ELECTION 2020

Joe Biden focuses on transition, plans executive orders to reverse Trump policies

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris celebrate at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del., Satu
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris celebrate at the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del., Saturday night. (Toni L. Sandys/Washington Post)
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Former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., are planning their transition effort after delivering their first remarks as president-elect and vice president-elect while their supporters celebrated in cities throughout the country.

In his victory speech Saturday night, Biden called it “a time to heal in America.” Harris, who is set to become the highest-ranking woman in the nation’s 244-year existence, told the crowd, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.” On Sunday morning, Biden headed to church.

President Donald Trump has no public events Sunday, and started the morning on the golf course.

In tweets Saturday night, he continued to tout his vote count and make unfounded allegations of widespread election fraud. “71,000,000 Legal Votes,” Trump tweeted. “The most EVER for a sitting President!” As of Sunday morning, Trump had won about 70.4 million votes while Biden had won 74.6 million.

Biden is planning to quickly sign executive orders after being sworn into office on Jan. 20, forecasting that the country’s politics have shifted and that his presidency will be guided by radically different priorities.

Biden’s team launched a transition website and created new social media accounts Sunday morning in an effort to start focusing on the change in presidential administrations.

On Monday, the Biden team plans to formally name “a group of leading scientists and experts” to start determining how to enact the covid-19 proposal that Biden and Harris campaigned on — which included determining how to increase mask-wearing and testing for the coronavirus, and making plans to distribute a vaccine when one becomes available.

The Washington Post reported that the group will be co-chaired by former surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy and a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, David Kessler.

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Also, as soon as next week, teams of Biden aides plan to begin gaining access to federal agencies, according to an aide on Biden’s transition team.

“Across the board we will continue laying the foundation for the incoming Biden-Harris administration to successfully restore faith and trust in our institutions and lead the federal government,” the transition team said in a statement.

Former president George W. Bush said Sunday that he called Biden and Harris to congratulate them on their win and, in a statement, declared that the voters “have spoken” while also voicing support for Trump’s legal right to pursue recounts in close battleground states.

Bush, the 43rd U.S. president, is the latest former occupant of the Oval Office to congratulate Biden and Harris. Former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, all Democrats, also have congratulated the president- and vice president-elect.

In his statement Sunday, Bush said he had just spoken with Biden and “thanked him for the patriotic message he delivered last night.”

“I also called Kamala Harris to congratulate her on her historic election to the vice presidency,” Bush said. “Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country. The President-elect reiterated that while he ran as a Democrat, he will govern for all Americans. I offered him the same thing I offered Presidents Trump and Obama: my prayers for his success, and my pledge to help in any way I can.”

Bush, who has largely receded from the national political stage since leaving office in 2009, also congratulated Trump and his supporters “on a hard-fought campaign.”

“He earned the votes of more than 70 million Americans — an extraordinary political achievement,” the former president said. “They have spoken, and their voices will continue to be heard through elected Republicans at every level of government.”

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In what appeared to be a rebuke of Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, Bush said that the high turnout this year can be interpreted as “a positive sign of the health of our democracy” and that “no matter how you voted, your vote counted.”

But Bush — who himself became president after the Supreme Court ruled to settle a recount dispute in Florida — also affirmed Trump’s right to seek legal redress.

“President Trump has the right to request recounts and pursue legal challenges, and any unresolved issues will be properly adjudicated,” Bush added. “The American people can have confidence that this election was fundamentally fair, its integrity will be upheld, and its outcome is clear.”

He called for all Americans to unite “for the sake of our families and neighbors, and for our nation and its future,” and to “join us in wishing our next President and Vice President well as they prepare to take up their important duties.”

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who chairs the congressional committee that oversees the inauguration, said Sunday that it “seems unlikely” that vote projections showing Biden as the presidential winner would change in the coming days but said it was understandable for Republicans to wait a little longer for state election officials to certify the outcome.

“This is a close election, closer than anybody thought,” Blunt, a member of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s leadership team, said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Blunt, who once ran his state’s elections as Missouri’s secretary of state, said that there is a normal process underway in which local election officials review vote counts before they certify the outcome.

“I think that happens pretty quickly,” he said.

Blunt said that Trump’s legal team needs to quickly present any evidence of vote fraud. “It’s time for the president’s lawyers to present the facts,” he said.

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Blunt said that his committee will be reviewing inaugural plans this week to determine whether the coronavirus pandemic requires planners to have a more socially distant ceremony, one that he believes both Biden and Trump will attend.

“I expect to see both Vice President Biden and President Trump on the stage on Inauguration Day, and that will be a powerful message, no matter which one of them is getting sworn in that day,” he said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., echoed Blunt’s points, saying that the race needs to go through any recounts and legal challenges before Biden is declared the winner.

“Every legal challenge should be heard,” McCarthy said on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures.” “Then, and only then, (will) America decide who won the race.”

Trump arrived at his namesake golf course in Sterling, Va., on Sunday morning, one day after Biden was declared the winner of the presidential race.

The excursion marked Trump’s 210th day golfing since becoming president, according to CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller — 105 more than Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor, whom he excoriated for golfing.

On the way to Trump National Golf Club, Trump’s motorcade passed a small group of both supporters and protesters. Two people waved “Trump 2020” flags, while others held up signs reading, “ORANGE CRUSHED” and “TRUMPTY DUMPTY HAD A GREAT FALL.”

Before his arrival, Trump sent several tweets quoting conservatives making the case that the election remains unresolved. Among them was former House speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., who claimed on Fox News on Sunday morning, without evidence, that Democrats had “stolen” the election.

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As top congressional Republicans have been unwilling to offer congratulations to Biden — or even comment on his win — House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., on Sunday called on the Republican Party to “step up” and push back against Trump’s claims that he won the election, for the sake of American democracy.

“Well, I think Trump should concede, but I also think the Republican Party has a responsibility here,” Clyburn, whose early backing of Biden marked a pivotal moment in the Democratic primary, said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “This country is bigger than any one person. This democracy is teetering. (Biden) called it an inflection point. We are in a very dire set of consequences here, and we had better get hold of ourselves and this country and stop catering to the whims of one person.”

Pressed again on whether Trump should concede, Clyburn said that any potential concession by the president matters less than what the GOP does as a whole.

“What matters to me is whether or not the Republican Party will step up and help us preserve the integrity of this democracy,” Clyburn said.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, on Sunday voiced support for Trump’s right to pursue recounts in states where the presidential election results are close, but the senator predicted the outcome will not change and chided Trump for using language that he said encourages authoritarians across the globe.

Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, made the comments in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“We’re not going to change President Trump in the waning days of his presidency,” Romney said when asked what advice he would give Trump during the lame-duck period. But he noted that “in a setting like this, we want to preserve something that is far more important than ourselves or even our party”: Americans’ freedom and institutions.

“He has every right to call for recounts. … I’m more concerned about the language that’s used,” Romney added, noting that words such as “stolen” and “rigged” get “picked up by authoritarians around the world.”

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Romney, who fell short in his bid to unseat President Barack Obama in 2012, said that Republicans this time around picked up seats in the House and held control of the Senate “but lost the presidency, and so it’s a bit of a mixed message.”

“A lot of Republicans, a lot of voters, voted for Republicans but did not vote for the president, and that suggests to me that conservative principles are still in the majority in our country,” he said. The results suggest that the presidential race “was more a matter of a referendum on a person, and when it came to policy, we did pretty well,” he added.

Romney had praise for President-elect Joe Biden, even as he pushed back against liberal agenda items.

“He does want to bring the country together,” Romney said of Biden. “He does want to bring honor and respect into the White House. He wants to be a man of character; he is a man of character.”

Asked about Trump’s future, Romney acknowledged that the president is “without question the most powerful voice in our party.”

“He’s the 900-pound gorilla when it comes to the Republican Party,” said Romney, who was the lone GOP senator to vote for Trump’s impeachment earlier this year.

Former congressman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has won his race in California’s 50th District and will return to Capitol Hill in January, two years after he announced his retirement from Congress.

The 67-year-old Republican beat Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar by more than seven percentage points, according to Edison Research, which called the race Sunday. The San Diego County-based seat has been vacant since January, when Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter resigned after pleading guilty in federal court to misusing campaign funds.

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Issa represented California’s 48th and, later, 49th districts in the House for 18 years before announcing in 2018 that he was leaving Congress and was “happily looking forward to doing other things.”

Issa, a vocal Trump ally, is perhaps best known for the House Oversight Committee investigation of the Obama administration and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of the deadly 2012 terrorist attack on U.S. installations in Benghazi, Libya.

After Issa departed Congress in 2019, Trump nominated him to lead the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. But the Senate Foreign Relations Committee abruptly postponed his confirmation hearing that September over an issue in his FBI background check.

Issa was once one of the richest men in Congress, with an estimated net worth of $280 million in 2018, and he invested millions of his own dollars into his House comeback bid this year.

Earlier this week, he tweeted a message of support for Trump in which he echoed the president’s false claim that observers were not being allowed to watch the ballot count in key states.

“President Trump — I stand with you, just as you have stood with me from 2016 until today,” Issa said in the tweet. “The fact that poll watchers are not being allowed to adequately supervise certain recounts is completely unacceptable. This is America. Election integrity comes first.”

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