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Bi­den hits Trump for lack of co­op­er­a­tion on vac­cine

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WILMINGTON, Delaware— Pres­i­dent-elect Joe Bi­den met Thurs­day with gov­er­nors from both par­ties and crit­i­cized Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s un­prece­dented at­tempt to block the peace­ful tran­si­tion of power, say­ing it was hin­der­ing the flow of in­for­ma­tion about pro­grams to de­velop a vi­tally im­por­tant coron­avirus vac­cine.

“Un­for­tu­nately, my ad­min­is­tra­tion hasn’t been able to get ev­ery­thing we need,” Bi­den said dur­ing a video­con­fer­ence with the Na­tional Gov­er­nors As­so­ci­a­tion’s lead­er­ship team, which con­sists of five Repub­li­cans and four Democrats.

His re­marks high­lighted the stakes of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­fusal to be­gin a for­mal trans­fer of power to Bi­den’s team. Be­sides be­ing a pil­lar of Amer­i­can democ­racy, it is es­pe­cially im­por­tant this year since Bi­den will be in­her­it­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for man­ag­ing the worst pub­lic health cri­sis in a cen­tury. The pres­i­dent- elect also has been de­nied ac­cess to other crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing se­cu­rity brief­ings.

Par­tic­i­pat­ing from a the­ater in Wilmington, Delaware, with Vice Pres­i­dent- elect Ka­mala Har­ris, Bi­den specif­i­cally cited Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s part­ner­ship with pri­vate phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies to de­velop a Covid-19 vac­cine.

“We haven’t been able to get into Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed, but we will take what we learned to­day and build it into our plan,” Bi­den said in re­marks af­ter the meet­ing, which in­cluded Repub­li­cans Larry Ho­gan of Mary­land, Asa Hutchin­son of Arkansas, Kay Ivey of Alabama, Char­lie Baker of Mas­sachusetts and Gary Her­bert of Utah.

Af­ter­ward, Bi­den spoke about distri­bu­tion of a vac­cine once one is ready, say­ing, “There has to be a pri­or­i­ti­za­tion.”

“That’s why I’d like to know ex­actly what this ad­min­is­tra­tion has in mind in terms of their Op­er­a­tion Warp Speed and how they plan it,” he said of the Trump White House. “And that’s what we talked about with the gov­er­nors to­day. They all men­tioned the need to fo­cus on the com­mu­ni­ties that have been left be­hind.”

Even as he warned of the grav­ity of the sit­u­a­tion, how­ever, Bi­den re­it­er­ated his pre­vi­ous pledges not to in­sti­tute a na­tion­wide shut­down to curb the virus’s spread, and re­peated that more states in­sti­tut­ing mask-wear­ing man­dates could save tens of thou­sands of lives.

An hour- long brief­ing by the White House coron­avirus task force that also took place Thurs­day made no men­tion of the in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion or Trump’s re­fusal to co­or­di­nate with Bi­den on plans to dis­trib­ute up­com­ing vac­cines.

But it did re­in­force Bi­den’s tough- love mes­sage to the Amer­i­can peo­ple, in­clud­ing warn­ings that a “dark win­ter” is com­ing as virus cases spike across the coun­try. Task force co­or­di­na­tor Dr. Deb­o­rah Birx sounded the alarm over the rate of new in­fec­tions— sharper than the surge this sum­mer, or even the ini­tial out­break last spring.

While there have been im­prove­ments in treat­ment pro­to­cols and new ther­a­peu­tics, tens of thou­sands of peo­ple— or more— will die be­fore vac­cines are widely avail­able, she said.

Af­ter the vir­tual meet­ing with the gov­er­nors, Bi­den took ques­tions from re­porters and re­vealed he’d de­cided on a trea­sury sec­re­tary nom­i­na­tion for his new ad­min­is­tra­tion. He re­fused to pro­vide more de­tails, ex­cept to say it was a choice that would sat­isfy Democrats from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum— pre­sum­ably in­clud­ing out­spo­ken pro­gres­sives who wor­ried Bi­den might go for a safer, more mod­er­ate se­lec­tion.

Among the Democrats on the video­con­fer­ence was Gretchen Whit­mer of Michi­gan, which is among the states Trump has tar­geted for un­founded claims of voter fraud. Bi­den none­the­less vowed to rise above pol­i­tics in a uni­fied front against the virus.

“There’s a real de­sire for real part­ner­ship be­tween the states and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment,” Bi­den said.

He said he’d forgo a na­tional shut­down “be­cause ev­ery re­gion, ev­ery area, ev­ery com­mu­nity can be dif­fer­ent.”

In­stead, Bi­den noted that 10 gov­er­nors have im­posed statewide mask man­dates to com­bat the virus, call­ing wear­ing face cov­er­ings a “pa­tri­otic duty.” He’s pre­vi­ously vowed to ask all gov­er­nors to im­pose such rules and go around hold­outs to lo­cal and county of­fi­cials to cover as much of the US as pos­si­ble.

Ivey told video­con­fer­ence par­tic­i­pants that both par­ties in Congress need to come to­gether to pro­vide more coron­avirus re­sponse fund­ing, ac­cord­ing to a read­out pro­vided by her of­fice. It made no men­tion of the Alabama gov­er­nor rec­og­niz­ing Bi­den as pres­i­dent- elect.

Hutchi­son of Arkansas, by con­trast, said over the week­end that Bi­den would be the next pres­i­dent. He’s also called on the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to give Bi­den ac­cess to the in­tel­li­gence brief­ings he needs to be fully pre­pared to lead the coun­try on Jan­uary 20, In­au­gu­ra­tion Day.

Ho­gan told The As­so­ci­ated Press re­cently that Trump’s wild and un­sup­ported claims of wide­spread voter fraud were “dan­ger­ous” and “em­bar­rass­ing.”

“As I said on the day that the pres­i­dent- elect was de­clared the win­ner, his elec­tion has pro­vided a man­date for co­op­er­a­tion,” the Mary­land gov­er­nor said af­ter the vir­tual meet­ing with Bi­den. “We look for­ward to work­ing closely with the Bi­den- Har­ris ad­min­is­tra­tion as we con­tinue to face this un­prece­dented global pan­demic.”

Still, some in his party con­sid­er­ing the elec­tion set­tled didn’t stop Trump on Thurs­day from com­ing out with a new round of false claims of voter fraud in key states.

With Trump dug in and Repub­li­cans on Capi­tol Hill largely un­will­ing to chal­lenge him, Bi­den has been forced to turn to a di­verse col­lec­tion of out­side al­lies to ratchet up the pres­sure on the pres­i­dent to con­cede.

The CEOS of Amer­ica’s largest com­pa­nies have re­leased a statement rec­og­niz­ing Bi­den and Har­ris as the clear win­ners. The heads of the Amer­i­can Hospi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion, the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion and the Amer­i­can Nurses As­so­ci­a­tion is­sued a joint statement on Tues­day urg­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to share “all crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion re­lated to Covid-19” with Bi­den. Not do­ing so, they warned, would jeop­ar­dize Amer­i­can lives.

Trump, mean­while, has been get­ting nowhere in the courts, and his scat­ter­shot ef­fort to over­turn Bi­den’s vic­tory is shift­ing to­ward ob­scure elec­tion boards that cer­tify the vote. The bat­tle is cen­tered in the states that sealed Bi­den’s win. Two Republ ican elec­tion of­fi­cials in Michi­gan’s largest county ini­tially re­fused to cer­tify re­sults de­spite no ev­i­dence of fraud.

The of­fi­cials then back­tracked and voted to cer­tify be­fore flip­ping again and say­ing they “re­main op­posed to cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.”

Bi­den said that Trump’s re­fusal to ac­cept the elec­tion re­sults has left Amer­i­cans “wit­ness­ing in­cred­i­ble ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity” and that the pres­i­dent’s ac­tions in Michi­gan were par­tic­u­larly trou­bling.

“What the pres­i­dent’s do­ing now is go­ing to be an­other in­ci­dent where he will go down in his­tory as be­ing one of the most ir­re­spon­si­ble pres­i­dents,” Bi­den said.

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