WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the recession persists, potential national security threats loom, and the spread of coronavirus “rages” throughout the country, the American people cannot afford anything but a smooth and orderly presidential transition. That is why government watchdog Accountable.US is calling on the Trump administration to accept the reality shared by the major news networks, U.S. senators from Trump’s own party, and numerous world leaders that Joe Biden is the president-elect – and to immediately grant Biden’s transition team access to the resources it needs to be ready to serve and protect the American people on day one. Key officials in the Trump administration are standing in the way of allowing for the transition, for political reasons, raising bipartisan alarm about the consequences that could come from undermining presidential preparedness.
“It’s apparently not enough for President Trump to leave behind a recession and a spiraling public health epidemic that he gave up on — he also wants to impede President-elect Biden’s ability to clean up the mess,” said Kyle Herrig, president of nonpartisan government watchdog Accountable.US. “This is not a time for sour grapes in the face of crises of this magnitude. There is no margin of error or time to waste with the huge challenges ahead, including rebuilding the economy and getting control of this health crisis. Each day the Trump administration withholds critical time and resources is a day our national security and public health is dangerously undermined during a global pandemic.”
Earlier this week, Accountable.US announced the formation of a Senate War Room to hold lawmakers accountable for standing in the way of a smooth transition of power and the swift approval of nominees to staff the new administration. Additionally, the project will seek to limit the corrosive influence of special interests on the Senate as the new president seeks to address the public health and economic crisis left behind by the current president.
THE DANGERS OF OBSTRUCTING A PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION:
National Security Implications
Former White House Chiefs of Staff Andrew Card and John Podesta: A Delayed Transition Effort For Biden Would Hinder Economic Recovery, Slow Vaccine Distribution, And Put American Lives At Risk. “President-elect Joe Biden and his transition team should not suffer a similar delay. The electoral landscape is simply not the same. The outcome is not the same. And we have since learned the serious costs of a delayed transition. […] With the covid-19 pandemic continuing to wreak havoc, the costs of a delay are much higher today than almost any time in U.S. history. Specifically, a delayed transition and the absence of cooperation between the outgoing and incoming administrations could hinder economic recovery, slow the distribution of a vaccine and, God forbid, put American lives at risk. We know from history — including a foiled terrorist attack on the day of President Barack Obama’s inauguration — that our adversaries seek to take advantage of the United States during transitions. We cannot let that happen today.” [Andrew Card and John Podesta Op-Ed, Washington Post, 11/10/20]
Max Stier, Director of the Partnership for Public Service: The GSA’s Failure To Ascertain Biden Prevents Agency Access, Personnel Processing, And Access To Funds To Pay Transition Staffers. “CNN talked to Max Stier, who is director of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit and nonpartisan group that oversees the Center for Presidential Transition, which advocates for policy to smooth out this process. […] STIER: There are three buckets that are at play in the failure of GSA to ascertain Biden and enable him to get these resources. The first bucket is access to the agencies themselves. I mentioned earlier there are over 100 operating in the government — big agencies, subagencies — and the Biden team needs to understand what’s happening inside them. […] The second major bucket is in the processing of their personnel. I talked about the 4,000 political appointments, 1,200 of them being Senate-confirmable positions. Those will need security clearances and financial agreements with the Office of Government Ethics to make sure there are no conflicts. […] And the third and final bucket is the money itself. And that’s necessary for paying the staffers to do the work.” [CNN, 11/10/20]
The 9/11 Commission Report Found The Delayed Transition Following The 2000 Election “Hampered The New Administration” In Preparing The Country Against The Attacks. “The rocky transition between Clinton and George W. Bush in 2000, following a recount in Florida and subsequent Supreme Court case, delayed the final result by more than 30 days, halving the normal transition period. The 9/11 Commission Report later found “this loss of time hampered the new administration in identifying, recruiting, clearing and obtaining Senate confirmation of key appointees” ahead of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” [Andrew Card and John Podesta Op-Ed, Washington Post, 11/11/20]
Former White House Chiefs of Staff Andrew Card and John Podesta: The Delays For The Bush Administration To Receive Transition Access “Hampered The New Administration” In The Appointment Of Key Personnel, A Process Which The 9/11 Commission Found To “Deeply In The National Interest” To Avoid In The Future. “As a result, while Bush and key staff were provided full intelligence briefings, the Bush transition did not have access to federal agencies and resources for 37 long days. […] Less than eight months after Bush’s inauguration, two planes flew into the World Trade Center, killing nearly 3,000 Americans. One of us had the fateful duty to whisper into Bush’s ear, ‘America is under attack.’ When the 9/11 Commission finished its report, it found that the delayed transition ‘hampered the new administration in identifying, recruiting, clearing and obtaining Senate confirmation of key appointees’ in the national security arena. The commission also concluded that avoiding future disruptions in transitions was deeply in the national interest.” [Andrew Card and John Podesta, Washington Post, 11/10/20]
Trump’s Post-Election “Pentagon Turmoil Could Further Jeopardize The Prospect Of A Seamless Handover, At What Experts Say Is A Sensitive Time.” “In the week since Election Day, Trump has refused to concede and has publicized spurious claims of fraud to overshadow the result. He also has declined to give President-elect Joe Biden resources and daily presidential intelligence briefings to aid the transition to the new administration. The Pentagon turmoil could further jeopardize the prospect of a seamless handover, at what experts say is a sensitive time.” [Andrew Card and John Podesta Op-Ed, Washington Post, 11/11/20]
Director of White House Transition Project: Presidential Transitions Were “A Time Of Vulnerability, And It’s A Time When Your Enemies Can Be Testing You.” “‘It is a time of vulnerability, and it’s a time when your enemies can be testing you,’ said Martha Joynt Kumar, director of the nonprofit White House Transition Project. ‘It is the kind of thing that you have to get right.'” [Andrew Card and John Podesta Op-Ed, Washington Post, 11/11/20]
“Failure To Have A Smooth Transition Could Put Our National Security, Our Economic Security And Our Health Security At Risk.” [Andrew Card and John Podesta Op-Ed, Washington Post, 11/11/20]
Impeding Coronavirus Response
Politico: Trump’s Refusal To Cede Power Was “Interfering With President-Elect Joe Biden’s Plans For A Rapid Scale-Up Of The Federal Coronavirus Response.” “The Trump administration’s refusal to authorize a presidential transition is interfering with President-elect Joe Biden’s plans for a rapid scale-up of the federal coronavirus response, leaving the incoming administration locked out of key health agencies amid the spiraling pandemic.” [Politico, 11/10/20]
Trump GSA Administrator’s Refusal To Approve The Transition Is Preventing Biden From “Deploying Dozens Of Health Officials And Blocked Them From Accessing Information And Resources Critical To Combating The Crisis.” “But GSA Administrator Emily Murphy’s failure to approve a transition process — as President Donald Trump refuses to concede the election — has prevented the Biden forces from deploying dozens of health officials and blocked them from accessing information and resources critical to combating the crisis.” [Politico, 11/10/20]
Pandemic Preparedness Was A “Daunting Set OF Challenges That Will Only Become More Difficult To Tackle With Every Day That Goes By.” “Biden transition officials working on the pandemic response are also expected to prioritize a major ramp-up in testing. Plans to shore up distribution planning for Covid-19 treatments and an eventual vaccine took on new urgency this week, after Pfizer announced it has a viable shot and the FDA authorized a new monoclonal antibody treatment for emergency use. With the clock ticking on the transition, that’s a daunting set of challenges that will only become more difficult to tackle with every day that goes by.” [Politico, 11/10/20]