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Politics Chat: Breaking Down The Presidential Transition Of Power


Many Americans are making their way home after a Thanksgiving holiday. Our public health pros said it was a bad idea to travel, but what's done is done. We've got some useful advice for what to do now, especially if we think our own travel could put us at higher risk of infection. That's in a moment - first, the halting transition of power from the Trump administration to Joe Biden's team. Time magazine national political correspondent Molly Ball joins us this morning.

Hi, Molly. Good to have you back.

MOLLY BALL: Hi, Sarah. Great to be here.

MCCAMMON: The Trump campaign has lost a string of lawsuits and misrepresented those suits in public as being about fraud, while in court, their complaints are different, often about narrow legal questions. And a Wisconsin recount pushed by the Trump campaign looks like it's actually increasing Biden's lead there. So how much longer do you think Trump can prolong this?

BALL: Well, it's clear that the courts are losing patience with the Trump campaign's attempts to prolong this process. And we're already seeing multiple states certifying their results on schedule or ahead of schedule. So, you know, the last dominoes are falling here, and the Trump campaign is running out of options. As you mentioned, you know, the appeals court decision in Pennsylvania on Friday was particularly blistering, saying, these are really serious allegations. You ought to have some proof if you're going to bring them, and we don't see any here. And these are - this is a Trump-appointed judge writing this opinion.

So while the Trump legal team continues to say that they're looking for the right case to take to the Supreme Court, you know, they - as you said, they've received so many adverse rulings already that even if they are to try to bring this further up the chain, they're just running out of chances.

MCCAMMON: And Biden is nonetheless moving forward, announcing key personnel, including names of some national security posts. So first, tell me what you think of what you're hearing from a policy perspective there.

BALL: Yeah. Well, so the national security team that Joe Biden announced earlier this week looks very much like Joe Biden. This is someone who cares a great deal about national security, and foreign policy was a big part of his concentration as a senator and his sort of remit as vice president. But these are also names of national security professionals - right? - people who've spent years and years in the bureaucracy and aren't necessarily household names. There's no elected officials on the list except for John Kerry, who will be a climate envoy. People like Linda Thomas-Greenfield for U.N. ambassador aren't someone that a lot of Americans are going to have heard of. But I think Biden is signaling here that he wants people who are going to burrow seriously into these posts and try to get things done, not sort of be celebrity faces for the administration.

MCCAMMON: As we've seen in recent days, Biden's team is going to have to deal with escalating tensions with Iran, among other things. How prepared are they for that?

BALL: Well, on the one hand, you have a lot of members of this administration who dealt with that issue before, who were instrumental in creating the Iran nuclear deal under the Obama administration that the Trump administration got rid of. But on the other hand, you know, the situation has changed a whole lot. And the situation with Iran may be in a place, particularly now that this scientist has been assassinated, that will make it much harder to unwind the changes that have been made. But there is a lot of experience there on that issue for sure.

MCCAMMON: And Molly, as you know, control of the Senate hinges on Georgia now with those two runoff races coming up in January. President Trump says he will be campaigning for the Republican candidates there. Biden, of course, won Georgia this year, a big win for a Democratic presidential candidate. And his campaign says that he, too, will stump there for the Democratic candidates. What are you watching for in Georgia?

BALL: Well, this would be a fascinating race even if you took the presidential candidates out of the picture, right? Georgia is sort of our most newly minted swing state, and it's undergone this fascinating transformation. You have - the candidates sort of represent this division of the suburban voters who are increasingly liberal and the Black vote that has been increasingly mobilized versus the state's sort of Republican history.

But then you have the Trump factor sort of cannonballing into the pool, as he tends to do. And the fact that he continues to insist that he actually won this state that he lost has really complicated Republicans' efforts to campaign in the state. You had the chair of the Republican...


BALL: ...National Committee going to Georgia yesterday and people saying to her things like, well, why should we vote in this runoff...


BALL: ...When we know that the original election was rigged?

MCCAMMON: So lots...

BALL: That really makes it harder.

MCCAMMON: Lots to watch there. That's Molly Ball, national political correspondent for Time magazine.

Thanks, Molly.

BALL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.