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Biden urges national unity as Trump erases former adviser’s conviction

President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday urged national unity during this holiday season as President Trump erased the criminal conviction of his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, for lying to the FBI during the Russian investigation. White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Elsewhere, state officials in Minnesota are sending National Guard units to nursing homes and long-term care facilities to help with staffing shortages.

    In the presidential transition, twin headlines tonight. President-elect Joe Biden urges national unity, as President Trump erases a criminal conviction for an old ally, Michael Flynn.

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports.

  • President-Elect Joseph Biden:

    My fellow Americans, Thanksgiving is a special time in America.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    With the transition getting into full swing, the president-elect took a brief pause today to mark the Thanksgiving holiday.

    From Wilmington, Delaware, he delivered a virtual address to the nation, projecting hope, as the nation faces more hard months of the pandemic.

  • President-Elect Joseph Biden:

    America's not going to lose this war. We will get our lives back. Life is going to return to normal, I promise you. This will happen. This will not last forever.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    And in his strongest terms yet, he stood up for the electoral process.

  • President-Elect Joseph Biden:

    Our democracy was tested this year. And what we learned is this. The people of this nation are up to the task. In America, we have full and fair and free elections, and then we honor the results. The people of this nation won't stand for anything else. The people of this nation and the laws of the land won't stand for anything else.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    At the same time, a stark contrast in tone from President Trump, as he continued his fight against the election's integrity.

    In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Republican state lawmakers held a meeting on election irregularities. The president called in with more false claims, denying the election's legitimacy.

  • President Donald Trump:

    This election was lost by the Democrats. They cheated. It was a fraudulent election. They flooded the market. They defrauded everybody on ballots.

    (APPLAUSE)

  • President Donald Trump:

    And I just want to thank everybody for being there.

    You're doing a tremendous service. This is a very important moment in the history of our country. They are bad people. They're horrible people. And they are people that don't love our country.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Still, the White House is preparing for President Trump to leave, and there are signs that he may help key allies on the way out, among them, his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

    The president announced his pardon this afternoon on Twitter. Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with a Russian diplomat, all this a day after President Trump finally authorized intelligence agencies to begin briefing his successor on classified information. Those briefings are set to begin Monday.

    That comes as president-elect Biden formally announced his national security team. He plans to roll out his economic team next week, as new jobless claims rose this week to 778,000.

  • President-Elect Joseph Biden:

    I have a very ambitious, very progressive agenda. And it's going to take really strong leaders in the House and Senate to get it done.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Last night, Mr. Biden touched on his Cabinet picks in an NBC interview. He hinted that he wants leading progressives like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to stay on Capitol Hill. He also said the era of Trump's isolationism was over.

  • President-Elect Joseph Biden:

    President Trump has changed the landscape. It's become America first, which meant America alone. We find ourselves in a position where our alliances are being frayed.

    It's totally different. That's why I found people who join the administration in key points that represent the spectrum of the American people, as well as the spectrum of the Democratic Party.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Leaders abroad are signaling that they hope the incoming administration will make good on that promise.

    Today, Chinese President Xi Jinping officially congratulated Mr. Biden in a statement, saying — quote — "Promoting healthy and stable development of China and U.S. relations serves the fundamental interests of the people in both countries."

    With the world watching, the changing of the guard at the White House continues.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Yamiche joins me now.

    So, Yamiche, as you have just reported, the president today pardoned his first — former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Remind us why this case has been so important to President Trump.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, President Trump pardoning Michael Flynn, who he fired, really is the president going forward with this effort to try to discredit the Mueller investigation, that investigation that was looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

    And what the president had been saying over and over again was that his administration, including Michael Flynn, that they were targeted unfairly as part of that investigation and it was all a hoax.

    So, Michael Flynn pled guilty twice to lying to the FBI. And that — those — the things — the statements that that was about was his conversations with the Russian diplomat, the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

    He was talking to that Russian diplomat about the Obama administration imposing sanctions on Russia as a result of Russia meddling in the 2016 election. He was trying to raise the idea that President Trump would have a closer relationship with Russia.

    We also saw the Department of Justice drop their charges against Michael Flynn. That case had been moving through the courts, with President Trump trying to say again that Michael Flynn was being treated unfairly. And now this all changes all of that, with the president now pardoning him.

    Now, we should note that there's a lot of backlash to this. Speaker Pelosi is saying that this proves that President Trump doesn't believe in the rule of law. House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler said that it was undeserved and unprincipled and a stain on President Trump's legacy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, as if that weren't enough, we also had the president today, as you reported, Yamiche, calling in to this session of Republicans in Pennsylvania, again repeating his claims that he was the winner of the election, it was stolen from him.

    And, separately, Joe Biden giving a Thanksgiving address, speaking about what he wants to do. What did we learn today from Joe Biden?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, this was quite a split-screen, with President Trump continuing to make the case that he was treated unfairly, that Democrats cheated him out of an election victory.

    He called into this sort of unwieldy meeting of GOP lawmakers in Pennsylvania. His personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was there. And the president at one point was literally on speakerphone, with a member of his legal team holding the phone up to a microphone to a cheering crowd of GOP supporters of the president.

    Just a few minutes after that, we saw this sort of stately address by president-elect Biden, where he was calmer, where he was more, in some ways, delivering what you would see from a president traditionally, saying that this — that we, as Americans, need to all come together to fight the virus, just completely different tones.

    I should also note that we should now watch this space for the president to possibly be pardoning more people, because, as he makes these claims that he was cheated out of the election, he also is thinking about his legacy and who else he thinks may have been victimized.

    So, we should continue to watch that as well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, Yamiche Alcindor, again covering both the incoming and the outgoing presidents.

    Yamiche, thank you.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks.

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