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Week In Politics: Biden Prepares To Tackle The Coronavirus Crisis


Joe Biden became president-elect just two weeks ago. World leaders and the American people recognize that. President Trump and many Republicans do not. Meanwhile, the coronavirus crisis spreads, takes lives and decimates the economy. Instead of focusing on that crisis and ensuring a smooth transition for a new administration to deal with those challenges, the president and his campaign have been trying to subvert the outcome of the election.

NPR's Ron Elving joins us. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: And first, bring us up to date, if you can, please, about the attempt to derail the election in states that the president lost. Let's begin with Michigan.

ELVING: Good place to start. Twenty-four hours ago, you could have read a lot of overheated headlines and heard a lot of hyperventilating about what President Trump was trying to do in Michigan. And this morning, it looks like one more dead end on the president's road of denial. Two days ago, this was supposed to be another one of Rudy Giuliani's imaginary breakthroughs, this time involving the Michigan state legislature, very Republican - asking them to decertify the Michigan vote and install a different Trump-friendly set of electors to vote in the Electoral College instead.

So Trump flew the top leaders of that Michigan legislature to Washington yesterday and apparently spent an hour trying to persuade them that they could reject the results and simply declare Trump the winner, which is especially stunning considering that the margin of victory for Joe Biden in Michigan is greater than in any of the other four states that he switched from Trump. And, Scott, here's the bottom line. The elected state officials, the Michiganders that Trump brought to Washington, immediately made it clear last night they have no intention of doing what the president wants. They plan to approve the findings of the state board of election canvassers, which will report on Monday. And that will be that.

SIMON: And other states - Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona?

ELVING: In Pennsylvania, you've got a blizzard of court filings at the state and federal levels that have produced basically nothing. One after another has been withdrawn or dismissed with no change. Georgia certified its results on Friday, so another one in the barn. The Trump campaign could still seek another machine recount there after the hand recount that's already been done. But all the relevant statewide officials have already signed off, including the governor, who is a major Trump supporter.

In Arizona, the last pending challenge to the election was dismissed on Friday. And the state's largest county has already completed its certification. And in Wisconsin, a recount goes forward in the two counties the Republicans wanted recounted, only two out of 72 - happened to be the two most Democratic counties in the state. But will it change the outcome in Wisconsin? No one in either party seems to think so.

SIMON: And what about President-elect Biden's response? Because this is certainly stifling his ability to work on a transition with many important issues.

ELVING: Well, the president-elect tried to celebrate his 78th birthday yesterday. And as for all the craziness from the White House, he's been alternating between amusement and growing impatience. More generally, there's a growing sense of outrage about the way that Biden's team is prevented from doing what it can regarding the virus and also regarding continuity in the realm of national security. You know, there are - people believe that back in 2000, because of that five-week standoff over the Florida count, the U.S. dropped the ball regarding surveillance and monitoring of the people who would later carry out the 9/11 attacks that year.

SIMON: And to what degree is this slowdown on the transition - is this the biggest thing that's being held up by President Trump's refusal?

ELVING: There's actually a competition for that distinction, Scott. There's the need to pass the torch on COVID research and relief. There's the need to reach out to allies and trading partners. And there are opportunities at risk with Congress, as well, trying to move forward with additional relief for businesses and families that really need it.

SIMON: NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much for being with us.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.