President-elect Joe Biden told reporters Friday that he expects his January inauguration will be a mostly virtual event absent the mass crowds on the Mall and the celebratory parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. Biden took questions from reporters after delivering remarks about the “grim” November jobs report that showed the slowest month of growth by far since the recovery began.

Former president Barack Obama and Vice President Pence staged dueling events aimed at boosting enthusiasm for candidates in Georgia’s two Senate runoff elections next month, which will determine which party controls the upper chamber.

President Trump had no public events.

Here’s what to know:
  • Biden has selected a close adviser, Vivek H. Murthy, to help lead the nation’s response to the coronavirus crisis, tapping a veteran of the Obama administration to serve as America’s top doctor.
  • Trump has raised $495 million since mid-October — an extraordinary haul resulting from a post-election fundraising effort using a blizzard of misleading appeals about the integrity of the vote.
  • Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) appeared to tacitly acknowledge Biden’s victory in a recording obtained by The Washington Post, speaking just days before Trump plans to travel to Georgia.
  • The daily drumbeat of legal losses for Trump continued on Thursday as he and his allies once again hit roadblocks in court on cases seeking to have the election overturned.
12:29 a.m.
Link copied

New senior staff join Biden-Harris inauguration effort

The committee planning the Biden-Harris inauguration on Friday night announced a group of senior staffers who will be overseeing one of the most unusual events in modern presidential history.

The new group includes Amanda Brockbank, chief financial officer; David Cusack, senior adviser for planning and operations; Laila ElGohary, chief technology officer; Leigh Flores, chief operating officer; Pat Moore, general counsel; Sam Salk, director of events and ceremonies; and Melissa Schwartz, director of the office of the first lady-elect.

“We are continuing to build a team of seasoned events planners and operations experts to hold an unprecedented inauguration that will keep people safe while engaging Americans across the country,” Maju Varghese, executive director of the Presidential Inaugural Committee, said in a statement.

The new senior staff, almost all of whom are reprising roles that they had during the Biden campaign, join others who were announced earlier in the week. They are helping coordinate an inauguration that has a range of complications, where they are attempting to implement far-reaching health protocols while still having an event that has the august feeling of past inaugurations.

Earlier in the day, Biden said that many plans around his inauguration remain in flux, but they are aiming for festivities that can mark a major event but still be safe at a time when the coronavirus is expected to reach new highs. Many of the events, he said, would be virtual in a manner similar to how the Democratic convention was conducted.

“It is highly unlikely there’ll be a million people on the Mall going all the way down to the [Lincoln] Memorial,” Biden said. “My guess is there probably will not be a gigantic inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.”

12:20 a.m.
Link copied

Arizona judge rejects GOP election challenge

An Arizona judge on Friday rejected a challenge to the state’s presidential election results, dealing yet another loss to Trump and his allies in their effort to circumvent the popular vote count in battleground states around the country.

Judge Randall Warner of the Maricopa County Superior County found that plaintiff Kelli Ward, the chairwoman of the Arizona Republican Party, had identified several errors in ballot processing. But those few errors did not amount to a wide-scale problem that should cast doubt on Joe Biden’s victory or result in the annulment of the votes cast by more than 3.3 million Arizonans, Warner concluded.

“The court finds no misconduct, no fraud and no effect on the outcome of the election,” Warner wrote in a decision issued Friday after an evidentiary hearing that spanned two days. “Plaintiff has not proven that the Biden/Harris ticket did not receive the highest number of votes.”

Ward is expected to appeal the ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court. Trump and his allies had previously lost several post-election lawsuits in Arizona. Another alleging widespread fraud and conspiracy is still pending in federal court, and a second formal election contest was filed in state court Friday by a group of plaintiffs represented by the conservative Thomas More Society.

Ward filed her formal election contest on Monday, immediately after state officials certified Arizona’s results. To prevail in such an elections contest, the plaintiff has to show that elections officials engaged in misconduct, that illegal votes were counted, or that enough errors were made in vote-counting that the wrong candidate was named winner.

Ward argued that Maricopa County officials engaged in “misconduct” when they allegedly failed to allow adequate access to observers of ballot processing. Warner dismissed that key claim at the start of the two-day evidentiary hearing, finding that Republicans should have lodged those allegations earlier, when the alleged problem was ongoing and could be fixed. On Friday, he dismissed her remaining claims, writing that “for the Court to nullify an election that State election officials have declared valid is an extraordinary act to be undertaken only in extraordinary circumstances.”

Ward had argued that there were widespread errors with the duplication of damaged ballots, a process by which a bipartisan group of election workers looks at the original ballot to determine the voter’s intent and then fills out a clean, machine-readable ballot accordingly. During an inspection of 1,626 duplicated ballots, her lawyers identified nine mistakes which, if corrected, would result in a net gain of six votes for Trump. If the same error rate held true for the more than 27,000 duplicated ballots countywide, Trump would gain just over 100 additional votes, county officials testified.

Biden won the state by more than 10,000 votes.

Warner noted that 99.45 percent of duplicated ballots were error-free, “and there is no evidence that the inaccuracies were intentional or part of a fraudulent scheme. They were mistakes.”

Finally, Ward argued that Maricopa County’s signature-verification process was too lax and therefore wrongly allowed a large number of mail ballots to be counted. In an inspection of signatures on 100 mail ballots, forensic handwriting experts hired by Ward and by the defendants, the state’s 11 Democratic electors for Biden, said they found several matches to be “inconclusive” because there were not very many signatures on file to which they could compare the ballot signature. But they found no evidence of any fraud.

Ward’s lawyer, Jack Wilenchik, had argued Friday that “very serious problems” had been revealed and asked Warner to either annul Biden’s victory or put off making a decision in the case until Republicans could inspect hundreds of thousands more ballots statewide. Under federal law, states are supposed to choose their presidential electors by Dec. 8 and cast their votes on Dec. 14. Wilenchik has argued that the real deadline for choosing electors is Jan. 6, when Congress meets to count the votes — or even as late as Jan. 20, when the next president is inaugurated.

Warner rejected both of Wilenchik’s requests and instead confirmed the results of the election.

Also on Friday, the Republican speaker of the Arizona House firmly rejected calls from Trump’s campaign for the legislature to disregard the popular vote and declare Trump the winner of the state’s 11 electoral votes.

“As a conservative Republican, I don’t like the results of the presidential election. I voted for President Trump and worked hard to reelect him,” Rusty Bowers said in a statement. “But I cannot and will not entertain a suggestion that we violate current law to change the outcome of a certified election.”

11:32 p.m.
Link copied

Analysis: The Biden administration will probably get a White House cyber czar

The incoming Biden administration will probably include a White House cybersecurity director who will coordinate government efforts to secure the nation against hacking. Congress wants to make sure of it.

The position, which is mandated in the final draft of a $1 trillion must-pass bipartisan defense policy bill, would mark a major reversal from the Trump administration, which eliminated a similar but less powerful cyber coordinator post in 2018.

The move would ensure cybersecurity is a priority for the White House by giving someone with a 24/7 focus on the topic direct access to the president. The director would advise the president on all issues related to cybersecurity and help coordinate the government response to major digital attacks and diplomatic efforts related to cybersecurity.

10:51 p.m.
Link copied

Nevada judge dismisses Trump effort to overturn election results

A Nevada judge dismissed the Trump campaign’s formal challenge to the state’s election results with prejudice on Friday, ruling that the campaign failed to substantiate its claims of voter fraud or offer any basis for annulling more than 1.3 million votes cast in the state’s presidential race.

In a detailed, 35-page decision, Judge James T. Russell of the Nevada District Court in Carson City vetted each claim made by the Trump campaign and found that none was supported by convincing proof. Lawyers for Trump are expected to appeal Russell’s decision to the Nevada Supreme Court as part of their foundering effort to overturn Biden’s victory in key battleground states.

The campaign “did not prove under any standard of proof that illegal votes were cast and counted, or legal votes were not counted at all, due to voter fraud, nor in an amount equal to or greater than” Biden’s margin of victory, which was about 33,600 votes, Russell wrote.

The decision represented the latest blow to the Trump campaign’s hopes of using the courts to change the result of the presidential election in the past month. That effort — which involved dozens of lawsuits in six states — has so far been a complete failure, as lawyers for Trump and his allies repeatedly failed to present credible evidence of wrongdoing that would justify invalidating millions of votes in swing states.

The campaign launched its formal challenge in Nevada late last month, even as the seven judges of the state high court officially accepted the election results and Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) issued certificates of election. Judges had already rejected multiple lawsuits filed by Republicans using similar claims.

During a court hearing Thursday afternoon, Trump campaign lawyer Jesse R. Binnall said the Nevada election had been “stolen” from Trump and claimed a “robust body of evidence” supported his conclusion. Among other claims, the campaign alleged that more than 61,000 people voted twice or from out of state; in his ruling, Russell agreed with election officials and academic experts that there is no evidence of that.

The judge specifically dismissed witness declarations that had been touted by the campaign, calling them “self-serving statements of little or no evidentiary value.” He added that the campaign’s so-called expert testimony “was of little to no value” and that he “gave it very little weight.”

Emma Brown contributed to this report.

9:25 p.m.
Link copied

Biden says his inauguration will resemble virtual convention

President-elect Joe Biden suggested on Dec. 4 that his inauguration in January may look similar to the virtual party conventions. (The Washington Post)

Like every major event since the pandemic began, Biden’s January inauguration will be a reimagined affair, replacing the pomp and circumstance with a celebration that will largely be virtual.

The president-elect told reporters that his priority is keeping people safe, which means forgoing the events and parties that usually draw big crowds.

“It is highly unlikely there’ll be a million people on the Mall going all the way down to the memorial,” Biden said. “My guess is there probably will not be a gigantic inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Instead, he said, his inauguration will look more like the Democratic convention, with “a lot of virtual activity in states across America engaging even more people than before.”

“People want to celebrate. People want to be able to say, ‘We pass the baton, we’re moving on. Democracy has functioned,’ ” he said.

His remarks, pegged to the jobs report that he called “grim,” focused heavily on the need for Congress to act on a relief package for Americans struggling during the pandemic. He dismissed criticism that the bill being negotiated in Congress is too little, too late, calling it a first step.

“If you insist on everything, we’re likely to get nothing on both sides. And so I think they’re on their way to being able to come up with a package that meets the basic immediate needs that we have,” Biden said. “But I’ve made it real clear it’s just a down payment.”

Biden was bullish on his ability to work with Senate Republicans, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who Biden often notes he’s known and worked with for decades. He suggested that there is common ground on bipartisan issues such as infrastructure, even though those big investments have eluded Congress for many years.

As Biden was leaving, a reporter asked whether he’d be going to Georgia — currently the center of the political universe, where two competitive runoff Senate races could determine whether McConnell retains the gavel.

“Yes,” he said, as he walked off the stage.

9:22 p.m.
Link copied

In Georgia, Pence and GOP ask Republicans to vote while casting doubt on Biden win

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Republicans at a rally for the party’s senators from Georgia urged their supporters to vote in the Jan. 5 runoff, while acknowledging that disbelief at President Trump’s loss here could keep some conservatives away from the polls.

“I know we’ve all got our doubts about the last election, and I’ve heard some people say: Just don’t vote,” said Vice President Pence, to hundreds of Republicans at a rally at an airfield here. “My fellow Americans, if you don’t vote, they win.”

Pence, making his second trip to the state for Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, arrived the day after a hearing organized by GOP legislators where Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani suggested that there were enough allegations of irregularity to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s win. A recount, demanded by the Trump campaign, wrapped up the same day, and Republican election officials have suggested that Biden’s narrow victory would be certified again.

“I’ve heard many of you ask me: Well, why should I vote? It’s rigged,” said Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter, who represents Savannah in the House. “You have to get out. The president is out there making sure this was a transparent and honest election.”

Soothing Republicans who believe the election was stolen, while telling them to vote again in a few weeks, has been tricky for GOP leaders.

“We’re going to continue to fight for our president, Donald J. Trump,” said Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel at the rally, telling the crowd to reelect their senators to “fight for election integrity so that this never happens again.”

Loeffler did not attend the rally, canceling her appearance after the death of a staffer this morning in a car accident. Perdue did not mention the election challenges in his remarks, which focused on the liberal policies that could get passed if Republicans lost the Senate.

But Pence repeatedly referred to the election contest, promising to fight “until every legal vote" is counted, while urging Republicans to vote early or request absentee ballots — even as conservative activists suggest that those ballots were at the center of conspiracies to rig the vote.

“We’re on ’em this time,” Pence said. “We’re watching. We’re going to secure our polls. We’re going to secure our drop boxes. So get an absentee ballot and turn it in today.”

9:03 p.m.
Link copied

Obama urges Georgians to vote, saying many of his accomplishments were enabled by a Democratic Senate

Speaking at a virtual get-out-the-vote event with Georgia’s two Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate, former president Barack Obama told Democrats on Friday that many of his first term’s signature accomplishments came about because he had a Democratic Senate.

“Even with a big majority in the Senate and the House, it was still a struggle because of the way the U.S. Senate was set up,” he said during the event promoting the candidacies of the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. “The Senate is a place where even with a big majority, it’s tough to get legislation through, and if you don’t have a majority, if the Senate is controlled by Republicans who are interested in obstruction and gridlock rather than progress and helping people, they can block everything.”

Later, he added, “once [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell was controlling that gavel and controlling the agenda in the Senate, we saw a lot of progress stop.”

The virtual event also featured former Georgia gubernatorial Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams and came on a day that brought an injection of political star power into the Georgia Senate races. While Obama was speaking, Vice President Pence arrived in Valdosta, Ga., where he spoke in support of Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who face a Jan. 5 runoff with Warnock and Ossoff.

“When you’ve got a bunch of senators who are downplaying a pandemic … and then as they’re downplaying it, as they’re ignoring the science and epidemiologists, suggesting that this is some partisan issue instead of something that Americans should rally around, at the same time, behind closed doors, they’re calling their brokers,” Obama said. “That’s not public service. That alone should motivate Georgians to say we want somebody in there who’s working for us.”

8:01 p.m.
Link copied

Kellyanne Conway concedes Biden won the election, cites electoral college total

Former senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, one of the president’s fiercest advocates, seemed to concede Friday that Biden had won the election.

Conway, who spent the past four years sparring with reporters on Trump’s behalf, cited Biden’s lead in the electoral college and advocated for a peaceful transfer of power.

“If you look at the vote totals in the Electoral College tally, it looks like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will prevail,” she said in an interview with the 19th. “I assume the electors will certify that and it will be official. We, as a nation, will move forward, because we always do.”

Conway defended Trump’s challenges of the results as “his right,” and she gave him credit for allowing the General Services Administration to begin the transition process with Biden. She didn’t mention that Trump held out on doing so for three weeks after the election, and that the GSA was under tremendous pressure to free up the money and access afforded the president-elect.

“We want the engines of government to keep going,” Conway said. “You always need a peaceful transfer of democracy, no matter whose administration goes into whose administration.”

7:07 p.m.
Link copied

Biden aides defend diversity of early picks, say more is to come

Senior Biden aides Friday defended the diversity of his early administration picks amid concerns being voiced by Black and Latino groups that nominees for marquee positions have so far been largely White.

Several advocacy groups have argued in recent days that Biden’s choices overall have been diverse but that has been less true of those selected for the most high-profile jobs.

“The president-elect certainly understands and hears and welcomes the voices that are pushing him on diversity. That is how we make progress in this country,” Kate Bedingfield, the incoming White House communications director told reporters on a Zoom call. “The groups that are advocating for diverse names are doing their jobs … and he’s doing his. He has thus far put forward historic nominees for a number of these positions.”

Bedingfield added: “I would remind you that we’ve only made eight of 23 Cabinet nominations at this point, so we are still very early in the process, and the president-elect is committed to selecting the most qualified individuals for each job, people who are going to bring diverse perspectives, who are going to bring diverse life stories to the table. I think he has shown that in the nominees he has rolled out thus far, and he’s certainly committed to continuing to do that.”

Bedingfield and Jennifer Psaki, the incoming White House press secretary, also fielded questions about concerns that have been raised about two of Biden’s picks: Neera Tanden to lead the Office of Management and Budget: and Heather Boushey as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Tanden has drawn flak from Republican lawmakers for pointed tweets about them during her tenure as the chief executive of the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

Psaki said Biden has only nominated people whom he is convinced can do the job and noted that Tanden is “the first woman of color who is nominated to serve in that position.”

“She brings a fresh perspective to this role,” Psaki said.

The Biden aides also downplayed allegations about Boushey’s management skills and treatment of subordinates recently aired by a former colleague.

“Heather Boushey is a renowned progressive economist, and many people have spoken out in support of her nomination,” Psaki said, noting that the think tank that Boushey runs, the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, has taken issue with the former colleague’s characterizations.

6:07 p.m.
Link copied

More than 1 million absentee ballots requested so far for Georgia runoff election

The number of absentee ballot requests for the Jan. 5 Georgia runoff election had surpassed 1 million as of 11 p.m. Thursday. That’s nearly 71 percent of the 1.45 million requests received by Oct. 2, the equivalent number of days ahead of the November general election.

So far, a higher proportion of the requests are from White voters than in the November election. Thirty-one percent of requests come from Black voters, 52 percent from White voters, 2.8 percent from Asian American voters, 2.9 percent from Hispanic voters and 10 percent from voters with other or unknown race.

In the general, 32 percent of absentee voters were Black, 50 percent White, 3.6 percent Asian American, 4 percent Hispanic and 8 percent of unknown race.

The current batch of requests also comes from voters who are older than those that voted absentee for the general election. The median age is 67 years, and only 8 percent of voters are under 30. In November, the median age was 61, and 14 percent were under 30.

5:24 p.m.
Link copied

Biden says report shows ‘one of the worst economic and jobs crises in modern history’

Biden said Friday that the latest jobs report shows the United States remains in the midst of “one of the worst economic and jobs crises in modern history” and stressed that he would move quickly upon taking office to push a plan to revive the economy.

“The situation requires urgent action. Americans need help and they need it now,” Biden said in a statement in which he also said he was heartened by progress being made in Congress on a $900 billion relief package.

“But any package passed in the lame duck session is not enough. It’s just the start,” Biden said. “Congress will need to act again in January. As we inherit this economic crisis, Vice President-elect Harris and I are working on the plan we will put forward for the next Congress to move fast and control the pandemic, revive the economy, and build back better than before. And, we hope to see the same kind of spirit of bipartisan cooperation as we are seeing today.”

Biden’s comments came in response to a Labor Department report showing the U.S. economy added 245,000 jobs in November — the slowest month of growth since spring and a warning for the recovery in the months ahead as coronavirus infections surge to new heights across the country.

“This is a grim jobs report,” the president-elect said. “It shows an economy that is stalling.”

Biden is expected to deliver remarks on the economy later Friday afternoon.

5:16 p.m.
Link copied

Trump campaign spent $8.8 million on legal challenges to election results

The Trump campaign spent $8.8 million since late October on bringing legal challenges to election results in key states, including a $3 million fee to the Wisconsin Elections Commission to request a recount in Wisconsin, which not only reaffirmed Biden’s win over Trump but also grew Biden’s lead by 87 votes.

Of the $8.8 million, $30,000 in legal consulting fees went to Jenna Ellis, one of the most prominent lawyers on Trump’s post-election legal team, according to federal filings made public Thursday night.

Much of the recount expenses went to multiple law firms for recount-related legal consulting, and the rest was mostly used for political consulting, advertising and polling, federal filings show.

These expenses were made from late October through Nov. 23, during a period when the president brought several legal challenges to key states in an effort to block the certification of Biden’s victory or question the validity of the state’s election administration. The president’s efforts have failed to gain traction in the courts. More legal fees are expected to be reported in upcoming filings, as campaign payments to law firms tend to lag behind a few weeks or months. The next filing deadline is Jan. 31.

4:56 p.m.
Link copied

Pelosi defends smaller covid relief bill, saying Biden changed the dynamics

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) defended her decision to accept a smaller coronavirus relief bill than Democrats originally sought, saying the promise of a vaccine and Biden in the White House were “game changers” in their effort.

Pelosi held out for months for a larger package that would be a nonstarter in the GOP-held Senate and with the Trump White House. Now she is negotiating with Republicans a much smaller bill to be passed before the end of the year, promising that the House won’t leave until it’s done.

It’s less money, but over a shorter period of time, and we need to do it to save lives with the hope that much more help is on the way,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi defended her decision not to accept a smaller relief package sooner, arguing it wasn’t a mistake and that it’s only with the promise of a Biden administration that she can now comfortably get behind a smaller bill in the short term, with the expectation that lawmakers will do something more ambitious once Biden is president.

“That is a total game-changer, a new president, and a vaccine. … It’s what we had in our bills. It’s for a shorter period of time, but that’s okay because we have a new president,” she said.

4:31 p.m.
Link copied

Of the 700 attempts to fix or abolish the electoral college, this one nearly succeeded

The fight to reform or abolish the electoral college began almost as soon as it was created, by those who created it. In 1802, Alexander Hamilton, one of the original architects of the electoral college, was so displeased with how it was being executed that he helped draft a constitutional amendment to fix it. Since then, there have been more than 700 efforts to reform or abolish it, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The electoral college is once again confounding the country as it prepares to meet Dec. 14 to ratify the election of Biden as the 46th president of the United States. Just one problem: Trump refuses to concede to Biden, making baseless claims of fraud while his surrogates urge Michigan legislators to overturn the election by appointing their own electors.