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Official White House Photo by Andrea HanksBy BEN GITTLESON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Americans have been strongly urged to stay home for the holidays and cancel in-person gatherings amid a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases, but the White House said it's still planning to host holiday parties despite dire warnings from health experts -- and in the wake of a September Rose Garden event that became, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, "a super-spreader event."

U.S. public health officials have cautioned that large, indoor holiday gatherings during the winter months could lead to a dramatic uptick in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The novel coronavirus already has killed more than a quarter million Americans.

While first lady Melania Trump's spokeswoman and chief of staff, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement Sunday that the White House parties will take place in "the safest environment possible" and noted a series of planned precautions, the gatherings contradict government warnings on events staged even partially indoors.

For Thanksgiving get-togethers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the "safest choice" is to celebrate "virtually or with the people you live with." If Americans do host a gathering, they should eat outside and limit the numbers of guests.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told ABC News on Monday that the CDC's tips "apply to the White House, they apply to the American people, they apply to everyone."

"We want everyone to understand that these holiday celebrations can be super-spreader events," he said in an interview with ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega on Good Morning America.

The White House gatherings are scheduled to begin later this month, soon after the Thanksgiving holiday may give rise to another dangerous COVID-19 surge. ABC News obtained an invitation to a holiday reception scheduled for Nov. 30.

The White House typically holds a series of holiday parties in the weeks leading up to Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa that traditionally take place on the first floor, called the State Floor, with guests allowed to wander freely through the decorated, ceremonial rooms.

The first lady is scheduled to receive the official White House Christmas tree on Monday, and the building already has been bedecked with wreaths.

This year's events will take place at least partly indoors, on the State Floor, according to Grisham, who added that there are "smaller guest lists" and that "masks will be required and available," with social distancing measures encouraged and hand sanitizer stations posted throughout.

"Guests will enjoy food individually plated by chefs at plexiglass-protected food stations," Grisham added. "All passed beverages will be covered. All service staff will wear masks and gloves to comply with food-safety guidelines."

It remains to be seen whether the White House staff and attendees actually will wear masks, though, since President Donald Trump and the first lady themselves frequently eschew face coverings, as do many members of the West Wing's staff and the Republican members of Congress expected to be invited to such gatherings. The president, the first lady, two of the president's children and several high-ranking staffers all have tested positive for COVID-19.

"Attending the parties will be a very personal choice," Grisham said. "It is a longstanding tradition for people to visit and enjoy the cheer and iconic decor of the annual White House Christmas celebrations."

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Bet_Noire/iStocBy LIBBY CATHEY, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President-elect Joe Biden is moving forward with transition plans, capping a tumultuous and tension-filled campaign during a historic pandemic against President Donald Trump, who still refuses to concede the election and is taking extraordinary moves to challenge the results.

Running out of legal alternatives to override the election loss, Trump is mounting a pressure campaign on the leaders of Republican-controlled legislatures in Michigan and other key states to try to overturn a democratic election.

The Biden team is warning Trump's refusal to concede not only harms American democracy but may also put American lives at risk as the Trump administration stonewalls Biden's access to coronavirus vaccine distribution plans. Biden is still forging ahead with his move to the White House and preparing to announce key Cabinet positions this week.

Though Trump has alleged widespread voter fraud, his legal efforts to invalidate ballots have been rejected at least 30 times in court, according to an ABC News count.

Here is how the transition is unfolding. All times Eastern:

Nov 23, 11:00 am
Biden announces more White House senior staff


Biden’s White House senior staff is expanding ahead of his Cabinet announcement Tuesday. His transition announced two deputy directors of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs: Reema Dodin and Shuwanza Goff.

Dodin served as deputy chief of staff and floor director to the Senate Democratic Whip, Sen. Dick Durbin.
 
Goff served as floor director for the House of Representatives under House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer -- the first Black woman to hold the position.

This announcement brings the total number of Biden senior staff to 12: five men and eight women.

-ABC News' Molly Nagle


Nov 23, 10:45 am
Michigan officials to convene on election results


The Michigan board of state canvassers will convene at 1 p.m. ET Monday to certify to election results.

By state law and historically by practice, certification by the board of state canvassers -- which is made up of two Democrats and two Republicans -- is a procedural step.

The board is obligated to confirm the election results per state law -- essentially validating that the unofficial results match the tabulated votes. If the board is deadlocked, a court would likely intervene and compel certification.

All 83 counties in Michigan have certified their results, including the contested Wayne County, according to the secretary of state. The state bureau of elections also submitted a formal recommendation to the canvassing board, not only confirming Biden's victory in the state but also assuring that the errors in reporting, which Trump and his allies have exploited, are "all attributable to human error," "did not affect the actual tabulation of votes" and "were identified and corrected either prior to or during the county canvass."

While Republicans, including RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, have called for a delay in certification to conduct an audit of Wayne County's results, the secretary of state already confirmed plans for a post-election audit, including a performance audit in Wayne County. Under current state law, audits can only be completed after the results are certified.

Biden's margin of victory in Michigan is currently more than 154,000 votes, nearly 15 times Trump's margin in 2016.

-ABC News' Kendall Karson


Nov 23, 10:07 am
Overview: Trump has no public events while Biden meets virtually with mayors


Officials in Michigan and Pennsylvania are slated to meet Monday to certify votes despite last-ditch efforts by Trump and his allies to override his election loss through legal battles and political pressure on GOP-controlled state legislators.

The president has largely hunkered down inside the White House since Election Day -- the last time he took questions from reporters -- and has no public events on his schedule again Monday. Over the weekend, as coronavirus cases climbed across the country, Trump went golfing instead of meeting with world leaders at a G20 event about the pandemic.

Biden and Harris are pressing forward with their transition, meeting virtually with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a nonpartisan organization, on Monday.

Biden’s team, meanwhile, continues to warn that Trump's refusal to concede not only harms American democracy but, hindering their access to pandemic plans, may put American lives at risk.

Ron Klain, Biden's incoming chief of staff, told ABC’s “This Week” that the president-elect is still being denied intelligence briefings, FBI background checks on potential Cabinet nominees and access to agency officials to help develop plans including those on coronavirus vaccine distribution.

Nov 23, 9:56 am
Biden has congratulatory call with Prime Minister of New Zealand


Biden shared a congratulatory phone call Sunday night with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, according to a readout issued by his transition team.

Biden also congratulated Ardern on her reelection, which she overwhelmingly won last month, and the two discussed containing COVID-19, climate change, strengthening democracy and "maintaining a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region."

The president-elect also praised Ardern's leadership after the 2019 Christchurch massacre and during the COVID-19 pandemic, calling her a "role model."

In total, Biden has now spoken with world leaders from 14 different countries and the Vatican.

-ABC News’ John Verhovek


Nov 23, 9:38 am
Some in GOP call on Trump to concede as he stonewalls Biden’s transition


With less than 60 days until the inauguration, the Trump administration is still refusing to recognize Biden as the president-elect as a small but growing number of Republicans are calling for a full and formal transition process to begin.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the latest to add her voice, slamming Trump’s apparent “pressure campaign” on state legislators to try to overturn election results as “unprecedented” and “inconsistent with our Democratic process” while calling for Biden’s ascertainment in a statement Sunday.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a close confidant of Trump’s who helped him prepare for debates, called his legal team “a national embarrassment” on ABC’s This Week following another defeat in a Pennsylvania court over the weekend with a blistering dismissal from the judge.

After the ruling, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania urged Trump to concede the loss and facilitate the transition process, suggesting that his legacy will be harmed if he doesn’t help unify the country.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, who has publicly feuded with Trump over the federal government’s response to COVID-19, also said Sunday he was more “embarrassed” by others in the party who haven’t spoken out.

Liz Cheney, chair of the House Republican Conference, also asked Trump over the weekend to respect "the sanctity of our electoral process" if he can’t prove his claims of widespread voter fraud, which he’s so far been unable to do.

Even Trump allies like Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, are calling on the Trump administration to give Biden intelligence briefings -- even if they aren’t publicly recognizing him yet as the president-elect.

Nov 23, 9:38 am
ABC: Biden to name his pick for US ambassador to the UN


Biden is expected to name Linda Thomas Greenfield as his pick for U.S. ambassador to the U.N., according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Greenfield, a retired foreign service officer, is currently leading the State Department agency review team for the Biden transition and was one of the officials who briefed him last week on national security.

She would be just the second Black woman to ever serve in the post.

Biden's transition declined to comment to ABC News.

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Kameleon007/iStockBy FERGAL GALLAGHER, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Since Election Day, numerous false allegations of fraud have been published on social media and repeated elsewhere, most of which have been easily debunked, yet a large swath of the population still appears to believe them.

According to a recent poll, roughly three-quarters (77%) of President Donald Trump backers say former Vice President Joe Biden’s election win was due to fraud despite there being no evidence to back this up.

So what is it about the human psyche that makes us so susceptible to disinformation?

“The short answer is that it has less to do with the content of the information and more to do with the social identity of the person,” Dannagal Young, political psychologist and associate professor at the University of Delaware, told ABC News. “What's driving some of these inclinations is about who these people feel they are, what groups they're associated with, who they identify as and who they identify with."

Exploiting divisions

As of Friday, Biden had nearly 80 million votes -- some 10 million more than the previous record set by Barack Obama in 2008. But Trump also eclipsed Obama's record with nearly 74 million votes at last count. The record turnout was propelled in part by record mail-in voting due to the pandemic, which Trump and his allies, have claimed, without evidence, is ripe for fraud.

Also fueling doubt is the fact that Trump appeared to lead in several key states on election night, only to see those leads reversed when mail-in ballots were counted. Trump has also been relentlessly attacking the ballot-counting procedures in several key states since Election Day.

Young argued that the political parties in the United States have become increasingly correlated with two distinct cultures defined by religious identity, racial identity and geographic location. As a result, it’s easier to create a false story that taps into those identities, making one side or the other more likely to believe it.

Add onto the political environment the fact that we’re living through a pandemic, when people are extremely anxious and uncertain about the future, and you have a perfect storm of conditions to sow disinformation, the experts said.

“If you just feel like things are out of control, that that can be really debilitating. So people want to impose order on the world," said Young.

So if someone offers a wild theory, even though it might not be logical, you’re more likely to believe it because it helps explain your situation and give you control.

Accompanying the deepening divisions in the U.S. is anger and distrust of the other's side.

Young said that if you can create a target and turn that fear into anger, that will give an extra incentive for someone to believe you.

“It seems counterintuitive, but anger makes people feel optimistic because anger has a forward driving momentum," she said.

'Cognitive misers'

Dr. David Rand, a cognitive scientist at M.I.T., acknowledged that people are more likely to believe something that aligns with how they see the world but argues that there’s a much simpler reason for why people fall for disinformation. He says that people are "cognitive misers," which he says essentially means that the brain will always look for the simplest solution to a problem, and that especially with social media, people just don’t take the time to analyze the information properly.

“Our work suggests that if you ask people to stop and think about is this true, most people are actually pretty good at telling sort of like fake news from true news,” he told ABC News.

"The platforms, by design, are like built to focus your attention on things other than whether content is accurate or not," he added.

Firstly users are scrolling so fast they don’t have time to engage their brains -- people are thinking about what will get them more likes and retweets not necessarily whether what they post is true.

“It makes you think about how are people going to like this? What's it going to say about me? Not 'Is it accurate?” Rand said.

Where the information is coming from

Where the information comes from also influences how likely you are to believe it. Rand explained that people are more likely to believe information from people that they trust and that they think are reliable.

"You can have something that you find really surprising, doesn't fit with your previous beliefs at all," he said.

"But if it's from a source you really trust, then you think, 'OK, I guess I was wrong.' Whereas if it's from a source you think is sketchy, then you're like more likely the source is wrong than everything I know about the world is wrong," Young said.

Young also emphasized this point saying it's particularly dangerous when elites spread disinformation, because the reader's mind is less likely to do the critical thinking if he or she thinks someone they respect has already done this for them.

“This is why the rhetoric of elites like politicians or journalists or people we respect is so powerful because, again, their status serves as a cue," added Young.

As a result of media coverage, people are more aware of disinformation but nobody seems to think they will ever be duped by it -- what Young calls the "third-person effect."

“Everyone is susceptible to disinformation. We think that other people are, but we're not. It's such a logical fallacy because we can't all be right or it wouldn’t be a problem,” Young added.

Of course, if someone believes they’re immune to disinformation, that means it’s very difficult to change their minds once they’ve taken hold of a false narrative.

Research suggests that debunking a falsity can actually have the opposite effect and help propagate the original falsity if not done properly. Young suggests debunking be done using the "truth sandwich" effect, whereby you preface the falsity with what is true, discuss the false allegation and then reiterate what is true.

Introducing a "speed bump" that forces people to think more about the information they consume, like the warning labels platforms like Twitter and Facebook have begun to place on false or misleading posts, are proven to lessen the spread of those posts according to Rand's research.

“There are several papers now showing if you just put a warning on something when people first see it, it makes them less likely to believe it and less likely to share it, regardless of whether it aligns with their ideology or not,” said Rand.

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narvikk/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY, LAUREN KING, ADIA ROBINSON, JACK ARNHOLZ and TIA HUMPHRIES, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President-elect Joe Biden is moving forward with transition plans, capping a tumultuous and tension-filled campaign during a historic pandemic against President Donald Trump, who still refuses to concede the election two weeks after Biden was projected as the winner and is taking extraordinary moves to challenge the results.

Running out of legal alternatives to override the election loss, Trump invited Michigan's top Republican state lawmakers to visit the White House on Friday, as he and allies pursue a pressure campaign to overturn results in a state Biden won by more than 150,000 votes.

Despite Trump's roadblocks and his administration refusing to recognize Biden as the president-elect, Biden is forging ahead as he prepares to announce key cabinet positions.

Though Trump has alleged widespread voter fraud, he and his campaign haven't been able to provide the evidence to substantiate their claims and the majority of their lawsuits have already resulted in unfavorable outcomes.

Here is how the transition is unfolding. All times Eastern:

Nov 22, 10:19 pm
Biden expected to tap Antony Blinken for secretary of state


Despite Joe Biden's transition being stalled, the president-elect is moving forward with selecting his cabinet.

According to sources familiar with the decision, Biden is expected to name Antony Blinken, a longtime foreign policy aide with decades of experience in Washington, as his nominee for secretary of state. The announcement could come as soon as Tuesday.

Blinken has been one of Biden's closest advisers for decades, from Biden's time on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to the Obama White House and the 2020 presidential campaign.

A former deputy secretary of state under President Barack Obama, Blinken began his career in the Clinton State Department and later moved to the White House and National Security Council under President Bill Clinton.

A spokesman for Biden's transition declined to comment.

Nov 22, 9:26 pm
Trump campaign distances itself from attorney Sidney Powell


The Trump campaign released a statement Sunday night distancing itself from attorney Sidney Powell, saying she's not a member of the "Trump Legal Team," despite President Trump previously announcing that she was.

"Sidney Powell is practicing law on her own. She is not a member of the Trump Legal Team. She is also not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity," Trump campaign attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis said in a statement.
 
The statement comes after Powell advanced a series of unproven election claims in an interview on Newsmax and at a recent press conference on behalf of the campaign, portions of which were retweeted by the official GOP Twitter account.

The president last week announced Powell as a member of his legal team along with Giuliani, Ellis, and attorneys Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing.

Nov 22, 9:02 pm
Sen. Lisa Murkowski calls on Trump to begin the transition process


U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) released a statement today urging President Trump to respect the outcome of the 2020 election.

"President Trump has had the opportunity to litigate his claims, and the courts have thus far found them without merit," her statement said in part. "A pressure campaign on state legislators to influence the electoral outcome is not only unprecedented but inconsistent with our democratic process. It is time to begin the full and formal transition process."

Murkowski has previously acknowledged Joe Biden as the president-elect.

Nov 22, 5:30 pm
Perdue, Loeffler support Ga. recount with absentee signature matching


Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler said Sunday that they back the president's calls for a recount involving absentee signature matching in Georgia.

"Anything less than that will not be a full and transparent recount," Perdue said in a campaign press release. "Georgians deserve full transparency and uniformity in the counting process."

Loeffler, in a statement a short time later said, "I fully support President Trump’s request for a recount in Georgia. We must match and verify absentee ballot signatures to their corresponding voter registration signatures, investigate all voting irregularities, and count only the votes that were legally cast.”

Signature matching will not take place during the recount, according to Gabriel Sterling, the statewide voting system implementation manager in Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's office. He said it's "not part of this process because it's not contemplated in the law" and that they've received no evidence that signature matching was not done properly in accordance with state law.

Sterling also said that parties were allowed to designate observers to watch the absentee signature matching process take place, but neither party did this except for just one instance in one county.

Georgia certified its election results on Friday.

Perdue and Loeffler are facing Democrats Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock in Georgia runoff elections for the U.S. Senate.

Nov 22, 3:51 pm
Trump slams Paris climate accord at virtual G-20 summit


Trump delivered a short speech during Sunday’s G-20 summit discussing the Paris climate accord.

"I withdrew the United States from the unfair and one-sided Paris climate accord, a very unfair act for the United States," he said. "The Paris accord was not designed to save the environment. It was designed to kill the American economy. I refuse to surrender millions of American jobs and send trillions of American dollars to the world's worst polluters and environmental offenders and that's what would have happened."

Biden has openly expressed his plans to re-join the accord after taking office.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a written statement that during the G-20 summit Sunday, the president also “discussed the economic model he has enacted," talked about “investing in women and called on all countries to do more.”

Later Sunday morning, Trump departed the White House to go to his Virginia golf course.

Nov 22, 3:17 pm
Michigan Dem party chair urges state canvassing board certify results


A day after the GOP sent a letter to the state board of canvassers, Lavora Barnes, the chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, submitted her own letter calling for the four appointed members -- two Republicans and two Democrats -- to "carry out" their responsibility and "certify the results" of the election.

Barnes blasts Trump and his Republican allies for sowing doubt in the integrity of the election with "recycled claims that have already failed in court."

"The certification process must not be manipulated to serve as some sort of retroactive referendum on the expressed will of the voters. That is simply not how democracy works," she writes. "The incumbent President and his political party have decided to use the weeks following the election to spread falsehoods and to sow doubt about our state’s democratic process. Their fundamental concern, of course, is not with the process at all, but instead with its result."

She also takes to task the GOP's hyper-focus on Detroit and efforts to cast the "out of balance" precincts as something of concern. The reality, Barnes explains, is that the number of votes at issues are "at most 450" which is not nearly enough to change the outcome of the election. Biden's lead is currently at more than 154,000 votes.

Nov 22, 2:02 pm
Loeffler tests negative, but will continue to self-isolate


Following inconclusive and positive COVID-19 tests, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., tested negative overnight, according to her campaign communications director.

The senator has been actively campaigning with Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., ahead of their runoff races in January. Their efforts have drawn several Republicans to the state, including Vice President Mike Pence on Friday. Loeffler and Pence appeared on stage in close proximity without masks on Friday. Perdue was also at the rally and in close proximity without a mask.

Loeffler had passed two rapid COVID tests on Friday morning before starting a day of campaigning, but found out at night she had tested positive in a PCR test, which generate fewer false positives or false negatives.

"She was informed later in the evening after public events on Friday that her PCR test came back positive, but she was retested Saturday morning after conferring with medical officials and those results came back inconclusive on Saturday evening," campaign spokesperson Stephen Lawson said late Saturday.

In his statement Sunday afternoon, Lawson said, "Out of an abundance of caution, she will continue to self-isolate and be retested again to hopefully receive consecutive negative test results. We will share those results as they are made available. She will continue to confer with medical experts and follow CDC guidelines."

Nov 22, 11:47 am
Biden's 1st cabinet picks coming on Tuesday


Incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said Sunday that President-elect Joe Biden will soon announce his first cabinet picks, a sign that he is moving swiftly forward with his transition despite President Donald Trump's refusal to concede the race.

"You're going to see the first of the president-elect's cabinet appointments on Tuesday of this week," Klain told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview on This Week.

Nov 22, 11:40 am
Election lawsuits: By the numbers


Since Election Day, the Trump campaign and its allies have lost in court at least 30 times in their efforts to overturn the results of the election, according to an ABC News count.

The campaign itself has filed 19 lawsuits across five states -- 17 of which have been lost so far by being denied, dismissed, withdrawn, etc. The campaign has had one win.

Nov 22, 11:08 am
Chris Christie: It’s time for Trump election challenges to end


When ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos asked former New Jersey Governor and ABC News Contributor Chris Christie if it was time for Trump's challenges to the election results to end, he agreed.
 
"Yes. And here's the reason why the president has had an opportunity to access the courts," Christie said on ABC's This Week Sunday. "And I said to you -- you know, George, starting at 2:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, if you've got the evidence of fraud, present it."

"What's happened here is quite frankly -- the conduct of the president's legal team has been a national embarrassment," he added.

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abcnews.comBY: ADAM KELSEY, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- The chief science adviser to the Trump administration's coronavirus vaccine development program expressed worry Sunday over continued public skepticism about immunization safety, blaming politics, in part, for some Americans' reluctance to receive a shot.

"I'm very, very concerned about the hesitancy (to receive a vaccine) as it exists and I think it's very unfortunate because this has been exacerbated by the political context under which we have worked very hard," Dr. Moncef Slaoui, Operation Warp Speed's chief science adviser said on ABC's "This Week."

Slaoui's comments come at a time when over 40% of Americans indicated they are unwilling to receive a Food and Drug Administration-authorized vaccine to prevent COVID-19, according to a recent Gallup poll. Simultaneously, the stand-off over President Donald Trump's refusal to concede the election to President-elect Joe Biden shrouds the continued vaccine development operation in politics.

On "This Week," Slaoui, who has pledged to remain apolitical while advising the Warp Speed project, said that he is "concerned with anything that could derail the process." He then confirmed he has not yet had contact with Biden's team.

"Wouldn't that help ensure a seamless transition from one administration to another?" asked ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

"We're here to serve. If people want to contact us, of course we will be available," Slaoui said, while noting that "the rules are such that confidential information needs to be kept with the federal employees."

"But otherwise, of course, I'd be happy to be contacted and explain what we're doing, as I'm doing it now, to all the public," he continued.

Two companies, Moderna and Pfizer, reported early data last week indicating that their respective vaccines were over 90% effective without serious side effects -- results that White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci labeled "extraordinary" at a press conference Thursday.

Slaoui echoed that characterization Sunday, drawing on decades of experience in vaccine research as he described the work of the pharmaceutical companies at the forefront of the breakthroughs.

"The vaccines have been developed as thoroughly and as scientifically as ever," he said. "I've been doing this for more than 30 years, this vaccine development is not different than any other, except that we have gone at an incredibly fast speed with incredible resources."

News of the early data arrived as the United States continues to experience a nationwide surge in coronavirus cases. In the past seven days, well over 1 million Americans were diagnosed with COVID-19 and more than 10,000 have died from the virus -- the largest number of deaths in one week since late April, according to the COVID Tracking Project. This week, the nation's total death toll from the virus since February eclipsed 250,000.

On Friday, Pfizer submitted an emergency use application for its vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration. The FDA is scheduled to discuss potential authorization on Dec. 10. Slaoui said Sunday that Moderna is planning to file its application by the end of the month and the FDA will evaluate it on Dec. 17.

Trump has criticized Pfizer -- which, unlike Moderna, did not receive federal funding for its research through Operation Warp Speed but instead committed, over the summer, to sell the government 100 million doeses for $2 billion -- claiming multiple times, without evidence, that it delayed its vaccine data until after the election in retaliation for Trump's efforts to lower drug prices.

"Do you have any evidence of that?" Stephanopoulos asked Slaoui on Sunday.

"I don't think any specific action has taken place to delay the vaccine," the doctor said.

Slaoui added that Pfizer's timeline was, in part, dictated by a "60-day follow up after completion of immunization" to understand "the short-term and the predictable, long-term safety of the vaccine," calling it "an appropriate decision."

Both Slaoui and Gen. Gustave Perna, Operation Warp Speed's chief operating officer, have said that immunizations could begin as soon as 24 hours after approval is granted. Health care workers and individuals considered at-risk, due to age or pre-existing conditions, are likely to be the first to receive inoculations. Slaoui told ABC News last month, prior to the Moderna and Pfizer news, that the government was planning to immunize most Americans by June 2021. He urged Americans on Sunday not to hesitate.

"I feel very comfortable that these vaccines are safe. I'd be happy to take the vaccine, I'll be happy to have my children out or my parents have the vaccine," he said. "And we will be totally transparent with every single bit of data and information that we know about the vaccine for everybody to listen."

"The key, frankly, is, please don't make up your mind before you listen to all the information that the FDA, and that the CDC, and that all independent experts in the country will be able to look into and advise you," Slaoui added.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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OlegAlbinsky/iStockBY: JOHN VERHOVEK, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- Incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said Sunday that President-elect Joe Biden will soon announce his first cabinet picks, a sign that he is moving swiftly forward with his transition despite President Donald Trump's refusal to concede the race.

"You're going to see the first of the president-elect's cabinet appointments on Tuesday of this week," Klain told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview on "This Week."

"But if you want to know what cabinet agencies they are or who's going to be those cabinet agencies, you'll have to wait for the president-elect, He'll say that himself on Tuesday," Klain added.

While Biden and his transition remain stalled, Klain did say that their team is moving forward with plans for an inauguration in Washington, albeit one that is drastically different than in years past due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's going to definitely have to be changed. We've started some consultations with House and Senate leadership on that. Obviously this is not going to be the same kind of inauguration we've had in the past," Klain told Stephanopoulos, noting that Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris' top priorities will be public health and ensuring they do not exacerbate the spread of COVID-19.

"Joe Biden and Kamala Harris conducted this campaign with the safety of the American people in mind," Klain said. "They're going to try to have an inauguration that honors the importance and the symbolic meaning of the moment, but also does not result in the spread of the disease. That's our goal."

Klain also maintained that while public safety is paramount, the American people do have a lot to celebrate after Biden's win. He said to expect many of the tactics and methods deployed by Democrats during their mostly virtual convention in August to be utilized again for the inauguration.

"We saw the day that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were announced as president and vice president of the United States people all over the world, and particularly in America, dancing in the streets. We know people want to celebrate. There is something here to celebrate. We just want to try to find a way to do it as safely as possible," Klain said.


Klain also continued to push for the General Services Administration (GSA) to ascertain Biden as the winner of the election, which would allow their team to formally begin its transition work.

"We're not in a position to get background checks on cabinet nominees. And so there are definite impacts. Those impacts escalate every day and I hope that the administrator of the GSA will do her job," Klain said.

The incoming chief of staff also was also challenged by Stephanopoulos on whether Trump and his administration deserve credit on the progress made on the discovery of a COVID-19 vaccine, to which Klain pivoted and praised the scientists who have worked on vaccine development and looked ahead to what he said is the "bigger step" of distributing said vaccine.

"I think that everyone involved should get credit for that. It starts most importantly with the scientists and brilliant men and women who have done this work, but ... vaccines don't save lives. Vaccinations save lives," Klain said. "So the scientific work that's been done to get this vaccine to the place where it can be approved by the FDA, hopefully very, very soon, is just the first step. The much bigger step is actually getting those vaccinations to the American people. That's hard."

When Stephanopoulos pointed out that Gen. Gustave Perna, the four-star Army general in charge of the Trump administration's "Operation Warp Speed," said earlier this week on ABC's "Good Morning America" that there has been and will not be a "slowdown" in vaccine distribution due to the stalled transition, Klain pointed to the shortcomings in the administration's testing efforts as evidence that Americans are still right to question their ability to effectively coordinate the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"The Trump administration has been at this for eight or nine months. In the course of that, fewer than one in three Americans has gotten a COVID test. And so, now, the question is how can we get 100% of Americans a vaccine in short order? That is a challenge that I think the American people are right to be skeptical about in terms of the way in which the Trump administration would handle it, and that's a challenge that has been largely fallen to the Biden administration," Klain argued.

Klain also called Trump's refusal to concede the election to Biden "corrosive" and "harmful," but said it will not change the fact that Biden won.

"Donald Trump's been rejecting democracy. He has been … launching baseless claims of voter fraud, baseless litigation rejected by 34 courts and now these efforts to try to get election officials to overturn the will of the voters. It's corrosive, it's harmful, but … it's not going to change the outcome of what happens here at 12 noon on Jan. 20, Joe Biden will become the next president of the United States," Klain said.

Pressed by Stephanopoulos on worries that Trump may be attempting to sow doubt about the legitimacy of Biden's presidency and that 70% of Republicans in a recent Monmouth University poll said they believe Biden defeated Trump due to voter fraud, Klain argued that the president-elect and his team know they need to work to reach out to Republicans. He also made clear that Biden will keep the promise that he made during the campaign to try and unite the country.

"We know we have to reach out to Republicans. We know we have to bring the country together. In fact, that's been the entire essence of Joe Biden's campaign for the presidency, trying to heal this nation, repair its soul, restore its backbone, unite the country -- and uniting the country is what he's doing," Klain said.

The incoming White House chief of staff also said he hopes top Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will soon accept the results of the election, and said he is encouraged by statements from Republican Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Mitt Romney of Utah who have called on Trump to concede and begin the transition process.

Pressed by Stephanopoulos on a comment Biden made during an interview with ABC News back in February about the need for Democrats to take back the United States Senate -- something they will fail to do unless they win the remaining two runoff elections in the state of Georgia -- Klain said that their team has already begun devoting resources to the southern state to flip both seats blue. He also added that Biden will work with whatever Senate is ultimately elected come January.

"The reality, of course ... is that even if we win them both, and I think we will win them both -- I think both candidates are doing a great job -- we're going to have a closely divided Senate, kind of under any scenario," Klain said, touting Biden's record of working across the aisle and reiterating that Biden is likely to campaign in-person in Georgia ahead of the January runoff elections.

"Whatever happens in Georgia. Obviously we want to win those seats. I really want to see Chuck Schumer be the next majority leader in the U.S. Senate ... but however that comes out, we are going to deliver for the American people. And that's the mission."


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Vacclav/iStockBY: LIBBY CATHEY, LAUREN KING, ADIA ROBINSON AND JACK ARNHOLZ, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) -- President-elect Joe Biden is moving forward with transition plans, capping a tumultuous and tension-filled campaign during a historic pandemic against President Donald Trump, who still refuses to concede the election two weeks after Biden was projected as the winner and is taking extraordinary moves to challenge the results.

Running out of legal alternatives to override the election loss, Trump invited Michigan's top Republican state lawmakers to visit the White House on Friday, as he and allies pursue a pressure campaign to overturn results in a state Biden won by more than 150,000 votes.

Despite Trump's roadblocks and his administration refusing to recognize Biden as the president-elect, Biden is forging ahead, meeting with transition advisers on Saturday as he prepares to announce key Cabinet positions.

Though Trump has alleged widespread voter fraud, he and his campaign haven't been able to provide the evidence to substantiate their claims and the majority of their lawsuits have already resulted in unfavorable outcomes.

Top headlines:

  • RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, Michigan GOP chair pushing to delay state certification 2 weeks
  • AOC, 'Squad' pressure Biden in intraparty feud
  • Unlike Biden, Trump had a 'fast and furious' transition 4 years ago

Here is how the transition is unfolding. All times Eastern.

Nov 21, 2:09 pm

AOC, 'Squad' pressure Biden in intraparty feud


Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became an undisputed congressional star after her 2018 primary upset win followed by her championing of the an ambitious legislative package to address climate change quickly dismissed by Republicans and Democrats alike.

AOC, the unofficial leader of the so-called Squad, has reinforcements in the coming next session of Congress, with Reps.-elect Jamaal Bowman, Mondaire Jones and Cori Bush joining the push to address climate change – complicating Joe Biden’s presidency before it even begins.

In a preview, she and the rest of the Squad rallied outside the DNC headquarters on Thursday – firing the first shots of the intraparty civil war as they demanded the Biden deliver on his campaign pledge to enact climate justice – despite pressure from corporate lobbyists.

Ocasio-Cortez claims she’s secured a commitment from the president-elect on a $2 trillion climate plan – which may be more than Biden can deliver given the political divide on Capitol Hill.

A month ago, Biden said that he does not support the Green New Deal, though he has laid out his own plan for addressing climate change.

-ABC News’ John Parkinson

Nov 21, 1:40 pm

Unlike Biden, Trump had a 'fast and furious' transition 4 years ago

Barely twelve hours after television networks declared Donald Trump the next president of the United States four years ago, officials at Border Patrol headquarters in Washington, D.C., quietly launched a new operation – not to capture drug smugglers or human traffickers, but to capture the attention of the Trump appointees who would be taking control of government.

“[W]e are moving fast and furious here at HQ to be prepared for the new Administration,” the agency’s head of law enforcement operations told colleagues in an email on Nov. 9, 2016, the day after the election.

The scramble that privately unfolded across government in the days immediately after the presidential election four years ago – and during almost every peaceful transition of power before then – has yet to materialize this year, as President Donald Trump continues to challenge Joe Biden’s election victory and Trump administration officials wait to officially declare Biden the winner.

"It's a study in contrasts," one current U.S. official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

Hundreds of Border Patrol emails obtained by ABC News through a Freedom of Information Act request offer a rare glimpse into just how far government agencies usually go and how quickly they take action to prepare for a new administration – efforts that current officials say are on hold right now across the U.S. government.

“As we all know, one of President-elect Trump’s central campaign themes was ‘border security.’ With our mission a clear priority… [w]e must be ready to provide the best and most accurate information as quickly as possible in order to take advantage of every opportunity to describe who we are, what we do and what we need to get our mission accomplished," the Border Patrol’s acting deputy chief of operations in Washington, D.C, wrote to other senior officials on Nov. 10, 2016, two days after the election four years ago.

-ABC News’ Mike Levine

Nov 21, 1:03 pm

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel, Michigan GOP chair pushing to delay state certification 2 weeks

Two days before the Michigan state board of canvassers is set to meet to weigh whether to certify the election in the state, RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel and Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox submitted a letter to the four-member bipartisan body asking to delay certification for two weeks and first audit the results in Wayne County.

"This board faces a stark choice: it can either ignore numerical anomalies and credible reports of procedural irregularities, leaving the distrust and sense of procedural disenfranchisement felt by many Michigan voters to fester for years; or it can adjourn for fourteen days to allow for a full audit and investigation into those anomalies and irregularities before certifying the results of the 2020 General Election, allowing all Michiganders to have confidence in the results," the two GOP chairs write in the letter obtained by ABC News.

McDaniel and Cox are asking the board, which is meeting on Monday, to grant the request made by Republican Senate candidate John James to allow for "a full, transparent audit" of Wayne County's results before certifying the election statewide.

James sought to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Gary Peters, who was projected by ABC News to win reelection.

"The procedural and accounting irregularities identified by the James Campaign’s request are credible, deeply concerning, and threaten to undermine Michigander’s faith in the integrity of the November 2020 General Election. To simply gloss over those irregularities now without a thorough audit would only foster feelings of distrust among Michigan’s electorate," they continue.

They point to the audit completed in Georgia before the results were certified, and they also quote Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as saying "with the margin being so close, it will require a full by-hand recount in each county."

But every state is different.

In Michigan, the secretary of state made clear on Friday that by state law, it is impossible to audit the results before the election is certified because "officials do not have legal access to the documents needed to complete audits until the certification."

Also, the margin in Michigan is nowhere near as close as Georgia's, with Joe Biden currently leading by more than 154,000 votes in Michigan, compared to just over 12,000 votes in Georgia.

"We implore you to listen to the pleas of your voters and order the audit," the letter from the GOP chairs reads.

The call for an audit in Wayne County, which is home to Detroit, a city where Black residents make up nearly 80% of the population, comes after a head-spinning reversal from two Republican members of the county board of canvassers earlier this week. The two GOP members of the board first voted against certification of the county’s results, citing precincts with “out-of-balance” reports, meaning that the number of votes cast and the number of voters signed in at the polling place were mismatched. Hours later, they backtracked and voted for certification, only to seek to rescind that vote the following day — a move that has been disputed by legal experts.

The number of votes at issue in Wayne County is also too small to influence the outcome of the election. In Wayne County, Biden is ahead by over 300,000 votes with nearly 70% of the vote.

The letter is the latest move by Republicans to sow doubt over the election’s results in the battleground. In an extraordinary move on Friday, President Trump met with top state lawmakers from Michigan, part of a strategy that now appears to increasingly rely on pressuring GOP state leaders to try to overturn the results of the election.

After nearly two hours in the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield released a joint statement reiterating, "we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan's electors."

-ABC News’ Kendall Karson, Katherine Faulders, Will Steakin

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Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesBy JOHN SANTUCCI, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The president's eldest son, 42, is the second of his children to test positive for the virus, following Barron Trump's diagnosis last month.

"Don tested positive at the start of the week and has been quarantining out at his cabin since the result," a spokesperson for Trump Jr. said. "He’s been completely asymptomatic so far and is following all medically recommended COVID-19 guidelines."

President Donald Trump himself tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 1, and was hospitalized at Walter Reed Medical Center one day later. The positive test was part of an outbreak of the disease at the White House, which included positive tests for first lady Melania Trump, Barron, former adviser Kellyanne Conway, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and several others.

Senior adviser Hope Hicks was the first to test positive in the president's orbit.

Trump Jr.'s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, tested positive for the virus in early July when the president was holding an event at Mount Rushmore. At the time, Donald Trump Jr. tested negative for the virus but self-isolated as a precaution and canceled several campaign events.

The president's son has consistently downplayed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, even after his father was diagnosed.

In an interview with Fox News on Oct. 30, he said deaths from the disease were "almost nothing."

"Why aren't they talking about deaths?" he told host Laura Ingraham. "The number's almost nothing because we've gotten control and we understand how it works. We have the therapeutics to be able to deal with this."

Those comments came the week after more than 5,600 people in the U.S. died from the COVID-19. Those numbers have only gone up in the resulting weeks as the country deals with a third wave of cases. There were 8,461 deaths in the U.S. last week, according to The COVID Tracking Project, the most in a week since May.

Donald Trump Jr. has also touted the baseless conspiracy that drug manufacturers delayed the announcement of vaccine results until after Election Day -- a claim his father made again during a press conference on Friday.

ABC News' Mark Osborne contributed to this report.

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Bill Chizek/iStockBy LIBBY CATHEY, LAUREN KING and ADIA ROBINSON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President-elect Joe Biden is moving forward with transition plans, capping a tumultuous and tension-filled campaign during a historic pandemic against President Donald Trump, who still refuses to concede the election nearly two weeks after Biden was projected as the winner -- and is taking extraordinary moves to challenge the results.

Running out of legal alternatives to override an election loss, Trump has invited Michigan's top Republican state lawmakers to visit the White House on Friday, as he and allies pursue a pressure campaign to overturn results in a state Biden won by more than 150,000 votes. He's also scheduled to deliver remarks on prescription drug prices in the afternoon.

Since the election, Trump has held just two public events at which he has spoken, opting instead to largely hunker down inside the White House while his administration stonewalls recognizing Biden as the president-elect.

Despite Trump's road blocks, Biden is forging ahead and stepping into the presidential spotlight. He and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are scheduled to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer in Wilmington, Delaware, on Friday.

Though Trump has alleged widespread voter fraud, he and his campaign haven't been able to provide the evidence to substantiate their claims with the majority of lawsuits already resulting in unfavorable outcomes.

Here is how the transition is unfolding. All times Eastern:

Nov 20, 6:59 pm
Michigan leaders pledge to 'follow the normal process' after White House meeting


After nearly two hours in the White House, a delegation from Michigan, including Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, released a joint statement following the meeting reiterating, "we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan's electors."

"Michigan's certification process should be a deliberate process free from threats and intimidation. Allegations of fraudulent behavior should be taken seriously, thoroughly investigated, and if proven, prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And the candidates who win the most votes win elections and Michigan's electoral votes," they said in a statement.

The lawmakers also mentioned their ongoing oversight investigation in the state Senate and House into the elections process is to provide "greater transparency and accountability to our citizens" but added they weren't aware of any information that would flip the outcome."

"We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan's electors, just as we have said throughout this election," they said.

The invitation from Trump, ahead of the state certifying its votes on Monday, seemed squarely aimed as an attempt to influence lawmakers to override certification. This would set up the potential for the GOP-controlled legislature to choose its own slate of pro-Trump electors to vote for the president at the Electoral College's December meeting.

-ABC News' Kendall Karson

Nov 20, 6:50 pm
Governor certifies Georgia’s 16 electoral votes for Biden


Gov. Brian Kemp has certified the slate of 16 electors in Georgia for Joe Biden, press secretary Cody Hall confirmed to ABC News, though in brief remarks Friday evening Kemp did not explicitly state that he had.

"Earlier today, Secretary Raffensperger presented -- presented the certified results of the 2020 General Election to my office. Following Judge Grimsberg's ruling yesterday, state law now requires the Governor's office to formalize the certification, which paves the way for the Trump campaign to pursue other legal options, and a separate recount if they choose," Kemp said.

The deadline for the Trump team to request a recount is 5 p.m. on Tuesday.

"As governor I have a solemn responsibility to follow the law. And that is what I will continue to do,” Kemp said at the end of his remarks.

However, Kemp, who served as secretary of state before he was governor, was also critical of the state's election and the fact that during the audit, thousands of uncounted ballots were discovered, saying Georgians deserve better and will get it ahead of the state’s Senate runoffs in January.

"It’s quite honestly hard to believe that, during the audit, thousands of uncounted ballots were found, weeks after a razor-thin outcome in a presidential election," he said. "This is simply unacceptable."

-ABC News' Quinn Scanlan

Nov 20, 5:29 pm
Milwaukee and Dane counties in Wisconsin officially start recount process

Milwaukee and Dane counties, two of the largest and the most Democratic-leaning counties in Wisconsin, began their recount process Friday, as requested by Trump’s campaign.

Both the Milwaukee County Board of Canvassers and the Dane County Board of Canvassers kicked off their respective meetings at 10 a.m. ET, but much of Friday is being used to prepare for the actual recount. The counties will livestream the entire 13-day process from multiple angles.

These two counties both voted overwhelmingly for Biden, with Dane County at 75.5%-22.8% and Milwaukee County 69.1%-29.3%. Milwaukee also has the state's largest Black population, and the campaign's targeting of voters for not supplying voter ID is likely to come down squarely on people of color, who are already the most disenfranchised by Wisconsin's voter ID laws.

he recount will take place in time for the state's Dec. 1 certification deadline.

Election officials don’t expect the recount to change the results as Biden leads Trump by more than 20,000 votes in the state.

-ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett and Soo Rin Kim

Nov 20, 4:56 pm
Georgia secretary of state certifies election results, governor faces deadline to sign off


Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has certified the results of the general election Friday, making it official that Biden won the state's 16 electoral votes.

"The numbers reflect the verdict of the people, not a decision by the secretary of state's office or our courts, or of either campaigns," Raffensperger said during a Friday morning news conference.

Following the certification of the results, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp must now "certify the slates of presidential electors receiving the highest number of votes" by 5 p.m. Saturday. While the president has repeatedly tagged Kemp in tweets, including one that said, "Republicans must get tough," the governor has not given any indication he will not follow through with his part of this process.

With the certification, a two-business-day time period begins for Trump to request a recount, as he's expected to, since he remains within 0.5% of Biden.

ABC News asked Kemp's office Friday if the governor will definitely certify the electors by the deadline but has not received a response.

-ABC News' Quinn Scanlan

Nov 20, 4:16 pm
Michigan lawmakers meet with Trump at the White House

Michigan lawmakers have arrived at the White House and were spotted walking into the West Wing just a couple of minutes before 4 p.m.

Trump is meeting with at least two Republican leaders ahead of the state's board of canvassers meeting on Monday in an apparent effort to try to influence them to override certification of the state’s vote. This would set up the potential for the GOP-controlled legislature to choose its own slate of pro-Trump electors to vote for the president at the Electoral College's December meeting.

The prospect of the Michigan legislature intervening in a process that it is not involved in by state law is not one that has been publicly embraced in Lansing or on Capitol Hill.

Bob Bauer, a senior adviser to the Biden team, tore into the idea of Trump’s meeting earlier Friday, slamming it as “pathetic” and “an abuse of office,” but he maintained that "there's no way whatsoever" Trump will be successful in overturning the election.

Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, who is among those meeting with Trump, tweeted earlier in the day he "won't apologize" for accepting a meeting with the president, adding that he's honored to speak with him.

Nov 20, 3:55 pm
Biden, Harris meet with Democratic leadership

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are sitting down with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leaders Chuck Schumer at The Queen Theater in Wilmington, Delaware, for their first in-person meeting since the election.

Reporters were briefly allowed into the top of meeting where Biden could be heard telling Pelosi and Schumer about how his team has repurposed various buildings around Wilmington to hold meetings and conduct transition work. He also thanked them for making the trip.

"Thanks for having us,” Schumer could be heard saying in return, while Pelosi said it’s an “honor” to be with him.

Biden also referenced the frosty relationship both Pelosi and Schumer have had with the current occupant of the Oval Office.

"In my Oval Office, -- mi casa, you casa," Biden said. "I’m gonna need you. I hope we’re gonna spend a lot of time together."

All four wore masks and were socially distanced, seated at a large rectangular table.

Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill earlier in the day they would discuss the lame-duck session and urgency of passing another round of coronavirus relief legislation. She also left the door open for the House of Representatives to intervene in Biden's transition as the Trump administration blocks it, though she didn't elaborate on details.

-ABC News' John Verhovek, Molly Nagle and Beatrice Peterson

Nov 20, 3:21 pm
Trump delivers remarks on drug prices, falsely claims he won election


Trump emerged before cameras on Friday afternoon to deliver remarks on lowering prescription drug prices which quickly unraveled into an attack on big pharmaceutical companies he claimed were working against him and a false declaration that he won the election.

“Big pharma ran million dollars of negative advertisements against me during the campaign -- which I won, by the way, but you know. We will find that out,” Trump said.

Turning to the coronavirus and promising news of vaccines, Trump accused Pfizer of delaying the release of its preliminary vaccine data until after the election as retribution for Trump's announcement of new rules designed to lower drug prices.

“So they waited and waited and waited and they thought they’d come out with it a few days after the election. And it would probably have had an impact. Who knows? Maybe it wouldn't have,” Trump said.

He left the event without taking questions from reporters. Since the election, Trump has held just three public events at which he hasn't taken any questions.

Nov 20, 2:28 pm
McEnany confirms Michigan lawmakers meeting with Trump

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Friday afternoon, at her first briefing at the White House in 50 days, confirmed that Trump will be meeting with Michigan lawmakers at the White House later in the day.

Asked what Trump plans to discuss with them and whether he will he ask them to have the state legislature appoint electors who will support his reelection, McEnany misleadingly cast the meeting as a routine event.

"So he will be meeting later on. This is not an advocacy meeting. There will be no one from the campaign there. He routinely meets with lawmakers from all across the country," McEnany said.

The invitation from Trump comes ahead of the state's board of canvassers meeting on Monday to certify the vote and amid the Trump campaign's ongoing fight over the outcome of the election, with relentless unsubstantiated claims of fraud and a string of unsuccessful legal challenges to the results.

McEnany, who regularly changes hats between White House press secretary and Trump campaign adviser, deferred to the campaign when asked what the strategy would be to overturn the election but repeatedly referred to “ongoing litigation."

Notably, the Trump campaign has had just one victory in court so far that still stands out of the 19 lawsuits it has filed since Election Day.

Asked about Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander calling on the Trump administration to at least allow Biden’s team the ability to reach out to agencies and access government data, McEnany cited the Presidential Transition Act in trying to argue that it’s the law -- and not the president’s refusal to concede -- that is preventing that from happening.

-ABC News' Ben Gittleson, Jordyn Phelps and Olivia Rubin

Nov 20, 10:57 am
Michigan's top GOP lawmakers heading to Washington, DC


After Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said on CNN Friday morning that House Speaker Lee Chatfield texted her while she was on air and said he hasn't confirmed if he will be heading to the White House, a source familiar confirms that he is still going to Washington for an expected meeting with Trump.

"I know both the speaker and the senate majority leader well. They're folks who do respect the law. They're folks who is do follow the rule of law. And so, again, you know, I'll take their public statements for what they are, which is that they've said that they stand with the will of the voters," Benson said.

Amid the confusion over whether the speaker was still going, the Senate Leader was spotted at the airport Friday morning and was met by a few protesters, who were chanting "protect our votes" while holding signs that say, "uphold our democracy," according to video shot by local reporter Charlie Langton.

During Benson's interview, asked if she has any concerns about the pressure Trump could put on the two GOP leaders in a one-on-one meeting, she said, "regardless of anyone's power of persuasion, you can't persuade away the facts and the truth."

"It's very clear that the voters of Michigan have spoken, the election has occurred, the vote has been tabulated and tallied very securely, very accurately. There's no legal or factual basis to question that. There's been no irregularities, no widespread fraud, despite significant scrutiny and folks looking for that," she continued.

She also reiterated again that every county has certified "despite some confusion" -- a nod to the back-and-forth in Wayne County.

-ABC News' Kendall Karson


Nov 20, 10:41 am
Overview: Trump targets Michigan lawmakers to subvert election results


Running out of legal options to override an election loss, Trump is resorting to raw political pressure -- using the powers and prestige of the presidency to target battleground states and try to overturn the results of the election.

In an extraordinary last-ditch gambit, Trump has invited Republican members of the Michigan Legislature to the White House Friday, as he attempts to thwart the electoral process in a state Biden won by more than 150,000 votes.

The aim appears to be for Trump to influence the lawmakers ahead of the state's board of canvassers meeting on Monday so they would try to override the certification of the state’s vote -- setting up the potential for the GOP-controlled legislature to choose its own slate of pro-Trump electors to vote for the president at the Electoral College's December meeting.

The prospect of the Michigan legislature intervening in a process that it is not involved in by state law is not one that has been publicly embraced in Lansing. And on Capitol Hill, at least one Republican is slamming Trump’s decision.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the only Republican who voted to remove Trump from office during his impeachment trial, eviscerated the White House invitation, saying, “It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President.”

Trump is putting similar pressure on Georgia's GOP Gov. Brian Kemp -- who, following a hand-count audit affirming Biden as the winner, now must sign the state’s vote certification by Friday at 5 p.m. -- calling on him a tweet to "get tough." Trump could request a recount in the state, but he still trails Biden by just over 12,000 votes.

The president may try to flip Arizona as well -- where the state's GOP governor has said he wait until the legal challenges play out -- but with a string of, so far, unsuccessful legal challenges to the results from and unsubstantiated claims of fraud from the Trump campaign and its allies, there are no viable pathways left for the president.

Trump, who typically relishes in the spotlight, has largely hunkered inside the White House since the election, but he may break his silence on Biden’s transition with a public appearance at 2:30 p.m. to talk prescription drug prices.

Biden, meanwhile, is pressing forward with what he can while the Trump administration continues to stonewall his ascertainment. He’s meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in Wilmington, Delaware, Friday where they’re expected to address Trump and the prospects for passing another COVID-19 relief bill that Biden wants.

It all comes as Senior House Democrats seek to have Emily Murphy, the embattled administrator of the General Services Administration, explain why she's refused to formally acknowledge Biden apparent victory over Trump -- and are demanding a briefing from her by Monday.

Nov 20, 10:18 am
Georgia sec. of state affirms Biden won Georgia, says he's 'disappointed' Trump didn't win


Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger appeared at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta for the first time since he announced the state would conduct a full by hand recount of votes in the presidential race, to affirm that with the audit's completion, he's confident Biden has won the state of Georgia.

In brief remarks, Raffensperger said that he's "disappointed" Trump, whom he said he was a "proud supporter of," didn't win in Georgia, but as an engineer, he has to follow the numbers, and he believes the results of this election are correct.

Raffensperger's deputy, Jordan Fuchs, said that the secretary would certify the results after the press conference and the completion of that would be announced in a press release. The Trump campaign still has until Tuesday to request a recount.

At the top of his remarks, Raffensperger also addressed the anger over the outcome and audit's process -- seen from the president and his Republican allies -- who have attacked Raffensperger throughout the process and called him to resign.

"Close margins of voters leads to fights that are as fierce after Election Day as the campaigns before," he said. "Close elections sow distrust. People feel their side was cheated. We saw this from the Democrats in 2018. And we see this from Republicans today."

-ABC News' Quinn Scanlan


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Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesBy QUINN SCANLAN, ABC News

Correction: Due to an erroneous press release provided by the Georgia secretary of state's office, this article previously stated that the election had been certified. It has not.

(ATLANTA) -- Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger will certify the results of the general election Friday, and make it official that President-elect Joe Biden won the state's 16 electoral votes.

The secretary of state's office had erroneously blasted out a press release at 12:26 p.m. saying Raffensperger had certified the election. Forty minutes later, a corrected press release was sent, which said the secretary will certify results Friday. ABC News has asked when the results will be certified, and has not received a response. The deadline to certify the results is 5 p.m.

"Working as an engineer throughout my life, I live by that numbers don't lie. As secretary of state, I believe that the numbers that we have presented today are correct," Raffensperger said during a news conference. "The numbers reflect the verdict of the people, not a decision by the secretary of state's office or our courts, or of either campaigns."

It was the secretary's first time appearing before cameras at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta since Veterans Day, when he announced the state would conduct a full by hand recount of votes in the presidential race. The results of the audit were finalized and released Thursday evening.

Raffensperger had been quarantining because his wife, Tricia, tested positive for coronavirus on Nov. 12. He told the press he'd been tested three times since then and tested negative every time. He removed his mask only upon arriving at the podium.

Once the results are certified, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp must "certify the slates of presidential electors receiving the highest number of votes" by 5 p.m. Saturday. While the president has repeatedly tagged Kemp in tweets, including one that said, "Republicans must get tough," the governor has not given any indication he will not follow through with his part of this process.

ABC News asked Kemp's office Friday if the governor will definitely certify the electors by the deadline but has not received a response.

In brief remarks Friday, taking no questions, Raffensperger said he was "disappointed" President Donald Trump, whom he said he was a "proud supporter of," didn't win the state of Georgia, like he did easily in 2016.

"Close margins of voters leads to fights that are as fierce after Election Day as the campaigns before," he said. "Close elections sow distrust. People feel their side was cheated. We saw this from the Democrats in 2018. And we see this from Republicans today."

After the results of the audit, which reaffirmed the more than 10,000-vote lead Biden held over Trump in Georgia, were released, the president's campaign said Raffensperger "should not" certify results, and declared his team would pursue all "legal options."

"This so-called hand recount went exactly as we expected because Georgia simply recounted all of the illegal ballots that had been included in the total. We continue to demand that Georgia conduct an honest recount, which includes signature matching," Trump campaign senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis said in a statement.

Despite the unprecedented hand count audit reaffirming the results of the machine tabulation were accurate, the Trump campaign is still entitled to request a full recount following certification. It must be formally requested by Tuesday, and under state law the recount would use high-capacity scanners and would not be done by hand.

But just because it will be done by machine doesn't mean it won't be another time consuming undertaking by county election officials.

Not only does the cost of a recount fall on the counties -- and not the Trump campaign -- but officials would be up against the "safe harbor" deadline, of Dec. 8. Congress mandates that presidential election results be considered conclusive six days before the meeting of electors, which is on Dec. 14 this year.

Every county has at least one scanner to conduct a recount, the secretary of state's office has said. The largest counties have more than one, but it will still take days to rescan every ballot cast in the presidential race.

Some counties would possibly be forced to work through the Thanksgiving holiday to complete the recount on time. Election workers across the state, especially in the most populated counties, have had little to no time off since the election, often working into the night and on weekends to power through the first count and then the largest by-hand count in U.S. history.

During his remarks Friday, Raffensperger also laid out his priorities for election reform moving forward.

Without going into too much detail, he said he wants to see legislation that allows his office to be able to intervene if a county has "ongoing systemic problems with administering elections."

"We need to have a remedy that allows the state to address problem areas and get those counties moving in the right direction," he said.

Noting the few thousand uncounted ballots that were discovered in some counties during the audit, he added that there must be a better reconciliation process to prevent that from happening again.

Raffensperger also said he wants a photo ID requirement for requesting absentee ballots, saying the significant increase in voters opting to use this method of voting "has raised concerns about election integrity." No-excuse absentee voting has been allowed in Georgia since 2005, but in past non-pandemic elections only about 5% of voters cast ballots that way.

Photo IDs are required for in-person voters, and Raffensperger said requiring them for absentee ballots would eliminate the "controversial signature verification system" and move the state from a "subjective system to an objective system."

"I will work with legislators to find a solution that allows us to use the same security measures for votes by mail as we have for in person voting. That would include a photo ID requirement," the secretary said. "We know this works. We know this stops fraud. We know that claims that it would suppress have been proven wrong with empirical evidence or empirical studies."

The Trump campaign and Georgia Republican Party have, for days, made false claims about the state's signature matching process and rejection rates.

"Almost ZERO ballots rejected in Georgia this election. In years past, close to 4%. Not possible. Must have signature check on envelopes now. Very easy to do. Dems fighting because they got caught. Far more votes than needed for flip. Republicans must get tough! @BrianKempGA," Trump tweeted Thursday.

Gabriel Sterling, with the secretary of state's office, had previously said that when Republicans make this argument they are comparing "apples and oranges" because the full rejection rate includes absentee ballots that are received after the deadline, and this type of rejection makes up the "vast majority" of rejected absentee ballots.

Sterling said that of the 1.3 million absentee ballots returned for this election, 2,011 were rejected because of either missing or inaccurate signatures, which equals a 0.15% rejection rate; in 2016, of the 246,000 returned absentee ballots, 580 were rejected over signatures issues, which amounted to 0.15%.

Trump and his allies have taken issue with a March settlement between Raffensperger, the State Election Board, the Democratic Party of Georgia and national Democrats' House and Senate campaign arms. Republicans have claimed the consent decree made it harder for election officials to reject absentee ballots because of signature mismatches and, therefore, means it's less likely to happen. The secretary's office has disputed this, saying Raffensperger has strengthened signature-matching protocols during his tenure.

The consent decree changed how quickly election officials must notify a voter their absentee ballot was rejected if the rejection happens within 11 days of the election. It also required the secretary to enforce on counties a rule requiring an election worker to seek out two colleagues' opinions before rejecting an absentee ballot over a signature issue.

Republicans have also railed against the audit because election workers weren't reverifying every signature accompanying absentee ballots. That also will not happen as part of a formal recount.

Absent a court order, or the presentation of "credible evidence to pursue on a specific issue" -- which has not been produced yet -- reverifying signatures will not take place again, according to Sterling.

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Official White House Photo by Tia DufourBy BEN GITTLESON, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Dr. Deborah Birx, the Trump White House coronavirus response coordinator, would like to continue serving in a Biden administration, her colleagues said this week.

“I think if she were asked, she would say yes,” Ambassador James Glassman, a friend of Birx’s and a former George H.W. Bush administration official, told ABC News. “She can't say yes now because she works for President Trump's task force."

Birx, a global health expert who runs the federal government’s program combatting HIV/AIDS, was tapped by the White House in February to serve a central role in the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She has said she would be interested in staying on board at least long enough to help the incoming administration get up and running, her colleagues told ABC News.

“Right now there is work to do, and come January 20th, there will be different work to do,” a colleague of hers told ABC News. “And having that continuity and understanding what has worked, what hasn't worked, is very important.”

But Birx has found herself in an increasingly complicated position as she combats the virus while serving a president who has ignored science and downplayed the pandemic. Her rosy presentations from the White House podium and presence alongside Trump at news conferences this spring -- as well as her attempt to explain away President Donald Trump's suggestion in April that Americans could inject disinfectant to treat the virus -- have hurt her credibility and led to charges she has enabled the president.

Her colleagues said Birx could help President-elect Joe Biden’s team ensure a level of continuity to the U.S. pandemic response.

Trump has refused to acknowledge he lost reelection two weeks ago, and the federal government has blocked current administration officials leading the country’s COVID-19 response from coordinating with the incoming administration -- or even being in touch with them. Birx has yet to hear from Biden’s transition team, according to one of her colleagues.

Birx, who holds the title of ambassador and helms the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, has received criticism from top Democrats for her role in Trump's White House, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who told ABC News in August that she did not have confidence in the scientist. Pelosi's spokesman said Friday her office had no additional comment.

After months of avoiding public disagreement with the president, Birx sounded the alarm just before the presidential election concluded, according to a Nov. 2 report in The Washington Post. In an internal report, Birx pleaded for "an aggressive balanced approach that is not being implemented," according to the Post.

“It’s complicated,” Céline Gounder, a member of Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board, told Politico. “It’s almost like she herself has been politicized.”

Birx did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

If she were asked to stay on, it is likely Birx would be the only political appointee. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is a career civil servant who has served multiple administrations, has signaled he plans to stay on as the nation’s top infectious expert as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Birx's current position running PEPFAR does not directly relate to the COVID-19 response, unlike Fauci's.

Glassman, who held a senior role in the George H.W. Bush State Department and has befriended Birx through their mutual work in global health, said that he thought Birx, who was nominated in 2014 by President Barack Obama to her current position as the United States’ global AIDS coordinator, had “handled herself extremely well in an extremely difficult situation with Trump.”

“I don't think that she would want to stay on that task force for a long period of time,” Glassman said, explaining that hopefully the virus would abate and the need for her -- and a task force -- would diminish over time. "I think she would want to be there at least in the beginning.”

After frequently appearing alongside the president, vice president and other top administration officials at news conferences on the pandemic this spring, Birx found herself increasingly sidelined as Trump further minimized science that did not line up with his re-election message. She has spent months traveling the country -- to 43 states, according to a colleague -- meeting with state and local officials and gaining a better understanding of how to encourage Americans to practice behavior that will slow the virus's spread.

Gounder told CNN in an interview Thursday that Birx “holds really crucial information,” that the Biden team has not been able to access, such as key information about medical equipment supplies.

“She really is central in terms of the knowledge and the expertise that she holds,” Gounder said.

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Bet_Noire/iStockBy MIKE LEVINE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Barely twelve hours after television networks declared Donald Trump the next president of the United States four years ago, officials at Border Patrol headquarters in Washington, D.C., quietly launched a new operation -- not to capture drug smugglers or human traffickers, but to capture the attention of the Trump appointees who would be taking control of government.

“[W]e are moving fast and furious here at HQ to be prepared for the new Administration,” the agency’s head of law enforcement operations told colleagues in an email on Nov. 9, 2016, the day after the election.

The scramble that privately unfolded across government in the days immediately after the presidential election four years ago – and during almost every peaceful transition of power before then – has yet to materialize this year, as President Donald Trump continues to challenge Joe Biden’s election victory and Trump administration officials wait to officially declare Biden the winner.

"It's a study in contrasts," one current U.S. official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

Hundreds of Border Patrol emails obtained by ABC News through a Freedom of Information Act request offer a rare glimpse into just how far government agencies usually go and how quickly they take action to prepare for a new administration – efforts that current officials say are on hold right now across the U.S. government.

“As we all know, one of President-elect Trump’s central campaign themes was ‘border security.’ With our mission a clear priority… [w]e must be ready to provide the best and most accurate information as quickly as possible in order to take advantage of every opportunity to describe who we are, what we do and what we need to get our mission accomplished," the Border Patrol’s acting deputy chief of operations in Washington, D.C, wrote to other senior officials on Nov. 10, 2016, two days after the election four years ago.

In the days that followed, Border Patrol leadership collected information "for new fence construction" and new surveillance tools, but they also directed a handful of field offices to produce “video vignettes” about their operations that could be played for incoming administration officials.

“Scripting is key,” one Border Patrol official in Texas cautioned, before an official from headquarters offered his own advice: "Pictures of rusting pipes don’t tell compelling arguments. A 90-second video with an agent talking about who they are, where they are and how the facilities affect their ability to apprehend aliens tells a whole different story."

Such detailed planning is not taking place right now, nor are the in-person briefings or document handoffs that are usually well underway at this time after an election, current government officials told ABC News.

In fact, current and former national security officials said that while the Trump administration’s delays in sharing policy-related materials -- like those highlighted in the Border Patrol emails -- may be frustrating, delays in sharing classified threat information and diplomatic intelligence concern them far more.

“That’s the dangerous thing,” according to Jordan Strauss, a former Justice Department and White House official who helped compile national security-related materials for the coming transition four years ago.

Many on Biden’s team have extensive government experience and served in high-level national security posts under the Obama administration, “but a lot can change in four years,” Strauss warned. “So there [could be] a known threat for which mitigation – starting on Day 1 – requires read-ins and knowledge of sensitive material, [but] the transition team can’t get access.”

By law, government agencies must begin compiling briefing materials for a new administration even before the election takes place. But those materials can’t be shared with the incoming administration until the General Services Administration “ascertains” the winner.

At the Defense Department, a senior official issued guidance to his entire workforce a week after the election telling staffers to “remain in pre-election mode,” according to a copy of the guidance reviewed by ABC News.

“Until the General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator has formally ascertained a winner, Departments and Agencies are NOT authorized to engage any transition team. We do not know when that will occur,” the guidance said.

At the Justice Department, many career officials – who by this time four years ago had put together binders of materials describing ongoing criminal investigations – have yet to start work on similar binders for the incoming Biden team “due to the situation,” one source familiar with the matter told ABC News.

“So nothing [more] has been prepared,” the source said.

According to the current U.S. official, those binders are usually filled with memos telling the incoming team: "Here is where you’re picking up the story, these are the things that have happened, [and] here is a list of decisions you may be asked to make in the next 60 to 90 days with respect to this [issue]."

Despite the transition standstill and guidance to stand down for now, staffers in some government agencies have been drafting additional memos, assuming that Biden will be "ascertained" the winner at some point and the memos can then be shared, the U.S. official said.

Such memos “are important,” but “many may be sitting on desks,” according to Strauss, now an executive at the global intelligence firm Kroll and its parent company Duff & Phelps.

“When you get a new computer or a new phone, there’s the one-page ‘quick start guide.’ That’s what the memos do,” added Strauss.

On Thursday, Biden himself described the delay in ascertaining a winner as "totally irresponsible," saying "there is no excuse" for the Trump administration failing to share information and materials related to the COVID-19 pandemic in particular.

"It's going to put us behind the eight ball by a matter of a month or more, and that's lives [lost]," he said.

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TriggerPhoto/iStockBy KENDALL KARSON and KATHERINE FAULDERS, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Running out of legal alternatives to override an election loss, President Donald Trump is turning to an extraordinary maneuver by requesting Michigan's top state lawmakers visit the White House for an expected meeting on Friday, sources told ABC News.

The president is expected to meet with Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield -- both Republicans -- at the White House after requesting the visit, the sources said.

The move comes amid the Trump campaign's ongoing fight over the outcome of the election in the battleground, with relentless unsubstantiated claims of fraud and a string of, so far, unsuccessful legal challenges to the results.

The White House declined to comment on whether the meeting would take place.

In a press conference Thursday, President-elect Joe Biden said Trump's actions are going to be "another incident where he will go down in history as being one of the most irresponsible presidents in American history."

"It's just out of the -- not even within the norm at all," Biden added. "There's questions whether it's even legal. But it's going to be interesting to see who shows up in this call to meet with the leadership."

Trump's effort to pursue a pressure campaign ahead of the state's board of canvassers meeting on Monday, regardless if successful, is actively sowing doubt in the integrity of the election.

His brazen gambit in a state where he is trailing by the widest margin among the battlegrounds -- more than 150,000 votes -- follows a chaotic 48 hours in Michigan. The certification process in the state's largest county was thrown into turmoil by repeated reversals from two Republican members of the county board of canvassers.

It also comes after members of his own legal team have openly suggested that their last recourse might be a GOP-controlled legislature intervening by overturning the will of the people and choosing their own slate of pro-Trump electors to vote for the president at the Electoral College's December meeting.

The prospect of the Michigan Legislature intervening in a process that by state law they are not involved in is not one that has been publicly embraced in Lansing.

Shirkey told Bridge Michigan, a local news outlet, "that's not going to happen," and a spokesperson for Chatfield has told ABC News that the speaker has been clear about his position that the person who receives the most votes in Michigan will receive Michigan's electoral votes.

A spokesperson for the state Senate majority leader also reiterated that state law does not allow for the legislature to step in and directly select the electors or award the electors to anyone other than the popular-vote winner.

If the state legislature were to appoint pro-Trump electors, under pressure from the president, Samuel Bagenstos, a professor of law at the University of Michigan, who specializes in constitutional law, said it would be an "outrageous subversion of democracy."

Trump's increased public involvement, and the chaos in Wayne County, brought Monday's vote to certify the statewide results to the fore.

The bipartisan state board of canvassers, which is made up of two Republicans and two Democrats, are set to meet to finalize the election. Only three votes out of four are needed to officially verify the results.

One Republican member of the state board, Norm Shinkle, a longtime Republican activist from Ingham County, told Bridge Michigan that he is making "no predictions" about the impending vote.

Shinkle hasn't ruled out affirming the results, but his wife, Mary Shinkle, who served as a Republican poll challenger in Detroit, filed an affidavit as part of the Trump campaign's lawsuit in the state, according to the Detroit Free Press. He also told the outlet he had concerns over what his wife saw while watching the tallying of the votes.

The other GOP member of the board, Aaron Van Langevelde -- appointed by former Gov. Rick Snyder in 2018 -- has not publicly signaled how he will vote.

But after the spectacle in Wayne County, in which the local elections board was briefly deadlocked on Tuesday night before reversing course and certifying the results just hours later, there are concerns within the state about the possibility of the state board coming to an impasse, which would punt the process to the courts, Bagenstos said.

"The state courts have in the past ordered members of the state board of canvassers to do their legal duty. And I fully expect that if they're called on to do that this time, they will order the canvassers to do their legal duty and certify the election because there is no legal basis for refusing to certify the election right now," he said.

Further complicating Monday's vote is the decision by the two Republican canvassers in Wayne County to seek to rescind their vote to certify a day after the deadline.

All 83 counties in Michigan have certified their results, according to the secretary of state, whose office dismissed the latest turn in a dramatic series of events in Wayne County.

"There is no legal mechanism for them to rescind their vote," a spokesperson for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said. "Their job is done and the next step in the process is for the Board of State Canvassers to meet and certify."

Benson reiterated on Thursday night in an interview with ABC News Live that there has been "no evidence of widespread fraud in the election."

Legal experts, too, believe that the final vote on Tuesday is in fact final.

"The Tuesday night vote to certify is the final vote. That's the legally applicable vote," said Bagenstos. "The affidavits that these couple of canvassers filed don't have any legal effect on the vote ... they would have to have a new meeting."

Both GOP members of the board, Monica Palmer and William Hartmann, spoke with the president the evening before they disavowed their vote certify the results, sources told ABC News.

It's not immediately clear if the latest move to reverse their votes was discussed. ABC News has reached out to both Palmer and Hartmann.

ABC News' Ben Gittleson, Molly Nagle and Adia Robinson contributed to this report.

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3dfoto/iStockBy QUINN SCANLAN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- The results of Georgia's first-ever risk-limiting audit, which entailed counties recounting by hand every vote cast in the presidential race, reaffirmed that President-elect Joe Biden is the victor in Georgia, according to the secretary of state.

"The audit confirmed the original result of the election, namely that Joe Biden won the Presidential Contest in the state of Georgia," the audit report plainly states.

It will be the first time since 1992, when then-candidate Bill Clinton's margin of victory was similarly close, that a Democrat will earn the Peach State's 16 electoral votes. Edison Research, the company ABC News uses to report votes, projected that Biden would win Georgia on Friday.

"The recount process simply reaffirmed what we already knew: Georgia voters selected Joe Biden to be their next president. We are grateful to the election officials, volunteers and workers for working overtime and under unprecedented circumstances to complete this recount, as the utmost form of public service," Jaclyn Rothenberg, the Biden campaign's Georgia communications director, said in a statement.

However, the Trump campaign said that Biden is not the winner, even though the audit report states he is, because Georgia hasn't certified its election results. The campaign also said Georgia shouldn't certify them.

"This so-called hand recount went exactly as we expected because Georgia simply recounted all of the illegal ballots that had been included in the total. We continue to demand that Georgia conduct an honest recount, which includes signature matching. We intend to pursue all legal options to ensure that only legal ballots are counted," Trump campaign senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis said in a statement.

Republican Brad Raffensperger, the state's top election official, has been under fire from members of his own party, who've made unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud, since before the full, by-hand recount of the presidential race was announced on Nov. 11. The state was always planning to conduct an audit on one contest following the general election, as is now required by law following the passage of a 2019 election reform bill, but it was up to Raffensperger to choose which race to audit, and he selected the presidential race because of its "national significance." Since the margin in the contest was so tight, the secretary, in consultation with audit experts assisting with the process, determined that the most efficient and accurate way to do the audit would be to hand count every one of the approximately 5 million votes cast in the race.

According to VotingWorks, the organization that helped implement the audit, it's the largest hand count of votes in U.S. history.

In the results of the audit, Biden's lead was 12,284 votes. The statewide variation of the machine-counted results and the hand counted results was 0.1053%. According to the report, prior research indicates that the expected variance between hand and machine counts is between 1% and 1.5%. No county has a variation greater than 0.73% and 103 out of 159 counties had variations less than 0.05%.

"Georgia's historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state's new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results," Raffensperger said in a statement. "This is a credit to the hard work of our county and local elections officials who moved quickly to undertake and complete such a momentous task in a short period of time."

The deadline for Raffensperger to certify the general election results is 5 p.m. Friday, and the secretary's office has said the announcement of the certification's completion will likely come in a press release.

Since the margin of victory is still within 0.5% of total votes cast in the contest, the Trump campaign can request a recount. The recount would be conducted using high-capacity scanners and not be done by hand. Under state law, counties bear the costs associated with a recount.

The deadline to request a recount is 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Republicans, including the president, railed against the audit's process because it did not entail re-verifying the signatures accompanying the approximately 1.3 million returned absentee ballots.

"Thousands of uncounted votes discovered in Georgia counties. When the much more important signature match takes place, the State will flip Republican, and very quickly," Trump tweeted Thursday.

Looking at signatures again would still not take place as part of a recount. Absent a court order, or the presentation of "credible evidence to pursue on a specific issue," re-verifying signatures will not take place, according to Gabriel Sterling, the statewide voting system implementation manager in Raffensperger's office.

During the audit, election officials in four counties discovered uncounted votes that were not included in their originally reported results.

In Fayette, Walton and Douglas counties, election officials learned that memory cards -- just one in each county -- containing votes were erroneously not uploaded. In Fayette County, 2,755 votes were on the memory card; in Walton County, 284 votes were on the memory card; in Douglas County, 293 votes were on the memory card.

In Floyd County, election officials found a batch of ballots that had never been scanned at all, an error that Gabriel Sterling, the statewide voting system implementation manager, called an "amazing blunder." Raffensperger called on the county's chief clerk of elections, Robert Brady, to resign because of the mistake. On Thursday, the Floyd County Board of Election voted to fire Brady.

Sterling said Wednesday that the issue in Floyd was "a lot more dangerous" because unlike the memory card issue, "there wasn't a reconciliation process that was going to catch" the error in Floyd, so without this audit, there's a real possibility those votes never would have been found. If the other three counties had conducted their reconciliation process properly, the missing memory card would have been found.

He said that reinforcing the reconciliation process to county officials will be a priority looking toward the next election.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Sterling, who has been the public face of the audit representing the secretary's office, said that he was "prayerful" that when the audit was completed, everyone -- regardless of party affiliation -- could trust the results.

"Everybody who's involved in this -- even the parties -- they need to have faith in the outcome of these elections, whether they win, or whether they lose, because that's the bedrock of how we have a transfer of power," he said.

ABC News' John Verhovek contributed reporting.

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Oleksii Liskonih/iStockBy CONOR FINNEGAN, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With the clock ticking on the Trump administration, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is breaking precedents with a tour of Israeli-occupied land and pushing to cement a foreign policy legacy for an administration in denial that is in its final days.

That includes a sweep of new sanctions on Iran, symbolic gestures in support of hard-line Israeli positions and sanctioning Yemeni rebels in a move humanitarian groups warn could cost lives. Critics call it a salted-earth strategy meant to box in Joe Biden's incoming administration -- something Pompeo himself seemed to embrace.

President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign on Iran "is working, sanctions will continue and the United States will not hesitate to impose painful consequences on those who engage in sanctionable activity. Throughout the coming weeks and months, we will impose new sanctions on Iran," Pompeo said Wednesday.

That statement was issued shortly before Pompeo arrived in Jerusalem, where he has sawed away at norms this year -- addressing his party's political convention in August and on Thursday becoming the first Secretary of State to visit an Israeli settlement in the West Bank and the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights.

"This is a part of Israel -- and a central part of Israel," Pompeo said in the Golan Heights, disparaging the "salons in Europe" and "elite institutions in America" that said the region should be returned to Syria after Israel seized it during the 1967 Six-Day War. In March 2019, Trump recognized Israel's annexation of the territory, making the U.S. the only country in the world to do so.

Earlier in the day, Pompeo visited Israeli settlements in the West Bank, starting at Qasr el-Yahud, the traditional site of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan Valley, according to a State Department official. U.S. press were barred from traveling with him.

Afterwards, he visited the Psagot Winery near the Israeli settlement of Psagot, a vineyard popular among evangelical Christian Americans. Pompeo and its owner met in July in Des Moines, Iowa, at the Family Leadership Summit, hosted by evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats, who told ABC News, "Secretary Pompeo should be commended for his support of Israel, and I think it's a good thing for the U.S. secretary of state to visit Judea and Samaria," the Biblical and Israeli names for the West Bank.

While Pompeo was there, he announced that the State Department will require that all goods made in "areas where Israel exercises the relevant authorities" be marked as "made in Israel" when they're exported to the U.S. That means any product made in Israeli settlements, which the U.S. does not officially recognize, can be labeled as a product of Israel -- creating an official-unofficial recognition of Israeli control of contested lands.

While U.S. labels now say "West Bank/Gaza," the new policy also requires that goods made "where the Palestinian Authority maintains relevant authorities" be marked as from the "West Bank" and those made in Gaza marked "Gaza." That essentially splits Palestinian territory into two separate places, which Palestinian leaders said undermines the idea of a unified Palestinian state.

Among the products available for export to the U.S. are a Psagot Winery wine named after Pompeo. The winery produced a limited edition red blend of Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon named for the top U.S. diplomat after he blasted the European Court of Justice for its ruling last November that products made in Israeli settlements must be labeled as such, not as from "Israel."

Pompeo also announced Thursday that the U.S. will identify organizations that support the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which opposes Israel's settlement policies, as anti-Semitic and withdraw U.S. support for them.

Pompeo has long called the BDS movement anti-Semitic, equating criticism of Israeli policies with hatred of Jews -- which is itself considered anti-Semitic by some Jews. But this change now codifies that view into U.S. policy and will have real-world implications, including possibly funding for Palestinian or human rights groups like Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch that are deemed supportive of BDS.

Hanan Ashrawi, a leading Palestinian politician, called Pompeo's visit and announcements "a last-ditch effort by the outgoing U.S. administration to entrench its pattern of criminality, illegality, and direct complicity in the colonization of Palestine and dispossession of our people."

"It is also a cynical exploitation by Mr. Pompeo to advance his own personal political goals as the new face of far-right ideologues in the U.S," she said. "Such malicious measures are intended to corner the incoming U.S. administration with layers of legal and administrative measures that maintain the destructive Trump legacy beyond his disruptive term."

That also seems to be the goal of a new blitz of sanctions related to Iran that will include sanctioning the Houthi rebels in Yemen, according to three sources briefed on the matter.

The Houthis, a northern Yemeni force who have been battling the Yemeni government since late 2014, control about a quarter of the country, but it's where the vast majority of the population lives. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their U.S.-backed coalition have been supporting the government, including with an air campaign that has drawn accusations of war crimes, while Iran has increasingly armed the Houthis since the start of the conflict.

While individual leaders have faced U.S. sanctions, sanctioning the entire insurgency -- known formally as Ansar Allah -- risks exacerbating what the U.N. calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to aid groups.

If the State Department designates the group a foreign terrorist organization, it would essentially criminalize working with them -- something aid groups say they have to do because they control the state and most major cities in the country. Even other forms of sanctions could prevent aid groups from negotiating with the Houthis for access to needy populations, scare away banks or insurance companies from working with aid groups or spark retaliation by Houthi forces -- a fear that's led the United Nations to urge U.S. citizen aid workers to get out of Houthi-controlled areas, according to two sources.

In a letter to Pompeo Monday night, the heads of Oxfam, International Rescue Committee, CARE, Save the Children, and Mercy Corps warned, "In these dire circumstances, a new group designation of Ansar Allah could have a near paralyzing impact on already stretched humanitarian operations across the country."

While they urged Pompeo "to put Yemenis at the center of U.S. Yemen policy," critics said it's clear the administration is more focused on Iran here.

"They're not seeing this through the lens of Yemen or the U.N. peace process. This is about giving the Saudis something they want, salting the earth when it comes to the next administration recalibrating Iran policy and a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between Iran and the Houthis," said a former State Department official.

The U.S. halted $73 million of aid for Yemen in March by banning assistance to Houthi-controlled areas after the rebels impeded humanitarian access or stole aid. But that access has improved, and aid groups are urging the administration to resume funding amid a deep funding shortfall that has forced programs to treat hunger, malnutrition, cholera outbreaks and more to downsize or close.

"Yemen has hosted the largest humanitarian crisis for years, and this year, it has dealt with a more difficult environment -- decreased funding, what may be the deadliest outbreak in the world of COVID-19," and now this designation, said Scott Paul, humanitarian policy lead at Oxfam. "It's difficult to assess the precise impact of all of that together, but it's an incredibly deadly cocktail that affects millions of Yemenis."

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