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Biden to launch COVID-19 task force, Trump plans rallies to protest election

By: Andy Sullivan, Andrea Shalal and Trevor Hunnicutt | 9 November 2020

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WASHINGTON/WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) – President-elect Joe Biden will convene a coronavirus task force on Monday to examine the No. 1 problem confronting him when he takes office in January, while President Donald Trump pursues several long-shot gambits to hold on to his job.

Biden is due to meet with an advisory board led by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler to examine how best to tame a pandemic that has killed more than 237,000 Americans.

The Democratic former vice president will then give remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, about his plans for tackling COVID-19 and rebuilding the economy. He spent much of the campaign criticizing Trump’s handling of the crises and has vowed to listen to scientists to guide his own approach.

Trump has frequently clashed with top health officials over the pandemic. Vice President Mike Pence is due to meet with the White House coronavirus task force on Monday for the first time since Oct. 20.

Biden clinched the presidency on Saturday, four days after the Nov. 3 election, clearing the threshold of 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House. He beat Trump by more than 4 million votes nationwide, making Trump the first president to lose re-election since 1992.

But Trump has not acknowledged defeat and has launched an array of lawsuits to press claims of election fraud for which he has produced no evidence. State officials say they are not aware of any significant irregularities.

Trump has no public events scheduled for Monday, and he has not spoken in public since Thursday. As part of a public campaign to question the election results, he is planning to hold rallies to build support for his fight over the outcome, campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said.

Biden‘s advisers are moving ahead even still, also considering candidates for top Cabinet posts. But the transition cannot shift into high gear until the U.S. General Services Administration, which oversees federal property, certifies the winner.

Emily Murphy, the Trump appointee who runs the agency, has not given the go-ahead for the transition to begin. A GSA spokeswoman gave no timetable for the decision.

Until then, the GSA can continue providing Biden‘s team with offices, computers and background checks for security clearances, but they cannot yet enter federal agencies or access federal funds set aside for the transition.

The Biden campaign on Sunday pressed the agency to move ahead.

“America’s national security and economic interests depend on the federal government signalling clearly and swiftly that the United States government will respect the will of the American people and engage in a smooth and peaceful transfer of power,” the campaign said in a statement.

 

RALLIES AND RECOUNTS

Trump, however, has shown no signs he will engage in a transition.

Murtaugh said Trump will hold a series of rallies to build support for the legal fights challenging the outcome, though Murtaugh did not say when and where they would take place.

Trump will seek to back up his as yet unsubstantiated accusations of voting fraud by highlighting obituaries of dead people the campaign said voted in the election, Murtaugh said.

Trump also announced teams to pursue recounts in several states. Experts said that effort, like his lawsuits, are unlikely to meet with success.

“The chances of a recount flipping tens of thousands of votes across multiple states in his favor are outside anything we have seen in American history,” William Antholis, director of the University of Virginia’s Miller Center think tank, wrote in an essay on Sunday.

Leaders from across the globe have offered their congratulations to Biden, including some Trump allies, but many of Trump’s fellow Republicans have yet to recognize the Democrat’s victory.

Republican attorneys general from Louisiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Oklahoma said they will take legal action on Monday to help the Trump campaign challenge how Pennsylvania has handled mail ballots, a popular option this year for voters seeking to avoid coronavirus exposure at crowded polling locations. It was not clear how they would help Trump’s legal team, which is headed by David Bossie, a seasoned political activist but not a lawyer.

Pennsylvania, the state that clinched Biden‘s victory on Saturday, has been one of the most hotly contested battlegrounds of the election.

Trump has repeatedly criticized mail voting as insecure, though he himself has voted that way in past elections and election experts say it is as reliable as other methods.

 

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan and Andrea Shalal in Washington and Trevor Hunnicutt in Wilmington, Delaware; additional reporting by Makini Brice and Steve Holland in Washington; writing by Andy Sullivan; editing by Colleen Jenkins and Lincoln Feast.)


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