Biden moves forward with presidential transition amid Trump lawsuits

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As Philadelphia remains the epicenter of outgoing President Donald Trump’s personal ire and Pennsylvania the locus of several lawsuits from his campaign, President-Elect Joe Biden is moving forward with his transition to the White House in January.

Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris convened a meeting with more than a dozen scientists and healthcare professionals on Nov. 9 to establish his coronavirus task force.

Biden has prioritized dealing with the pandemic for his administration. The task force, he said, would consult with state and local health officials on how to contain coronavirus spread, reopen schools and businesses, and address the disproportionate number of Black and brown people who have tested positive and/or died from the virus.

The people Biden has chosen include Dr. Rick Bright, former head of the vaccine-development agency BARDA, who was fired by the Trump administration in April; Dr. Atul Gawande, well-known surgeon, writer and CEO of the joint JP Morgan Chase-Berkshire Hathaway-Amazon health care conglomerate Haven; and Dr. Luciana Borio, former Food and Drug Administration assistant commissioner and a biodefense specialist.

Key HIV/AIDS specialists will be part of the task force, notably renowned epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm, a key figure in the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the 1980s and 90s. Also on the taskforce are Dr. Celine Gounder, a specialist in HIV and tuberculosis outbreaks and Dr. Eric Goosby, former Ryan White Care Act director and former United States Global AIDS Coordinator, who headed the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) under President Obama.

Biden’s overseers for the task force are co-chairs Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a Yale physician and researcher; Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general; and Dr. David Kessler, a former FDA commissioner.

On Wednesday, CNN reported that “The Biden transition has posted the names of 500 people who will work with the different government agencies — ranging from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Postal Service — to their website.”

Biden also laid out a series of actions he intends to take “on Day One” and within his first 100 days, according to sources within the Biden transition team. PGN has learned that Biden will sign a series of Executive Orders after his Inauguration to vitiate changes President Trump has made. Among these are returning to the World Health Organization, renewing the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) immigration agreement, and ending the travel ban instituted against majority-Muslim nations.

PGN could not confirm whether Biden would pursue an end to the trans military ban, but he has been supportive of trans rights and has promised to set up a White House Council on Gender Equality.

Biden may also try to increase the minimum wage for workers on federal contracts through an executive order. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour and has not been increased in a dozen years. Pennsylvania adheres to the federal minimum wage. Three quarters of those in minimum wage jobs are women. Biden has said he wants to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Biden has received congratulations from world leaders and key U.S. allies, including the U.K.’s Boris Johnson, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Angela Merkel, Australia’s Scott Morrison and New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, said, “We share a relationship that’s unique on the world stage. I’m really looking forward to working together and building on that with you both.”

Merkel, who has had a fraught relationship with Trump, said, “I sincerely congratulate Joe Biden to his election as the 46th President of the United States of America. Joe Biden brings the experience of decades in domestic and foreign policy with him. He knows Germany and Europe well. I fondly remember meetings and conversations with him.”

Leaders throughout the Middle East have also congratulated Biden. The President-Elect said in a press conference on Nov. 10 that he had spoken with several of these leaders in anticipation of his succession to the presidency.

The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, tweeted, “Welcome back America! Congratulations to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for their election!”

Biden has stated that on his first day in office he will sign the U.S. back onto the Paris Climate Accord, of which Hidalgo is a staunch supporter.

Only four Republican senators have acknowledged Biden’s win: Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Ben Sasse (R-NE). On Nov. 10, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell presented a false narrative that Democrats were attempting to subvert the election. He asserted that President Trump had the legal right to pursue lawsuits against states in which he lost declaratively, but gave no basis for that assertion.

Trump is alleging voter fraud in states where he lost, but not in states where he won. On Nov. 11, the New York Times published a lengthy report noting that they had contacted the secretaries of state of all 50 states and not one had cited voter fraud. Several Republican secretaries of state said the allegations were specious and one, Brad Raffensberger of Georgia, called them “laughable.” But Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick offered a $1million reward for anyone who uncovered voter fraud in Texas, a state that Trump won handily.

In Erie, PA, a postal worker who said they had witnessed voter fraud, recanted their story Tuesday, after questioning.

Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, a Republican, told CNN on Nov. 11 that he had seen “the most fantastical things on social media, making completely ridiculous allegations that have no basis in fact.” Trump then attacked Schmidt on Twitter, calling him a RINO: a Republican In Name Only. Trump claimed Schmidt stands in the way of Trump winning Pennsylvania.

The news magazine “60 Minutes” noted on their Nov. 8 episode that Schmidt had received death threats.

Prior to the Biden-Harris press conference, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a briefing of his own that there would be a smooth transition in January — to the second term of President Trump. Various news organizations including CNN and the New York Times called that statement dangerously irresponsible and noted it sent the wrong message to other governments when Biden is the newly elected leader.

In their Nov. 10 press conference, Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris addressed the issues of their transition, including healthcare, as both expressed their concerns over the Trump administration’s efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act under which some 20 million Americans access health insurance.

Biden laid out his plans for healthcare reform, noting that he was poised to expand healthcare to “universal coverage.” Biden also discussed how he would seek to curtail the explosion of cases of COVID-19, which the Trump administration has stated will “just disappear.” At press time, there were more than 10 million cases of COVID-19 with more than 100,000 new cases each day.

After his speech, Biden answered questions from reporters in attendance.

Sources in Washington tell PGN that there is widespread internal acknowledgment of Biden’s win, but that GOP leaders are anxious to keep Trump from acting too precipitously in the final weeks of his presidency. In recent days Trump has fired the Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and a series of other Defense Department officials: Esper’s chief of staff and the top officials overseeing policy and intelligence. CNN reported these men were “replaced by perceived Trump loyalists, including a controversial figure who promoted fringe conspiracy theories and called former President Barack Obama a terrorist.”

Emily Murphy, Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) which releases funds for incoming presidents-elect, has refused to acknowledge Biden as President-Elect, on instruction from the Trump White House. Due to Murphy’s stance, Biden’s team does not yet have the funding, office space or access to federal agencies offered to a transition team post-election.

Biden has also not been given access to the Presidential Daily Brief, the national security briefing usually shared with the President-elect. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Biden could not get intelligence briefings until his election was certified by the GSA.

Biden said in response to a question at his press conference that the Trump administration’s refusal to recognize his win “does not change the dynamic of what we’re able to do. We’re going to be moving along in a consistent manner putting together our administration, our White House, reviewing who we’re going to pick for Cabinet positions, and nothing’s going to stop it.”

The Electoral College meets on Dec. 14, after the states certify their elections, and Inauguration Day is January 20, 2021.