bedrock principle of collective defense under Article 5 — and his desire to engage in consultations with Allies on the full range of trans-Atlantic security issues.”

Separately Monday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted that she had called Biden to congratulate him on his victory.

“It is a new beginning for the EU-US global partnership,” she wrote, adding that by working together, the European Union and the United States could “shape the global agenda based on cooperation, multilateralism, solidarity and shared values.”

The Biden campaign said the president-elect “expressed his belief that a strong European Union is in the United States’ interest and underscored his commitment to deepen and revitalize the U.S.-EU relationship.”

Biden also spoke Monday with European Council President Charles Michel and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.

“The president-elect also noted that he looks forward to working closely with King Abdullah on the many interests shared by our countries, including containing COVID-19 and combating climate change; countering terrorism and addressing other regional security challenges; and supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the Biden campaign said.

9:26 p.m.
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Washington’s establishment hopes a Biden presidency will make schmoozing great again

Washington is exhausted. Washington is optimistic. Washington is desperate for change.

The aristocracy of this city is ready to move on, daring to hope that the last four years was a fever that finally broke and life can get back to normal. Normal, as in a respect for experience and expertise. Normal, as in civility and bipartisan cooperation. Normal, as in not wanting to punch someone in the face.

At the center of this hope is President-elect Joe Biden, moderate by nature, attuned to the rhythms of the town, eager to bring people back together.

8:54 p.m.
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Yellen expected to be named as treasury secretary

Former Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet L. Yellen is expected to be named Joe Biden’s treasury secretary, according to three people in close communication with aides to the president-elect.

Yellen, who was appointed chair of the Federal Reserve by President Barack Obama, would be the first woman to lead the Treasury Departmen. Biden said last week that he has decided on his choice for treasury secretary and that the name would be announced publicly either shortly before or after the Thanksgiving holiday.

7:11 p.m.
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In Georgia, 762,000 absentee ballots have been requested ahead of Senate runoffs

In Georgia, 762,000 absentee ballots had been requested as of Monday morning, said Gabriel Sterling, voting-systems manager at the secretary of state’s office, ahead of two January runoffs that will determine which party controls the Senate.

Democrat Jon Ossoff is challenging Sen. David Perdue (R), and the Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) is running against Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R).

There are 43 days until Jan. 5, when the elections will take place. By comparison, about 1.2 million people had requested mail ballots 43 days before the Nov. 3 general election.

This comes as Trump, who repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of voting by mail ahead of the general election, and his allies cast doubt on the results of the presidential election.

The Trump campaign Saturday requested a formal recount of the hand-counted results in Georgia after Biden’s victory was certified, following a painstaking audit. The Trump campaign alleged, without evidence, that “illegal ballots” were counted.

In a tweet Monday, Donald Trump Jr. urged “ALL of our people” to turn out and vote for Loeffler and Perdue, urging supporters to ignore “people that are supposed to be on our side telling GOP voters not to go out & vote.”

7:06 p.m.
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Jake Sullivan, Biden’s pick for national security adviser, made his mark on domestic policy during campaign

Jake Sullivan, chosen by Biden on Monday as his national security adviser, made more of a mark on domestic policy during Biden’s campaign, helping him conceive the “Build Back Better” plan that was key to his economic message.

Previously, Sullivan served in the highest levels of the Democratic policy establishment. He worked for Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state, moved to the White House to work for President Barack Obama and was frequently by Clinton’s side as a foreign policy adviser in her 2016 presidential bid.

On Biden’s campaign, Sullivan traveled extensively with the candidate, accompanying him on a train ride through Ohio and Pennsylvania.

After Clinton’s 2016 loss, Sullivan taught a class at Yale University, where he earned two degrees (a third came from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes scholar).

“I have the humility of the defeated,” Sullivan would frequently say when trying to puzzle out how Clinton lost, according to a 2017 profile in The Washington Post.

Sullivan, a Minnesota native, lives in Portsmouth, N.H., with his wife.

6:36 p.m.
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With nomination of Thomas-Greenfield, Biden seeks to restore U.N. ambassador role to Cabinet-level status

With his nomination of Linda Thomas-Greenfield as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Biden is giving a former career Foreign Service officer and an African American woman one of the most high-profile diplomatic posts in government.

Biden announced Monday that he would restore the post to Cabinet-level, a distinction that lapsed under Trump following the departure of Nikki Haley from the job halfway through his administration.

Thomas-Greenfield served as the top U.S. diplomat for Africa under President Barack Obama, an assistant secretary job that capped her 35-year career in the Foreign Service.

Known as “LTG” among State Department rank-and-file, Thomas-Greenfield retired in 2017 after Trump took power. She joined the Albright Stonebridge advisory firm as a senior counselor where she worked with her mentor, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright.

Thomas-Greenfield is also the leader of Biden’s agency review team for the State Department, a group of trusted advisers who are preparing to realign the department for a Biden administration. She has been leading efforts on promoting diversity at the department and other long-sought changes.