Biden begins transition without Trump assistance | United States

WILMINGTON, Delaware, U.S. (AP) – By refusing to cooperate with his successor, U.S. President Donald Trump has forced President-elect Joe Biden to seek unusual detours to prepare to fight the growing threat. of public health and the management of national security challenges that will inherit in just nine weeks.

Biden, who does not have access to the intelligence briefings typically received by presidents-elect, held a virtual meeting Tuesday with a number of intelligence, defense and diplomacy experts. Neither expert is part of the US government at this time, raising questions about whether Biden is receiving the most up-to-date information on the dangers the country faces.

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris had a more formal meeting Tuesday as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, though she still has relatively limited information on the threats Biden will encounter.

And as the worst pandemic in a century hits the United States with renewed strength, the current administration has prevented Biden from collaborating with its response team. Instead, Biden representatives are scheduled to meet directly this week with drug companies to determine the best way to distribute at least two promising vaccines to hundreds of millions of Americans, the biggest logistical challenge facing a new president in generations.

The plans show how Biden is adjusting to a transition marked by historic tension. Trump does not appear to be facilitating a peaceful handover anytime soon, so Biden and his team are looking for alternative options to prepare as best they can for the challenges they will face once he takes office in January.

Avoiding criticizing Trump, Biden acknowledged Tuesday at the beginning of his meeting with national security experts that he does not receive “the reports that would normally be arriving.” Among the 12 participants, who appeared via video conference, were former CIA deputy director David Cohen, retired General Stanley McChrystal, and Avril Haines, who was an aide to the national security adviser in the Obama administration.

Biden said he was prepared to find “a divided country and a world in chaos.”

“That’s why I need all of you,” he said.

Two weeks after the election, Trump continued to block Biden’s access to the government’s national security and pandemic reports, falsely claiming that Biden is not the legitimate president-elect due to non-existent voter fraud.

The Democratic candidate defeated the Republican president 10 days ago, and Trump’s legal strategy of blocking the certification of the election results is sinking at full speed.

A study published Tuesday by the Presidential Transition Center of the nonpartisan group Alliance for Public Service warned that an abbreviated transition could affect Biden’s ability to fill the more than 1,200 government positions that require Senate confirmation, including positions. high and mid-ranks who are crucial in the fight against the pandemic.

More and more Republicans have started to say publicly what Trump denies: Biden will be the next president on January 20. Even Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a staunch Trump ally, referred to Biden as the “president-elect” of the United States for the first time on Tuesday.

“He is not getting the reports that the president-elect should have, but that is not going to stop him from doing all he can to prepare and act during his transition period,” said Biden transition spokesman TJ Ducklo.

Trump’s decision to block the handover has forced Biden to address the vital question of vaccine distribution with limited information.

Biden’s team is scheduled to meet with pharmaceutical companies in the coming days to learn more about the status of their vaccine production. Although neither of the two potential vaccine candidates has yet been cleared by the US government, they would almost certainly be distributed during Biden’s tenure if and when they are officially deemed safe.

The Pentagon and the Department of Health and Human Resources, still under the leadership of the Trump administration, are working with states on a vaccine distribution plan. But Biden’s transition team and Democrats in Congress have ideas, too. Health systems and state governments, which will take a closer look at getting injections into the arms of Americans, could find themselves with conflicting expectations on both sides.

Biden warned Monday that “more people could die” if Trump continues to block their access to vaccine distribution plans and pandemic data.

“I am very concerned that we are in the middle of this fight as people die and hospitals are overwhelmed in every state in the country, and we have to make sure there is a smooth handover,” the governor of Maryland told reporters on Tuesday, Larry Hogan, a Republican who has criticized Trump. “I am confident that we will have it, and I think it is improving, but we have a new team that has not participated and does not really know much about what is happening, and that is a problem.”

Officials from the American Hospital Association, and America’s medical and nursing colleges released a joint statement Tuesday urging the Trump administration to “share all critical information related to COVID-19” with Biden.

“Meeting the challenges of the pandemic is imperative to saving American lives,” they wrote. “To save countless lives, real-time data and information on the supply of therapeutic supplies, diagnostic tests, personal protective equipment, respirators, hospital bed capacity and availability of personnel must be shared to plan the deployment of assets. from the country”.

Biden’s strategy has obvious limitations.

Some of his national security and foreign policy advisers have held security clearances in previous positions, but now do not have access to new intelligence information. Others have current security clearances, perhaps as employees of defense contractors. But right now, no member of the transition team can share classified information with Biden’s team, especially without being in a secure space.

In a recent interview with the Presidential Transition Center, former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell said it was imperative that Biden be informed of the agency’s covert actions during Trump’s tenure, “because on the day of the inauguration, these actions covert will be the new president. “

Meanwhile, there were major conflicts on the horizon.

For example, Trump is expected to withdraw a significant number of troops from Afghanistan in the coming weeks. The NATO leader criticized the decision on Tuesday, warning that the withdrawal could leave room for terrorist groups to stage attacks against the West.

Members of the Trump administration say they will not give Biden the classified intelligence report the president receives each day until the General Services Administration, led by a Trump appointee, decides to certify Biden as the official winner of the elections.

The White House has not said whether it has discussed the matter with General Services.

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Reichmann and Miller reported from Washington. Associated Press journalists Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Lisa Mascaro in Washington and Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland, contributed to this report.

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