Presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden took the first steps Sunday toward focusing his incoming administration on the COVID-19 pandemic and other priorities such as climate change, while President Trump clung to the hope that his legal team could reverse the election outcome through court challenges of reported illegal votes in several contested states.
A day after major news organizations projected Mr. Biden to be the winner of the presidency, his campaign launched a transition website outlining the Democrat’s plans to resolve the nation’s health care crisis, promote an economic recovery, address climate change and help the nation move toward “racial equity.”
The former vice president also is preparing to announce Monday a group of what he called “leading scientists and experts” as transition advisers to create a COVID-19 “action blueprint” to combat the pandemic starting on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.
The COVID-19 task force will be co-chaired by former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, according to multiple media reports. Mr. Murthy, who has said gun violence is a health care issue, was ousted by Mr. Trump in 2017.
“Our work begins with getting COVID under control,” Mr. Biden said in his victory speech Saturday night in Wilmington, Delaware. “I will spare no effort — or commitment — to turn this pandemic around.”
The president, who emerged from the White House only for two weekend golf outings at his club in Northern Virginia, prepared for his legal team on Monday “to start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated.”
“The American people are entitled to an honest election: that means counting all legal ballots, and not counting any illegal ballots,” Mr. Trump said in a statement.
Presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner broached with Mr. Trump over the weekend the possibility of conceding the race, according to The Associated Press. But people familiar with the situation said the president is determined not to concede to Mr. Biden because he believes reports of voting and counting irregularities in Nevada, Pennsylvania, Georgia and other states must be aired in court to ensure the integrity of the election.
Recounts are expected in Wisconsin and Georgia. Mr. Biden leads in each state by about 20,000 votes. He leads by a similar margin in Arizona, which has been called by some but not all news outlets, led by The Associated Press and Fox News, and which the Trump campaign says it will win.
The Trump campaign team briefed Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, over the weekend about reports of about 15 dead people voting in Pennsylvania, plus election computer software glitches in Michigan and backdating of thousands of mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania.
“If Republicans don’t challenge and change the U.S. election system, there will never be another Republican president elected again,” Mr. Graham said on Fox Business’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” “President Trump should not concede. We’re down to less — 10,000 votes in Georgia. He’s going to win North Carolina. There are allegations of system failure, fraud. These computers in Michigan do not pass the smell test. Keep fighting for every legal and live vote.”
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, said the 70 million people who voted for Mr. Trump “are not moving on just because the media says so.”
The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee sued Arizona on Saturday over claims that voting machines in Maricopa County incorrectly rejected in-person votes that were cast on Election Day.
The president is pointing to hugely flawed media polls in the weeks before Election Day, and in polls four years ago, to question the propriety of media organizations calling the winners in various states and for the presidency overall.
“Since when does the Lamestream Media call who our next president will be? We have all learned a lot in the last two weeks!” Mr. Trump tweeted Sunday.
Mr. Trump faces the prospect of becoming the first one-term president since Republican George H.W. Bush lost his bid for reelection to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992. He has 214 electoral votes to Mr. Biden’s 290, according to a count by The Associated Press. Georgia, North Carolina and Alaska have yet to be called.
A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. Mr. Biden passed that threshold shortly before noon Saturday, when news organizations projected that the Democrat had won Pennsylvania, with 20 electoral votes. The former vice president also was declared the winner of Nevada on Saturday.
Biden supporters and Trump opponents spilled into the streets of major cities across the country when the Democrat’s win was announced. Trump supporters held demonstrations in state capitals such as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Austin, Texas, to call for accurate and transparent vote-counting.
Former President George W. Bush, a Republican, called Mr. Biden on Sunday to congratulate him on his victory. He said it was an “extraordinary political achievement.”
In his victory speech, Mr. Biden said he plans to be a president for all Americans and that he will try to “heal” the nation as he claimed a mandate from the American people to govern cooperatively and reach across the aisle.
“The people of the nation have spoken. They’ve delivered us a clear victory,” Mr. Biden said. “To make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies. This is [the] time to heal in America.”
The man who will become the 46th U.S. president, the oldest to be inaugurated, said a “grim era of demonization in America” needs to end. “It’s time for our better angels to prevail.”
Mr. Biden made a direct appeal to Trump voters.
“To those who voted for President Trump, I understand your disappointment tonight,” he said. “But now, let’s give each other a chance.”
He was introduced Saturday night by his running mate, Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California, who will be the first female vice president. Ms. Harris, who was born in Oakland, California, to a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, also made history as the first woman of color to run on a major-party presidential ticket.
“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities,” she said.
She described Mr. Biden as a “healer,” a “uniter” and “a tested and steady hand.”
As Mr. Biden turns to governing, he will have to do so with a government divided along party lines and with a Democratic Party balancing centrist and liberal tensions.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, Minnesota Democrat, said Sunday that Ms. Harris was a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal and “Medicare-for-All” proposals. She called on the next president and vice president to deliver on those promises.
“Her being on top of that ticket did not cost us the election. It actually won us the election,” Ms. Omar said on “Inside Politics” on CNN. “Our policies are resonating with the American people, and if our big-tent Democratic Party wants to govern on behalf of all Americans, we should have a seat at the table.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the face of the young, liberal vanguard of the Democratic Party, said Sunday that Democrats need to respond to the election with a strong liberal agenda.
“I think we owe the poor, middle-class, working-class, Black communities, communities of color, immigrant communities a great deal in seeing them and honoring them in our legislation,” she said on “State of the Union” on CNN.
Democrats will control a slimmer majority in the House in the next Congress, and control of the Senate will depend on the outcomes of two runoff elections in Georgia on Jan. 5.
Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, one of a handful of Republican lawmakers acknowledging Mr. Biden as the presidential winner, said his party is willing to find common ground but won’t accept any liberal policies.
“I think the president-elect recognizes that Republicans gained seats in Congress. Republicans overall did better than Democrats overall in this election,” he said on CNN. “The American people are more conservative than they are progressive, so to speak. And any argument to the contrary, I think, is going to be met with a lot of resistance from the American people and from members of Congress.
“If Joe Biden works with Republicans in the Senate, he’s going to find that we will be able to find common ground. After all, he’s been there a long time himself. He knows what it takes to get things done in that chamber,” he said.
⦁ Alex Swoyer contributed to this report.