Joe Biden has described Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the election as an “embarrassment”, pledging to continue the transition to his leadership despite repeated baseless allegations of fraud from the White House.
In sharp contrast, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, insisted yesterday that there would be a “smooth transition to a second Trump administration”. He referenced various legal campaigns, which have so far found to have no merit, and reiterated claims of “illegal votes” being counted without providing any evidence. The state department is not communicating with the Biden team, and all government agencies have been told to proceed as if Trump had been re-elected.
Despite Pompeo’s insistence, American allies around the world revealed they have spoken to Biden to congratulate him – even if the UK’s statement did contain a faded message congratulating Trump. Pompeo also said he was receiving “calls from all across the world”, but did not specify who.
Videos of former presidential candidates conceding elections have been circulating – and they stand in stark contrast to Trump’s response. Trump has not spoken publicly on the issue since the result was announced, instead taking to Twitter to falsely assert his victory.
Biden is ‘never going to see Donald Trump again’, according to his sister and political adviser Valerie Biden Owens. “Donald Trump is going off the stage and on 20 January that’s history, that’s past. Joe’s not gonna talk about Donald Trump,” she said. “Who cares?”
The postal worker at the centre of Trump’s voter fraud investigation has retracted his story
A postal worker whose claims that ballots were tampered with became the basis of the White House’s call for investigation has reportedly recanted his story. Richard Hopkins had claimed that a supervisor at the US postal service (USPS) had instructed staff to alter ballots by backdating those that arrived late, but reportedly admitted he had fabricated his claims during a meeting investigators with for the USPS inspector general.
The news follows a memo sent to prosecutors from the attorney general, William Barr, yesterday, approving investigations into voter fraud despite a lack of evidence. The move was condemned by current and former department of justice officials, and led the official in charge of voter fraud investigations, Richard Pilger, to resign from his post. In a statement, Pilger pointed to a long-held policy in the department not to interfere in elections, with criminal investigations only carried out after races are complete.
Trump has launched lawsuits in key states including Pennsylvania, Arizona and Michigan, which several judges have already dismissed. So where do things stand now?
Rightwing media outlets have been amplifying false claims about voter fraud, with one making it a point of pride to declare itself “the only major news network to not call the election”. Meanwhile, Trump’s voter fraud claims have gone viral on social media sites, despite being flagged as “misleading”. Our reporters look at the impact of misinformation machine in the media and online.
Trump has stacked the Pentagon with loyalists in a ‘dangerous’ 11th-hour move
Following the firing of the defence secretary, Mark Esper, on Monday, Trump has installed a selection of loyalists in the Pentagon – many with questionable records. The newbies include a Fox News commentator who described Barack Obama as a “terrorist leader”, a former congressional aide who was instrumental in the campaign to discredit the investigation into Russian election meddling, and a former aide to the Trump national security adviser who pleaded guilty to perjury.
Democrats have warned that the move is “uncharted territory”, demanding explanations for 11th-hour changes. Adam Smith, the chairman of the House armed services committee, said the development should “alarm all Americans”.
“If this is the beginning of a trend – the president either firing or forcing out national security professionals in order to replace them with people perceived as more loyal to him – then the next 70 days will be precarious at best and downright dangerous at worst,” Smith said.
In other election news …
Obamacare might not be axed, conservative Supreme Court judges have suggested. It comes as oral arguments begin in a law suit challenging the healthcare system which covers at least 20 million Americans, backed by the Trump administration. What is Obamacare and when will the Supreme Court make its decisions? Read our explainer.
The US hit a record number of coronavirus hospitalisations on Tuesday, and recorded a seventh consecutive day of more than 100,000 new cases. One of Biden’s new public health advisers warned that the cases could double under the final weeks of Trump’s leadership.
Biden’s victory has given a boost to UN climate summit preparations, with environmentalists hoping he can provide critical support to climate action.
Stat of the day
According to a new survey, 70% of Republicans do not believe that the election was “free and fair”. Among them, 78% thought mail-in ballots had caused extensive voter fraud and 72% believed that ballots had been tampered. The figures mark a dramatic decline in the trust of Republicans in the election – the same poll taken before the election showed 35% thought it would not be free and fair – and indicates Trump’s allegations are cutting through.
Don’t miss this
Kamala Harris has made history as the first woman, and woman of color, to become vice-president elect. Harris’s husband, Dough Emhoff, will also be entering uncharted territory, as the US’s first second gentleman and first Jewish person to assume the “second spouse” role. Emhoff, a lawyer, has said he’s “not overly political, I’m overly her husband.”
Last thing: always read the small print
Trump has called on his supporters to help fund his campaign to cling on to his presidency – but it’s not all that it seems. The president’s GoFundMe “electoral defence fund” tells supporters: “President Trump needs YOU to step up to make sure we have the resources to protect the integrity of the election.” However, in the fine print, the page reveals that only half of the donations will go towards the recount fund – the other half is pegged for paying off his election debts.
First Thing is delivered to thousands of inboxes every weekday. If you’re not already signed up, subscribe now.