Federal agencies quickly getting to work facilitating Biden transition
WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump reiterated Tuesday that he was not giving up his fight to overturn the election results, but across the federal government, preparations were beginning in earnest to usher in President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.
Within hours of the General Services Administration’s acknowledgement Monday evening of Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 election, career federal officials opened the doors of agencies to hundreds of transition aides ready to prepare for his Jan. 20 inauguration.
And on Tuesday, Trump signed off on allowing Biden to receive the presidential daily briefing, the highly classified information prepared by the nation’s intelligence community for the government’s most senior leaders.
An administration official said logistics on when and where Biden will first receive the briefing were being worked out.
In an interview with “NBC Nightly News,” Biden said he was also working out a meeting with the White House’s coronavirus task force and vaccine distribution effort.
“So I think we’re going to not be so far behind the curve as we thought we might be in the past,” he said. “And there’s a lot of immediate discussion, and I must say, the outreach has been sincere. There has not been begrudging so far. And I don’t expect it to be.”
By Tuesday afternoon, the Biden transition team had been in contact with all federal agencies about transition planning, according to a transition official.
But Trump, who has not formally conceded to Biden, continued to cast doubt about the vote, despite his own administration’s assessment that it was conducted without widespread fraud, misconduct or interference.
The president has maintained a low profile since his defeat. Hemade a quick appearance in the briefing room on Tuesday to deliver just over one minute of remarks on the Dow Jones Industrial Average trading at record levels and later delivered the traditional pre-Thanksgiving turkey pardon in the White House Rose Garden.
He did not hold back on Twitter regarding the election results.
“Remember, the GSA has been terrific, and [Administrator] Emily Murphy has done a great job, but the GSA does not determine who the next President of the United States will be,” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. His legal team continued to mount challenges to the votes in battleground states.
Murphy acted after Michigan certified Biden’s victory in the battleground state on Monday, and a federal judge in Pennsylvania tossed a Trump campaign lawsuit on Saturday seeking to prevent certification in
that state. Pennsylvania certified its results, and its 20 electors for Biden, on Tuesday morning, followed hours later by Nevada.
Also Tuesday, in Georgia, county election workers began a machine recount of its roughly 5million votes, just days after completing a hand tally that confirmed Biden’s victory. Trump asked for the recount after certified results showed him losing by 12,670 votes, or 0.25%. Under state law, the losing candidate can request a recount when the margin is less than 0.5%.
Georgia counties were allowed to begin the machine recount at 9 a.m. Tuesday and they have until 11:59 p.m. Dec. 2 to wrap it up.
In recent days, senior Trump aides, including chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, encouraged Trump to allow the transition to begin, telling the president he didn’t need to concede but could no longer justify withholding support to the Biden transition.
Late Monday, Meadows sent a memo to White House staffers saying their work was not finished and that the administration would “comply with all actions needed to ensure the smooth transfer of power,” according to a person who received it. At the same time, he warned staffers who are not specifically authorized to interact with the Biden team against contact with the incoming administration.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters Tuesday that within hours of GSA’s ascertainment of Biden’s victory, his agency’s top career official was in contact with the Biden team on coordinating briefings, including on the Trump administration’s planning to distribute vaccines for COVID-19.
“We will ensure coordinated briefings with them to ensure they’re getting whatever information that they feel they need,” Azar said.
Tom Muir, who is managing the Pentagon’s transition work, said the first meeting was held virtually on Tuesday morning and that he expected daily meetings to come— some virtually and some in person. He added that normal accommodations for the Biden team have been made, including briefing materials, videoconferencing and Pentagon office space.
A day after Trump said his administration should begin working with Biden’s team, Republican allies filed two more lawsuits attempting to stop the certification in two battleground states. One in Minnesota was swiftly rejected by a state court Tuesday before the state certified its results for Biden. Shortly after, another was filed in Wisconsin, which doesn’t certify until Dec. 1.