The Note: Biden tries end-around of defiant Trump

Joe Biden is making clear that he wants Donald Trump's help with the transition.

November 17, 2020, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

President-elect Joe Biden is making clear that he wants President Donald Trump's help with the transition -- and is even warning that lives could be lost if he doesn't get it.

But Biden is signaling that he doesn't truly expect that help. He is acting in ways that say he doesn't really need it, much as it might boost his incoming presidency -- and maybe help the health of the nation.

The former vice president is outlining an agenda that actually starts before Jan. 20, with more stimulus spending now and mask mandates designed to slow the spread of COVID-19. He is setting up task forces and working groups along with a revamped West Wing staffing operation designed to adapt to the particular challenges of the moment.

PHOTO: President-elect Joe Biden answers questions from the press at The Queen in Wilmington, Del., Nov. 16, 2020.
President-elect Joe Biden answers questions from the press at The Queen in Wilmington, Del., Nov. 16, 2020.
Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

"It would make it a lot easier," Biden said Monday, "if the president were to participate."

Biden remains among the more calm Democrats in official circles. He's letting his surrogates and lawyers do battle with sputtering legal efforts and a torrent of falsehoods about the election propagated by the president.

It's appropriate to ask Republican members of Congress to say that Trump should acknowledge the facts and help assure smooth governance. Democrats, of course, have strong opinions on the subject as well.

What's becoming clear, though, is that state authorities and ultimately the judicial branch will be forced to end scattered election disputes. Trump will still be president when that happens; in some states, finality might be just days away.

But by then, Biden's plan is to be well on his way to doing a job Trump isn't showing particular interest in at the moment.

Election latest: Joe Biden leads the popular vote total with 78,879,297 votes and is projected to have 306 electoral votes. President Donald Trump follows with 73,326,351 popular votes and is projected to have 232 electoral votes.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

Unwilling to acknowledge the results of the election, Trump is also making geo-political moves extremely atypical to a lame-duck commander-in-chief.

Even as violence in Afghanistan remains significantly higher than normal, two officials confirmed to ABC News on Monday that orders were expected by the end of this week to reduce troop levels there to 2,500 and in Iraq to 2,500 by mid-January.

PHOTO: In this June 6, 2020, file photo, US soldiers look out over hillsides at the Afghan National Army (ANA) checkpoint in Nerkh district of Wardak province, Afghanistan.
In this June 6, 2020, file photo, US soldiers look out over hillsides at the Afghan National Army (ANA) checkpoint in Nerkh district of Wardak province, Afghanistan.
Thomas Watkins/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Trump has long said he wanted an end to "endless wars" as has Biden. Still any significant troop movements during a period of presidential transition could strain and complicate relationships between the U.S. and its allies and leave an opening for enemies looking to exploit a more vulnerable moment for the U.S. government.

It is unlikely Trump will demand a complete withdrawal of all troops, and Biden said this fall that he supported keeping a small U.S. presence in Afghanistan to remain as a counterterrorism force to prevent any resurgence by al-Qaida or the Islamic State.

In the end, perhaps Biden will agree with Trump on the total number of U.S. service members there. If Trump's moves were to result in any increased instability, the sad reality is he would be leaving that at Biden's feet.

The TIP with Quinn Scanlan

By Monday afternoon, 4.3 million of the nearly 5 million ballots cast for the presidential race in Georgia had been audited, and one county in the very Republican northwestern part of the state discovered it had failed to tabulate approximately 2,500 early voted ballots on election night.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has asked Floyd County's chief clerk of elections to step down because of the "amazing blunder," which will result in a net gain of about 800 votes for the president in this county. While these ballots will tighten the margin in Trump's favor, absent several other similar discoveries, they're still not nearly enough for Trump to overtake Biden, who's currently leading by about 14,000 votes.

PHOTO: An election worker processes  ballots at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Nov. 2, 2020.
An election worker processes ballots at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Nov. 2, 2020.
Megan Varner/Getty Images

Gabriel Sterling, the statewide voting systems implementation manager in the secretary's office, said finding an error like this is the point of conducting an audit. He also stressed that at this point, the issue in Floyd County is the exception, not the rule.

"From our checks with VotingWorks ... and the teams on the ground, nothing is making us see any substantive change in the outcome," Sterling said during a Zoom press conference Monday. "The majority of the counties right now are finding zero deviations from the original number of ballots that they added into the system."


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Tuesday morning's episode features a conversation with a New Orleans-area nurse on the frontline of the COVID-19 crisis in Louisiana. Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acting Director Dr. Richard Besser explains the potential hurdles in vaccine distribution amid a presidential transition. And ABC News Chief Global Affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz dissects the motivation of a planned drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

FiveThirtyEight's Politics podcast The 2020 election proved that the country is still divided. Though Democrats retained control of the House, they lost seats, falling short of the clear mandate they had wanted. Meanwhile, in the past eight elections, Republicans have lost the popular vote seven times and the fourth time in a row. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew explores the demographic and geographic trends that split Americans and discuss how President Trump's refusal to concede will affect the nation.


  • Dr. Rick Bright, a member of President-elect Joe Biden's coronavirus task force, will be interviewed on ABC's "Good Morning America" at 7 a.m.
  • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee at 10 a.m.
  • Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jon Ossoff will hold a virtual press conference at 11 a.m.
  • Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will receive a briefing on national security in Wilmington, Delaware.
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