Election updates: Biden's lead over Trump in AZ surpasses remaining votes; GA begins 2nd-largest recount in US history

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USA TODAY’S coverage of the 2020 election continues this week after former Vice President Joe Biden won a bitterly fought election against President Donald Trump and states work to finish counting their remaining ballots. Nearly all states have been called at this point as the Trump campaign challenges the outcomes in many states. Biden meanwhile is continuing with his transition, meeting with advisers and world leaders, and possibly naming staff in the days and weeks to come. 

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© Patrick Semansky, AP President Donald Trump participates in a Veterans Day wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., Nov. 11, 2020.

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Trump to make first public remarks in more than a week 

While protesting Joe Biden’s election win behind closed doors, President Donald Trump on Friday encouraged supporters who are planning Saturday rallies on his behalf, and said he may stop by one of them.

The scheduled rallies include “a big one on Saturday in D.C.,” Trump tweeted. “I may even try to stop by and say hello.”

The president described the demonstrations as “organic,” but there is evidence that pro-Trump organizations are helping plan the events. Participants began arriving in Washington, D.C., on Friday, many of them wearing pro-Trump T-shirts and flying deep blue Trump flags.

The president has spent most of the week inside the White House, except for a Veteran’s Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday.

He has not given any public remarks since Nov. 5, but is scheduled to break the silence Friday with a 4 p.m. EST statement on battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

– David Jackson

Networks call NC for Trump, Georgia for Biden just as recount starts

President Donald Trump is the project winner of North Carolina’s electoral votes, according to NBC, ABC, and CNN. Trump currently leads by more than 70,000 votes in the state.

And while votes are still being counted in a statewide hand recount, President-elect Joe Biden was projected as the winner in Georgia, according to the same TV networks. Biden leads in Georgia by about 14,000 votes.

Georgia and North Carolina were the last two states without declared winners in the presidential election.

Biden surpassed the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency Saturday after winning Pennsylvania. 

Georgia is in the midst of an audit of the presidential election, which comes in the form of a hand recount of nearly all 5 million votes in the state.

The state’s deadline to certify its results is Nov. 20, and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has said election workers will work overtime to get it done. He denied claims the recount is in response to calls from the Trump campaign to recount the vote, and Georgia elections official Gabriel Sterling said the recount would have happened if Biden were the one trailing in the state.

– Savannah Behrmann and Jeanine Santucci

Planned pro-Trump DC rallies raise concerns 

Experts are warning some right-wing extremists may appear at rallies in Washington, D.C., on Saturday in support of President Donald Trump, though it’s unclear how many people will attend.

Multiple events with names including Million MAGA March, Stop the Steal and March for Trump are set to occur at Freedom Plaza around noon Saturday, according to several social media posts. As of Tuesday, there were at least 24 Facebook events using one or both terms, according to the Anti-Defamation League. 

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Metropolitan Police Department say they’re monitoring the events, but would not provide a crowd estimate. At least one counter-protest is planned by a leftist group.

Organizers are promoting the event as a way to protest “voter fraud,” to “show support for our President” and “demand a free and fair election,” according to the Anti-Defamation League. Trump has refused to concede and leveled baseless allegations of voter fraud to falsely claim the election was stolen from him.

– N’dea Yancey-Bragg

Top aide says Biden will name a White House COVID-19 coordinator

President-elect Joe Biden will appoint a White House coronavirus response coordinator to lead the administration’s pandemic strategy, incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Thursday night.

In his first interview since he was named chief of staff, Klain told MSNBC the coordinator would have “direct access” to Biden and would brief the president daily on the coronavirus crisis. The coordinator will also have a COVID-19 response team to help manage vaccine distribution, oversee supply chain logistics and work on improving widespread access to testing.

The incoming chief of staff said the “transition is moving ahead” despite the Trump administration’s refusal to sign off on the election results, which would allow Biden’s team to coordinate with federal agencies.

Klain who served as a “czar” to combat the Ebola outbreak in 2014 under President Barack Obama, pointed out that officials at the Department of Health and Human Services are busy planning for a vaccination campaign for February and March, when Biden will be president.

“The sooner we can get our transition experts into meetings with the folks who are planning the vaccination campaign, the more seamless the transition” from a Trump presidency to a Biden presidency can be, Klain told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell.

Klain also said that on day one Biden wants to “issue a nationwide masking mandate, requiring that people wear masks where the federal authority extends, and then urging governors and other local officials to impose mask mandates.”

Earlier this week the Biden transition team announced a board of health experts – mostly doctors – to advise the incoming administration on the coronravirus crisis as the U.S. broke its own record for new coronavirus cases.

– Courtney Subramanian

White House continues to deny election outcome, insist on second Trump term

Despite suffering defeat in last week’s election to Democratic challenger Joe Biden, President Donald Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro told Fox Business Network on Friday, “We are moving forward here at the White House under the assumption there will be a second Trump term.” 

When host Stuart Varney warned Friday it might look like “sour grapes” if Trump didn’t attend the Jan. 20 inauguration, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told him, “I think the president will attend his own inauguration. He would have to be there, in fact.” 

The remarks echoed a comment from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who on Tuesday promised a “smooth transition to a second Trump administration.” 

McEnany claimed Trump was certain he would win, pinning the unrealistic hope on a Georgia recount, as well as legal challenges across other states, that experts don’t believe could realistically result in the election outcome being overturned.

Trump has so far refused to concede the election despite losing to Biden by large margins in both the popular vote and Electoral College.  He has repeatedly made baseless allegations the election was “rigged” and claimed without evidence that there was widespread election fraud. 

Journalist Geraldo Rivera said Friday that in a phone call with Trump, the president told him he’s a “realist” who will do the “right thing” but wants to see how the states’ certifications of the results turn out. 

– William Cummings 

Experts decry Trump fraud claims as ‘abuse of the rule of law’ 

A group of 1,000 attorneys, including retired federal and state judges, state attorneys general and law professors criticized the Trump administration over baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.

“Every candidate has a right to ensure that an election is conducted lawfully. However, court challenges, if any, must be based on facts, on evidence,” stated the letter, which asked public officials to stop making false claims of systemic fraud that President Donald Trump has claimed “stole” the election from him. 

“The President of the United States has directed the filing of court cases seeking to stop ballots from being counted on the ground that there has been widespread ballot fraud. His sons have sharply criticized Republicans who are not backing their father’s claims,”

Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Ted Cruz, Lindsay Graham and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, have made statements backing Trump’s lawsuits and baseless claims of widespread fraud. 

– Kristine Phillips

Obama warns Trump’s refusal to concede is ‘dangerous path’ 

Former President Barack Obama says Donald Trump’s refusal to concede to Joe Biden is concerning but that he was even more troubled by prominent members of the Republican party echoing his baseless claims of election fraud, saying they are heading down a “dangerous path.”

“I’m more troubled more by the fact that other Republican officials who clearly know better are going along with this, are humoring him in this fashion,” Obama told CBS’ “60 Minutes” in a clip from an interview scheduled to air Sunday. “It is one more step in delegitimizing not just the incoming Biden administration but democracy in general. And that’s a dangerous path.”

In the clip of an interview the network shared Friday, Obama said, “you’ve got millions of people who think there must be cheating because the president says so.” The full interview will air on Sunday.

– Ledyard King 

Latest vote count puts Arizona out of reach for Trump 

President-elect Joe Biden’s lead over President Donald Trump is now officially insurmountable after Maricopa County reported results from its latest round of ballots. Biden leads Trump by 11,434 votes in the statewide tally – a margin greater than the estimated number of ballots remaining to be counted in Arizona. 

The Thursday evening results from about 4,000 Maricopa County ballots went 53% for Biden and 43% for Trump.

Now, Trump has no path to victory in a state that’s long been a Republican stronghold.

This election marks only the second time the Grand Canyon State has supported a Democrat for president since 1948. The last Democratic presidential candidate to carry Arizona was then-President Bill Clinton in 1996.

The Trump campaign will challenge the results in the state. But Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, has rejected Trump’s claims of election irregularities there, saying “if indeed there was some great conspiracy, it apparently didn’t work.”  

– Caitlin McGlade, Arizona Republic 

Experts see Trump challenge consequences: Trump election results lawsuits push US toward ‘loss of democracy’

© Nick Oza, Nick Oza/The Republic Silvana Salcido Esparza and other Biden supporters cheer while drivers honk outside Barrio Cafe in Phoenix, Arizona, Nov 7, 2020.

GOP senators tell Trump it’s time for Biden to get briefings 

Senate Republicans broke with the Trump administration Thursday to argue that President-elect Joe Biden should get access to high-level classified intelligence briefings, even though the president continues to contest the election results.

Sen. James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, said he will intervene on Friday if the Trump administration doesn’t start allowing Biden to receive what’s known as the president’s daily brief, a summary of the most urgent and credible national security threats.

Incoming presidents typically have access to those assessments during the transition, so they can be prepared to deal with any national security threats on day one. 

“This needs to occur so that regardless of the outcome of the election, whichever way that it goes, people can be ready for that actual task,” Lankford told Tulsa radio station KRMG-AM on Wednesday.

“If that’s not occurring by Friday, I will step in,” said Lankford, who sits on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

– Deirdre Shesgreen and Matthew Brown

Suburban switch: Trump keeps baselessly claiming voter fraud in cities. But suburbs actually lost him the election

Georgia starts second-largest hand recount in US history

Georgia Voting Implementation Manager Gabe Sterling announced Thursday that the hand recount and audit of the presidential race in Georgia will begin at 9 a.m. Friday. The recount will conclude at midnight on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

“This will be the largest hand recount and audit in United States history,” Sterling said.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced the hand recount and audit on Wednesday, saying that the decision came down to the race having a close margin.

“This will help build confidence. It will be an audit, a re-count and a re-canvass all at once. It will be a heavy lift, but we will work with the counties to get this done in time for state certification,” he said.

President Donald Trump and Republican leaders in Georgia have been casting doubt, without evidence, on the results and election process all week, including Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

© Megan Varner, Getty Images Gwinnett county workers begin their recount of the ballots on Nov. 13, 2020 in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

The incumbent GOP senators called for Raffensperger’s resignation on Monday. They were followed by members of the Georgia Republican Congressional Delegation, including Rep. Buddy Carter and Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene, accusing the state elections office with “serious allegations of voting irregularities.”

No specific evidence has been presented as of Thursday. Raffensperger, Sterling and Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan have all dispelled rumors of voter fraud throughout the week.

– Zach Dennis and Nick Robertson, Savannah Morning News 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Election updates: Trump to deliver first public remarks in a week; Biden projected to win GA, Trump NC

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