President-elect Joe Biden told the nation President Trump's refusal to acknowledge his victory was an 'embarrassment' Tuesday – but took a casual approach to being blocked from an ordinary transition.
He told reporters in Wilmington he has not yet spoken to the president, who tweeted Tuesday that he 'will win' and claimed the election was filled with 'abuse,' nor has he connected with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
'Mr. President I look forward to speaking with you,' Biden said, asked his message for Trump.
'I just think it's an embarrassment, quite frankly. I think it will not help the president's legacy,' Biden predicted.
He spoke - with Kamala Harris, the vice president-elect at his side, on a day when:
- Trump supporters revealed plans for a 'March for Trump' in Washington D.C. on Saturday apparently organized by the people behind a 'stop the steal' Facebook page which was shut down by the platform for spreading misinformation;
- UK prime minister Boris Johnson became the second major world leader to speak to Biden by phone, his office in London revealed. Canada's Justin Trudeau was the first;
- Turkey's strongman leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a message of congratulations to Biden, leaving Vladimir Putin, Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro, China's Xi Jinping and Mexico's Andrés Manuel López Obrador the only major world leaders not to acknowledge Trump's defeat;
- Trump was revealed to be planning a 'leadership political action committee' to be launched as early as the end of the week, giving him a vehicle to be a Republican kingmaker - and representing an acknowledgment that his options to stay in the White House are in reality waning;
- And Biden's closest ally in the Senate, Delaware Democrat Chris Coons, said his Republican colleagues are quietly telling him that Biden has won and saying they 'just can't say it in public.'
But in Delaware, a relaxed president-elect Biden offer no suggestion of being concerned.
Not a single Trump administration official has acknowledged the win that networks declared, but Biden took a low-key approach.
He grinned and joked when asked about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying there will be a transition to a second Trump term.
'So far there is no evidence of any of the assertions made by the president or secretary of state Pompeo,' he said.
'The fact that they're not willing to acknowledge we won at this point is not of much consequence in our planning,' he said.
Even with party stalwarts raising alarms about the transition period – and taking an alarming posture as Trump puts forward claims of fraud without evidence and conducts a purge of agency officials – Biden took a sunny posture. Just four Senate Republicans out of 53 have congratulated him on his win.
'Look I am not pessimist. And I think there are enough Republicans who have already spoken out. I think there will be many more – not many more, there will be a larger number once the election is declared and I'm sworn in,' he said.
His speech, which was about health care although he included no new policy proposals, was the latest event meant to show him as the legitimate winner of the election and preparing to lead.
He was preceded by running mate Sen. Kamala Harris, whom he twice called vice president-elect.
Surprisingly, a day after his team suggested they may sue to try to get the formal transition moving, Biden downplayed the conflict. A formal assessment unlocks millions in funding under the Presidential Transition Act, with planning occurring for many months.
'We can get through without the funding. We're in a position that we feel very good about . There's nothing that slows up our efforts to put things together,' he said.
Biden said he would continue with foreign leader calls, having done six, and working on his cabinet selections.
'We don't see anything that's slowing us down, quite frankly,' he said.
He said he expected to talk to McConnell, whom he has known for at least 35 years and served with in the Senate, in the 'not too distant future.' McConnell said Trump is '100 per cent' within his rights to pursue legal remedies, in effect providing baking for Trump's push to overturn the initial election results through the courts.
With the bulk of elected Republicans not acknowledging his win, Biden point to a 'few notable exceptions.'
He said most were probably 'mildly intimidated by the sitting president.'
'But there's only one president at a time. He's the president,' Biden said. His campaign put out readouts on calls to the heads of Germany, Great Britain, and France.
'I'm letting them know that America is back,' Biden said. 'I have a number of other calls to return,' he added.
Harris also vouched not only for Biden's health ideas -she took a different posture during the primaries - but for his electoral victory.
'Joe Biden won the election decisively with more votes than have ever been cast in American history,' she said.
She delivered some of the most stinging remarks on heath care, blasting the GOP suit to take down Obamacare.
She said she was 'calling on the Supreme Court to see this case for what it is, a blatant attempt to overturn the will of the people.'
She pointed the unelected judges to the will of the voters. 'We just had an election in America. An election where health care was very much on the ballot,' she said.
She said 'each and every vote' she and Biden got was 'to protect and expand the Affordable Care Act.'
The very clear message was that the Biden team have little interest in Trump's refusal to concede and are now powering ahead to take government - while Trump's own administration is roiled by firings and with no sign of active governance at the White House.
Trump and his campaign have yet to present no substantial evidence of abuse and as of 3pm Tuesday, had filed no new cases today.
They have already filed cases in Pennsylvania and Michigan which claim poll watchers could not get close enough to see counting fully, after initially complaining they were not allowed in at all then admitting they were.
But neither allege abuse on a scale which would lead to overturning the almost 50,000 lead Joe Biden has in Pennsylvania and the 150,000 he has in Michigan. Ballot counting abuse has not been alleged in court anywhere else.
Trump's upper-case tweets came as the Department of Justice was roiled by Attorney General Bill Barr giving federal prosecutors the go-ahead to investigate 'specific allegations' of voter fraud - causing the top career official in charge of election fraud to resign.
Trump has claimed widespread voter fraud - without presenting any evidence - as the reason why he was beaten by Biden in a group of key swing states including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nevada. Both Arizona and Georgia also look like they'll tilt Biden once full results are in.
Barr's authorization led to the resignation of the DOJ official who oversees investigations into voter fraud, Richard Pilger.
Pilger, director of the Election Crimes Branch of the Department of Justice since 2010, stepped down within hours of Barr's announcement, in an email he sent to colleagues that was obtained by The New York Times.
Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, was quick to criticize Pilger, calling him a member of the so-called 'deep state.'
'Wait. Seriously? Isn't this the guy who was involved with the IRS and Lois Lerner in targeting conservatives and the Tea Party? Maybe that's why he hasn't done s**t at DOJ. #deepstate'.
Pilger submitted his resignation Monday evening shortly after his boss, Barr, announced the unprecedented federal support for the election investigations - a move which would delight Trump.
In his resignation email, Pilger said Barr's memo was 'an important new policy abrogating the forty-year-old Non-Interference-Policy for ballot fraud investigations in the period prior to elections becoming certified and uncontested.'
He said his resignation was 'in accord with the best tradition of the John C. Keeney Award for Exceptional Integrity and Professionalism (my most cherished Departmental recognition).'
Barr's memo angered legal experts, who pointed out that any issues around voting are handled at the state level and should not be considered a federal matter.
Several analysts said that Barr was at serious risk of dragging the Department of Justice into a highly partisan electoral war, waged through the courts.
Pilger, whose 25-year career has been devoted to election crimes and public corruption, told his colleagues in the email on Monday evening that he was quitting, in a sign of how worried many within the legal community are at Barr's unprecedented behavior.
Barr's action comes days after Biden defeated Trump and raises the prospect that Trump will use the Justice Department to try to challenge the outcome.
It gives prosecutors the ability to go around longstanding Justice Department policy that normally would prohibit such overt actions before the election is formally certified.
In his memo, Barr argues that the existing 'passive and delayed enforcement approach' could undermine the vote.
He says that the precedent should be ignored, and investigations conducted rigorously before the certification of votes on December 8.
'In instances where they are consulted, the ECB's (Election Crimes Branch) general practice has been to counsel that overt investigative steps ordinarily should not be taken until the election in question has been concluded, its results certified and all recounts and election contests concluded,' he wrote.
'Such a passive and delayed enforcement approach can result in situations in which election misconduct cannot realistically be rectified.'
A Justice Department official told the New York Times that Barr had authorized scrutiny of allegations about ineligible voters in Nevada and backdated mail-in ballots Pennsylvania.
Trump has not conceded the election and is instead claiming without evidence that there has been a widespread, multi-state conspiracy by Democrats to skew the vote tally in Biden's favor.
Biden holds a sizable lead in multiple battleground states and there has been no indication of enough improperly counted or illegally cast votes that would shift the outcome.
Election officials from both political parties have publicly stated the election went well, though there have been minor issues that are typical in elections, including voting machines breaking and ballots that were miscast and lost.
In the memo to U.S. attorneys, obtained by The Associated Press, Barr wrote that investigations 'may be conducted if there are clear and apparently-credible allegations of irregularities that, if true, could potentially impact the outcome of a federal election in an individual State.'
States have until December 8 to resolve election disputes, including recounts and court contests over the results.
Members of the Electoral College meet on December 14 to finalize the outcome.
Pilger's resignation was taken as a very worrying sign from people who had worked alongside him.
Steve Dettelback, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said he had first crossed paths with Pilger 30 years ago and described him as 'a great prosecutor'.
'Shame on the political 'leadership' at DOJ,' he said.
Noah Bookbinder, a former federal prosecutor who is now the Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), said: 'Richard Pilger is a respected apolitical attorney who has been a federal corruption prosecutor for decades (including when I was one years ago).
'His resigning in protest makes clear to me that something very wrong indeed is happening here.'
Another former colleague, former federal prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg, added: 'I also worked with Richard Pilger at Public Integrity. He is someone with an outstanding reputation.;
'If he feels the need to step down, something bad is happening,' Zeidenberg said.
Their concern was echoed by political figures.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that Barr was 'the president's puppet' and was deliberately undermining the election.
Meanwhile, Republicans have allowed Trump to cast a cloud over the election's results.
'What is the downside for humoring him for this little bit of time? No one seriously thinks the results will change,' a senior Republican official told The Washington Post in a report published Monday night. 'He went golfing this weekend. It's not like he's plotting how to prevent Joe Biden from taking power on Jan. 20.'
Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Biden's home state of Delaware, said Republicans in Congress are back-channeling congratulations to him - because they can't yet acknowledge the winner publicly because of Trump's behavior.
'They call me to say congratulations please convey my well wishes to the president-elect but I can't say that publicly yet. These are conversations best kept private,' Coons said on CNN Tuesday morning.
Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said it was 'sad' how many public servants have been forced out during the Trump era.
Preet Bharara, the former US attorney for the Southern District of New York - until he was fired by Trump - said he expected the resignation of Pilger would lead to a Senate inquiry.
'Who will be the first senator to call for an Inspector General investigation over the AG Barr memo that just prompted the head of the Election Crimes Branch at DOJ to step down?' he wondered.
Gene Rossi, a former federal prosecutor, told Law&Crime Network that the 'Justice Department is not Trump's toy - and Barr should not act like the president's binky.'
He added: 'Just when we thought that the most politically compliant Attorney General in modern times would go quietly into the night, Bill Barr rises from his bunker and shocks us again.'
National security lawyer Bradley P. Moss told Law&Crime: 'This is getting rather dangerously close to the line of unlawful political interference by the Justice Department.'
He pointed out the voting irregularities were usually resolved at the state level.
'The federal government has very little role in the conduct of our elections, and there is no indication that the various quixotic lawsuits being filed in the states can't resolve this issue just fine without intervention by DOJ,' Moss said.
'Hopefully this is simply more 'election theater' by AG Barr to assuage the president's fragile ego than anything else.'
Biden is ahead by 43,000 votes in Pennsylvania, 148,000 votes in Michigan, 34,000 votes in Nevada and 13,000 votes in Arizona, with ballots still being counted.
Even if all of Trump's current challenges are successful, experts believe they are unlikely to overcome those margins.
The campaign has promised more challenges to come.
The Trump campaign has said it will order a recount in Wisconsin, where Biden is up by 20,000 votes, and is likely in Georgia, where he is currently up by 10,000, but they are unlikely to overturn those results. The Trump camp is furiously raising money it says will go to the effort.
The Trump campaign has yet to produce any evidence to back its claims of widespread fraud.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.