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Latest News: Barr Resigns; Biden Addresses The Nation


Well, soon after the Electoral College vote ended with the final ballots cast in Hawaii, President-elect Biden spoke to the nation.


JOE BIDEN: The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a long time ago. We now know nothing, not even a pandemic or an abuse of power, can extinguish that flame.

CHANG: Biden also offered a rebuke of the efforts from President Trump and his allies to overturn the election outcome.


BIDEN: It's a position so extreme, we've never it seen before - a position that refused to respect the will of the people, refused to respect the rule of law, and refused to honor our Constitution.

CHANG: For more on Biden's remarks, we're joined now by NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Hey, Mara.


CHANG: All right. So, you know, in the last several weeks, Biden has often avoided talking directly about President Trump, but he actually spent a lot of time tonight in his speech talking in great detail about Trump's efforts, the failed efforts to challenge the election. What do you think the message Biden was trying? What do you think the message was that Biden was trying to send tonight?

LIASSON: Well, I think the message that he was sending was that this was a free and fair election, and the outcome was clear, that President Trump had availed himself of every opportunity to challenge it according to the rules of our democracy. You go to court. You present your evidence, and a judge rules. And he came up short every single time. This is a problem for Joe Biden. We've never had a president, an outgoing president of the United States, saying that he was the victim of a fraudulent election, encouraging his supporters to not accept the legitimacy of the incoming president and undermining voters' faith in free and fair elections. The bedrock norm of a democracy is accepting that sometimes your guy loses, and a loss is accepted with grace, not with denial and threats of violence. And I think Joe Biden understands that that is a potential problem. He wants to unify the country, as he says over and over again. He wants to be the president even for people who didn't vote for him. And I think this is the first time, because this is an important date - the legal challenges have run their course, the Electoral College has spoken - and this is the moment that he chose to say, I am the legitimate president. Democracy held. It was tested. Ordinary election officials and judges did their job. And now is the time to move on.

CHANG: Right. And then on top of that, Biden also tonight vowed to reach out and serve as president for all Americans. So let me ask you, did you see signs of specific outreach to Republicans tonight from Biden?

LIASSON: I think they're going to be. I think that Biden has been reaching out to Republicans his entire campaign and tonight also. He has said over and over again, I want to work across the aisle. I believe I can. You know, and during the campaign, there was a debate about this. A lot of progressive Democrats thought it was naive to - for Biden to say he wanted to reach across the aisle. It was a certainly a good message. This is what voters like to hear. But it turns out the voters took Biden at his word. They voted for divided government. And Biden is going to have to reach across the aisle to do anything.

This is his brand. This is what he did in the Senate during his long career. And what - in terms of specific ways he's going to do that, that remains to be seen, but it will be - it'll depend on what policies he decides to push first. Does he pick ones that have big, broad bipartisan support like infrastructure investment, raising the federal minimum wage? Does he spend time going around the country and meeting with people who didn't vote for him? There are a lot of ways that he can reach out, and I think most of them are to come.

CHANG: Now, President Trump, meanwhile, is still making plenty of news. Just after Biden reach 270 electoral votes today, he announced that his attorney general, Bill Barr, will be leaving his job next week. Why is that happening with just a month left until Trump leaves office, do you think?

LIASSON: Well, you know, as has happened many times before, Trump has soured on Bill Barr. Bill Barr did not declare the election fraudulent as Trump wanted. He's been complaining about Barr in public, although their exchange of tweets and letters today were very complimentary about each other. But why it's happening now - did Barr want to leave before he was fired, or did Trump want to somebody else in that position for the remaining weeks of his term so he wouldn't challenge some pardons that he's planning to give, maybe to his family? We're not sure of the exact reason it happened today, but we know that Trump had soured on Barr.

CHANG: That is NPR's Mara Liasson. Thank you, Mara.

LIASSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.