President Trump’s refusal to concede the election he lost to Joe Biden has prevented a formal presidential transition from starting, blocking the incoming administration’s access to resources and information to begin governing the country. Instead, Trump has fought on with his circus of toothless legal pursuits, unhinged press conferences by his lawyers, and baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. On Friday, House Democrats called on General Services Administration Chief Emily Murphy, a Trump appointee, to provide a briefing to Congress on why she has so far refused to officially “ascertain” Biden as president-elect, which by law would set off the transition process. In the meantime, here’s what the Biden team is waiting for the Trump administration to give them before January 20 when Biden will be sworn in:
$10 million for the transition
Incoming Chief of Staff Ron Klain said Murphy’s refusal to formally initiate the transition has prevented Biden’s team from accessing millions in federal funds that would help cover costs associated with the changeover. “There won’t be background checks for the nominees the President-elect will select, which will slow down the confirmation process, which adds to this problem of not having an orderly and seamless transition,” Klain said. Biden’s transition team is also being denied access to federal office space and basic equipment, such as computers.
Intel about national-security threats
Until GSA ascertains he will be the future commander-in-chief, Biden does not have access to classified information about national-security threats or to any members of the intelligence community, such as the CIA director. His running mate, however, does as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris “has access to regular classified briefings and documents up to the top-secret level, and can request intelligence briefings on specific topics,” according to Politico. Harris is legally prohibited from sharing any of that classified information with Biden, who lacks a security clearance, and she still lacks other information she would be entitled to such as the President’s Daily Brief. The PDB includes intelligence on potential terrorist threats and on developing matters overseas. Denying Biden access to intelligence briefings and threat assessments may in itself be a national security risk, history suggests. In 2000, contested results in Florida delayed the transition from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush — a delay that the 9/11 Commission later pointed to as a contributing factor to why the federal government didn’t stop the terrorist attacks the following year. Even in the midst of the recount battle in 2000, Clinton allowed Bush to receive intelligence briefings, information then-Vice President Al Gore was already privy to.
Real-time data on the pandemic
The delayed transition is blocking Biden from tapping into the government’s real-time data on the pandemic and its spread, the most urgent crisis for the incoming administration to address. On Thursday, Biden said the Trump administration has prevented his team from accessing information needed “to deal with everything from testing and guidance to the all-important issue of vaccine distribution and vaccination plan.” A central area of reported concern for the Biden team is assessing where shortages of personal protective equipment are. The team is also walled off from data about the number of available hospital beds, information needed to proceed on Biden’s plan to invest in rapid at-home testing, and the status of prospective vaccines.
The vaccination effort
Trump is also blocking access to administration officials who have been working on the response to COVID-19. Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general who serves on Biden’s coronavirus advisory board, said plans for vaccine distribution and increased testing should be made in collaboration with career officials already overseeing the issue. “There is valuable information inside the administration that is held by career officials, by political appointees and others who have been working hard on the COVID response for the last year,” Murthy told NPR. “We need to talk to those individuals. We need to work together with them.”
Insight into undercover operations
In a normal world, Biden’s transition team would already be having discussions with the Justice Department and its various agencies, such as the FBI, the DEA, and the Marshals Service. Without those talks, the incoming administration is “most concerned about being blindsided at the last minute by a major arrest or announcement,” according to NBC News. “Undercover operations, corruption cases or investigations into well-known figures are kept under wraps and could be a surprise for the Biden team.” An FBI official said there is a team ready to prepare Biden once the bureau is authorized to do so.