Joe Biden’s Presidential Transition Begins: Stay Updates

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Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Teams from President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s transition will begin fanning out across Washington on Tuesday, free to interact with their counterparts in the government after President Trump’s administration formally cleared the way on Monday for an orderly transfer of power.

After more than a two-week delay following Mr. Biden’s victory in the election, there are just 57 days left until his inauguration. Mr. Biden has said the holdup of the transition threatened national security by depriving his team of critical briefings. And he warned that distribution of vaccines to combat the coronavirus would be at risk if his advisers could not work side-by-side with current health officials.

Those meetings are expected to begin immediately as preparations that have been underway for months kick into gear. At the Pentagon, officials said that Biden transition team members contacted the Defense Department on Monday night, soon after Emily W. Murphy, the administrator of the General Services Administration, announced that the transition could commence.

“We will begin immediately implementing our plan to provide support in accordance with statute, D.O.D. policy and the memorandum of agreement between the White House and the Biden-Harris team,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sue Gough said in a statement. “The D.O.D. Transition Task Force will arrange and coordinate all D.O.D. contact with the Biden-Harris team.”

Other transition teams also reached out to their agency contacts within hours of Ms. Murphy’s decision.

In a memorandum sent to White House employees late Monday night, Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, wrote that Ms. Murphy had made an “ascertainment” about the results of the 2020 election “to allow the start of a presidential transition.” He reminded staff to conduct all work-related communications with official, White House email accounts. And he said records must be preserved.

He also warned, in bold letters, against unauthorized contact by the White House staff — known formally as members of the Executive Office of the President — with members of the Biden transition team.

“Unless specifically authorized,” he wrote, “E.O.P. personnel are not permitted to speak directly with a member of the Biden transition team or the federal transition coordinator.”

The warning underscored the sensitivity that usually accompanies discussions between administrations during a transition and the need for confidentiality.

It is not clear when Mr. Biden will receive his first classified national security briefing as president-elect. Transition officials have said that it was critical that the incoming president be aware of the potential threats and international dynamics that Mr. Trump receives in what is known as the Presidential Daily Brief.

Mr. Biden could begin receiving regular briefings as early as Tuesday, officials said.

With the pandemic raging, transition officials are also especially eager to start coordination with officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and members of the Warp Speed project, which is responsible for vaccine distribution. Transition officials have said they want to begin receiving official government data about the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus.

Meetings between Mr. Biden’s coronavirus advisory group and government health officials were expected to begin Tuesday and intensify over the next several days.

The start of the formal transition also clears the way for government-run background checks of Mr. Biden’s cabinet nominees and other top aides who require high-level security clearances. Those checks, which are conducted by the F.B.I. and other agencies, had also been held up until Ms. Murphy’s decision.

Other, smaller changes will take place as well. Transition members will start using government email accounts — ending in ptt.gov, for “presidential transition team” — and Mr. Biden’s official transition website, buildbackbetter.com has already moved to a government server and been renamed buildbackbetter.gov.

Credit…Stefani Reynolds/Alamy

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will introduce his nominations for high-profile cabinet positions on Tuesday, a day after President Trump authorized his administration to officially begin the transition process, even as he refused to concede the election and vowed to continue his fight in court.

In a letter on Monday, Emily W. Murphy, the head of the General Services Administration, officially declared Mr. Biden the apparent winner of the presidential election, completing the step needed to grant Mr. Biden access to government funds and resources to start the transfer of power.

Her decision came after several additional senior Republican lawmakers, as well as leading figures from business and world affairs, denounced the delay in allowing the peaceful transfer of power to begin, a holdup that Mr. Biden and his top aides said was threatening national security and the ability of the incoming administration to effectively plan for combating the coronavirus pandemic. And the recent pro-Biden developments in Michigan and Pennsylvania, as well as Georgia, which certified Mr. Biden’s win there last Friday, provided a clear justification for moving ahead.

Mr. Trump said he would press on with his legal battles, but made clear he accepted Ms. Murphy’s decision.

The Biden-Harris transition team said in a statement Monday evening that Ms. Murphy’s decision was “a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track.” The Biden transition website also moved from buildbackbetter.com to buildbackbetter.gov, a signal that the team had access to government resources.

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden plans to continue to chart his course toward Inauguration Day and formally name more officials to his administration:

  • Antony J. Blinken, a longtime foreign policy adviser, to be Secretary of State. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a career diplomat, will be his pick for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

  • Alejandro Mayorkas, deputy secretary of Homeland Security from 2013 to 2016, to become the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. If confirmed, Mr. Mayorkas would become the first Latino to run the agency that manages the nation’s immigration policies.

  • Avril D. Haines, deputy director of the C.I.A. from 2013 to 2015, to be director of national intelligence. She would be the first woman to serve in her role, the top job in the intelligence community, if she wins Senate confirmation.

  • Former Secretary of State John Kerry to be a special envoy for climate change, a position that does not require Senate confirmation.

  • Janet Yellen, former head of the Federal Reserve, to be Treasury secretary. It is unclear if the role for Ms. Yellen, who would be the first woman to lead the Treasury, will be announced this week.

Mr. Biden’s movement on staffing comes as Mr. Trump’s election challenges in Michigan and Pennsylvania have failed.

In Michigan, which carries 16 electoral votes, election officials on Monday certified the state’s presidential results in favor of Mr. Biden, resisting pressure from Mr. Trump to delay the process.

And multiple counties in Pennsylvania on Monday certified the results of the election, including Philadelphia, the state’s most populous, where Mr. Biden scored his largest margin of victory.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

Until now, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Covid-19 task force has had to prepare its battle plan without the keys to the government agencies leading the pandemic response.

That changes this week, when Mr. Biden can finally dispatch what are known as landing teams to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

There, officials will have prepared the traditional welcome gift: enormous briefing books that detail nearly everything the agencies have been working on for the past four years; lists of friendly lawmakers, budgets, accomplishments, roadblocks; and suggested targets for the new administration. The national crisis caused by the pandemic is worsening by the day. The daily average of new cases in the United States over the past week is at record levels, a staggering 173,000, and growing. Forty-five states are recording sustained caseload increases, and nine are reporting more than twice as many new cases a day as they did two weeks ago.

In the weeks since Election Day, the dire outlook has been tempered by encouraging early results from three major vaccine developers. But Mr. Biden and his top aides have said their ability to effectively plan a pandemic response had been stymied by President Trump’s refusal to acknowledge his victory and the refusal of the head of the General Services Administration to formally authorize the transition process that would grant Mr. Biden’s transition team access to funds, equipment and government data.

On Monday, President Trump’s government authorized Mr. Biden to begin a formal transition process. It is supposed to be led by career staff, not political appointees — and the Biden team can expect to find a warm welcome from them, particularly scientists on the team who Mr. Trump has criticized for years.

The F.D.A. landing team will need to get up to speed on a planned vaccine roll out, as well as the most promising new vaccine candidates and therapeutics. It may also designate a career staff member to be the agency’s acting commissioner if the current one, Stephen M. Hahn, leaves before a replacement can be nominated and confirmed.

At the C.D.C., one of the most pressing issues will be taking over a public education campaign, now in development, to persuade the public to trust — and take — the vaccine.

Credit…Lexey Swall for The New York Times

President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected to nominate Janet L. Yellen, the first woman to lead to the Federal Reserve, as Treasury secretary, according to people familiar with the decision.

The nomination will position her for a critical job at a fraught economic juncture. While growth is recovering from pandemic-related lockdowns earlier in the year, coronavirus infections are climbing and local governments are restricting activity again, likely imperiling that rebound.

Relations with other nations are frayed after four years of aggressive trade tactics by the Trump administration and the national debt is swelling, with the Treasury Department expected to continue issuing huge volumes of bonds into an increasingly fragile market.

That means Ms. Yellen, 74, will need to bring a mix of political, diplomatic and financial savvy to the job. She is well placed to do so, as one of the most recognizable figures in Washington’s economic spheres. Ms. Yellen is well known on Capitol Hill and well connected globally after leading the Fed from 2014 through 2018. Her long career as an economic policymaker has also given her insight into Wall Street and its major investors.

Ms. Yellen, who became an economist at a time when few women entered or rose in the male-dominated field, has been called many things over the years, including “a feminist hero,” a “small lady with a large I.Q.,” and “Fed chair,” which she preferred over the gendered “chairwoman.”

If confirmed, she will add “Madam Secretary” to the list. That will be a first at the Treasury, which has been led always by a white man throughout its 231-year history.

Ms. Yellen declined to comment. Her expected nomination was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

She is a renowned labor economist who taught at the University of California, Berkeley, among other academic posts. She was also chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton administration, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, a Fed governor, Fed vice chair and finally the central bank’s first female chair.

Ms. Yellen wanted to be reappointed when her term at the head of the central bank ended in 2018, but President Trump, eager to install his own pick, decided against renominating her. Instead, he chose Jerome H. Powell, the Fed’s current chair, whom Ms. Yellen has consistently praised since leaving the central bank.

In replacing Ms. Yellen, Mr. Trump broke with precedent. The previous three Fed chairs had been reappointed by presidents of the opposite political party.

Born in Brooklyn in 1946, Ms. Yellen was raised in Bay Ridge, a middle-class neighborhood across the waterfront from Staten Island. Her mother was a teacher who stayed home to raise Ms. Yellen and her brother. Her father was a family doctor. She was both valedictorian and newspaper editor at her high school.

Ms. Yellen is likely to bring a long-held preference for government help for households that are struggling economically and for slightly tighter financial regulation with her to the Treasury.

Credit…John Amis/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, via Associated Press

ATLANTA — The second recount of Georgia’s five million ballots requested by the Trump campaign will begin Tuesday at 9 a.m. and run through Dec. 2, a top state elections official said. That gives the president a third opportunity to hope for an outcome in the Southern state that is favorable to him, however unlikely it is.

The recount will be only one chapter in a protracted postelection drama in Georgia spurred along by President Trump’s refusal to concede a national election he has clearly lost, and his ongoing and baseless charges of electoral fraud in Georgia and elsewhere.

State officials certified last week that President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. had narrowly won Georgia, and Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, certified the state’s 16 electors for the Electoral College on Friday. Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state and a Trump supporter, has said numerous times that the election process in his state was trustworthy.

A week after Election Day, the Trump campaign demanded a hand recount. It found uncounted votes in four counties that shrank Mr. Biden’s lead from just over 14,000 votes to about 12,670 votes.

By state law, Mr. Trump was allowed to demand a second recount because he trails his opponent by less than a half a percentage point. This second recount will not be conducted by workers counting stacks of ballots, but rather by scanning machines that will be fed paper ballots in each of Georgia’s 159 counties.

When machines cannot decipher a voter’s intention, that ballot will be adjudicated by three-person teams in each county consisting of a Republican, a Democrat and a county worker. But in a news conference on Monday, Gabriel Sterling, an official in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, said he expected that few ballots would require adjudication, in part because many paper ballots were not hand marked, but rather computer printouts that show the selections voters made on a touch-screen.

He also said it was anticipated that the results of this second audit would likely do little to change the current total.

“The chances of anything moving that much are very low,” Mr. Sterling said in a Monday afternoon news conference via Zoom.

Mr. Sterling had said earlier in the day that there were no plans to include a review of the state’s signature-matching protocols for absentee ballots as part of this recount or any other recount his office had planned. Mr. Trump has incorrectly alleged that the Georgia system “makes it impossible to check & match signatures on ballots and envelopes.”

An examination of the signature-match protocols has been demanded in recent days not only by Mr. Trump, but by a growing number of Georgia Republicans — including Mr. Kemp and Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. The latter two are facing competitive runoff races in January that could decide which major party controls the Senate.

The deadline for Georgia counties to complete their count is Dec. 2 at midnight. But that may not end Georgia’s election drama. Although a number of lawsuits brought by the Trump campaign or its supporters have already failed in Georgia, conservative lawyers said over the weekend that they could file new lawsuits as early as this week.

Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

President Trump is having construction work done in the final months of his presidency on his living quarters at Mar-a-Lago, where he plans to be a full-time resident, two people told of the work said. The work is in part to update the existing space, but also to make what is a relatively small living area more accessible for the Trump family, they said.

A spokeswoman for Melania Trump, the first lady, did not respond to an email seeking comment. A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump also did not respond to a request for comment.

The construction work was first reported by ABC News. That the work is being done underscores that Mr. Trump is preparing for life after the presidency, even as his campaign lawyers file a series of challenges aimed at delaying certification of the vote.

The Trumps filed in 2019 to change their residency from New York to the West Palm Beach, Fla., social club that the president has owned for more than two decades. According to ABC News, the U.S. Secret Service has asked agents about relocating there, presumably for the post-presidency. But the work to enhance Mr. Trump’s residential quarters will raise more questions about whether he is misusing Mar-a-Lago, which is not supposed to serve as a full-time residence for anyone as part of an agreement with Palm Beach officials that had allowed it to become a club in the 1990s.

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