WASHINGTON — The presidential race was hovering in limbo in 2000 when outgoing President Bill Clinton decided to let then-Gov. George W. Bush read the ultra-secret daily brief of the nation’s most sensitive intelligence.

Clinton was a Democrat and his vice president, Al Gore, was running against Republican Bush. Gore had been reading the so-called President’s Daily Brief for eight years; Clinton decided to bring Bush into the fold in case he won – and he did.

President Trump has not followed Clinton’s lead. As he contests this year’s election results, Trump has not authorized President-elect Joe Biden to lay eyes on the brief.

National security and intelligence experts hope Trump changes his mind, citing the need for an incoming president to be fully prepared to confront any national security issues on Day One.

“Our adversaries aren’t waiting for the transition to take place,” says former Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, who was chairman of the House intelligence committee. “Joe Biden should receive the President’s Daily Brief starting today. He needs to know what the latest threats are and begin to plan accordingly. This isn’t about politics; this is about national security.”

U.S. adversaries can take advantage of the country during an American presidential transition and key foreign issues will be bearing down on Biden the moment he steps into the Oval Office.

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Biden pleads for cooperation, but deal-makers are hard to find in this Congress

WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden feels at home on Capitol Hill, but the place sure has changed since he left.

The clubby atmosphere that Biden knew so well during his 36-year Senate career is gone, probably forever. Deal-makers are hard to find. And the election results haven’t dealt him a strong hand to pursue his legislative agenda, with Democrats’ poor performance in down-ballot races likely leaving them without control of Congress.

The dynamic leaves Biden with little choice but to try to govern from the vanishing middle of a Washington that’s been badly ruptured by the tumult of the last decade. With the forces of partisanship and gridlock entrenched, ending what Biden called the “grim era of demonization” could be the central challenge of his presidency — and one that could prove vexing if forces on the left and right refuse to go along.

“There is a certain opportunity for bipartisanship, but it is all going to be deals in the middle,” said Rohit Kumar, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “What I don’t know is whether the (Democratic and Republican) parties will allow them to do that because the parties have gotten a lot more polarized.”

While it is not settled, Biden faces a high likelihood of becoming the first Democrat in modern history to assume office without his party controlling Congress. Republicans are favored to retain control of the Senate heading into two runoff elections in Georgia in January. Democrats have already won the House.

Republican control of the Senate would force Biden to curtail his ambitions, all but guaranteeing that big issues like climate change, immigration and expanding “Obamacare” remain mostly unaddressed.

But it would also create space for a different kind of legislative agenda — one founded on bipartisanship and consensus that would seem to play to Biden’s strengths. And some lawmakers say voters made clear in the election that governance from the middle is exactly what they want.

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Trump, Republicans drop a Nevada court appeal of ballot count; 2 cases remain

LAS VEGAS — A state court legal fight to stop the counting of mail ballots in the Las Vegas area has ended after the Nevada Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the Donald Trump campaign and the state Republican party, at their request.

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A county election worker scans mail-in ballots at a tabulating area as an observer watches at the Clark County Election Department on Nov. 5 in Las Vegas. John Locher/Associated Press

The dismissal leaves two active legal cases in Nevada relating to the 2020 presidential election, as a small number of remaining ballots are counted.

The campaign and the Republican Party had tried to withdraw the appeal in the state case, submitting a document last week telling the seven-member court that it had reached a settlement calling for Clark County election officials to allow more observers at a ballot processing facility.

However, not all the parties in the lawsuit signed the agreement. The case also involved the national and state Democratic parties, the Nevada secretary of state and the Clark County registrar of voters.

Trump Nevada campaign official Adam Laxalt did not immediately respond Wednesday to messages about the action by the state high court.

The appeal had challenged Judge James Wilson Jr.’s ruling Nov. 2 in Carson City that neither the state nor Clark County had done anything to give one vote preference over another.

Meanwhile, an active lawsuit filed in federal court alleging ineligible votes were cast in the Las Vegas area has a Nov. 19 deadline for filings but no immediate hearing date.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon declined after a hearing Friday to issue an order immediately halting the count of mail-in ballots from Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County — a Democratic stronghold in an otherwise Republican state.

The judge noted what was then the pending Nevada Supreme Court appeal and said he didn’t want to become involved in “an issue of significant state concern, involving state laws (that) should be interpreted by state courts.”

Plaintiffs in that case include a woman who said she tried to vote in person but was told a mailed ballot with her signature had already been received, and a political strategist and TV commentator who said he was denied an opportunity to observe ballot counting late on election night.

Separately, a public records lawsuit in state court led a judge to set a Nov. 20 deadline for the Clark County registrar of voters to turn over to the Trump campaign and the state Republican Party the names, party affiliations, work schedules and job responsibilities of more than 300 people who were hired to count ballots.

Vote counting in Nevada ends Thursday. State elections officials report more than 1.3 million ballots were cast.

With Republican win in Alaska, control of Senate rests with Georgia runoffs

WASHINGTON — Control of the Senate won’t be decided until the new year after Republicans won a seat in Alaska on Wednesday. Neither party can lock the majority until January runoffs in Georgia.

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Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, right, poses for a photograph with supporter Rolando Torralba at a campaign party this month in Anchorage, Alaska. Michael Dinneen/Associated Press

Incumbent Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan defeated Al Gross, an independent running as a Democrat.

With Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, Republicans are still short of the 51 seats they need for majority control. They have a 49-48 hold on the Senate with the Alaska win, but two races in Georgia are heading to a Jan. 5 runoff.

The race in North Carolina remains too early to call. There, Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham has conceded to Republican Sen. Thom Tillis.

With Biden, the path to keeping Senate control is more difficult for Republicans. The vice president of the party in power, which on Jan. 20 will be Kamala Harris, is the tie-breaker. That means if Republicans only have 50 seats, Democrats control the Senate. Republicans would need 51 senators to overcome that.

The Georgia runoff elections, set for Jan. 5, are swiftly becoming a showdown over control of the chamber. The state is closely divided, with Democrats making gains on Republicans, fueled by a surge of new voters. But no Democrat has been elected senator in some 20 years.

Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler will face Rafael Warnock, a Black pastor from the church where Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached. And Republican Sen. David Perdue, a top Trump ally, will face Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff.

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Georgia audit to trigger hand tally of presidential vote

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Wednesday announced a hand audit of the vote in his state, where Biden currently leads by more than 14,000 votes, which would trigger a statewide recount.

The goal is to have the audit completed by Nov. 20. A recount would proceed that would involve re-scanning ballots, officials said.

Brad Raffensperger

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during a news conference on Wednesday in Atlanta. Georgia election officials have announced an audit of presidential election results that will trigger a full hand recount. Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Raffensperger, a Republican, made a pointed statement to those who have questioned the integrity of Georgia’s election, surrounding himself by local election officials and expressing his support and admiration for their work.

“Their job is hard. They executed their responsibilities and they did their job,” Raffensperger said.

He also said he will invite observers from both parties because “the stakes are high.”

Chaotic presidential transition brings vulnerability, security risks to nation

President Donald Trump’s firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper, days after losing the election, and a Pentagon personnel shake-up that has followed have injected uncertainty into the ranks of national security leadership at a vulnerable moment for the United States, adding more turmoil to a period that already carries risk for the nation.

In the week since Election Day, Trump has refused to concede and has publicized spurious claims of fraud to overshadow the result. He also has declined to give President-elect Joe Biden resources and daily presidential intelligence briefings to aid the transition to the new administration. The Pentagon turmoil could further jeopardize the prospect of a seamless handover, at what experts say is a sensitive time.

“It is a time of vulnerability, and it’s a time when your enemies can be testing you,” said Martha Joynt Kumar, director of the nonprofit White House Transition Project. “It is the kind of thing that you have to get right.”

National security crises have challenged presidents during past transitions. The Iran hostage crisis – after militant students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran – came to a close in 1981 during the transition between Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan; the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, occurred in 1988 during the transition from Reagan to President George H.W. Bush; and Bush ordered U.S. troops into Somalia in his final weeks in office, in 1992, during the transition to President Bill Clinton.

President Donald Trump arrives in the White House briefing room in Washington on Nov. 05. Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford

Direct threats to the homeland have emerged during transitions as well. As George W. Bush welcomed President-elect Barack Obama to the White House for coffee on the morning of the 2009 inauguration, their respective national security aides sat in the Situation Room, discussing a possible threat to the event that U.S. intelligence had picked up from the extremist group al-Shabab, according to Kumar, who wrote a book about that transition.

The feared attack never took place, and the inauguration went off without a problem. But the Situation Room meeting, which came after joint crisis training sessions, underscored the vulnerability of the nation during presidential transitions – and how cooperation between the outgoing and incoming teams can reduce risk.

“Foreign adversaries believe that the United States is preoccupied during transitions, and it’s in our national security interest to demonstrate that we are not,” said David Marchick, director of the Center for Presidential Transition. He warned: “Failure to have a smooth transition could put our national security, our economic security and our health security at risk.”

Trump has signaled no interest in ensuring a seamless transition, instead proceeding as though he won a second term. The White House has told federal agencies to continue preparing for Trump’s budget submission to Congress in February.

Read the full story here.

A Republican superlawyer is bucking his party and blasting Trump’s baseless election claims

WASHINGTON – In “Recount,” the made-for-television film version of the 2000 presidential election standoff that gripped the nation, Republican superlawyer Ben Ginsberg is portrayed as a bare-knuckled brawler with a jaded view of his adversaries.

“I’ve done over 25 recounts, and it never ceases to amaze me the extent that Democrats will lie, cheat and steal to win an election,” Ginsberg’s character says.

While Ginsberg says he doesn’t recall uttering those exact words in real life, he has made plenty of enemies among Democrats for his tactics over the years. In addition to his role in George W. Bush’s 2000 victory, he advised a group that Democrats say falsely accused their 2004 nominee John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, of lying about his military record and was widely seen as a decisive factor in Bush’s reelection victory.

Today, with tension rising around the results of a presidential election, Ginsberg is once again on the front lines, but playing an unfamiliar role: Democratic ally.

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In this June 23, 2012, file photo campaign counsel Ben Ginsberg walks at a private donors’ conference for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at The Chateaux at Silver Lake at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File

From newspaper op-eds to network TV interviews, Ginsberg, recently retired from his work for the law firm that has represented President Trump’s campaigns, has denounced the baseless claims by Trump and his GOP allies that last week’s election was rigged and rife with fraud.

“For the president of the United States, the leader of the free world and head of the Republican Party, to make completely unsubstantiated charges about our elections being rigged, is not right,” he said in an interview.

Whereas Ginsberg said the 2000 recount was a legitimate legal issue – a recount in a single state with the two candidates separated by just 537 votes – he said the Trump campaign has no legal basis to dispute the victory by President-elect Joe Biden.

Asked to explain his transformation, Ginsberg said in an interview that he became increasingly troubled this year that Trump was not just making baseless claims about fraud but also was undermining a tenet of American democracy.

“My evolution started when the president doubled down in the lead-up to the 2020 election on his charges that our elections are rigged and fraudulent in a way that he hadn’t previously,” Ginsberg said. “It became a systemic attack made completely without evidence, aimed at undermining a basic pillar of our democracy. I know there’s no evidence for systemic fraud because I had spent the better part of every election for four decades working in Republican poll-watcher programs and elections day operations.”

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Lincoln Project takes on law firms representing Trump and Republican Party

The Lincoln Project has announced plans to launch an advertising campaign against two law firms over their role representing President Trump and the Republican Party in their voter fraud-related lawsuits.

On Twitter on Tuesday, the anti-Trump political action committee run by former Republican insiders also urged people to find employees of Jones Day and Porter Wright Morris & Arthur through their social media accounts and “ask them how they can work for an organization trying to overturn the will of the American people.”

The group suggested it would also pressure clients to drop the firms. By the end of the day, Porter Wright had deleted its Twitter account, which was being inundated with attacks. A message seeking comment was left with Porter Wright.

Jones Day responded that it is not representing the president, his campaign “or any affiliated party in any litigation alleging voter fraud,” but the Pennsylvania Republican Party, in litigation brought by private parties and the state’s Democratic Party. That litigation resulted in the order that extended the deadline for returning mail-in ballots that was set by Pennsylvania state lawmakers.

There is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

Postal worker admits fabricating allegations of ballot tampering, officials say

A Pennsylvania postal worker whose claims have been cited by top Republicans as potential evidence of widespread voting irregularities admitted to U.S. Postal Service investigators that he fabricated the allegations, according to three people briefed on the investigation and a statement from a House congressional committee.

Richard Hopkins’ claim that a postmaster in Erie, Pa., instructed postal workers to backdate ballots mailed after Election Day was cited by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in a letter to the Department of Justice calling for a federal investigation. Attorney General William Barr subsequently authorized federal prosecutors to open probes into credible allegations of voting irregularities and fraud, a reversal of long-standing Justice Department policy.

But on Sunday, Hopkins, 32, told investigators from the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General that the allegations were not true, and he signed an affidavit recanting his claims, according to the sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation. Democrats on the House oversight committee tweeted late Tuesday that the “whistleblower completely RECANTED.”

Hopkins did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The reversal comes as Trump has refused to concede to President-Elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, citing unproven allegations about widespread voter fraud in an attempt to swing the results in his favor. Republicans held up Hopkins’ claims as among the most credible because he signed an affidavit swearing that he overheard a supervisor instructing colleagues to backdate ballots mailed after Nov. 3.

The Trump campaign provided that affidavit to Graham, who in turn asked the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation to launch an investigation.

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International observers see no fraud in U.S. election

International observers from the Organization of American States say they saw no instances of fraud or voting irregularities in the U.S. presidential election.

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Officials work on ballots at the Gwinnett County Voter Registration and Elections Headquarters, on Friday in Lawrenceville, near Atlanta. Observers from 13 countries who observed the election process in in Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan and the District of Columbia say they saw no evidence of fraud. John Bazemore/Associated Press

The delegation included 28 experts and observers from 13 countries who observed the election process in in Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan and the District of Columbia. COVID-19 prevented a broader coalition of experts.

The OAS says the Election Day was peaceful, although there were efforts to intimate poll workers as the votes were counted, and says the country’s mail-in ballots were a secure system.

The report says the OAS supports “the right of all contesting parties in an election, to seek redress before the competent legal authorities when they believe they have been wronged.”

“It is critical however, that candidates act responsibly by presenting and arguing legitimate claims before the courts, not unsubstantiated or harmful speculation in the public media,” the OAS says.

Agencies told to plan Trump’s next budget in another sign of election defiance

WASHINGTON – The White House budget office has instructed federal agencies to continue preparing the administration’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year, according to multiple administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details of private conversations.

The White House budget proposal is typically issued in February, which would be at least two weeks after Trump is scheduled to depart the White House. He lost the Nov. 3 election to Joe Biden and Biden is set to be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021, though Trump has refused to accept the results.

The decision to proceed with President Donald Trump’s budget for the 2022 fiscal year has rankled and surprised several career staffers given Biden’s victory in the presidential election, as well as the fact that the incoming Biden administration is expected to submit its budget plan to Congress early next year.

The insistence on budget planning, even though Trump won’t be in office to offer a budget in February, is part of a recent pattern of behavior from White House officials and senior political appointees that have shown a rejection of the election results.

On Monday, the Trump White House also instructed senior government officials to not cooperate with Biden’s transition team, igniting a potential legal battle.

Asked if the fiscal year 2022 budget process was proceeding as planned, a spokesperson for the White House budget office said: “Of course.”

Read the full story here.


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