Biden Could Name Top Staff as Trump Tries to Block Transition
President-elect Joe Biden will focus on shaping his core White House team on Tuesday while outgoing President Donald Trump presses on with his increasingly-tenuous legal fight to reverse his loss in the US election.
Biden‘s senior campaign staff have been discussing their roles in the transition and the new administration that takes over Jan. 20. Several roles could be announced as soon as Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the matter.
US Representative Cedric Richmond, who was a national co-chair of Biden‘s campaign and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, is expected to join the administration in a senior capacity, as is Steve Ricchetti, who has long been a close adviser to Biden, the person said. Richmond’s move would leave his Louisiana congressional seat open.
Jen O’Malley Dillon, who was brought in early this year as Biden‘s campaign manager and is the first woman to lead a winning Democratic presidential bid, is expected to be named a deputy chief of staff.
Other roles could also be disclosed this week though Biden could still be weeks away from finalizing his slate of cabinet appointees.
None of the potential appointees could be reached for comment. A spokesman for Biden‘s transition team declined to comment.
Biden, a Democrat, is also set to receive a briefing on national security threats from his own advisers. Trump, a Republican who has not conceded the Nov. 3 election, has blocked him from receiving classified intelligence briefings usually provided to the successor in a transition.
General Services Administrator Emily Murphy has not recognized Biden as the “apparent winner.” A spokeswoman for Murphy said the administrator was following precedent and would “make an ascertainment when the winner is clear.” Critics say Murphy is holding off under pressure from the White House, a claim rejected by administration officials.
The Republican Trump has remained angry and defiant on social media even as some prominent Republicans have asserted that Biden should be considered the president-elect.
Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, said on Monday he would ensure a professional transition in the likely event that Biden is deemed the winner.
“If the Biden-Harris ticket is determined to be the winner, and obviously things look like that now, we’ll have a very professional transition from the National Security Council,” O’Brien told the Global Security Forum.
At a news conference on Monday, Biden again called upon Trump to cooperate with the transfer of power, saying that the resurgent COVID-19 pandemic meant lives were in the balance.
“More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” he said.
Clear Biden victory
Though a definitive winner from the election did not emerge until four days later, Biden‘s victory has become clearer as more votes have been counted.
Biden won the legally-meaningless but symbolically-important national popular vote by at least 5.6 million votes, or 3.6 percentage points, with some ballots still being counted.
In the all-important state-by-state Electoral College, Biden surpassed the 270 votes needed to win with 306 to Trump’s 232.
As states work to certify those results before a Dec. 8 deadline, Trump and his supporters have claimed he was cheated by fraud, but so far those baseless allegations have failed to gain traction in court.
One of Trump’s legal challenges will get a hearing on Tuesday in a Pennsylvania federal court, where another legal setback would likely doom his already long-shot prospects.
US District Judge Matthew Brann will hear arguments in a Trump campaign lawsuit that seeks to halt the state’s top election official from certifying Biden as the winner.
In order to remain in office, Trump would need to overturn results in at least three of the closely-contested states in unprecedented fashion, and has no apparent legal means to do so.
Trump supporters are also clinging to hope that recounts could reverse state results, even though experts have said Biden‘s margins appear insurmountable.
Georgia is undertaking a manual recount on its own, but in Wisconsin the Trump campaign would have to pay for a recount in advance. The Wisconsin Elections Commission on Monday estimated such a recount would cost $7.9 million.
Georgia’s top elections official, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, told The Washington Post he has come under pressure from fellow Republicans who have launched false fraud allegations or questioned the legality of valid votes.
He also said he and his wife have received death threats.
“Other than getting you angry, it’s also very disillusioning, particularly when it comes from people on my side of the aisle,” Raffensperger told the Post. “Everyone that is working on this needs to elevate their speech. We need to be thoughtful and careful about what we say.”