National Post (National Edition)
Biden singles out defence branch
Wants access to intelligence on security issues
Joe Biden has accused political appointees at the U.S. defence department of “irresponsibility” for failing to brief his transition team, warning that foreign powers could take advantage of the lack of co-operation. The president-elect, who takes office on Jan. 20, expressed concern that he has not been given access to intelligence on national security issues, reportedly including the Russian hacking of the federal government and private companies.
Biden singled out President Donald Trump's appointees at the Defence Department and Office of Management and Budget for “obstruction,” and called on them to bring him up to speed “in order to avoid any window of confusion that our adversaries may try to exploit.”
“Right now, we just aren't getting all the information we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas,” he said. “It's nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility.”
Trump, who has still not conceded election defeat, has been accused of downplaying the seriousness of the Russian cyber attack, which targeted a number of nuclear facilities, saying it was a “hoax” and that the “fake news media” was falsely blaming Moscow.
The extent of the damage done by the SolarWinds hack is still being assessed by security agencies. For weeks after the Nov. 3 election, Biden was blocked by the Trump administration from receiving key intelligence briefings, an essential and normally routine part of a presidential transition.
Christopher Miller, acting defence secretary, disputed Biden's accusation. On Monday he said that defence officials had participated in 164 meetings with the transition team and provided more than 5,000 pages of documents. Miller did, however, abruptly postpone all transition meetings in mid-December saying in a statement then that the Biden team and Trump administration had mutually agreed on a pause through the holiday season. Biden's transition team said that no such agreement had been made.
Biden also offered a downbeat assessment of the toll Trump's presidency had taken on the country's national security apparatus. “The truth is, many of the agencies that are critical to our security have incurred enormous damage,” the president-elect said.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday Trump lashed out at the Republican leadership in Congress as he faced a humiliating first veto over his rejection of a defence bill. The Democrat-controlled House voted 322 to 87 on Monday evening to override Trump's veto of the US$740 billion defence bill, with 109 members of the president's own Republican Party breaking ranks and siding with the Democrats.