Joe Biden ignores Trump to build team with eye on raging pandemic

WASHINGTON/WILMINGTON: US President-elect Joe Biden will press on with building his governing team on Thursday, ignoring President Donald Trump‘s refusal to concede.
The Democratic former vice president has shrugged off the Republican incumbent’s long-shot challenge to his victory, naming longtime adviser Ron Klain on Wednesday as White House chief of staff, his first major appointment.
New records for daily coronavirus infections and hospitalizations in the United States ensured that the presidential transition will be dominated by the response to the pandemic, which has accelerated since the Nov. 3 election. Trump remains in office until Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
Foreign allies have congratulated Biden. A group of prominent former world leaders known as The Elders, chaired by former Irish President Mary Robinson, urged Trump to accept defeat, fearing he was “putting at risk the functioning of American democracy.”
Attention is now expected to shift to Biden’s picks for Cabinet posts, though aides have so far given few clues about when announcements will be made.
On foreign policy, diplomat and longtime confidant Antony Blinken is seen as a possible choice for secretary of state or national security adviser.
Whoever is chosen for treasury secretary will have to cope with a recession and joblessness, as well as serving as the fulcrum to address wealth inequality, climate change and other issues.
Klain, who served as Democratic President Barack Obama’s “Ebola czar” in 2014 during an outbreak of that virus in West Africa, is expected to take a leading role in the incoming Biden administration’s response to the nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases.
In Klain, Biden brings in a trusted and experienced operative who also served as Democratic Vice President Al Gore’s top aide during Bill Clinton‘s administration.
“He was always highly informed and his advice was always grounded in exceptional command of the policy process, the merits of the arguments, and the political and justice context,” Gore told Reuters.
The United States again set records on Wednesday with more than 142,000 new coronavirus infections and nearly 65,000 hospitalizations, according to a Reuters tally. The death toll rose by 1,464, approaching the levels reached during a catastrophic first wave earlier this year.
Biden has won enough of the battleground states to surpass the 270 electoral votes needed in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the next president. He is also winning the popular vote by more than 5.2 million votes, or 3.4 percentage points, with a few states still counting ballots.
Since major news organizations called the election for Biden on Saturday, Trump has maintained a minimal public schedule, preferring instead to air his grievances on Twitter, and has not addressed the climbing virus case load nationwide.
Trump has focused on efforts to overturn the election’s results in closely contested states, despite presenting no evidence of irregularities that could affect the outcome, and a skeptical reception from judges.
His team has also been busy raising money, soliciting contributions to pay for legal challenges.
But a donor would have to give more than $8,000 before any money goes to an account established to finance election challenges. Small-dollar donations instead will go to the Republican National Committee or a newly formed political action committee, which can use the cash for other purposes such as travel expenses or other political campaigns.
Democrats have accused Trump of aiming to undermine public trust in the U.S. election system and delegitimize Biden’s victory. Trump’s nearly four years in office have been marked by political divisions and the shattering of democratic norms.
Edison Research gave Biden 279 electoral votes as of Thursday morning. While some news organization have added Arizona and its 11 electoral votes to Biden’s column, Edison Research had yet to call that traditionally Republican state for the Democrat, who led by a margin of 0.3 percentage point.
Results in Georgia, another longtime Republican stronghold with 16 electoral votes, also showed Biden with a lead of 0.3 percentage point.
In order to remain in office, Trump would need to win both Arizona and Georgia and overturn one or more states already in the Biden column before the formal Electoral College vote on Dec. 14, a highly unlikely scenario.
“If we can audit the total votes cast, we will easily win Arizona also!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said the vote was not close enough to trigger a recount. With slightly fewer than 25,000 ballots left to count, Trump would need to win 65% of the remaining votes to catch Biden’s lead.
“That certainly could happen,” Hobbs told CNN on Thursday. “I think it’s not likely to happen.”
Georgia has decided to recount its votes by hand. Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, said it was unlikely to find many errors from the previous machine count.
“End of the day, you may not like the results, but it’ll be an accurate recount, and we’ll know exactly what the vote totals are,” Raffensperger told Fox News Channel on Thursday.

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