Biden cements victory by winning Arizona, but Trump still refuses to concede
(Reuters) – President-elect Joe Biden cemented his U.S. electoral victory by capturing the battleground state of Arizona late on Thursday, but the official transition to his administration remains stalled as President Donald Trump refuses to accept defeat.
Biden was projected to win Arizona after more than a week of vote counting from the Nov. 3 election, Edison Research said. He becomes only the second Democratic presidential candidate in seven decades to win the traditionally Republican state.
Biden’s win in Arizona gives him 290 electoral votes in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner.
Biden had already cleared the 270 vote threshold to win the election, setting him on course to be sworn in on Jan. 20. Arizona’s 11 additional electoral votes put any longshot challenge by Trump even further out of reach.
Biden also holds a lead of more than 14,000 votes in the uncalled state of Georgia, nearly certain to survive a manual recount. Nationally, Biden is winning the popular vote by more than 5.3 million votes, or 3.4 percentage points.
Trump, a Republican, has claimed without evidence that he was cheated by widespread election fraud, but his legal challenges have failed in court and state election officials report no serious irregularities.
In order to stay in office for a second term, Trump would need to overturn Biden’s lead in at least three states, having failed to find evidence that could do so in any of them. States face a Dec. 8 “safe harbor” deadline to certify their elections and choose electors for the Electoral College, which will officially select the new president on Dec. 14.
Trump’s refusal to accept defeat has stalled the process of transitioning to a new administration. The federal agency that releases funding to an incoming president-elect, the General Services Administration, has not yet recognized Biden’s victory.
Biden’s pick for White House chief of staff, Ron Klain, told MSNBC on Thursday that starting the transition is particularly crucial now, as the Biden administration will inherit a coronavirus vaccination campaign as soon as he takes office.
“The sooner we can get our transition experts into meetings with the folks who are planning a vaccination campaign, the more seamless the transition to a Biden presidency from a Trump presidency can be,” Klain said.
Regardless of the impediments, Biden will sign a “stack” of executive orders and send high-priority legislation to Congress his first day in office, Klain said.
“He is going to have a very, very busy Day One,” Klain said, citing a return the to Paris accord on climate change, immigration reform, strengthening the “Obamacare” healthcare law and environmental protection as issues Biden would address on Jan. 20.
Biden was set to meet with transition advisers again on Friday as he maps out his approach to the pandemic and prepares to name his top appointees, including cabinet members.
Most Republicans have publicly endorsed Trump’s right to pursue court challenges and declined to recognize Biden as the winner. But more signs of dissension began emerging on Thursday.
Party figures such as Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and Karl Rove, a top adviser to former President George W. Bush, said Biden should be treated as the president-elect.
Meanwhile, a number of Republican senators said the Trump administration should allow Biden to receive classified intelligence briefings, though they stopped short of explicitly calling him the winner.
The incoming commander-in-chief is typically given the briefings to ensure national security is not compromised during the transition.
“I don’t see it as a high-risk proposition. I just think it’s part of the transition. And, if in fact he does win in the end, I think they need to be able to hit the ground running,” Senator John Cornyn told reporters.
The top House Republican, Kevin McCarthy, opposed the idea, suggesting Trump could still prevail.
“He’s not president right now,” McCarthy said of Biden. “I don’t know if he’ll be president January 20th.”
Democrats have assailed Trump, and the Republicans giving him cover, for undermining the country’s institutions. In an interview that will air on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday, former President Barack Obama said Republicans were walking a “dangerous path” by endorsing Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud.
Biden has taken a measured approach, saying this week he viewed Trump’s claims as “embarrassing” but insisting he was not worried about the impact on his transition to the White House. His legal advisers have dismissed the Trump lawsuits as political theater.
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