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Biden proceeds with staffing plans as Trump exerts pressure on GOP

President Trump made his first public appearance since losing reelection with a Veterans Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery. Against the backdrop of Trump’s refusal to concede to President-elect Joe Biden, Georgia’s secretary of state announced a hand recount of votes in both the presidential and Senate races. Lisa Desjardins reports and joins Yamiche Alcindor and Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    This has been a day for honoring America's military veterans amid the political war over the presidential race.

    President Trump still shows no sign of conceding to president-elect Biden or of following legal guidelines for a change of leadership.

    Lisa Desjardins begins our coverage.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Rain fell at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, where President Trump made his first public appearance since the Associated Press called his reelection defeat over the weekend. He attended a wreath-laying and saluted at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but did not speak.

    In Philadelphia, president-elect Joe Biden made his own Veterans Day stop. He and the future first lady, Jill Biden, laid a wreath at a Korean War memorial. But he, too, had no public comment.

    The day's solemn ceremonies unfolded against the backdrop of Mr. Trump's refusal to recognize the election results or commence the transition. On Twitter, the president continued to make unsupported claims of voter fraud in states where he lost or is trailing.

  • Brad Raffensperger:

    Good morning, everyone.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    One of those states is Georgia, where the secretary of state today announced a hand recount of all ballots in the presidential race.

  • Brad Raffensperger:

    I'm sure that they'll be plenty of oversight. We want to make sure that both parties have the opportunity to observe this, because we understand the stakes are high.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Mr. Biden leads in Georgia by about 14,000 votes.

    The recount comes after the Georgia Republican Party and the state's entire Republican congressional delegation sent a letter to the secretary of state alleging fraud, without evidence. They asked him to investigate — quote — "serious allegations of voting irregularities" in both the presidential and two U.S. Senate races there.

    Those two Senate races are headed for run-offs in January.

    The Trump campaign also continues to file legal challenges to the presidential vote count. Today, it sued Michigan to try and block the state from certifying Joe Biden's win, which it is scheduled to do on November 23. He leads there by more than 140,000 votes.

    President Trump did score one victory today. The Associated Press formally called Alaska, for him, increasing his electoral vote count to 217.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Lisa joins us now from Wilmington, Delaware, and Yamiche Alcindor is at the White House.

    Hello to both of you.

    Lisa, to you first.

    This is the first day, I guess, Joe Biden has not made public remarks since he was declared the president-elect, but we know the transition planning continues. Tell us where that stands.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Not a day off for the Biden transition, Judy. That's for sure.

    They have more than 4,000 positions, about that many, to appoint in government, and they're on their way, going through that list. Judy, it's interesting. I talked to an adviser yesterday who told me that the way they're going about that is to look at the policy, try and find the people who will best enact policy that Joe Biden wants, from health care and supporting the Affordable Care Act, to climate change, to a range of other things, including the minimum wage.

    And, on that front, I can also report that we do think that they will start announcing some potential top staff, starting at the top, with the chief of staff, and that that announcement for the White House chief of staff under President Biden, when he takes over, could come as early as this week.

    Also, Judy, at the U.S. Senate, there's a lot of swirl around several senators, many of Mr. Biden's former opponents, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, about whether they would take positions in this administration.

    One final note, speaking of the Senate. I talked to a Republican Senate office, allies of President Trump, who tell me one reason they're not speaking out publicly about whether the president should accept the result is because they think they can do more behind the scenes.

    This office tells me their conservative senator spoke to President Trump on the phone and told him, of course, from their opinion, continue whatever questions you have to raise, but, ultimately, the senator asked the president to do what's right when the time comes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we will be talking with Senator Sanders in just a few moments.

    Yamiche, to you now.

    We know the president has also not spoken publicly. We have seen the tweets. We have seen him just now. But we know that his team is still very much trying to win some battles in the court, challenging the results.

    Where does all that stand?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, President Trump's refusal and his — Trump campaign's refusal to acknowledge that Joe Biden is the president-elect and to continue to file lawsuit after lawsuit comes down to two big things, politics and money.

    On the money side, they are raising boatloads of money, thousands of dollars every day by sending out next messages and e-mails, messaging that they need to keep up the fight, that they want to have money for an election defense fund.

    But when you look at the money being raised, it tells a story. So, to put up for folks, 60 percent of that money goes to Save America PAC. It's a political action committee. And then, after that, if someone donates thousands of dollars more, they then — that money then goes to the Trump recount account.

    Now, this is important. This kind of account, the political action committee, it faces fewer restrictions on how the money is spent. Unlike candidate campaign accounts, this can — the money that can be raised here can be spent on personal expenses.

    The other thing to note is that 40 percent of it goes to the Republican National Committee. This money can go to benefit potential other Republican candidates. Critics say that this is really a slush fund and that it can go to funding President Trump's lavish lifestyle.

    I also want to talk about the politics of this. The margins are just not on President Trump's side. Republican allies of the president told me that today.

    We want to look at now at the popular vote margins in these states that are still being contested by the Trump administration and the Trump campaign. In Michigan, in 2016, President Trump won by 10,000 votes, Joe Biden is leading by more than 146,000. In Pennsylvania, he won by 44,000 in 2016; 50,000 is what Biden is leading by.

    In Wisconsin, 22,000 is what President Trump won by. He's leading, Joe Biden, president-elect Joe Biden, by 20,000. So, those numbers tell a story. They say — and older establishment Republicans tell me the numbers really just not are — are not going to work out for the president, while younger Republicans are continuing to work day and night to try to find more voters, so that they can get people that will overturn those margins, but it's just a really, really uphill battle.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, we know, with regard — Georgia is going to have a hand recount.

    What do we know about President Trump's involvement in that?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    President Trump is continuing to pressure Republicans all over the country, including in Georgia, to really publicly challenge the integrity of the election.

    Now, the Georgia Republican — Georgia secretary of state was out just a few minutes ago saying that the White House has not contacted him directly to pressure him to do any sort of recount, but the Trump campaign sees that recount as a huge win.

    They want to see that the president might be able to wrestle it back. But, as you noted, Joe Biden is winning by 14,000 votes. So it'll be tough.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And finally, quickly to you, Lisa.

    The fact that there will be a narrower margin for Democrats in the House, waiting to see what happens in the Senate until January, what does that mean for Biden planning?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Judy, quickly, the Senate — the new Senate convenes January 3. That Georgia election is January 5.

    That is going to make it tricky to organize the Senate. And we're going to have to watch it closely.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we thank both of you, both of you standing in the rain.

    Lisa Desjardins in Wilmington, Yamiche Alcindor at the White House, we appreciate it.

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