Biden Transition Updates Latest news on President-elect Joe Biden's move toward the White House and President Trump's final days in office after the 2020 election.

Biden Transition Updates

The latest news on White House turnover

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Gov. Doug Ducey exchange election documents as they certify election results Monday at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix. Ross D. Franklin/AP hide caption

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Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Gov. Doug Ducey exchange election documents as they certify election results Monday at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix.

Ross D. Franklin/AP

Updated at 5:37 p.m. ET

Officials in Arizona and Wisconsin have certified their states' presidential election results, affirming President-elect Joe Biden's razor-thin victories over President Trump in the two key swing states.

The certifications on Monday come as the president and his legal team continue to tout unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud.

Biden won Arizona by slightly more than 10,000 votes, earning him the 11 electoral votes in a state that a Democratic presidential nominee hadn't carried since Bill Clinton in 1996.

Biden won Wisconsin by just over 20,000 votes, earning the state's 10 electoral votes. Trump had narrowly won Wisconsin in 2016.

Monday's certification follows a recount in Wisconsin's two most populous counties, paid for by the Trump campaign and completed Sunday, in which Biden's lead grew by 87 votes.

Trump had said that his team would file a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin's results.

Sen.-elect Mark Kelly prepares to speak at an election night event in Tucson, Ariz. Kelly is set to be sworn in on Wednesday. Ross D. Franklin/AP hide caption

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Sen.-elect Mark Kelly prepares to speak at an election night event in Tucson, Ariz. Kelly is set to be sworn in on Wednesday.

Ross D. Franklin/AP

Officials in Arizona also certified down-ballot races, including one clearing the way for Sen.-elect Mark Kelly, a Democrat, to be seated as early as this week.

Kelly, who defeated incumbent Sen. Martha McSally, is scheduled to be sworn in Wednesday. Their matchup was a special election to fill the remaining term for the late Sen. John McCain, who was reelected in 2016 and died in 2018.

"This was a historic election for several reasons," said Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, at a brief event on Monday morning.

She noted that roughly 80% of eligible voters cast votes totaling more than 3.4 million ballots.

"Preparing for any election is an immense undertaking even in normal circumstances. The complexity this year has been compounded by the pandemic," Hobbs said. "In spite of this, we had an extremely well-run election and saw historically high voter participation."

Arizona Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, appearing alongside Hobbs, praised state election officials, poll workers and election volunteers "for their dedication to the success of our election system."

He added: "As I've said before, we do elections well here in Arizona. The system is strong and that's why I have bragged on it so much."

Meanwhile, the Arizona Republican Party tweeted Monday: "DO NOT CERTIFY A FALSE ELECTION!"

Members of Trump's legal team, including Rudy Giuliani, took part in an unofficial meeting with some Arizona GOP lawmakers in which he urged state officials to disregard election results.

In the days following Election Day, Trump's legal team raised concerns that some voters had their ballots rejected incorrectly on the basis that Sharpies were used to fill them out.

The saga, which came to be known as #SharpieGate, went viral on social media but failed to gain traction elsewhere as the Department of Homeland Security debunked the claim.

Still that did not keep Trump's legal team from filing a similar lawsuit.

"The claims are baseless," Hobbs said in an interview with a local NBC affiliate days after the election. "At this point folks are grasping at straws."

President-elect Joe Biden has nominated labor economist Cecilia Rouse, seen here in 2016, to head his Council of Economic Advisers. Mel Evans/AP hide caption

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President-elect Joe Biden has nominated labor economist Cecilia Rouse, seen here in 2016, to head his Council of Economic Advisers.

Mel Evans/AP

Updated at 12:45 a.m. ET

With the American economy on uneven footing as coronavirus cases surge nationwide, President-elect Joe Biden formally announced top members of his incoming economic team on Monday.

The nominees and appointees include former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. NPR reported last week that Biden would seek to make Yellen the nation's first female treasury secretary.

Like previous staff announcements, the economic team tapped by the Biden-Harris transition features people who've worked in earlier Democratic administrations.

Cecilia Rouse was nominated as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. If confirmed, she'll be the first Black woman, and just the fourth woman overall, to lead the CEA since it was established nearly 75 years ago.

Rouse currently serves as dean of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs. She was a member of the CEA during the Obama administration and worked on the National Economic Council serving as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton.

"I am focused on the task ahead," Rouse wrote on Twitter after her nomination was made public. "This job is about advising the President on how to rebuild and revive our economy. The planning for a fairer economy, grounded in facts and evidence, begins now."

Additionally, Biden named two members of the CEA to work under Rouse: Jared Bernstein and Heather Boushey.

Bernstein served as Biden's chief economist in the early years of the Obama-Biden administration. And he previously served as executive director for President Barack Obama's White House task force on the middle class and was an adviser to Obama.

Boushey has been a longtime adviser to Biden. Her work as an economist has focused on the areas of economic inequality and public policy. She co-founded the nonprofit Washington Center for Equitable Growth in 2013.

"We have an opportunity to rethink how we invest in people, and we need to seize it as we rebuild our economy," Boushey tweeted Monday.

The announcement comes a day after the Biden-Harris transition team named seven women to top communications roles in the incoming White House. The transition team said it was a historic first that all the positions will be filled by women.

The president-elect on Monday also formally announced Neera Tanden as his nominee to be the director of Office of Management and Budget. Tanden is president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning public policy organization founded by John Podesta, who served as White House chief of staff to Clinton and counselor to Obama.

If confirmed, Tanden would be the first woman of color to head OMB.

The incoming administration also tapped Wally Adeyemo as deputy treasury secretary. If confirmed, he would be the department's first Black deputy secretary.

"Public service is about offering hope through the dark times and making sure that our economy works not just for the wealthy, but for the hard-working people who make it run," Adeyemo said in a tweet Monday.

Among his previous roles, Adeyemo was director of the National Economic Council and deputy national security adviser during the Obama-Biden administration. He currently serves as the president of the Obama Foundation, a nonprofit established by Obama and his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama.

Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, speaks at a forum on wages and working people on April 27, 2019. President-elect Joe Biden is nominating Tanden to run the Office of Management and Budget. Ethan Miller/Getty Images hide caption

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Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, speaks at a forum on wages and working people on April 27, 2019. President-elect Joe Biden is nominating Tanden to run the Office of Management and Budget.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Updated at 7:25 p.m. ET

President-elect Joe Biden on Sunday named seven women to key communications roles in his incoming White House. His transition team says it's the first time in history that the positions will be filled entirely by women.

Biden also will tap Neera Tanden to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, a source familiar with transition discussions tells NPR's Franco Ordoñez. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported Tanden's nomination, says if confirmed, she will be the first woman of color to oversee the OMB.

Biden has emphasized the elevation of women to key roles in his administration. His running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, will become the first female vice president, and he is set to nominate former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to be the first female treasury secretary.

Joining Yellen will be Adewale "Wally" Adeyemo, whom Biden plans to announce as deputy treasury secretary, the source familiar with transition discussions confirmed.

The Journal says Adeyemo — who is president of the Obama Foundation, and worked as an economic adviser in the Obama White House — would be the Treasury Department's first Black deputy secretary.

Tanden is currently the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, a progressive think-tank. She's also been an adviser to Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama.

Biden is set to unveil more members of his economic team this week.

Then-White House Communications Director Jen Psaki listens to President Barack Obama make a statement on April 2, 2015. Psaki will be Biden's press secretary. Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Then-White House Communications Director Jen Psaki listens to President Barack Obama make a statement on April 2, 2015. Psaki will be Biden's press secretary.

Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Among the seven communications staffers Biden named Sunday are:

  • Kate Bedingfield: The communications director for Biden's campaign will take on the same role in the White House. Bedingfield was also communications director for Biden when he was vice president.
  • Jen Psaki: Psaki will be the White House press secretary. She's another veteran of the Obama administration, and her roles there included White House communications director. Psaki [pronounced "saki"] currently oversees the confirmation efforts of Biden's nominees.
  • Karine Jean-Pierre: Jean-Pierre, who will be deputy press secretary, was a senior adviser on Biden's campaign and chief of staff to Harris.

Also named to the White House communications staff are: Ashley Etienne, Harris' communications director; Symone Sanders, senior advisor and chief spokesperson for Harris; Pili Tobar, deputy White House communications director; and Elizabeth Alexander, communications director for first lady Jill Biden.

"Communicating directly and truthfully to the American people is one of the most important duties of a president, and this team will be entrusted with the tremendous responsibility of connecting the American people to the White House," Biden said in a statement.

Psaki noted on Twitter that six of the seven women named to communications jobs Sunday are moms of young children.

The communications team was unveiled as Biden himself was at a doctor's office.

According to a statement from Dr. Kevin O'Connor, released by the transition team, the 78-year-old Biden suffered hairline fractures in bones in his right foot, and "it is anticipated that he will likely require a walking boot for several weeks."

His staff says he sustained the injury on Saturday when he slipped as he was playing with his dog, Major.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Saturday rejected a lawsuit by Republicans challenging the state's mail-in voting law. Mary Altaffer/AP hide caption

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Mary Altaffer/AP

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Saturday rejected a lawsuit by Republicans challenging the state's mail-in voting law.

Mary Altaffer/AP

Another Republican effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election has been stopped, this time by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which on Saturday rejected a request that some 2.5 million mail-in ballots in the state be thrown out.

In its ruling, the high court unanimously dismissed a lawsuit that claimed that a 2019 state law allowing no-excuse absentee ballots was unconstitutional.

The suit, filed by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly and others on Nov. 21, requested that the state reject mail ballots submitted under that law or allow state lawmakers to select presidential electors. The state legislature is controlled by Republicans.

The justices contended that if the plaintiffs had constitutional concerns over the mail-in voting law, their suit would have been filed earlier and not after millions of mail-in ballots were cast in the 2020 primary and general election. The justices further noted that the plaintiffs waited until after the votes had been tallied and their preferred presidential candidate lost the state.

"Unsatisfied with the results of that wager, they would now flip over the table, scattering to the shadows the votes of millions of Pennsylvanians," Justice David Wecht wrote in a statement concurring with the three-page order. "It is not our role to lend legitimacy to such transparent and untimely efforts to subvert the will of Pennsylvania voters."

The state Supreme Court decision also threw out a lower court decision to halt the state from further certifying election results. That order came a day after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, declared President-elect Joe Biden the certified winner of the state's ballot count, The Associated Press reports.

Biden won the state by more than 80,000 votes.

Kelly easily won reelection in the state's 16th Congressional District. Another of the lawsuit's plaintiffs, Sean Parnell — who lost his bid for the state's 17th District — tweeted Saturday evening that "it's not over."

State Democrats celebrated the court's decision. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called it another "win for democracy."

Saturday's decision came a day after a federal appeals court struck down an effort by President Trump's legal team to block certification of Pennsylvania's election results.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the suits thrown out in the Friday and Saturday decisions were the last two active challenges in the state involving the 2020 election.

According to the Inquirer, a legal adviser for Trump, Jenna Ellis, declared Saturday's court ruling a "ridiculous political game." Neither the president nor his legal team was a party to Kelly's lawsuit.

In an interview with Fox News on Sunday — his first since the election — Trump said he thought Kelly will have "a great appeal" to the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump also said his team would be appealing various — and so far largely unsuccessful — cases as well.

Meanwhile, officials in Wisconsin on Sunday finished a partial recount confirming that Biden had won the state by more than 20,000 votes. That recount had been requested and paid for by Trump and his team.

An election official pauses during the ballot recount earlier this month at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee. After recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties, President-elect Joe Biden narrowly increased his winning margin over President Trump. Scott Olson/Getty Images hide caption

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An election official pauses during the ballot recount earlier this month at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee. After recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties, President-elect Joe Biden narrowly increased his winning margin over President Trump.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Updated at 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday

A partial recount in Wisconsin concluded Sunday with President-elect Joe Biden's winning margin over President Trump increasing by 87 total votes.

Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell told reporters Sunday that Trump netted a gain of 45 votes in the county, which includes the capital Madison. That followed Friday's completed recount in the state's most populous county, Milwaukee, where out of roughly 460,000 ballots cast, Biden made a net gain of 132 votes on review.

The results offer unwelcome news for Trump, who lost to Biden in Wisconsin by roughly 20,000 votes, and lost the national popular vote by more than 6 million.

The Trump campaign paid the Wisconsin Elections Commission a fee of $3 million to proceed with recounts in Milwaukee and Dane counties. The two counties, which together account for roughly a quarter of the state's population, swung heavily for Biden with 69% and 75% of the vote, respectively.

Trump said on Twitter Saturday that his team will file a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin's results prior to the state's certification deadline on Tuesday.

Trump and his allies have repeatedly and baselessly claimed that widespread fraud decided the election for his rival — not just in Wisconsin but also in other battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan. Those claims have not held up in court, however, and Trump's legal setbacks have mounted in recent weeks.

"Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so," federal appellate Judge Stephanos Bibas wrote in an opinion released Friday denying the Trump campaign's challenge of the results in Pennsylvania. "Charges require specific allegations and then proof," said Bibas, whom Trump nominated to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017. "We have neither here."

The defeats have failed to dissuade Trump, who continued to tweet false claims overnight, saying without evidence that the votes against him in Pennsylvania and "all other swing states" were "RIGGED."

Still, his efforts may be having the unintended effect of underlining the veracity of the election results. Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson said Friday that the recount's results should affirm voters' faith in the election process.

"The recount demonstrates what we already know: that elections in Milwaukee County are fair, transparent, accurate and secure," he said Friday, according to Reuters.

And on Sunday, Dane County's McDonell told reporters that the recount showed "there was absolutely no evidence of voter fraud in this election."

NPR's Benjamin Swasey contributed reporting.

President Trump took questions for the first time since he lost the election to Joe Biden after he spoke to troops serving overseas on Thanksgiving. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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President Trump took questions for the first time since he lost the election to Joe Biden after he spoke to troops serving overseas on Thanksgiving.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump this week acknowledged that the transition for President-elect Joe Biden to take office is going ahead. But on Thursday, he made clear he's in no mood to concede the election, even after the Electoral College formally votes this month.

"It's going to be a very hard thing to concede because we know there was massive fraud," Trump said, without evidence, complaining that the U.S. election was "like a Third World country."

Trump has kept a low profile since losing the election to Biden on Nov 3, appearing on camera only a handful of times, and steering clear of reporters' questions.

But on Thanksgiving, after talking to troops serving overseas, Trump held forth, venturing into the weeds of the allegations that the election was rigged — baseless claims of widespread fraud that courts have repeatedly rejected.

"There's no way that Biden got 80 million votes," he said, repeatedly.

When a reporter pushed back against his claims, Trump got angry. "Don't talk to me that way," he said. "You're just a lightweight ... I'm the president of the United States. Don't ever talk to the president that way."

Trump said he would leave the White House on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day. "Certainly I will — and you know that," he said. "But I think that there will be a lot of things happening between now and the 20th of January, a lot of things."

One of those things: Trump will campaign for the two Republican senators in the Georgia runoff races on Jan. 5. The White House said he will headline a rally on Dec. 5, and Trump said he may return to the state before the election, if needed. The results of the races will determine whether Republicans retain control of the Senate.

But he refused to say whether he would attend Biden's inauguration ceremonies, as is tradition. And as far as his political future beyond Jan. 20 — Trump also declined to answer.

"Well, I don't want to talk about 2024 yet," he said.

President Trump took questions in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on Thanksgiving after speaking to troops stationed abroad. Erin Schaff/Getty Images hide caption

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President Trump took questions in the Diplomatic Room of the White House on Thanksgiving after speaking to troops stationed abroad.

Erin Schaff/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday in Wilmington, Del., where he named John Kerry as a climate envoy. He says he'll also appoint a domestic climate policy coordinator to push for action across the government. Carolyn Kaster/AP hide caption

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Carolyn Kaster/AP

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday in Wilmington, Del., where he named John Kerry as a climate envoy. He says he'll also appoint a domestic climate policy coordinator to push for action across the government.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

President-elect Joe Biden is preparing to name a second high-level climate position in the White House, a counterpart to his diplomatic climate envoy John Kerry, to ramp up action dramatically at home.

The idea is for the new appointee to lead an office or policy council akin to the Domestic Policy Council, which coordinates work on the president's domestic priorities. But the ultimate structure and authority are currently under discussion as those close to Biden wrestle over whether giving this group greater power than previous White House climate posts could be interpreted as elevating it over other priorities, such as racial equality.

But what is clear, people close to the Biden team say, is that there will be more muscle behind these climate efforts because they're too important to Democrats.

"This is something that's a given," one person with knowledge of the discussion says. "And there are a number of people, a number of Democrats who feel that ... the climate crisis is an existential threat" — both the people who worked on the issue during the Obama administration and the young voters who came out for Biden in the election.

Biden has recognized that climate change is now a major issue for Democratic voters, and popular concern has grown in recent years amid relentlessly record-setting wildfires, hurricanes and extreme heat. The urgency of climate change helped drive young people in particular to turn out for Biden.

The president-elect has vowed to reinvigorate and expand the country's commitment to fighting climate change, including rejoining the Paris climate accord soon after inauguration. But that's only a first step. The Biden administration will have to do much more, on multiple fronts, to restore confidence at home and abroad, climate experts say.

"You have no credibility in the international sphere unless you're doing a lot to get back on track domestically," says John Podesta, who was climate policy coordinator under former President Barack Obama and is close with the Biden team.

"This is an issue that is not going away"

The world has little time to cut carbon emissions deeply enough to avoid irreversible devastation from intense heat, rising seas and extreme weather disasters, scientists say. At the federal level, the U.S. has largely lost four years in that effort as the Trump administration rolled back dozens of climate rules to help the fossil fuel industry.

"We have seen cities, states, the marketplace, other countries, all racing ahead to transition once and for all to a clean energy economy," says Tiernan Sittenfeld, senior vice president for government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters. "It's really been the Trump administration at odds with all of that."

The president-elect campaigned on an ambitious $2 trillion climate plan that aims to make the entire U.S. economy carbon neutral by 2050. But if Republicans keep control of the Senate after runoff elections in Georgia, Biden's most meaningful moves may have to come through executive action.

Supporters then are pleased to see that climate change will have a higher profile under him than in any previous administration, and that could set a precedent.

"This is an issue that is not going away in four or five or 10 years," says the person close to the transition team who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to share the group's discussions. "Eventually you may actually have a Cabinet agency dealing with the climate. And I think that's what some Republicans will be very suspicious of."

Whole-of-government strategy

Veterans of the Obama administration, as well as younger climate activists, have been pushing for a White House climate director who can work across the entire federal government. They say this will drive climate policies beyond the usual agencies such as the Interior and Energy departments and the Environmental Protection Agency.

For example, the Department of Housing and Urban Development could make the buildings it oversees more energy-efficient and resilient. The Department of Agriculture could promote soil management to sequester carbon. The Treasury Department could do more to take climate risk into account when banks lend money, encouraging financing for renewable projects over those that rely on fossil fuels. The Pentagon could further integrate into its planning the risks climate change poses to its military installations around the world.

Sittenfeld says she thinks this high-level, broad approach also makes clear that "dealing with the climate crisis is inextricably linked with all the crises that we face," from economic and racial inequality to the pandemic and its economic fallout.

Of course, the past four years of President Trump's rollbacks have made clear that many executive actions can be undone by a future administration. But Podesta, the former climate official under Obama, says that's not always the case.

"When you build 30 gigawatts of offshore wind," he says, "that's not going anywhere."

President-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address Wednesday in Wilmington, Del. Mark Makela/Getty Images hide caption

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President-elect Joe Biden delivers a Thanksgiving address Wednesday in Wilmington, Del.

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The day before Thanksgiving offered a jarring contrast between President-elect Joe Biden and President Trump, who has yet to concede he lost the election.

Biden on Wednesday delivered a Thanksgiving address in Wilmington, Del., calling on Americans to unite in protecting their communities as they celebrate the holiday this year amid the raging coronavirus pandemic.

Minutes earlier, Trump called in from the White House to an informal meeting of Pennsylvania lawmakers, repeating baseless claims about the election being "rigged."

"This election has to be turned around," Trump said, though the election results have already been certified in a number of key states, including Pennsylvania, and the formal transition process to the incoming Biden administration is underway.

Soon after on Wednesday, Trump pardoned his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who had pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about contact with Russia.

"Congratulations to [Gen. Flynn] and his wonderful family," Trump wrote on Twitter. "I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!"

Jenna Ellis, a member of President Trump's legal team, holds up a phone to the microphone so Trump can speak Wednesday during a public hearing in Gettysburg, Pa., to discuss alleged election issues. Samuel Corum/Getty Images hide caption

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In his remarks, the president-elect spoke of resolve amid a difficult holiday season.

"[The virus has] divided us, angered us, set us against one another," Biden said while speaking at the Queen theater. "I know the country has grown weary of the fight. But we need to remember: We're at war with the virus, not with one another."

Citing the sacrifices of doctors, nurses and other frontline workers, Biden called on Americans to redouble their efforts in combating the virus, referring to basic health safety measures such as social distance and mask-wearing as a "patriotic duty."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people to stay home and not travel for Thanksgiving to help prevent the spread of the virus. Nevertheless, millions of Americans are still traveling for the holiday.

Biden said he will go without his traditional large family gathering on Thursday, opting instead to celebrate Thanksgiving with a small group of his wife, daughter and son-in-law.

"I know how hard it is to forgo family traditions, but it is so very important," Biden said. "Our country is in the middle of a dramatic spike in cases. ... That is the plain and simple truth, and I believe you deserve to always hear the truth from your president."

Trump spoke at a Gettysburg, Pa., hearing as one of his attorneys, Jenna Ellis, held her phone up on speakerphone. He recited false claims including that Republican poll observers were denied access to voting sites and threatened by Democrats, and that voting machines were tampered with.

The Trump campaign and GOP allies have filed nearly three dozen post-election lawsuits, and nearly every case has been dismissed, mostly because none of the claims have stood up to legal scrutiny and conventional standards of evidence.

Trump has touted his administration's response to the pandemic, including halting some travel from China and getting vaccines on the cusp of approval.

Biden acknowledged the Americans who have lost loved ones to the coronavirus, reflecting on the loss of family members he's experienced in his own life.

"I remember that first Thanksgiving, the empty chair, the silence — [it] takes your breath away. It's really hard to care. It's hard to give thanks. It's hard to even think of looking forward, it's so hard to hope," he said.

But he concluded: "Out of pain comes possibility, out of frustration comes progress, and out of division, unity."

Then-Vice President Joe Biden gestures toward Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan during an arrival ceremony in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Sept. 24, 2015. Carolyn Kaster/AP hide caption

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Then-Vice President Joe Biden gestures toward Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan during an arrival ceremony in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Sept. 24, 2015.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message of congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday, saying he hopes China and the United States can focus on cooperation and keep their differences in check, according to Chinese state media.

The message comes three weeks after the election, making Xi one of the last major world leaders to wish the former U.S. vice president well.

China's Foreign Ministry offered congratulations on Nov. 13, but analysts say Xi had been playing his hand more cautiously, as President Trump mounted legal challenges to the vote and refused to concede.

Trump still hasn't conceded, but this week his administration approved the beginning of the formal transition process. Pivotal states where Trump had been challenging the vote also certified election results showing Biden won.

"Promoting healthy and stable development of China-U.S. relations not only serves the fundamental interests of the people in both countries, but also meets the common expectation of the international community," China's state news agency Xinhua reported Xi as saying in the message to Biden.

Xi said he hopes the two sides would "uphold the spirit of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, focus on cooperation, manage differences, advance the healthy and stable development of China-U.S. ties, and join hands with other countries and the international community to promote the noble cause of world peace and development," according to Xinhua.

After Trump was elected in 2016, Xi sent congratulations that included similar language the following day.

China-U.S. relations have plumbed new depths during the past 3 1/2 years. The Trump administration drew Beijing into a bruising trade war and engaged in tit-for-tat restrictions on business, officials and media. This year, Trump has placed full blame on China for the coronavirus pandemic and said Beijing would pay a price for its early mishandling of the virus. The Chinese government denies culpability.

On the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign trail, China figured prominently, with both Trump and Biden pledging to be tough on Beijing. Biden referred to Xi as a "thug" on multiple occasions.

But analysts expect at least the tone to change under Biden, who met Xi several times as vice president.

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday introduced his nominees and appointees to key national security and foreign policy posts. In an exclusive interview with NBC News' Lester Holt he said key agencies from the Trump administration are reaching out to facilitate the transition of power. Carolyn Kaster/AP hide caption

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Carolyn Kaster/AP

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday introduced his nominees and appointees to key national security and foreign policy posts. In an exclusive interview with NBC News' Lester Holt he said key agencies from the Trump administration are reaching out to facilitate the transition of power.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Looking ahead to his remaining administration appointments, President-elect Joe Biden says he is open to including Republicans as well as progressive former rivals Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

"We already have significant representation among progressives in our administration, but there's nothing really off the table," he said in an interview with NBC News' Lester Holt.

However, he said it would be "difficult" to take influential members of Congress out of their positions to build out his administration.

"One thing is really critical: Taking someone out of the Senate, taking someone out of the House — particularly a person of consequence is a really difficult decision that will have to be made," Biden said.

"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."

Republicans currently have 50 seats in the Senate, and the balance of power in the chamber will be decided in runoff elections in Georgia. Potentially replacing Warren or Sanders could throw even more uncertainty into the mix.

If Sanders were pulled out of Congress, Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont, a Republican, initially said he would name another independent, but later said he would name "a more left-leaning type of independent that would obviously caucus with the Democrats."

In Massachusetts, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has mostly avoided saying how he would fill a Warren vacancy. The Massachusetts legislature came up with a proposal to make Baker appoint a Democrat — but the governor said he would veto it.

In the interview, Biden struck a positive tone on the Trump administration's cooperation with his transition following an unprecedented delay.

Biden smiled as he confirmed that the transition "has already begun" despite President Trump's refusal to formally admit defeat.

"I must say the outreach has been sincere — it has not been begrudging so far and I don't expect it to be," Biden told Holt.

Biden noted there has been "a lot of immediate discussion" after the head of the General Services Administration finally unlocked the mechanisms for there to be a traditional transfer on Monday.

"Immediately, we've gotten outreach from the National Security shop, from, just across the board," he said, adding that transition teams are "already working out my ability to get Presidential Daily Briefs."

Biden also emphasized that his administration would not just be a continuation of the Obama years.

"This is not a third Obama term because ... we face a totally different world than we faced in the Obama/Biden administration," he said. "President Trump has changed the landscape. It's become America first, it's been America alone."

With regard to the COVID-19 crisis that has thrown the country back toward the brink of shutting down, Biden said his team is arranging to meet with White House officials who have been handling the pandemic. Among the issues they plan to address is "how to not only distribute, but get from a vaccine being distributed, to a person being able to get vaccinated."

"So I think we're going to not be so far behind the curve, as we thought we might be in the past," Biden said.

President-elect Joe Biden addresses reporters Tuesday in Wilmington, Del. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden addresses reporters Tuesday in Wilmington, Del.

Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Updated at 9:36 p.m. ET

The White House has given its blessing for President-elect Joe Biden to receive the summary of intelligence reports contained in the presidential daily brief that President Trump receives, according to a White House official and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The decision comes a day after Trump acknowledged that the transition is going ahead and the General Services Administration gave its formal ascertainment allowing for Biden and his team to prepare ahead of the inauguration on Jan. 20.

Trump has not conceded the election, but now Biden can receive intelligence about major national security threats around the globe. "It's been offered. I did not have it today. We're going to do it on a regular basis," Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Del.

In an interview with NBC News that aired Tuesday evening, Biden said he could start to receive the briefing as early as Wednesday.

Until now, Biden has been holding security briefings with a group of national security experts that includes many former officials. But he has not had access to specific classified data compiled by government agencies.

Biden also said his staff has spoken with Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases about the coronavirus. "He's been very, very helpful," Biden said, noting that he has not spoken with Fauci himself.

One thing that hasn't happened: the traditional White House visit, where the outgoing president meets with the president-elect. Asked on Tuesday if he would meet with Trump, Biden said: "Of course, I would, if he asked."

Biden's Secretary Of State Pick Has Both Diplomatic And Musical Chops

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Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken speaks after being introduced by President-elect Joe Biden at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday. Mark Makela/Getty Images hide caption

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Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken speaks after being introduced by President-elect Joe Biden at the Queen Theatre in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday.

Mark Makela/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden's pick for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has worked with Biden for years and has a wealth of diplomatic experience under his belt.

He also has a self-described "wonk rock" band called ABlinken, with two original songs streaming on Spotify.

In between tweets about foreign policy, Blinken's Twitter feed is sprinkled with musical references, including this 2018 plug for his band.

Wonk rock is a fitting genre for someone with decades of foreign policy experience. Blinken began his career during the Clinton administration, and most recently served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser under then-President Barack Obama before moving into the private sector.

Jim Steinberg, who also served as a deputy secretary of state under Obama and has worked with Blinken for decades, described him as having "the experience and the knowledge" needed for the job.

"He has the temperament. He's a great colleague and works well with others. And most important of all, he has the confidence of the president of the United States," Steinberg told NPR's Mary Louise Kelly.

In remarks delivered onstage next to President-elect Biden and other Cabinet nominees on Tuesday, Blinken expressed gratitude for the coworkers, relatives and friends that he said brought him to this day — including his bandmates.

He also offered his praise to State Department employees, who he said "add luster to a word that deserves our respect: diplomacy."

And he spoke of his own family members' journeys and contributions to America, including relatives who fled communism and pogroms in Eastern Europe and his father's U.S. Air Force service during World War II.

Blinken told the story of his late stepfather, Samuel Pisar, a Holocaust survivor who escaped from a death march in the Bavarian woods and was rescued by a Black G.I. He said that when Pisar realized the tank in front of him was American, he got down on his knees and said the only three English words he knew: "God bless America."

"That's who we are," Blinken said onstage. "That's what America represents to the world, however imperfectly."

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Tuesday her office is investigating threats against members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers. Nessel seen above in March during a news conference in Lansing, Mich. David Eggert/AP hide caption

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Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Tuesday her office is investigating threats against members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers. Nessel seen above in March during a news conference in Lansing, Mich.

David Eggert/AP

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel confirmed Tuesday that her office is "actively investigating" threats against members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers.

The announcement comes a day after state election officials voted to certify the election results, formally granting Michigan's 16 electoral votes to President-elect Biden. President Trump has for weeks sought to overturn Biden's victory there and in the election overall, without gaining traction.

"We will investigate any credible complaints of threats to government officials, elected or appointed, and will prosecute criminal conduct to the fullest extent of the law," Nessel said in a statement.

"Serving the people – regardless of party – is an honorable but sometimes difficult and thankless task. And while many of us have been subjected to hateful and often obscene insults, threats of violence and harm will not be tolerated," she added.

Her office's Criminal Investigations Division initiated its probe after the county's Board of Canvassers meeting earlier this month. Nessel is asking that adding that anyone with a specific complaint about election fraud, threats against public officials or misinformation contact her office.

Nessel's office did not outline specific threats, or name which Wayne County officials may have been targeted.

However, Monica Palmer, a Republican board member, has publicly stated that she received threats, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Palmer and fellow Republican William Hartmann received widespread criticism last week when they voted against their Democratic Wayne County Board of Canvassers colleagues on whether to certify the county's election results, resulting in a rare 2-2 deadlock. The county voted for Biden by a large margin.

Citing voting irregularities and allegations of misconduct, the Republicans sought to block the certification of roughly 800,000 votes in Democratic-leaning Wayne County, Michigan's most populous county which includes the city of Detroit.

Trump championed the effort, even sending a celebratory tweet where he called the refusal to certify the results "a beautiful thing." Amid mounting criticism, though, the Republican board members reversed course and certified the county's votes.

During a virtual meeting where the public could comment following the board's initial vote, some took the opportunity to rail against both Palmer and Hartmann, who focused their objections on the majority-Black city of Detroit.

"Shame on you!" one person said during the meeting, according to The Associated Press.

On Monday, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted to certify the election results. Biden successfully flipped the state, which Trump won in 2016 by fewer than 11,000 votes.

In 2020, Biden's margin of victory was many times larger, winning the Great Lake State by more than 150,000 votes.

An election worker talks with a colleague during ballot counting Nov. 6 in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania certified its election results on Tuesday. Chris McGrath/Getty Images hide caption

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An election worker talks with a colleague during ballot counting Nov. 6 in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania certified its election results on Tuesday.

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Updated at 2:43 p.m. ET

Pennsylvania and Nevada, two closely watched electoral battles in the 2020 election, have made it official: President-elect Joe Biden will receive their combined 26 electoral votes.

Biden won Pennsylvania, his birthplace, by more than 80,000 votes, and will receive its 20 votes. The commonwealth certified its election results Tuesday, with Gov. Tom Wolf signing off on its electors.

Biden won Nevada by over 33,000 votes. On Tuesday, the Nevada Supreme Court certified its slate of electors and delivered the state's six electoral votes to Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

The certifications come a day after the Michigan Board of State Canvassers certified its own election results.

Both Pennsylvania and Michigan, which make up part of the so-called blue wall that Biden was able to rebuild this cycle, were the focus of legal attempts by President Trump's campaign to overturn the Democrat's apparent victory.

On Saturday, a federal judge effectively put a nail in the coffin of the Trump campaign's legal efforts by dismissing a lawsuit challenging the results in Pennsylvania; the lawsuit alleged that election officials in Democratic-leaning counties allowed voters to fix errors on their mail-in ballots.

Shortly afterward, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., urged President Trump to accept the election's outcome and move forward with the transition process.

"President Trump has exhausted all plausible legal options to challenge the result of the presidential race in Pennsylvania," Toomey said in a statement.

On Tuesday, Biden senior adviser Bob Bauer said Trump did "everything he could to disenfranchise voters and stop the results from being certified in Pennsylvania."

"Trump did not succeed in Pennsylvania and he will not succeed anywhere else. Trump's lawsuits will continue to fail, as they have in over 30 cases since election day, states will continue to certify their results, and Joe Biden will be sworn in as President on January 20, 2021," Bauer's statement said.

President-elect Joe Biden introduces key foreign policy and national security nominees and appointments Tuesday in Wilmington, Del. Mark Makela/Getty Images hide caption

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President-elect Joe Biden introduces key foreign policy and national security nominees and appointments Tuesday in Wilmington, Del.

Mark Makela/Getty Images

Updated at 2:38 p.m. ET

President-elect Joe Biden stressed a return to multilateralism Tuesday as he introduced key national security and foreign policy appointees and nominees for his incoming White House Cabinet, moving forward with the traditional transition process even though President Trump still hasn't formally admitted defeat.

The Biden team released a list of names on Monday, including Antony Blinken to head the U.S. State Department and Alejandro Mayorkas as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. The group joined Biden in his announcement Tuesday.

Biden hailed the group, saying the team gathered behind him "reflects that America is back."

He touted their credentials but also nodded to taking on future dilemmas. "While this team has unmatched experience and accomplishments, they also reflect the idea that we cannot meet these challenges with old thinking and unchanged habits," he said.

Biden emphasized the historic nature of his nominees — that his pick for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, would be the first woman to lead the intelligence community, if confirmed; and that Mayorkas would be the first Latino and immigrant in charge of DHS. Biden also underscored former Secretary of State John Kerry's role as the first climate envoy in the National Security Council.

He referenced the formal letter of ascertainment by the head of the General Services Administration released on Monday, enabling Biden's transition team to access funds and critical information related to public health and national security.

"I'm pleased to have received the ascertainment from GSA to carry out a smooth and peaceful transition of power, so our teams can prepare to meet the challenges at hand, to control the pandemic, to build back better and to protect the safety and security of the American people," he said.

Following Biden's remarks, each nominee delivered introductory comments.

"My fellow career diplomats and public servants around the world, I want to say to you: America is back, multilateralism is back, diplomacy is back," said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Biden's pick for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

In her remarks, Haines appeared to draw an implicit contrast between the upcoming administration and the Trump administration.

"Mr. President-elect, you know that I have never shied away from speaking truth to power," she said. "I've worked for you for a long time, and I accept this nomination knowing that you would never want me to do otherwise and that you value the perspective of the intelligence community. And that you will do so even when what I have to say may be inconvenient or difficult, and I assure you, there will be those times."

Blinken, who called Biden a mentor and friend, described the history of his family's journey to America, with his grandfather fleeing the pogroms in Russia and his stepfather surviving the Holocaust.

"For my family, as for so many generations of Americans, America has literally been the last best hope on Earth," he said.

Blinken added: "America at its best still has a greater ability than any other country on Earth to bring others together to meet the challenges of our time."

Four of the six roles Biden announced require Senate confirmation. Kerry and Jake Sullivan, tapped for national security adviser, will not need such a vote.

NPR has also reported that Biden intends to nominate former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to head the Treasury Department. If confirmed, Yellen would be the first woman to lead the agency.

Trump has still not admitted defeat, tweeting on Monday: "Our case STRONGLY continues" in reference to his campaign's attempts to overturn the election results, falsely claiming widespread voter fraud.

President-elect Joe Biden's transition team can now formally access agencies, federal office space and funds. Carolyn Kaster/AP hide caption

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Carolyn Kaster/AP

President-elect Joe Biden's transition team can now formally access agencies, federal office space and funds.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Now that the Trump administration has finally determined that Joe Biden is president-elect, the Biden team can begin preparing to take the reins of government on Jan. 20.

The formal letter of ascertainment by the head of the General Services Administration, released Monday, set in motion a process that will enable the Biden team to set up shop in preparation for Inauguration Day.

Because of the delay in determining Biden the winner of the November election, his transition team has just 57 days to do its formal work (although unofficial efforts had been well underway since the election), as the president-elect prepares to take over a federal bureaucracy of some 2 million employees and become commander in chief of some 1.3 million active duty troops deployed in the U.S. and overseas.

Here's what the president-elect now has access to:

Resources

One big thing: He can now access some $6.3 million in federal funds to pay the salaries of transition staff.

The Biden team will also now get the keys to some 175,000 square feet of federal office space, according to the nonpartisan Center for Presidential Transition, and it gets a dot gov domain for its website, Buildbackbetter.gov.

Biden and his team will also get access to government aircraft and can be reimbursed for travel-related expenses.

Coordination

The transition team can also now formally begin meetings with government agencies, something it had been unable to do, much to the consternation of public health experts and Biden's coronavirus advisers.

Now the incoming administration has access to agencies such as the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, as it will likely have to begin drawing up plans for distribution of millions of coronavirus vaccines while the pandemic rages in the country.

National security

There are also national security implications. The Department of Defense issued a statement that it has been in contact with the Biden-Harris team, and that it "is prepared to provide post-election services and support in a professional, orderly, and efficient manner that is befitting of the public's expectation of the Department and our commitment to national security."

The Presidential Transition Act says that, as president-elect, Biden will now be given "a classified, compartmented summary of specific operational threats to national security; major military or covert operations; and pending decisions on possible uses of military force."

The FBI will now be able to start doing background checks on Biden's appointees and preparing security clearances for the transition team.

President Trump, seen here on Saturday, hasn't formally conceded the election to Joe Biden but says he is allowing the transition to proceed. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP hide caption

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Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

President Trump, seen here on Saturday, hasn't formally conceded the election to Joe Biden but says he is allowing the transition to proceed.

Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

President Trump is still not conceding that he lost the election, but he's getting closer.

Trump on Monday tweeted that he had directed the General Services Administration to begin the process of transferring the government to President-elect Joe Biden.

Those tweets may be as close to a concession as Trump will ever give. He maintains that he will continue to fight the election results in court and later tweeted that he would "never concede."

Even as vote counts in key states showed Trump behind Biden by thousands of votes, the president has taken unprecedented steps to contest the electoral outcome. He continued Tuesday to make unfounded allegations about the integrity of the process and vowed more legal action.

Until Monday, GSA Administrator Emily Murphy had declined to take the formal step to allow the Biden team to begin working with federal agencies to prepare for governing. But Trump and Murphy faced increasing pressure to kickstart the transition process.

The New York Times reported that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump's personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, all urged the president to allow the transition to begin. An administration official confirmed to NPR that Trump was being advised that it would be good for the country to at least start the process.

The shift comes as Trump's nearly impossible path to overturning the election outcome looks even more improbable.

Over the weekend, a federal judge issued a blistering order, dismissing the Trump campaign's bid to delay certification of votes in Pennsylvania. Biden leads Trump in the state by more than 81,000 votes.

Trump also failed to prevent the state of Michigan from certifying Biden's win there.

More Republican lawmakers are also calling on Trump to accept the election results.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Trump should "put the country first and have a prompt and orderly transition."

"When you are in public life, people remember the last thing you do," Alexander said.

The move by GSA will allow the Biden transition team to access millions of dollars in federal funding, as well as to begin meeting with government agencies to discuss policy ahead of the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021.

President-elect Joe Biden speaks Monday in Wilmington, Del., during a virtual meeting with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Mark Makela/Getty Images hide caption

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President-elect Joe Biden speaks Monday in Wilmington, Del., during a virtual meeting with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Mark Makela/Getty Images

Updated on Tuesday at 12:25 p.m. ET

Joe Biden's administration can formally begin its transition to power after a previously little-known federal agency on Monday ascertained Biden as the apparent winner of the election more than two weeks after the Democrat became president-elect.

The awaited decision from the General Services Administration provides the incoming Biden team with federal resources and access to agencies.

The news came as President Trump, who has still hasn't conceded the White House race, tweeted he was "recommending" the GSA and others in his administration begin "initial protocols" to kick-start the formal transfer of presidential power.

While Trump said he had recommended the moves, Emily Murphy, the Trump appointee who heads the GSA, wrote in her "letter of ascertainment" to Biden that she had reached the decision independently.

"Please know that I came to my decision independently, based on the law and available facts," Murphy wrote in the letter, dated Monday, first obtained by CNN. "I was never directly or indirectly pressured by any Executive Branch official — including those who work at the White House or GSA — with regard to the substance or timing of my decision. To be clear, I did not receive any direction to delay my determination."

Murphy had faced criticism from Democrats, national security experts and health officials, who argued that delaying the formal transition was hampering the incoming Biden administration from getting up to speed on the response to the coronavirus pandemic and jeopardizing national security. A handful of GOP lawmakers also called for Murphy to allow the transition to get underway.

"Contrary to media reports and insinuations, my decision was not made out of fear or favoritism," she wrote. "Instead, I strongly believe that the statute requires that the GSA Administrator ascertain, not impose, the apparent president-elect. Unfortunately, the statute provides no procedures or standards for this process, so I looked to precedent from prior elections involving legal challenges and incomplete counts."

General Services Administration Administrator Emily Murphy had been blocking Biden's team from receiving government funds and office space to begin the transition. Susan Walsh/AP hide caption

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Susan Walsh/AP

General Services Administration Administrator Emily Murphy had been blocking Biden's team from receiving government funds and office space to begin the transition.

Susan Walsh/AP

Murphy wrote she had reached her decision "because of recent developments involving legal challenges and certifications of election results."

The president has not conceded the election despite numerous legal setbacks and the certification of votes in some key states, including Michigan on Monday.

Trump also wrote in his tweets that his "case STRONGLY continues."

Trump thanked Murphy for her "dedication and loyalty" and also bemoaned the criticism she received.

The decision means Biden's team should now have access to government office space, will be able to meet with Trump administration officials to discuss policy issues, and will receive some $7.3 million to pay staffers and other expenses.

"Today's decision is a needed step to begin tackling the challenges facing our nation, including getting the pandemic under control and our economy back on track," Biden-Harris transition Executive Director Yohannes Abraham said in a statement. "This final decision is a definitive administrative action to formally begin the transition process with federal agencies. In the days ahead, transition officials will begin meeting with federal officials to discuss the pandemic response, have a full accounting of our national security interests, and gain complete understanding of the Trump administration's efforts to hollow out government agencies."

Under the 1963 Presidential Transition Act, it was up to Murphy as head of the GSA, the federal agency that acts as a leasing agent for the government, to make the ascertainment, though the law is vague about the criteria that should be used.

The GSA had cited the precedent set by the 2000 election in which Republican George W. Bush wasn't declared the winner over Democrat Al Gore until the Supreme Court ruled in Bush's favor in a dispute over recounting Florida's ballots. The margin then was just 537 votes, a far narrower outcome than Biden's win over Trump.

That shortened transition period was cited by the 9/11 Commission as a factor in al-Qaida's attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, because of the time it took Bush to get his national security team in place.

The GSA decision was Monday's second major blow to Trump's effort to overturn the election result. Earlier in the day, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted to certify Biden's win there. The typically ministerial duty had become a national focal point as the president and his allies launched a failed effort either to delay certification or install Trump loyalists in the place of electors who would vote for Biden.

The decision to certify the outcome was 3-0, with one abstention.

Avril Haines pictured in January 2020. If confirmed, Haines will become the first woman to become the director of national intelligence. Win McNamee/Getty Images hide caption

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Avril Haines pictured in January 2020. If confirmed, Haines will become the first woman to become the director of national intelligence.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden selected Avril Haines as his director of national intelligence on Monday. Haines, 51, worked with Biden under President Barack Obama and led the Biden transition's national security and foreign policy team. She served as the White House deputy national security adviser and deputy director of the CIA. She was the first woman to hold both positions.

And now, if confirmed, she will become the first woman to head national intelligence.

In that role, she would oversee the National Intelligence Program, the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council and advise the president.

Haines has the respect of many in the intelligence community, former CIA Director John Brennan told NPR. Her intelligence career spans over a decade: from the White House to the CIA, the NSC to the Department of State.

"[Haines] is widely respected among intelligence professionals, and her superior intellect, humility and legendary work ethic are deeply admired by the thousands of intelligence officers with whom she worked during the Obama Administration," said Brennan.

Brennan also said that her varied and extensive intelligence background will help the Biden administration hit the ground running in January.

"She enjoys the complete trust and confidence of Joe Biden, who will look to [Haines] to restore integrity and honesty at the helm of the intelligence community," said Brennan.

Biden is shaping his administration with diversity in mind. According to a press release, the Biden transition team hopes its members will more accurately reflect America and its people. Alejandro Mayorkas was nominated Monday as well. If confirmed, he will become the first Latino and immigrant to serve as the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Previously, Haines was a senior research scholar at Columbia University and a senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University. She also serves on several boards and advisory groups, including the National Commission on Military, the Nuclear Threat Initiative and Refugees International.

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry holds his granddaughter as he signs the Paris Agreement on climate change in April 2016. Kerry has been chosen as climate envoy in the incoming Biden administration. Mark Lennihan/AP hide caption

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Then-Secretary of State John Kerry holds his granddaughter as he signs the Paris Agreement on climate change in April 2016. Kerry has been chosen as climate envoy in the incoming Biden administration.

Mark Lennihan/AP

After decades advocating for action on climate change as a U.S. senator and then secretary of state, John Kerry has been tapped for a newly created post — special presidential envoy for climate, based on the National Security Council.

"America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is," Kerry said on Twitter shortly after the announcement by President-elect Joe Biden's transition team. "The climate crisis demands nothing less than all hands on deck."

Defense leaders have warned for years that warming temperatures and rising seas pose an array of national security challenges, including mass displacement, political instability and food scarcity.

Kerry helped negotiate the Paris climate agreement, signing it in 2016 with his granddaughter on his lap. Biden has pledged to rejoin the pact after Trump withdrew from it. But Kerry could face skepticism as he seeks to reassert U.S. leadership and gain the trust of other countries for more aggressive climate action.

Environmental groups praised the Kerry appointment. Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, called him "one of the world's most effective climate champions."

Varshini Prakash, executive director of the progressive Sunrise Movement, said Kerry "is committed to engaging and listening to young voices — even when we might not always agree — and ensuring we have a seat at the table."

Prakash and Kerry served together on a joint task force to help shape Biden's ambitious climate plan.

But she added that this new role "is not enough." Her group and others want Biden to appoint a domestic counterpart to Kerry, to push for deep cuts in climate warming emissions at home, not just abroad.

Biden Picks Janet Yellen To Be Treasury Secretary In Historic Appointment

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Then-Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen speaks during a briefing in 2017. President-elect Joe Biden reportedly will nominate Yellen as his Treasury secretary. Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Then-Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen speaks during a briefing in 2017. President-elect Joe Biden reportedly will nominate Yellen as his Treasury secretary.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Updated at 6:15 p.m. ET

The United States has had 77 Treasury secretaries in the last 231 years. So far, they've all been men.

That's about to change.

President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen to head the Treasury Department, a source close to the transition told NPR on Monday

If confirmed, Yellen would play a leading role in shaping economic policy as the United States continues to dig its way out of the deep hole caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Yellen also made history when she became the first woman to lead the central bank, a tenure that lasted from 2014 to 2018. She was confirmed to that position, winning some support from Senate Republicans.

She was a top White House economist in the Clinton administration as well, and has won praise from progressive Democrats.

"Janet Yellen has absolutely shown a willingness to challenge corporate power and not be intimidated by big banks," said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. "That is a key ingredient as you rebuild our economy."

While the economy has bounced partly back from the pandemic recession, the recovery appears to be losing steam just as the virus is setting records for new daily infections.

The surge in COVID-19 cases has already triggered new restrictions on business activity and is likely to discourage consumers from going out and spending money as retailers are preparing for the important holiday shopping season.

Yellen echoes the president-elect in saying that controlling the pandemic is the No. 1 priority.

"I think we need a much more effective effort than we've had," Yellen told Bloomberg TV in October. "And if we have that, it will be good not only for health but for being able to open up the economy."

Yellen warned that federal aid that helped jump-start the recovery during the spring and early summer is drying up, even as new daily infections are soaring.

"Fiscal policy response in the United States has been extremely impressive," Yellen said. "But the fiscal support has now lapsed."

Emergency unemployment programs that currently support some 13 million people are set to expire at the end of December. Yellen stressed the need to extend relief for jobless workers as well as for cash-strapped state and local governments.

Yellen's appointment, which has not yet been officially confirmed, comes as Biden has pledged to appoint a diverse Cabinet.

His transition office on Monday announced that Alejandro Mayorkas would become the first Latino and immigrant nominated as Department of Homeland Security secretary.

Biden also tapped Avril Haines as director of national intelligence, which would make her, if confirmed, the first woman to lead the intelligence community.

Congressional Democrats want the head of the General Services Administration to tell them why she is holding up the transition to President-elect Joe Biden. Jacquelyn Martin/AP hide caption

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Congressional Democrats want the head of the General Services Administration to tell them why she is holding up the transition to President-elect Joe Biden.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Congressional Democrats, angered by the Trump administration's refusal to begin the formal transition process to President-elect Joe Biden, are demanding a briefing on the matter from the head of the General Services Administration on Tuesday.

In a letter to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, the Democrats say they can't wait another week, as the GSA has offered. The GSA said the deputy administrator would provide a briefing to lawmakers on Nov. 30.

The lawmakers, including the chairs of the House Appropriations and House Oversight and Reform committees, wrote on Monday: "We cannot wait yet another week to obtain basic information about your refusal to make the ascertainment determination. Every additional day that is wasted is a day that the safety, health, and well-being of the American people is imperiled as the incoming Biden-Harris Administration is blocked from fully preparing for the coronavirus pandemic, our nation's dire economic crisis, and our national security."

The 1963 Presidential Transition Act requires the head of the GSA to "ascertain," or determine, the winner of the presidential election, which Murphy has refused so far to do. Her denial means that Biden cannot access government office space or receive some $9.9 million to pay salaries to his transition personnel, and his team can't officially meet with members of the Trump administration.

Democrats, along with a handful of Republicans, as well as prominent health and national security experts, say the delayed start to the transition imperils national security and will harm the incoming Biden administration's ability to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 250,000 Americans.

Biden Transition Updates

The latest news on White House turnover