The Latest: International observers see no fraud in US vote

Politics

In this image provided by Public Health Emergency, a department of Health and Human Services, Rick Bright is shown in his official photo on April 27, 2017, in Washington. Bright has been named by President-elect Joe Biden as a member of his COVID-19 advisory board. (Health and Human Services via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President-elect Joe Biden (all times local):

9 p.m.

International observers from the Organization of American States say they saw no instances of fraud or voting irregularities in the U.S. presidential election.

The delegation included 28 experts and observers from 13 countries who observed the election process in in Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan and the District of Columbia. COVID-19 prevented a broader coalition of experts.

The OAS says the Election Day was peaceful, although there were efforts to intimate poll workers as the votes were counted, and says the country’s mail-in ballots were a secure system.

The report says the OAS supports “the right of all contesting parties in an election, to seek redress before the competent legal authorities when they believe they have been wronged.”

“It is critical however, that candidates act responsibly by presenting and arguing legitimate claims before the courts, not unsubstantiated or harmful speculation in the public media,” the OAS says.

7:15 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden is planning to deliver a speech defending the Obama administration’s signature health care law amid a case before the Supreme Court that could overturn it.

Biden will speak on the Affordable Care Act from Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday. He campaigned for months on the law, arguing that President Donald Trump and top Republicans opposed it and therefore wanted to wipe out its mandated health insurance coverage for people with preexisting conditions even though they had no alternative to replace it.

A lawsuit challenging the law is being considered by the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority after Trump’s appointment of Amy Coney Barrett.

Biden and other top Democrats tried to make last week’s election a referendum on health care, which helped the party have a strong midterm election in 2018. But Democrats failed to win control of the Senate and lost House seats this cycle, despite Biden’s win.

Biden was Barack Obama’s vice president and has promised to build on the law to allow more people to opt into government-sponsored coverage while others can keep their current, employer-based systems.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN’S TRANSITION TO THE WHITE HOUSE:

President-elect Joe Biden is cheering news about the promising development of a coronavirus vaccine but cautioning Americans need to be aggressive about mask wearing and social distancing.

Read more:

— Trump faces calls to work with Biden team on transition

— Members of President-elect Biden’s coronavirus task force

— Referendum on Trump shatters turnout records

— For Biden, how to help mangled economy is next obstacle

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:

5:10 p.m.

Georgia’s secretary of state is firing back at the state’s two U.S. senators for calling on him to resign over the handling of the election, which has President-elect Joe Biden leading President Donald Trump in the state.

Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue took the extraordinary step Monday of calling for Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to step down.

Raffensperger responded, “Let me start by saying that is not going to happen. The voters of Georgia hired me, and the voters will be the one to fire me.”

He says while he understands their frustration with the outcome of the election — which also saw Loeffler and Perdue forced into runoffs — the way the election was handled was a success.

Raffensperger says, “As a Republican, I am concerned about Republicans keeping the U.S. Senate. I recommend that Senators Loeffler and Perdue start focusing on that.”

The Associated Press hasn’t yet called a winner in Georgia’s presidential election. The state hasn’t gone to a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992.

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4:30 p.m.

Some Republicans are renewing their attacks on President-elect Joe Biden’s lead over President Donald Trump in Georgia, with Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler taking the extraordinary step of calling for the resignation of the Republican secretary of state.

Republicans laid out a strategy to investigate but still presented no evidence of large-scale voter fraud in the balloting, saying Monday that they were still looking into ways to overturn Biden’s lead of more than 10,000 votes in Georgia.

Georgia is one front in a nationwide scramble by Trump forces to question his national defeat. The Associated Press has not yet called the race for Georgia’s 16 electoral votes.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office is defending the conduct of the elections, saying that while there may be scattered illegal votes, officials are very confident in the overall outcome.

Loeffler and Perdue, who face a pair of Jan. 5 runoffs against Democrats that will determine control of the Senate, blamed Raffensperger for “mismanagement and lack of transparency.”

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2:20 p.m.

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is congratulating President-elect Joe Biden on an “apparent victory” but adding that President Donald Trump should be afforded the chance to challenge the results.

Collins won reelection last week over Democrat Sara Gideon. She asked voters who have questions about the results of the presidential election to be patient.

“First, I would offer my congratulations to President-elect Biden on his apparent victory – he loves this country, and I wish him every success,” Collins said in a statement. “Presidential transitions are important, and the President-elect and the Vice-President-elect should be given every opportunity to ensure that they are ready to govern on January 20th.”

Collins added that Trump’s desire to challenge the results should be handled in accordance with existing laws. Trump has so far refused to concede to Biden.

She says, “I understand that the president and others have questions about the results in certain states. There is a process in place to challenge those results and, consistent with that process, the president should be afforded the opportunity to do so.”

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1:55 p.m.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says it would like to see a major infrastructure bill as the first order of business for a Biden-Harris administration and a new Congress in 2021.

The powerful business lobby group had teamed up with the AFL-CIO and other groups during Donald Trump’s presidency to push for significant new investments in roads, bridges and broadband but could not get legislation over the finish line. How to pay for such investment remains a huge stumbling block.

Neil Bradley, an executive vice president at the business group, says the chamber will continue to push the Trump administration and Congress to get an economic relief bill passed before the end of the year to help businesses survive during the coronavirus pandemic.

He says the economic recovery is “uneven across industries and across communities, and we have to focus on those who will be the last to recover from this pandemic induced recession.”

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1:50 p.m.

The highest-ranking Black member of Congress is urging President Donald Trump to stop challenging the results of the 2020 general election and begin finding ways to work with the incoming administration of President-elect Joe Biden.

Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the House majority whip, said Monday during a media availability that Trump appears to be “hell-bent on destroying the fabric that’s been holding” the country together by alleging unsubstantiated fraud in the vote counting.

Applauding the Biden transition team’s work in setting up a coronavirus task force, Clyburn said he has “absolutely no interest” in a post of his own in the administration. But he did suggest that Jaime Harrison, who recently lost to Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, might be a good pick.

Harrison told The Associated Press on Monday that he would be willing to serve. He says, “If the president-elect asks you to serve, then you serve.” He says he would leave it up to the Biden team to determine what post would be a good fit.

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1:45 p.m.

Political appointees who are looking for job opportunities after President Donald Trump’s election defeat to President-elect Joe Biden should think twice.

A senior administration official says presidential personnel director John McEntee, the president’s former personal aide, has sent word to departments that they should terminate any political appointees seeking new work while Trump has refused to accept the electoral results.

Another official said the warning was not likely to result in any firings but rather meant to reinforce to staff that they should not act counter to Trump while he refuses to concede.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Trump’s term ends at noon on Jan. 20. Several thousand political appointees across the government will see their jobs end by that date.

Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election on Saturday.

— By AP writer Zeke Miller

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1:35 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is congratulating President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris while reaffirming the U.S.-U.N. partnership as “an essential pillar of the international cooperation needed to address the dramatic challenges facing the world today.”

The message, delivered Monday by U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, also congratulated the American people “for a vibrant exercise of democracy in their country’s elections last week.”

Dujarric said in response to a question on Harris’ historic victory as the first woman to be elected vice president that the secretary-general is always pleased and welcomes a woman getting “to break a new ceiling.”

General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir tweeted his warmest congratulations to Biden, citing his “long history” of supporting the United Nations, and to Harris for her historic election, which he called “a milestone for gender equality.”

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1 p.m.

President Donald Trump has fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper, a stunning move on the heels of Trump’s failed reelection bid.

Presidents who win reelection often replace Cabinet members, including the secretary of defense, but losing presidents have kept their Pentagon chiefs in place until Inauguration Day to preserve stability in the name of national security.

Trump announced the news in a tweet, saying that “effective immediately” Christopher Miller, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, will serve as acting secretary, sidestepping the department’s No.2-ranking official, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist.

“Chris will do a GREAT job!” Trump tweeted. “Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service.”

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12:50 p.m.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has tested positive for the coronavirus. Carson is the first member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet known to have tested positive.

The department’s deputy chief of staff, Coalter Baker, said Monday that Carson is “in good spirits and feels fortunate to have access to effective therapeutics which aid and markedly speed his recovery.”

The 69-year-old Carson is among several top Trump administration officials who attended last week’s election night party at the White House. Carson has been a steadfast surrogate for the Republican president, traveling to many of the swing states before Election Day to discuss the administration’s priorities and achievements. Carson attended several events Trump held to appeal to African American voters.

Before joining the Trump administration, Carson had sought the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016. He served for nearly 30 years as director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

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12:15 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden is imploring Americans to “wear a mask” to help fight the spread of the coronavirus — “no matter who you voted for.”

He says, “We are Americans, and our country is under threat.”

The Democrat said Monday wearing masks could slow the death toll in the COVID-19 pandemic, which he noted could climb by 200,000 before a vaccine is widely available.

Biden said, “Please, I implore you, wear a mask.” He noted masks could save the lives of older people, children and teachers and added: “It could even save your own life.”

Biden notes that he doesn’t take office until Jan. 20 but is assuming a public leadership role in the fight against the pandemic ahead of being sworn in.

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12:05 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden is warning the United States is “still facing a very dark winter” as he unveils plans for addressing COVID-19 pandemic.

Even as hopes of a vaccine lifted stocks, Biden said Monday another 200,000 lives could be lost before it is widely available. Biden implores Americans to “wear a mask.”

Biden says he would be guided by science in laying out the framework of a pandemic response, starting with members of a task force to prepare for his administration’s transition to overseeing it.

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11:20 a.m.

One week after Election Day, Vice President Mike Pence appears ready to take some time off.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, Pence is scheduled to travel to Sanibel, Florida, Tuesday through Saturday. Pence has vacationed on the island along Florida’s Gulf Coast several times previously. Pence’s office didn’t immediately comment on the trip on Monday.

The trip comes as President Donald Trump has pledged to continue trying to contest the outcome of the election and as President-elect Joe Biden is ramping up his transition efforts.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are being briefed virtually on the coronavirus pandemic by a task force of experts their transition team announced Monday.

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11:10 a.m.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are being briefed virtually on the coronavirus pandemic by a task force of experts their transition team announced only hours earlier.

The Democratic president-elect and vice president-elect sat at separate, individual socially distanced tables and took notes as the members introduced themselves on Monday.

Biden is also planning to give a speech on his planned response to the pandemic. Then Biden and Harris will hold hours of internal meetings about transitioning to the White House in January.

The task force briefing was at the Queen, a theater in downtown Wilmington, Delaware, where Biden’s campaign built a studio and other communications infrastructure and has spent months organizing virtual meetings and speeches.

The first to speak during the briefing was former Food Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. David Kessler. He is co-chairing the task force with former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a Yale University associate professor and associate dean whose research focuses on promoting health care equality for marginalized populations.

Also part of the group is Rick Bright, a whistleblower who was demoted after criticizing the Trump administration’s pandemic response. Bright had been head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

Journalists could watch only about two minutes of the proceedings and heard only the participants introducing themselves.

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7:25 a.m.

President-elect Joe Biden has announced the members of his coronavirus task force, which will put together a blueprint for fighting the pandemic.

The co-chairs are former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Food Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. David Kessler and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a Yale University professor and researcher.

Notable among the task force members is Rick Bright, a vaccine expert and former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. Bright filed a whistleblower complaint alleging he was reassigned to a lesser job because he resisted political pressure to allow widespread use of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug pushed by President Donald Trump as a COVID-19 treatment.

Other members include Luciana Borio, a biodefense specialist; Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and bioethics chair at the National Institutes of Health; Dr. Atul Gawande, a Clinton administration health advisor and surgery expert; Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease expert who has studied HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis; Dr. Julie Morita, a pediatric and immunization specialist; Dr. Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert and epidemiologist; Loyce Pace, a global health specialist; Dr. Robert Rodriguez, an emergency medicine expert who has researched mental health of COVID-19 responders; and Dr. Eric Goosby, an infectious disease expert who has worked in AIDS/HIV.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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