For the first time in more than half a century, an outgoing administration is stonewalling an incoming one at every level — with no intention of relenting.
President Donald Trump hasn’t called President-elect Joe Biden. The Trump campaign hasn’t reached out to the Biden campaign. The White House and federal agencies haven’t briefed the Biden transition team. First lady Melania Trump hasn’t invited Jill Biden to the White House for tea.
There are no briefings being given about coronavirus, troop drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq, or aggression by China and Iran. No background checks being done for job applicants. No security clearances being conducted for potential Biden staffers.
The silence could continue into December, when states must certify their results to Congress, according to several Republicans familiar with the expected plans. Until then, they said, Trump and his team will continue to assert the election was fraudulently stolen from them, using unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud to file lawsuits and recounts challenging the results.
It’s a situation without parallel since at least 1963, when a federal law implemented modern presidential transition procedures, mandating the sharing of office space and the spending of money for the process.
The posture threatens to leave Biden’s team unprepared in January when it takes over a millions-strong federal workforce, according to officials who worked for Republican and Democratic presidents and lawmakers of both parties. And, they added, it sends a message to the world that the United States, generally a model across the globe, is vulnerable and unable to administer a seamless transition of power.
“The transfer of power, even reluctantly, is important for the world to witness,” said Andy Card, former chief of staff to President George W. Bush, who was involved in three presidential transitions.
Even in 2000, when a recount fight in Florida kept the nation in suspense for weeks over who would become president, Card said President Bill Clinton’s staff allowed Bush to have national security briefings. Bush’s challenger, then-Vice President Al Gore, was already receiving them.
This year, Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election on Nov. 7, four days after voting ended, and has since received 306 Electoral College votes, 36 more than needed. Yet a Trump appointee, Emily Murphy, the head of the General Services Administration, has failed to affirm that Biden won the election, refusing to trigger a process that would give Biden’s team access to federal resources.