Richmond Times-Dispatch

Republican senators push for Biden to get intelligen­ce briefings

Still, they refuse to acknowledg­e his victory in election

- BY DEB RIECHMANN AND MARY CLARE JALONICK

WASHINGTON — As President Donald Trump refuses to allow Presidente­lect Joe Biden to receive intelligen­ce briefings — even those he was getting during the campaign — an increasing number of Trump’s allies are calling for Biden to have access to the informatio­n.

“I just don’t know of any justificat­ion for withholdin­g the briefing,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a member of the Senate Intelligen­ce Committee, said Thursday.

“I see no problem with that,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the Republican Party’s longestser­ving senator.

“I think so, yes,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Trump’s closest confidants, when asked if Biden should be briefed.

The Senate Republican­s advocated for Biden to receive the classified national security informatio­n even as they refused to acknowledg­e that the Democrat has won the presidenti­al election, citing Trump’s claims of fraudulent votes.

“At this point at least, I think he should absolutely be getting intelligen­ce briefings,” Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley said of Biden. “The briefings he’s been getting as a candidate should continue. I think he should continue to get what he’s been getting and then let’s get on with the resolution­s on some of these disputes.”

The GOP pile-on supporting the intelligen­ce briefings amounted to miniscule cracks in support for Trump as he refuses to concede the race, but was also in line with Republican­s’ occasional, carefully worded answers about his actions during his presidency.

While only a handful of Republican­s have called Biden the president-elect, most were comfortabl­e Thursday challengin­g the Trump administra­tion on withholdin­g intelligen­ce informatio­n, which could constitute a national security risk when Biden assumes office.

“Both sides need to have access to the informatio­n because we don’t know who the president is going to be, so allow that part of this process to still continue just for the sake of national security,” said Sen. James Lankford, echoing Trump’s unsubstant­iated claims of voting problems.

Lankford said he would pressure Trump administra­tion bureaucrat­s to move ahead with the process of transition so Biden could be read in on classified matters. He said Wednesday that he would “get involved” if that didn’t move forward.

For now, the office of National Intelligen­ce Director John Ratcliffe, a loyal ally to Trump, says it can’t begin talking with the Biden transition team until the government starts that transition process. But the Trump

administra­tion is delaying it.

Ratcliffe’s office, which oversees more than a dozen U.S. intelligen­ce agencies, said it must follow the Presidenti­al Transition Act, which requires the General Services Administra­tion to first ascertain the winner of the election, which Trump is contesting. GSA Administra­tor Emily Murphy, who was appointed by Trump, has not yet officially designated Biden as the president-elect.

Biden has played down the significan­ce of the delay in getting access to the intelligen­ce.

“Look, access to classified informatio­n is useful. But I’m not in a position to make any decisions on those issues anyway,” he said. “As I said, one president at a time. He will be president until Jan. 20. It would be nice to have it, but it’s not critical.”

Black policy leaders will play a pivotal role in Biden’s transition, marking one of the most diverse agency review teams in history.

Of the 500-plus team members announced this week, more than half are women, and Black men and women are leading more than onequarter of the teams.

The diversity is significan­t because the teams will be responsibl­e for evaluating the operations of federal agencies that have a broad impact on Americans’ lives.

And it’s especially important because Biden will take office at a time when the United States is confrontin­g a historic pandemic, joblessnes­s and questions of police use of force — crises that have disparatel­y affected

Black Americans.

“The agency review process will help lay the foundation for meeting these challenges on Day One,” said Tony Allen, a transition advisory board member and president of historical­ly Black Delaware State University. “We are building a team to reflect America and these Black leaders are dedicated experts in their fields.”

As China flexes its muscles, Biden is offering assurances to America’s top allies in the Asia-Pacific region that he’s not going to be a soft touch.

Biden spoke with the leaders of Australia, Japan and South Korea on Wednesday night in Washington, underlinin­g in each call his commitment to strengthen their bilateral alliance, according to his team’s readout from the calls.

The threat from an assertive China was not explicitly mentioned in the readouts, but loomed over the exchanges with Japan, where there are memories of an Obama administra­tion that many saw as soft on Beijing, experts said.

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