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President-elect Joe Biden held an event Wednesday with front-line health-care workers as he seeks to maintain a focus on the pandemic ahead of his arrival in the White House. During the event, Biden warned that his team is going to be "behind by weeks or months” on pandemic planning unless the Trump administration stops impeding the transition.

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign said it plans to formally petition election authorities to conduct a recount in two counties in Wisconsin. President Trump has no public events scheduled; he continues to keep a low profile while refusing to concede the race to Biden.

Here’s what to know:
  • Republican appointees on a key board in Michigan’s most populous county reversed their initial refusal to certify vote tallies in the Detroit area, striking a last-minute compromise with Democrats.
  • Trump fired a top Department of Homeland Security official who led the agency’s efforts to help secure the election and was vocal about tamping down unfounded claims of ballot fraud.
  • Biden named top aides who will work in his White House, rewarding loyal supporters and longtime advisers as he builds his administration-in-waiting.
  • Here’s who Biden is picking to fill his White House and Cabinet.
  • Election results are under attack: Here are the facts.
12:22 a.m.
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Trump asks judge to let Pennsylvania legislature pick presidential electors

By Jon Swaine

The Trump campaign asked a federal judge on Wednesday to throw out Pennsylvania’s election results and have the state’s Republican-controlled legislature appoint its presidential electors. The president’s attorneys requested that U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann declare the state’s results “defective” on the grounds that officials illegally mishandled the election process.

Under Pennsylvania law, the state’s presidential electors are to be appointed by Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, based on the popular vote.

Republican leaders in the state legislature have insisted for weeks that they will have no role in the process, even as they have come under pressure from Trump supporters to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Trump’s campaign made its request in a proposed updated version of a federal lawsuit against state and county election officials.

In a court filing asking Brann to grant permission to update the lawsuit, Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani said the campaign would “seek the remedy of Trump being declared the winner of the legal votes cast in Pennsylvania in the 2020 General Election, and, thus, the recipient of Pennsylvania’s electors.”

The campaign alleges that its constitutional rights were violated because some Democratic-leaning counties allowed votes to fix errors on their mail ballots, while some Republican-leaning counties did not.

It also alleges that observers were illegally prevented from watching votes being counted. Election officials deny this and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Philadelphia authorities gave reasonable access to the observers. The proposed updated version of the lawsuit reiterates Trump’s request for Brann to block certification of the election results by Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar. It asks that, as an alternative, Brann enter an order handing control of the presidential electors to the legislature.

Biden has been projected the winner in Pennsylvania and leads President Trump by more than 80,000 votes in the state.

10:31 p.m.
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With Georgia hand recount nearly complete, officials express confidence in initial results

By Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Felicia Sonmez

Nearly all of the roughly 5 million votes cast by Georgians in the presidential race have been reviewed, with fewer than 21 of the 159 counties left to finish their tallies and transmit their data as of Wednesday afternoon, a state election official said.

So far, officials found discrepancies in just four counties that made a difference in the vote margin, decreasing Biden’s lead to 12,781 votes from 14,156, according to the secretary of state’s office. The rest of the counties either had no discrepancies, or their differences fell within the standard deviation and did not make a noticeable dent in the margin, according to Gabriel Sterling, who manages the voting information system in Georgia.

“There’s nothing that’s really moving the ball around” in those other counties, he said Wednesday.

County officials have until midnight Wednesday night to wrap up their hand recount. The state then would perform quality-control checks on the results before certifying them by Friday. The Trump campaign has two business days after the certification — by Tuesday evening, at the latest — of results to request a recount.

Sterling said while he hopes that the hand-recount audit, which is the largest of its kind in U.S. history, would instill confidence in the results, election officials were preparing for a request from the Trump campaign to re-scan the audited results.

State officials are aiming to provide a county-by-county breakdown of the audited results on Thursday afternoon.

“We feel good about where we stand right now. We feel comfortable about the direction of the audit,” Sterling said. “I’m prayerful that we can get through this, and that we can find a way to have everybody, at the end of the day — Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, socialist, whatever — have faith in the outcome of the election, regardless of how it came out.”

Later Wednesday, in an interview on CNN, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) said he believes Biden will remain the winner of the state after the audit is complete.

He noted that 24,000 Republicans who voted absentee in the June primary did not vote in the general election, amid Trump’s relentless attacks on voting by mail. If those Republicans had voted, they would have put Trump over the top.

Raffensperger also maintained the state is tallying every legal vote, and he pushed back against those, such as Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), who have called on him to resign and questioned his GOP credentials.

“I’m a conservative, Christian Republican,” Raffensperger said, pointing to his record and his endorsements from a slew of right-leaning groups. “So people who say I’m not Republican, it’s crazy talk.”

10:00 p.m.
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Analysis: What the fired director of federal cybersecurity actually said about the election

By Philip Bump

Biden is moving forward with his transition plans, and most Americans understand that he should do so. Trump, however, is heavily invested in spreading nonsensical, inaccurate and debunked claims in an effort to prove himself right.

That effort was made trickier but the release of a statement under the aegis of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) last week.

The sentence that attracted the most attention was the one that was offered in bold in the original: “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised."

9:48 p.m.
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House Democrats renominate Pelosi for speaker

By Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis

House Democrats on Wednesday renominated Rep. Nancy Pelosi to serve as House speaker and reelected the California Democrat to continue leading their party in the chamber.

“Congratulations to @SpeakerPelosi, once again elected by House Democrats to be our fearless leader and nominee for Speaker of the House for the 117th Congress!” the House Democratic caucus announced in a tweet Wednesday morning.

House Democrats also voted for Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) to continue serving as majority leader and for Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) to continue as majority whip. On a 135-to-92 vote, Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.) beat Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) for the role of assistant speaker, according to a Democrat who was present.

Democrats maintained control of the House in this month’s election, but they suffered unexpected losses, with Republicans reversing Democratic midterm gains in rural districts that had voted strongly for Trump in 2016 and clawing back at least one seat in Southern California. Those losses complicate governing for Pelosi, who is left with a Democratic majority that may be as slim as four seats.

Biden called Pelosi Wednesday afternoon to congratulate her and to “express that he looks forward to working with her and Democratic leadership in the House on a shared agenda to get covid-19 under control and build our economy back better," according to the Biden transition.

In remarks accepting her renomination Wednesday, Pelosi said that “the theme, I think, of what we do next has to be about justice,” according to a Democratic aide who was in the room.

“It has to be about justice in our economy,” she said. “It has to be about justice in our justice system, passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Breonna Taylor — say her name. Say her name. Justice in our environment, environmental justice. Justice in our health care.”

She also called on Democrats to go forward “listening to each other with respect, acting to unify,” adding that Biden “is a unifier, so that will make it easier for us.”

Hoyer, too, struck a theme of unity in a statement on his election as majority leader.

“I hope Republicans will be open to working with us and will do their part, in the words of President Lincoln, ‘to bind up the nation’s wounds’ as we put the election behind us and turn to the important task of governing,” he said.

9:20 p.m.
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Arizona secretary of state calls on GOP governor to end ‘deafening silence’ about Trump’s baseless fraud claims

By Emma Brown

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) released a strongly worded statement Wednesday calling on Gov. Doug Ducey (R) to end his “deafening silence” on Trump’s baseless election-fraud claims and “stand up for the truth.”

Hobbs, who has been a vocal defender of the integrity of Arizona’s 2020 election, said she and her family have become the target of escalating threats of violence as Trump and his allies have blamed his loss on widespread voter fraud. Hobbs called the threats a “a symptom of a deeper problem in our state and country — the consistent and systematic undermining of trust in each other and our democratic process,” and blamed Trump, members of Congress and other elected officials for spreading misinformation about the election that has stoked that lack of trust.

“It is well past time that they stop. Their words and actions have consequences,” she said, calling on the governor and other leaders in the state to speak out about the integrity of Arizona’s election results.

After Hobbs released her statement, Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said: “There is absolutely no place for threats of violence against any elected officials. We condemn in the strongest terms possible those who would intimidate or threaten public officials just doing their jobs.”

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) has said that there is no evidence of widespread fraud.

Hobbs praised Arizonans who participated in the 2020 election in record numbers. “Our democracy is tested constantly, it continues to prevail, and it will not falter under my watch,” she said.

8:31 p.m.
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Biden says pandemic planning will be delayed by ‘weeks or months’ unless GSA facilitates transition

By Felicia Sonmez

During a virtual roundtable with front-line health-care workers Wednesday afternoon, Biden acknowledged that the Trump administration has been holding up the presidential transition process and warned that his team is “going to be behind by weeks or months” in putting together a pandemic plan unless it is granted access soon.

Biden pointed to the General Services Administration, the government agency whose leader is refusing to sign a letter allowing Biden’s transition team to formally begin its work.

“I am optimistic, but we should be further along. … The law says that the General Services Administration has a person who recognizes who the winner is, and then they have to have access to all the data and information that the government possesses to be prepared,” Biden said during Wednesday’s roundtable. “And it doesn’t require there to be an absolute winner. It says the ‘apparent winner.'”

Biden added that his transition team has been unable to get access to statistics on the federal stockpiles of personal protective equipment and ventilators, as well as to the planning that has been done so far on vaccine distribution.

“There’s a whole lot of things that we just don’t have available to us, which, unless it’s made available soon, we’re going to be behind by weeks or months being able to put together the whole initiative relating to the biggest promise we have, with two drug companies coming along and finding 95 percent effectiveness, efficiency in the vaccines, which has enormous promise,” Biden said. “So I just want to tell you that that’s the only slowdown right now that we have.”

Biden also told the health-care workers on the call that he takes the presidential bully pulpit seriously and that he is prepared to use the Defense Authorization Act to spur the production of more PPE, ventilators and other necessary equipment.

“I promise you, I will be using the Defense Authorization Act,” he said. “I will be using the bully pulpit. The words of a president matter, whether they’re good, smart, bad. … I mean, you know, a president can make a market climb or cause it to fall, can send people to war, could bring peace. The words of a president matter, and I promise you, I’m going to be echoing to the public as president of the United States — and as the putative president of the United States — all that you’ve been talking to me about.”

7:17 p.m.
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Trump and Republicans suffer more legal setbacks in Pennsylvania election cases

By Jon Swaine

Attempts by Trump and his Republican allies to throw out thousands of ballots in Pennsylvania suffered further setbacks in the state’s courts Wednesday.

A judge in Allegheny County rejected a pair of requests from a GOP congressional candidate to bar 2,649 ballots where voters either did not write the date on their mail ballot envelope or signed on only one line rather than two when casting a provisional ballot.

In his orders, Judge Joseph M. James noted that the candidate, Nicole Ziccarelli, had “stated that she was not claiming any voter fraud” had occurred in either case.

“In light of the fact that there is no fraud, a technical omission on an envelope should not render a ballot invalid,” James wrote in one order. Separately, Trump’s campaign withdrew its appeal against a judge’s decision to allow about 600 mail ballots in Montgomery County where voters had failed to write their address on the envelope.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court meanwhile granted a request from Philadelphia authorities to fast-track a case in a lower court where Trump’s campaign is seeking to throw out more than 8,300 ballots for similar administrative errors. City officials asked the state’s top court to step in and rule on the case because counties are due to certify their final results by Monday.

Biden has been projected the winner of Pennsylvania and leads Trump by more than 74,000 votes in the state. Some counties are still counting their last outstanding ballots.

Trump’s legal team also informed a federal court in Williamsport on Wednesday that it intended to file a third version of its federal lawsuit asking a judge to block the statewide certification of Pennsylvania’s election results. The president’s team initially sued the state over 680,000 ballots that it said were counted without oversight by Republican observers. But it deleted claims about this issue from a revised version of the lawsuit filed Sunday. At a hearing on Tuesday, Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, said that he intended to restore a claim about the observers.

6:50 p.m.
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GOP FEC nominees say they see no evidence of widespread election fraud

By Michelle Ye Hee Lee

The Republican nominees for the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday said that they do not see evidence of widespread election fraud and that they believe Biden is the projected winner of the presidential contest, in clear contrast with the panel’s current Republican chairman, who expressed support for baseless claims of rampant voter fraud.

The FEC regulates federal campaign finance laws and does not have jurisdiction over election administration. But the public comments made by commissioners frequently come under scrutiny because of the panel’s role in upholding the integrity of election laws.

The Senate is considering the nominations of three election lawyers to the FEC to restore a full state of six commissioners. With just three members on the panel, the FEC lacks its four-vote quorum.

The nominees are Shana Broussard, an FEC attorney who would be the first Black commissioner if confirmed; Sean Cooksey, general counsel for Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.); and Allen Dickerson, legal director of the Institute for Free Speech, which opposes campaign finance restrictions. During Wednesday’s hearing of the Senate Rules Committee, the two Republican nominees, Cooksey and Dickerson, were asked whether they believed there was widespread fraud in the 2020 elections.

Cooksey said he did not have any personal knowledge of widespread voter fraud but was aware of some legal challenges. Dickerson agreed with Cooksey and added: “The FEC has no role whatsoever in election administration or judging electoral outcomes. I think it’s important for the FEC to remain within the four corners that Congress set for it.”

Their comments came as Trey Trainor, the Republican FEC chairman, expressed support for Sidney Powell, a member of Trump’s legal team who has made baseless claims about widespread fraud.

The commissioners were also asked whether they believed Biden was the president-elect of the United States. Broussard, a Democratic nominee, answered with one word: “Yes.”

“I’m aware that most media organizations have projected that former vice president Biden has won the election,” Cooksey said. When asked by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) whether he accepted that projection, Cooksey responded, “I have no reason to doubt it.”

“I agree with Cooksey, subject to the outcome of litigation,” Dickerson answered.

6:14 p.m.
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Pelosi hints this will be her last term as speaker

By Mike DeBonis

Nancy Pelosi, addressing reporters after being nominated by House Democrats to a fourth two-year term as House speaker, suggested Wednesday that she would honor her 2018 pledge to leave the powerful post after the 2022 midterm elections.

Pelosi, 80, holds an indelible place in the history books as the first female speaker, and she maintains a tight grip on the Democratic caucus. But this year’s unexpected Election Day losses for House Democrats have rekindled chatter about the need for fresh leadership.

Asked Wednesday about her intentions, Pelosi recalled her 2018 pledge, made under pressure from a splinter group of rebel Democrats, to serve no more than two more terms as speaker. While she did not explicitly say that promise stands, she did not rescind it.

“I don’t want to undermine any leverage I may have, but I made the statement,” she said.

Asked whether her words could be considered an absolute commitment not to seek another term as speaker in 2022, Pelosi demurred: “Listen, if my husband is listening, don’t let me have to be more specific than that, because we never expected to have another term now. I consider this a gift. And I can’t wait to be working with Joe Biden and preparing us for our transition into the future.”

6:11 p.m.
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White House chief of staff ‘can’t guarantee’ U.S. government will avert December shutdown

By Jeff Stein

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday that he “can’t guarantee” lawmakers will be able to reach a deal to avert a mid-December shutdown of the federal government.

Congress and the White House have until Dec. 11 to approve spending legislation to prevent the federal government from shutting down in the middle of a pandemic and amid a projected surge in coronavirus cases. Meadows said he was hopeful that an agreement would be reached but didn’t rule out the possibility of an impasse.

There have already been two government shutdowns during Trump’s four years in office, one of which lasted more than a month.

5:51 p.m.
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Ethics complaint filed with Senate against Lindsey Graham

By Amy Gardner

Three lawyers, including the former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, have filed an ethics complaint with the Senate against Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) for his alleged attempts to pressure a Georgia election official to toss legally cast ballots.

The complaint was filed with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics around midday Wednesday. It urges the committee, which is led by Sens. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), to investigate Graham’s conversations with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which he allegedly urged Raffensperger to try to discount all absentee ballots in counties with high signature-matching rejection rates.

Raffensperger is overseeing an audit of the presidential vote in Georgia in which all ballots are being recounted by hand. Currently, President-elect Joe Biden holds a roughly 14,000-vote lead over President Trump. Raffensperger has stated repeatedly that he expects the audit, and subsequent machine recount if Trump requests one, to affirm the initial Biden victory.

"There can be no legitimate reason for the Judiciary Committee’s chairman to call a top election official regarding an ongoing vote count,” the complaint states. It urges the committee to investigate whether Graham threatened anyone with a Senate investigation or has taken steps to initiate such a probe. But it states that even the evidence already in hand points to conduct that constitutes an abuse of office and conduct unbecoming of a senator.

The complaint is signed by Claire Finkelstein, the faculty director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania; Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota and President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer; and Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics.

The complaint urges the committee to impose appropriate penalties if it finds the allegations to be true.

“Any call by a sitting chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to a state election official during an ongoing count of votes is inherently coercive and points to an attempt to influence the outcome of the ballot counting,” the complaint states. “The allegation that Senator Graham placed a behind-the-scenes call to a member of his own political party, without having launched a formal investigation, suggests that he hoped to act out of public view.”

Graham’s spokesman Kevin Bishop pushed back on the allegations. “These are long-time vocal critics of Senator Graham. Their complaint should be viewed in that light,” he said.

5:40 p.m.
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Meadows says it’s uncertain whether there are enough votes to overturn election for Trump

By Mike DeBonis and Felicia Sonmez

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said Wednesday that it remains undetermined whether there are “enough votes out there” to overturn the election in Trump’s favor, treading carefully even as the president has continued to make baseless accusations of widespread voter fraud.

Meadows made the remarks in an exchange with reporters after leaving the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Asked whether Trump should concede to Biden, Meadows replied, “Obviously, there’s still a number of lawsuits that remain, and a lot of contested audits” are underway.

The Trump campaign has filed legal challenges in several battleground states, and so far all those efforts largely have failed, with not a single vote being overturned.

Meadows added that he “personally” has some evidence of voter fraud but cautioned that it’s still unclear whether the results of the election may be overturned.

“I personally have some … in terms of people who have voted and are actually not qualified to vote,” he said Wednesday. “But … the real question continues to be, fundamentally: Are there enough votes out there to overturn the election? And, so, that determination has yet to be made.”

5:05 p.m.
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Here’s what happened when Rudolph Giuliani made his first appearance in federal court in nearly three decades

By Jon Swaine and Aaron Schaffer

It was Rudolph W. Giuliani’s first appearance in federal court since the early 1990s, and by late afternoon Tuesday, it was clear that U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann was losing patience with Trump’s personal attorney.

Trump is seeking to stop the certification of Pennsylvania’s vote in the Nov. 3 election, alleging that Republican voters in the state were illegally disadvantaged because some Democratic-leaning counties allowed voters to fix errors on their mail ballots. Two voters named as co-plaintiffs with Trump’s campaign in the long-shot suit had their ballots voided and allege that they were not given a chance to correct their mistakes.

“You’re alleging that the two individual plaintiffs were denied the right to vote,” Brann said. “But at bottom, you’re asking this court to invalidate more than 6.8 million votes, thereby disenfranchising every single voter in the commonwealth. Can you tell me how this result can possibly be justified?”

4:31 p.m.
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Trump campaign will request recount in two counties in Wisconsin

By Rosalind S. Helderman

The Trump campaign plans to formally petition election authorities to conduct a recount of the presidential vote in two Democratic-leaning counties in Wisconsin on Wednesday, the campaign announced, a process that experts agree is unlikely to reverse Trump’s loss in the state but could allow him to delay formally accepting his loss.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission confirmed that it has received a wire transfer from the campaign for $3 million to cover the costs of the partial recount, as required under state law. The commission said the campaign had not yet filed its petition seeking the recount, but the campaign said it would file today asking to recount the results in Milwaukee and in Dane County, home of Madison.