In the three days since Joe Biden was projected to be U.S. president-elect by all major news outlets, the Trump administration has refused to concede and has reportedly stalled the transition process.
Matthew Lebo, political science department chair at Western University said normally, from now until inauguration day in January, the various departments of the U.S. government begin preparing to give way to the new administration.
“Every department gets ready to hand things over to a new secretary,” he said in a previous interview. “The White House, the West Wing, Defense, and Intelligence — they all get ready for this handover.”
However, this year, he said this “will all be hampered by Donald Trump refusing to concede and by what’s going on now with sort of loyalty tests about who’s standing with him and who is abandoning him.“
The General Services Administration (GSA), which recognizes a presidential candidate when it becomes clear who has won an election so that a transition of power can begin, has not yet done so.
The transition team needs to be recognized by the GSA in order to access funds for salaries, consultants and travel, as well as access to classified information.
Emily Murphy, the administrator of the GSA appointed by U.S. President Donald Trump in 2017, has not yet determined that a “winner is clear,” a spokeswoman told Reuters.
On Tuesday, the commissioner of the U.S. Federal Elections Commission Ellen Weintraub, wrote a letter to Murphy, saying America “desperately” needs her to “get this presidential transition rolling immediately.”
She said facing down the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Biden administration needs to “hit the ground running like few before it.”
“The resources that GSA contributes to this process are essential to success,” she wrote. “Your delay is damaging the ability of President-Elect Biden to fully address the pandemic head-on when he takes office.”
She added that there has been “no doubt since Saturday” that Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris are the “apparent successful candidates for the office of President and Vice President, respectively.”
“The next Administration faces a daunting job the moment it takes office,” Weintraub said. “Every day, every hour that you stand in the way, you damage its chances of success.”
In an interview with Global News, Paul Schiff Berman, Walter S. Cox Professor of Law at The George Washington University School of Law, said the delay in the transition raises concerns.
“The concern, in general, is that if the incoming administration can’t get access to information, can’t begin hiring staff, can’t find out what’s happening now in the levers of government and begin moving so that they can hit the ground running — that has longer-term national security and administrative efficiency consequences because it means that you might not have personnel in place, you might not have seamless information sharing and intelligence sharing,” he said.
“And as a result, things might fall through the cracks.”
He pointed to the 2000 presidential election and the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 as an example.
Due to a recount in Florida, George W. Bush was not named the victor of the 2000 election until mid-December.
“There are claims, for example, that part of the reason that the Bush administration missed the signs that then led to the 9/11 2001 terrorist attacks, is that they lost the transition period because of the contested election in 2000,” he said.
“And so that they weren’t really ready to process all of the intelligence information that they were getting.”
In that case, Berman said there “wasn’t anything one could do about it” because the outcome of the election was “still in doubt.”
But, he said the outcome of this election “is not in doubt.”
The Associated Press and every other major news outlet projected Biden and Harris had won the election on Saturday.
The president-elect is projected to win at least 290 electoral votes — significantly higher than the 270-threshold needed to claim the country’s highest office — with a few states still counting ballots.
“And so this is really a self-inflicted wound,” he said. “This isn’t necessary.”
Pompeo sows doubt
During a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, a reporter asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about reports in recent days that administration officials and the heads of multiple government agencies are blocking or stalling standard efforts to brief the transition team of president-elect Biden.
“Is the State Department currently preparing to engage with the Biden transition team? If not, at what point does a delay hamper the smooth transition and pose a risk to national security?” the reporter asked.
“There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” Pompeo answered.
“We’re ready, the world is watching what’s taking place,” he said. “We’re going to count all the votes. When the process is complete, there’ll be electors selected. There’s a process — the Constitution lays it out pretty clearly.”
Biden-Harris transition team at work
Despite the attempts to stall the process, Biden and Harris have wasted no time in assembling their transition team.
At a press conference on Tuesday, the president-elect said his team would get right to work, adding that “nothing’s going to stop that.”
Over the weekend, the president and vice president elects launched a transition website outlining their plans to address the most pressing issues once they assume office in January.
On Monday Biden announced the members of a coronavirus task-force who will develop his administration’s pandemic response.
The group will be led by former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler and Yale University public health care expert Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith.
By Tuesday, President Trump had still not conceded, writing in a tweet that “WE WILL WIN!”
The Republican president has repeatedly claimed without evidence there was voter fraud as a result of the widescale use of mail-in ballots.
Elections officials across the country have maintained that there were no irregularities, and that there is no indication or proof that voter fraud occurred.
Regardless, the Trump campaign has filed a handful of lawsuits, most of which have since been shot down.
But, on Monday, Attorney General William Barr authorized federal prosecutors across the country to pursue “substantial allegations” of voting irregularities, if they exist, before the race is certified.
–With files from Global News’ Jackson Proskow and Amanda Connolly and Reuters