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US, Estonia Partnered to Search Out Cyber Threat From Russia

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WASHINGTON – In a modern twist on old-fashioned war games, the U.S. military dispatched cyber fighters to Estonia this fall to help the small Baltic nation search out and block potential cyber threats from Russia. The goal was not only to help a NATO partner long targeted by its powerful neighbor but also to gain insight on Russian tactics that could be used against the U.S. and its elections.

The U.S. Cyber Command operation occurred in Estonia from late September to early November, officials from both countries disclosed this week, just as the U.S. was working to safeguard its election systems from foreign interference and to keep coronavirus research from the prying reach of hackers in countries including Russia and China.

Estonian officials say they found nothing malicious during the operation.

The mission, an effort analogous to two nations working jointly in a military operation on land or sea, represents an evolution in cyber tactics by U.S. forces who had long been more accustomed to reacting to threats but are now doing more — including in foreign countries — to glean advance insight into malicious activity and to stop attacks before they reach their targets.

The Defense Department has worked to highlight that more aggressive “hunt forward” strategy in recent years, particularly after Russia interfered through hacking and covert social media campaigns in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. American officials were on high alert for similar interference in 2020 but described no major problems on Nov. 3.

“When we look at the threats that we face, from Russia or other adversaries, it really is all about the partnerships and our ability to expand really the scope, scale and pace of operations in order to make it more difficult for adversaries to execute operations either in the United States, Estonia or other places,” Brig. Gen. William Hartman, commander of the Cyber National Mission Force, said in a conference call with a small group of reporters this week.

Estonia, a former Soviet republic, was in some ways a natural fit for a partnership with Cyber Command because in years past it has been a cyber target of nearby Russia, including crippling attacks on government networks in 2007.

Estonian officials say they have since strengthened their cyber defenses, created a cybersecurity strategy and developed their own cyber command, which like the U.S. version is part of the country’s military.

While nothing malicious was found on the networks during the exercise, “what we did learn is how the U.S. conducts these kinds of operations, which is definitely useful for us because there are a lot of kind of capability developments that we are doing right now,” said Mihkel Tikk, a deputy commander in Estonia’s Cyber Command.

Tikk added: “In some areas, it is wise to learn from others than having to reinvent the wheel.”
Hartman declined to discuss specifics of the operation but said the networks in Estonia were “very well defended.”

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“I don’t want anyone to leave here with the impression that Estonian networks were full of adversary activity from a broad range of nation states” because that is not the case, he added.

Gen. Paul Nakasone, the commander of Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency, has hinted at a more aggressive, proactive federal government approach to cyber threats.

In an August piece for Foreign Affairs magazine, for instance, Nakasone wrote that U.S cyber fighters have moved away from a “reactive, defensive posture” and are increasingly engaging in combat with foreign adversaries online.

Cyber Command has worked in past years with countries including Montenegro and North Macedonia on similar missions. Estonian officials say they believe the partnership could be a deterrent to countries such as Russia.

“These kinds of operations, I think, they will continue,” said Undersecretary of Defense Margus Matt. But, he added, “I don’t know how much we will speak of them publicly.”

U.S. officials say they think the risks of a proactive approach — a country, for instance, could regard such an operation as a provocation toward a broader international cyber conflict — are outweighed by the benefits.

“We believe that inaction in cyberspace contributes to escalation more than reasonable action in cyberspace,” said Thomas Wingfield, deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy.

 

 

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Nevada now has one COVID-19 case a minute, one death per two hours

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The coronavirus is spreading so fast in Nevada that one person is diagnosed with it every minute and someone is dying from it every two hours, state health officials said Wednesday.

Nearly half of the state’s 142,239 total cases since the start of the pandemic in March have occurred since September — fully one-fourth of those in the month of November and 10 percent in just the last seven days, according to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services

“We have COVID-19 exploding in our community. It is spreading rapidly,” Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick told reporters in Reno. “We have exponential growth going on.”

While the majority of the state’s cases and 2,071 total deaths have been reported in Clark County — the most populous county that includes Las Vegas — the Reno-Sparks area in Washoe County has been hit the hardest in recent weeks.

“We have four times as many people in Washoe County that are actively infected with COVID-19 as we did a month ago,” Dick said.

Nearly half of all the coronavirus cases in Washoe County have been confirmed in just the past month, a total now of 22,726.

By comparison, Dick said, the latest surge has resulted in more than twice as many cases per 100,000 people in the Reno-Sparks area as the previous biggest spike in Las Vegas this summer.

“We are at 214 percent of the peak Clark County experienced in late July,” he said.

Washoe County has reported 59 additional deaths since Oct. 25 — 30 of those in just the past six days, including six on Tuesday for a cumulative total of 259.

The county’s seven-day moving average for new cases has more than tripled over the past month, from 140 on Oct. 25 to 513 on Wednesday. Active cases have grown during that period from 1,872 to 7,864.

Nevada reported another record number of hospitalizations for the fourth time in two weeks, a total of 1,414 on Wednesday (146 suspected plus 1,268 confirmed). Health officials said that’s enough people to fill nine commercial airliners.

Counting COVID and non-COVID patients, 84 percent of Washoe County’s staffed hospital beds are occupied, the highest rate in the state.

The state’s 14-day positivity rate has continued to rise to 16.5 percent on Wednesday. Clark County has confirmed 109,827 positive cases and 1,719 COVID-19 deaths as of Wednesday.

Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, has been reluctant to order business closures like he did in March. But he announced the state’s most expansive mask mandate to date Sunday and reduced the capacity at casinos, restaurants, bars and many other businesses from 50 percent to 25 percent.

Meanwhile, the Washoe County School District is suspending in-class instruction for middle schools and high schools beginning next week as part of an effort to curtail the spread of the virus.

The school board voted late Tuesday to continue to offer classroom teaching for elementary schools. But beginning Dec. 2, secondary students will switch to strictly distance learning instead of the current hybrid model that combines remote teaching and in-class instruction.

Both decisions came on 5-1 votes.

Middle- and high-school students currently are scheduled to return to some in-person learning on Jan. 4. But school board members intend to review the situation again at their Dec. 8 meeting.

In Las Vegas, Clark County announced earlier this week that public buildings except McCarran International Airport and University Medical Center will close and that government center activities that can’t be conducted virtually will be canceled. Las Vegas City Hall will remain open with public health guidelines enforced, city officials said.

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Trump administration kills plans for Alaskan gold mine

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The Trump administration denied a permit to build a massive gold and copper mine in Alaska that could have put the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery at risk.

In a surprise move, the Army Corps of Engineers said “the proposed project is contrary to the public interest” in killing a permit to build the Pebble Mine under both the Clean Water Act and the Rivers and Harbors Act, the agency said in a statement.

The decision is in contrast to President Trump’s efforts to encourage energy development in Alaska, including drilling in part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other moves nationwide to removing environmental regulations that would benefit oil and gas exploration and other industries.

After nearly two decades of political wrangling, the Army Corps of Engineers signaled in August that the project wouldn’t go forward, informing the developer that it would have to clear environmental hurdles and create a mitigation plan before it could be approved.

The project proposed for the southwestern Bristol Bay region was opposed by Donald Trump Jr. and Vice President Mike Pence’s former chief of staff Nick Ayers. Joe Biden in August vowed to stop the mine from being developed, if he was elected.

“It is no place for a mine,” he said at the time. “The Obama-Biden Administration reached that conclusion when we ran a rigorous, science-based process in 2014, and it is still true today.”

John Shively, the CEO of the Pebble Limited Partnership, the mine’s developers, said he was dismayed by the decision.

“One of the real tragedies of this decision is the loss of economic opportunities for people living in the area,” Shively said in a statement.

The environmental review “clearly describes those benefits, and now a politically driven decision has taken away the hope that many had for a better life. This is also a lost opportunity for the state’s future economy.”

Meanwhile, Alaskan residents cheered the news.

“Today Bristol Bay’s residents and fishermen celebrate the news that Pebble’s permit has been denied; tomorrow we get back to work,” said Katherine Carscallen, executive director of the group Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay.

The group wants Congress to pass laws protecting the region.

“We’ve learned the hard way over the last decade that Pebble is not truly dead until protections are finalized,” Carscallen said.

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Barack Obama to receive PEN America’s Voice of Influence award

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Former President Barack Obama is set to receive a PEN America award following the release of his best-selling memoir “A Promised Land.”

The free speech activist group announced Wednesday that it was awarding its second annual Voice of Influence Award to the 44th president, recognizing how his writings “have traversed political, social and ideological bounds and framed a self-reflective humanism that has marked his influence on public life.”

Presentation of the award will be held virtually on Dec. 8 with a discussion between Obama and award-winning author and historian Ron Chernow on the freedom to write, the nonprofit said.

Obama’s book came out last week and sold more than 1.7 million copies in its first week — making it the best-selling book in Penguin Random House’s history. He’s also penned “Dreams from My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope.”

“As an organization of writers, we have always seen President Obama not just as a leader, but as one of us: an author,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel in a statement. “His probing and evocative narratives helped introduce the world to his unique background, and the power of his life experience as a prompt toward a more pluralistic and encompassing society.”

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay was the recipient of PEN America’s first Voice of Influence Award last year.

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Trump testifies by phone at state GOP election-fraud hearing in Pennsylvania

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President Trump on Wednesday phoned into a public hearing on election issues in Pennsylvania and declared that his loss to Joe Biden was the result of cheating by Democrats.

“This was an election that we won easily. We won it by a lot,” Trump said.

“This election was rigged and we can’t let that happen … This election has to be turned around.”

Pennsylvania has already certified its results and awarded its 20 electors to Biden, who on Monday was formally notified that the Trump administration was ready to start the transition process.

Those moves came after a federal judge threw out the Trump campaign’s most important suit challenging Biden’s victory in the Keystone State — a ruling that the campaign filed paperwork to appeal.

Trump offered the comments at a hearing in Gettysburg that was convened by Republican members of the Pennsylvania state Senate Policy Committee.

Trump said he’d heard “horror stories” about the election that included claims of ballots that were “dumped all over the place.”

“There were rough tactics,” the president said.

Trump alleged that an unidentified “elderly woman” showed up to a polling place to vote on Election Day but was told, “You already voted. Your ballot is in.”

“She said, ‘No, I want to vote,’” he said. “Then they gave her a provisional ballot.”

Trump also alleged that Democrats were “flooding the market,” with some people “getting two and three and four ballots at their home.”

“Dead people were requesting ballots and they were dead for years,” he said.

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Joe Biden urges nation to ‘forgo family traditions’ on Thanksgiving

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President-elect Joe Biden on Wednesday called on Americans not to gather with extended families for Thanksgiving, saying it was a “patriotic duty” to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Biden said during an at times campaign-like speech in Wilmington, Del., that he and his family were setting an example by not celebrating the holiday as a large group.

“This year we are asking Americans to forgo so many of the traditions that we’ve long made this holiday,” Biden said.

“This year, because we care so much for each other, we’re going to be having a separate Thanksgiving for Jill and I, who will be at our home in Delaware with our daughter and our son-in-law. The rest of the family will be doing the same thing in small groups,” Biden said.

“I know how hard it is to forgo family traditions. But it is so very important. Our country’s in the middle of a dramatic spike in cases. We are now averaging 160,000 new cases a day.”

The former vice president said that the stakes are high if people flout health guidance.

“Many local health systems are at risk of being overwhelmed. That’s the plain and simple truth. … I believe you always deserve to hear the truth, hear the truth from your president,” Biden said.

“We have to try to slow the growth of this virus. We owe it to the doctors and nurses and other front-line workers — care workers who risked their lives, some lost their lives, put so much on the line in the heroic battle against this virus … We owe that to our fellow citizens who need access to hospital beds and care. We owe it to one another. It’s literally our patriotic duty as Americans. It means wearing a mask, keeping social distance, limiting the size of any group we’re in until we have a vaccine. These are the most effective tools to combat the virus.”

Biden reprised a campaign line that was frequently bashed by President Trump’s campaign, warning, “We find ourselves again facing a long, hard winter,” which he likened to starvation among Revolutionary War troops in the 1700s.

Biden will take office on Jan. 20 during the early stages of vaccine distribution. The Food and Drug Administration meets on Dec. 10 to review a vaccine candidate application filed last week by Pfizer, which clinical trials data indicates is about 95 percent effective.

Biden, who turned 78 last week, has pursued a starkly different approach than Trump toward avoiding personal exposure to the virus. Whereas Trump held large rallies and was infected with the virus in October, Biden relegated supporters to socially distant vehicles for “drive-in” rallies and put reporters in spaced-out bubbles during rare press conferences.

In his 17-minute minute pre-Thanksgiving address, Biden insisted that “none of these steps we’re asking people to take are political statements. Every one is based on science.”

He said “the federal government can’t do this alone. Each of us has a responsibility in our own lives to do what we can do to slow the virus. Every decision we make matters.”

Biden said that “life is going to return to normal” and that “I still believe we have much to be thankful for.”

“First, let’s be thankful for democracy itself,” Biden said, referring to his own election victory.

Biden said that a “this grim season of demonization and division” under Trump “is going to give way to a year of light” and a “more compassionate chapter in the life of our nation.”

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US election 2020: Biden wins Georgia recount as Trump setbacks mount

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US President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia has been confirmed by a recount, as legal efforts by Donald Trump’s allies to challenge his defeat were dismissed in three states.

The Democrat beat his Republican rival in Georgia by 12,284 votes, according to the audit required by state law.

Mr Biden said Mr Trump knew he was not going to win and had shown “incredible irresponsibility” by not conceding.

The Democrat is set to take office in January as the 46th US president.

Mr Biden’s victory margin in the public vote overall stands at more than 5.9 million. His victory in the US Electoral College system, which determines who becomes president, is projected to be 306 to 232 – far above the 270 he needs to win.

Mr Trump has so far refused to concede and has made allegations of widespread electoral fraud, without providing any evidence.

What happened in Georgia?

On Thursday, Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, said the hand audit of ballots had not altered Mr Biden’s victory in the state.

“Georgia’s historic first statewide audit reaffirmed that the state’s new secure paper ballot voting system accurately counted and reported results,” Mr Raffensberger, a Republican, said in a statement.

“This is a credit to the hard work of our county and local elections officials who moved quickly to undertake and complete such a momentous task in a short period of time.”

The Democrats’ victory is their first in a presidential race in Georgia since Bill Clinton was elected in 1992.

The recount found the error rate was no greater than 0.73% in any county and Mr Biden’s margin of victory over Mr Trump remained at under 0.5%. The results will be certified on Friday.

Trump campaign senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis said the audit had gone “exactly as we expected” because, she said without evidence, the state had recounted illegal ballots.

But Gabriel Sterling, a Republican who serves as Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, told CNN on Thursday: “One of the big complaints is these machines somehow flipped votes or changed votes or did stuff. They didn’t, at least not in Georgia. We proved it.”

During the audit this week, nearly 6,000 untallied votes were found – paring back Mr Biden’s lead slightly – but they were the result of human error and not fraud, Mr Sterling has said.

Officials in Floyd County have fired their election manager over the matter, local media reported on Thursday.

What did Mr Biden say?

He was speaking after a virtual meeting with governors, including Democrats and Republicans, about the coronavirus crisis.

Asked about Mr Trump’s lack of concession, Mr Biden said the president was sending “incredibly damaging messages… to the rest of the world about how democracy functions” and that he would be remembered “as being one of the most irresponsible presidents in American history”.

“It’s hard to fathom how this man thinks,” he continued, adding: “It’s just outrageous what he’s doing.”

Of the election result, the Democratic president-elect – who is due to take office in January – said: “The vast majority of people believe it’s legitimate.”

“Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election,” he wrote.

“It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President.”

What of the legal challenges?

In a matter of hours on Thursday, Mr Trump’s allies were dealt legal setbacks in Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Republicans lost their final lawsuit in Georgia as a court rejected their effort to block the results’ certification, which is due to happen on Friday. The judge who dismissed the case was appointed by Mr Trump last year.

In Arizona, a judge rejected a lawsuit filed last week by the state Republican Party seeking a new audit of ballots in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix – the state capital and largest city.

In Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign lost their bid in state court to throw out more than 2,000 postal ballots.

At a Thursday briefing, Mr Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani continued to lay out unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and accusations of electoral fraud.

He railed against the reporting of his team’s legal challenges, saying the media had shown an “irrational pathological hatred for the president”.

Mr Giuliani also said the campaign was withdrawing its last remaining lawsuit in Michigan. He said it had achieved its aim of stopping the certification of the result in one key county.

However, the vice-chairman of Wayne County’s canvassing board said an attempt by its two Republican members to rescind their earlier certification of the result was invalid, and the certification was binding.

One of the Republicans said Mr Trump had called her personally after the vote had been certified “to make sure I was safe”.

Mr Biden won the county by a huge margin, according to unofficial results, and prevailed in Michigan by about 146,000 votes.

What could Trump’s next move be?

One possibility that US media are speculating on is that he will try to get Republican-friendly state legislatures in key states to override the choice of voters and instead select members of the US Electoral College who would be favourable to the president.

Mr Trump has invited Michigan’s Republican lawmakers to the White House on Friday, hinting at a possible change in tactics.

Instead of winning by direct popular vote, a US president must accumulate a majority of “electors” that each state is designated according to its congressional representation.

Most states determine these based on who won the popular vote there.

But federal law says statehouse legislators have the power to pick electors if the state has “failed to make a choice”.

This would appear a long shot as no evidence of electoral fraud has been shown and to potentially disenfranchise millions of voters would spark uproar.

Reuters news agency quoted one source familiar with the Trump strategy as saying it was now a “more targeted approach towards getting the legislators engaged”.

But one of the Michigan lawmakers going to the White House, Mike Shirkey, said earlier this week that the legislature appointing electors was “not going to happen”.

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Donald Trump says ‘time will tell’ who will be next president but still won’t concede defeat

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Donald Trump seemed to hint for the first time that he may no longer soon occupy the White House, as he spoke publicly for the first time since the US presidential election was called for Joe Biden.

In ruling out a national coronavirus lockdown under his tenure, he appeared to acknowledge that the decision might not be his much longer.

“This administration will not be going to a lockdown,” Trump told an audience in the White House Rose Garden, in his first public remarks since Saturday. “Hopefully whatever happens in the future, who knows, which administration it will be I guess time will tell, but I can tell you this administration will not go to a lockdown.”

Trump has repeatedly tweeted that there was fraud in the election despite no evidence to support his claims. More lawsuits were thrown out of court on Friday and his team dropped a claim in Arizona.

The outgoing president has so far refused to concede the election. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, meanwhile, said Trump is “not even at that point yet” when it comes to conceding to Biden.

Some experts are concerned that Trump is preventing the incoming Biden administration from a smooth transition into government.

Federal and state officials in a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cybersecurity unit have described the election as “the most secure in American history“, saying they have seen no evidence that votes were compromised or altered in last week’s vote.

Former President Barack Obama told CBS on Friday that Republican officials who were “humouring” Trump were “delegitimising not just the incoming Biden administration, but democracy generally.”

COVID-19 continues to rage

Joe Biden, for his part, has not endorsed a nationwide shutdown, but he appealed for Trump to take “urgent action” to curtail the spread of the virus. “The crisis does not respect dates on the calendar, it is accelerating right now,” he said in a statement Friday.

The US has repeatedly hit record high daily infection levels, recording more than 100,000 cases a day since early November. Trump attributed the record rise in cases in part to the country’s testing programme, despite rising hospitalisations in the US.

Trump also touted the country’s virus response, commending news that a vaccine candidate from Pfizer was determined to be 90% effective, which he called amazing.

“No medical breakthrough of this scope or magnitude has ever been achieved this rapidly,” said Trump, who estimated that under a “different administration” it wouldn’t have been possible, despite unprecedented global efforts to tackle COVID-19.

Trump said a vaccine would ship in “a matter of weeks” to vulnerable populations, though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet been asked to grant the necessary emergency approvals.

There’s also no information yet as to whether the vaccine worked in vulnerable populations or only in younger, healthier study volunteers.

Vice President Mike Pence said the good news of the day was “help is on the way”. Pence said people should wash their hands, practice social distancing and wear a mask if distancing isn’t possible.

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US election 2020: What legal challenges is Trump planning?

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Democrat Joe Biden has been declared president-elect, but President Donald Trump is still planning legal challenges to the results in some key states.

His lawyer Rudy Giuliani told Fox News that it would be wrong for Mr Trump to concede because: “There is strong evidence that this was an election that in at least three or four states, and possibly 10, it was stolen.”

The Trump campaign is yet to provide this “strong evidence” but says it plans to lodge lawsuits in several key states on Monday.

Here’s what we know so far.

Pennsylvania

Mr Giuliani says further lawsuits will be filed over a lack of access for poll watchers in the state.

Poll watchers are people who observe the counting of votes, with the aim of ensuring transparency. They are allowed in most states as long as they are registered before election day.

In some areas this year, there were restrictions put in place before election day, in part due to coronavirus. There are also capacity limits set to avoid intimidation.

A 20-foot (six-metre) perimeter was set in the Philadelphia counting facility but this was challenged and a court ruling on Thursday said it should be reduced to six feet – as long as poll watchers adhered to Covid-19 protocols.

The Trump campaign has filed a federal lawsuit accusing election officials of violating the judge’s order.

Mr Giuliani said: “Even when a court order was obtained to allow the Republican inspectors to get six feet closer, they moved the people counting the ballots six further feet away.”

But the election officials insist they behaved properly.

On 5 November, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said: “Every candidate and every political party is allowed to have an authorised representative in the room observing the process. Some jurisdictions including Philly are also livestreaming, so you can literally watch their counting process.”

Another ongoing case disputes how long voters should be able to provide proof of identification if it’s missing or unclear on their postal ballots.Voters are currently allowed to fix their ballots up to 12 November, but the Trump campaign has filed a lawsuit seeking to reduce this deadline to 9 November.

The legal challenge in Pennsylvania also centres on the state’s decision to count ballots that are postmarked by election day but arrive up to three days later. Republicans are seeking an appeal.

Matthew Weil, director of the Bipartisan Policy Research Center’s elections project, says he is most concerned about this dispute as the nation’s top court – the US Supreme Court – was deadlocked on it before the election. This was before Justice Amy Coney Barrett, appointed by President Trump, was confirmed.

“I do think there is a risk that some of those [postal] ballots that were cast by election day and not received until Friday may be discarded”, he said.

But Mr Weil added: “My guess is that it’s not going to be a huge number of ballots that could be thrown out,” so the election would have to be “very, very close for that to matter”.

Michigan

Mr Trump won the state in 2016 by his slimmest margin – just over 10,700 votes – and Mr Biden has been projected as the winner here in 2020.

On 4 November, the Trump campaign filed a lawsuit to stop the count over claims of a lack of access to observe the process.

A judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying there was insufficient evidence that oversight procedures weren’t being followed.

Wisconsin

The president’s campaign has said it will request a recount in Wisconsin “based on abnormalities seen” on election day, although this wouldn’t require a lawsuit.

It’s unclear when this recount would take place, since typically these don’t happen until after officials finish reviewing the votes.

The state’s deadline for this part of the process is 17 November.

Columbia University Law School professor Richard Briffault says there was a recount in Wisconsin in 2016 as well, and it “changed about a hundred votes”.

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Nevada

The Nevada Republican Party tweeted saying: “Thousands of individuals have been identified who appear to have violated the law by casting ballots after they moved from Nevada.”

The president’s legal team produced a list of people who it claimed had moved out of state but voted.

But – as pointed out by Politifact – the list alone does not prove a violation of law.

People who leave the state within 30 days before an election can still vote in Nevada. Students from Nevada – who are studying elsewhere – can also vote.

The case is focused on voters in Clark County, but the county’s registrar has said: “We are not aware of any improper ballots that are being processed.”

In a separate case, a federal judge blocked attempts by the Republicans to stop the use of a signature verification machine, rejecting allegations that it wasn’t able to check signatures correctly.

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Georgia

A lawsuit was filed in Georgia’s Chatham County to pause the count, alleging problems with ballot processing.

Georgia Republican chairman David Shafer tweeted that party observers saw a woman “mix over 50 ballots into the stack of uncounted absentee ballots”.

On 5 November, a judge dismissed this lawsuit, saying there was “no evidence” of improper ballot mixing.

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Arizona

The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in Arizona on Saturday, claiming some legal votes were rejected.

The case cites declarations by some poll watchers and two voters who claim they had problems with voting machines.

The lawsuit is under review, but Arizona’s Secretary of State said it was “grasping at straws”.

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Could it reach the Supreme Court?

Early on Wednesday, Mr Trump claimed voting fraud – without providing evidence – and said: “We’ll be going to the US Supreme Court”.

If the election result is challenged, it would first require legal teams to challenge it in the state courts.

State judges would then need to uphold the challenge and order a recount.

The Supreme Court could then be asked be asked to weigh in.

 

Prof Briffault says: “There’s no standard process for bringing election disputes to the Supreme Court. It’s very unusual and it would have to involve a very significant issue.”

To date, the 2000 election is the only one to be decided by the US Supreme Court.

In 2000, Democrat Al Gore lost Florida – and the presidential election – by 537 votes out of a total of almost six million cast in the state.

This was followed by a highly controversial recount process that lasted over a month – until the Supreme Court ruled to stop recounting and in favour of Republican George W Bush who became president.

Biden Moves Quickly on US Government Transition

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WASHINGTON – Democrat Joe Biden, the projected winner of the long and contentious U.S. presidential election over Republican President Donald Trump, moved quickly Sunday to start preparations to take over the U.S. government when he is inaugurated January 20 and reverse some key Trump policies.

President-elect Biden and his running mate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, launched a website for their transition to power, saying they would immediately focus on the coronavirus pandemic, the recession in the world’s biggest economy wrought by the pandemic, climate change and systemic racism.

“We are preparing to lead on Day One, ensuring the Biden-Harris administration is able to take on the most urgent challenges we face: protecting and preserving our nation’s health, renewing our opportunity to succeed, advancing racial equity, and fighting the climate crisis.”
They declared, “We stand together as one America. We will rise stronger than we were before.”

Aides say that on his first days in office, Biden plans for the United States to rejoin the Paris climate accord that Trump withdrew from and reverse Trump’s withdrawal from the World Health Organization.

Biden plans to repeal the ban on almost all travel from some Muslim-majority countries, and to reinstate the program that allows young people, often called “Dreamers,” who were brought illegally into the U.S. as children, to remain in the country.

Watch related video by Michelle Quinn
During the campaign, Biden also said he plans to rejoin the international accord to restrain Iran’s nuclear weapons development that Trump rebuked and pulled the U.S. from.

U.S. transitions in power can often bring swift policy shifts but the one from Trump to Biden could be among the most jarring in recent U.S. political history.

One Biden aide told CNN, “Across the board we will continue laying the foundation for the incoming Biden-Harris administration to successfully restore faith and trust in our institutions and lead the federal government.”

During his four years in the White House, Trump has often delighted in pushing aside political norms, and the likely end of his effort to win a second four-year term in the White House after the 2020 campaign is no different.

Trump has not conceded

He has declined to concede or call Biden.

Trump is contesting the outcome through lawsuits, claiming, without evidence, that vote-counting irregularities in several states where Biden won narrow pluralities and all their electoral votes, would reverse the result and hand him a second term.

The Trump campaign is pursuing multiple court cases starting Monday, although there were scant reports of irregularities during last Tuesday’s voting or in the days of vote counting since then, tabulations that are still going on in numerous states even though the outcome in almost all the country’s 50 states is not in doubt.
Majority of electoral votes

A majority of 270 votes in the country’s 538-member Electoral College, with the most populous states holding the most sway, determines the outcome of U.S. presidential elections, not the national popular vote even as Biden currently holds a 4-million vote edge in the national vote count.

Biden passed the 270-vote Electoral College majority threshold on Saturday when it became apparent, he had amassed a narrow, but decisive popular vote lead in the eastern state of Pennsylvania and won its 20 electoral votes.

At that point, all major television news organizations, including Trump favorite Fox News, and leading newspapers, declared Biden the winner.

Trump has railed against the outcome, while praising himself Saturday on Twitter, saying, “71,000,000 Legal Votes. The most EVER for a sitting President!”
Americans celebrate Biden-Harris victory

Thousands of people massed in the streets in large Democratic-dominated cities across the country on Saturday to celebrate Trump’s defeat, including in Washington, outside the White House. Some shouted, “You’re fired,” Trump’s signature line from his one-time television reality show, “The Apprentice,” before he won the presidency in 2016 over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, who is leading the bipartisan effort planning the January 20 inauguration, said it “seems unlikely” that vote projections showing Biden as the presidential winner would change in the coming days.

But he told ABC’s “This Week” show it was reasonable for Republicans to wait a little longer for state election officials to tabulate the official outcome and in some cases, such as in the southern state of Georgia where Biden leads narrowly, to conduct a recount.

@Transition46

Biden and Harris launched Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts using the handle @Transition46, a reference that Biden will be the country’s 46th president in its 244-year history.

On the Biden-Harris website, BuildBackBetter.com, he said, “We’ll rise stronger than we were before. We will act on the first day of my presidency to get COVID under control. We will act to pass my economic plan that will finally reward work, not wealth, in this country. We’ll act to restore faith in our democracy and our faith in one another.

“We’ll once more become one nation, under God, indivisible, a nation united, a nation strengthened, a nation healed,” he said.

Biden, during the vitriolic campaign, regularly assailed Trump for his handling of the pandemic as the death toll of Americans rose to a world-leading total of 237,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University. The president-elect plans to announce a COVID-19 task force on Monday to map out a plan to curb the infection when he takes office, and frequently has called on Americans to wear face masks, as health experts have adamantly urged. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Record-breaking coronavirus deaths

On Saturday, the United States recorded more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases for the fourth consecutive day.

The Biden-Harris transition website lays out a seven-point plan against the coronavirus, including “regular, reliable, and free testing” for all Americans, an “effective, equitable distribution of treatments and vaccines” once they become available and an attempt to implement a nationwide mask mandate that many oppose as an intrusion on their individual freedom.

“The American people deserve an urgent, robust, and professional response to the growing public health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak,” the website reads.

The website said it would also address racial inequity and police reform in the U.S. by working with Congress to institute a “nationwide ban on chokeholds” during police arrests of criminal suspects, stop “the transfer of weapons of war to police forces,” establish a “model use of force standard” and create a “national police oversight commission.”

The Biden-Harris website also said, “The moment has come for our nation to deal with systemic racism. To deal with the growing economic inequality in our nation. And to deal with the denial of the promise of this nation — to so many.”

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