Biden's team takes shape as Trump's hopes of overturning election fade

WASHINGTON/WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's hopes of reversing his election loss hung by a thread on Monday as Michigan and Pennsylvania looked to push ahead with certifying results, while President-elect Joe Biden filled more top jobs in his incoming administration.

Trump, a Republican, lost both election battleground states in the Nov. 3 vote, but he has refused to concede defeat and is fighting a legal battle to overturn the results there and in other close races across the country.

Trump's effort to prevent Biden from taking office on Jan. 20 likely will be doomed if officials confirm the Democratic challenger as the winner of the votes in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

Biden beat Trump in Michigan by more than 150,000 votes, or almost 3 percentage points, and the election canvassing board is required to validate the count. But it's unclear whether the process will work as the law dictates when the board meets on Monday.

A Republican on the board, which is evenly split between the parties, has suggested he favors delaying certification because of technical irregularities that may have affected a few hundred votes in one county. The Trump campaign has suggested without evidence the irregularities point to widespread fraud.

A deadlock would likely force the matter into state appeals courts, where an order would be sought to compel the board to perform its duty. If the members refused, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has the authority to replace them.

Monday is also the deadline in Pennsylvania for counties to report their certified tallies to Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat. Boockvar likely would then certify the results on behalf of the state in a matter of days. Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes.

Electors in each state will convene as the Electoral College on Dec. 14 to formally select the next president. Biden won 306 electoral votes, 36 over the 270 threshold needed to win.

BIDEN CABINET

Biden, working in his home state of Delaware, has pushed ahead with his transition plans despite the lack of cooperation from the current administration. Ron Klain, the incoming White House chief of state, said on Sunday that Biden will announce his first Cabinet picks on Tuesday.

Antony Blinken will be tapped as U.S. secretary of state, a person close to the transition team said, elevating a seasoned and trusted Biden aide who will work on helping to undo Trump's "America First" foreign policy.

Blinken's appointment makes another longtime Biden aide with a foreign policy background, Jake Sullivan, the top candidate to be U.S. national security adviser.

Biden has chosen another veteran diplomat, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who held a top diplomatic post in the Obama administration, as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, media reports said on Sunday.

Biden also said last week he had chosen a Treasury secretary, and would announce the person near the Nov. 26 Thanksgiving holiday. Former Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen is said to be the top candidate.

On Monday, Biden named Reema Dodin and Shuwanza Goff as deputy directors of the White House's office of legislative affairs, which coordinates legislation with Congress. Dodin and Goff have served as top legislative strategists for Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Democratic House of Representatives Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign's focus remains on an increasingly desperate quest to delay certification of the election results in several states, an effort that has mostly met with failure. It suffered another blow on Saturday when a federal judge in Pennsylvania dismissed a lawsuit, saying it was not in the court's power to violate the Constitution.

Trump's campaign has also filed a petition for another recount in Georgia, which on Friday certified results showing Biden had narrowly won that state, a longtime Republican bastion in presidential elections.

While most Republicans continue to either publicly back Trump's efforts or remain silent, a growing number are imploring him to concede the election and assist with the transition to Biden's administration.

Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania told CNBC that the idea of a sitting president pressuring lawmakers to disregard the will of voters by selecting their own group of electors was completely inconsistent with a democratic society.

"I can assure you that I’m not alone in this view among Republican senators," said Toomey, who has announced that he will not seek reelection in 2022.

More than 100 former Republican national security officials demanded in a published letter on Monday that party leaders denounce Trump's refusal to concede the election, calling it a dangerous and anti-democratic assault on U.S. institutions.

"By encouraging President Trump's delaying tactics or remaining silent, Republican leaders put American democracy and national security at risk," said the group, which included officials from the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Trump.

(Reporting by James Oliphant; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, Susan Heavey and David Morgan; Writing by James Oliphant and Paul Simao; Editing by Scott Malone and Grant McCool)

11/23/2020 16:21

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