Under normal circumstances, President-Elect Joe Biden would have access to daily intelligence reports, communications with international allies, and would be privy to information relating to national security during the transition from President Donald Trump’s administration to his own.
This year, however, Trump’s loyalists within the Republican Party are brazenly obstructing Biden’s access to critical information relating to national security.
Early Thursday morning, CNN host John Berman blasted the president along with his Republican enablers for putting the country at risk by playing politics with the safety of the American people.
“They’re calling the State Department, they’re not giving the president-elect the messages,” said Berman. “In addition, they’re blocking the president-elect from receiving these critically important daily intelligence briefings, all while the outgoing president has engaged in what’s described as a mass beheading at the Pentagon, deinstalling the top-level brass and installing largely political loyalists.”
Berman’s guest, Senator Angus King (I-ME), who serves on the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees, explained why the games Republicans are playing are so dangerous.
“Let’s stary with what’s going on with the daily intelligence briefings. You were on the intelligence committee. The president-elect is not being given access to them. What’s at stake here?” Berman asked King.
“Well, what’s at stake is the security of the United States. If you look back through history, for example, Bay of Pigs, Blackhawk down, September 11th. What do those have in common? They all occurred in the first year of a new administration In fact, the September 11th commission expressly found that the slow transition between, going into, between Clinton and Bush contributed to the problems that led up to September 11th. So this is really trifling with national security, for no real reason, King said.
“There’s no – you know, you can walk and chew gum at the same time. If the president wants to condition test these ballots in various states, he can do so. But at the same time, you can do the transition, you can allow the daily briefings so that the president-elect will have the information necessary,” King explained. “This is a moment of vulnerability.”
The presidential transition period is “a moment of vulnerability when our adversaries look to take advantage. And this is being done for, as I say, no reason except for apparently it’s sort of the pique of the president and it’s dangerous. It’s just downright dangerous for national security,” said King.
The President’s refusal to allow a smooth transition to a Biden administration doesn’t just hurt our democracy – it also makes our nation more vulnerable to national security threats. For the safety of Americans and our forces abroad, he must reverse this dangerous decision. pic.twitter.com/NhIeOzVcEc
— Senator Angus King (@SenAngusKing) November 12, 2020
But a few Republican lawmakers have publicly commented that they would prefer that Biden be given the materials he needs to ensure he is able to discharge his duties as commander in chief as soon as he is inaugurated.
Senators James Lankford (R-OK) said Wednesday night that “there is no loss from him [Biden] getting the briefings and to be able to do that,” adding that if things have not changed by Friday, he will intervene.
“This needs to occur so that regardless of the outcome of the election, whichever way that it goes, people can be ready for that actual task,” Lankford said. “There’s nothing wrong with Vice President Biden getting the briefings to be able to prepare himself and so that he can be ready. The president’s already getting those.”
And on Thursday, Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and John Thune (R-ND) also broke ranks with the GOP and defended Biden’s right as president-elect to receive intelligence briefings.
“I would think, especially on classified briefings, the answer is yes,” Grassley, the president pro tempore of the Senate, said when asked if Biden should be given access to intelligence reports.
Thune, the Senate Majority Whip, offered similar sentiments when pressed by CNN.
“Well, I think that it probably makes sense to prepare for all contingencies,” said Thune. “And as these election challenges play out in court, I don’t have a problem with, and I think it’s important from a national security standpoint, continuity. And you’ve seen other members suggesting that. I think that makes sense.”
Berman asked King if Lankford’s pledge is “enough.”
King chuckled during his reply.
“Well, listen. It’s a start. James Langford is one of the most thoughtful people in the Senate and for him to speak out like that, he’s from Oklahoma, very red state, I think is significant. But he ought to be joined by all of his colleagues, by people that are involved in national security,” stressed King.
At stake is the “national interest,” King said:
But you’ve got to remember, John, this is a president who has expressed very little interest in the daily – the president’s daily brief, in terms of intelligence throughout his term. So maybe he just doesn’t think it’s a big deal, because he hasn’t paid much attention to it himself. But again, if there were some policy reason, if there were some basis for this other than just, you know, we’re just going to stiff arm this guy, who apparently beat us, you know, you can understand it. But there’s no argument. John, all of this week, all of the discussion, all the tweets and everything else, nothing has ever mentioned the national interest. There’s been no discussion from this president about what’s in the country’s interests. And that’s what’s so disappointing about this, as well as being dangerous.
Berman then asked King to deliver a message to the “incredibly silent” Senate Republicans.
“Well, I’d like to tell them what I have been telling them privately, which is that his is a ‘moment of danger’ for the country, and do they really want at this dangerous time for their legacy to be silence,” King said.
King added that Republicans clinging to Trump’s baseless claims about voter fraud are wasting their time because Biden’s leads in key swing states are insurmountable.
“Everybody knows that this election is over. This discussion of the various ballots and fraud – there’s been no allegation where it’s risen to the level of even coming close to overturning one of the elections. If Pennsylvania stays, and Biden’s lead is now over 50,000 votes, the election is over. It doesn’t matter what happens in Georgia or Arizona or Nevada. So, it’s not going to change,” said King.
“So my colleagues, by being silent, are just – they’re not serving the country. And I hate to say that, because I’m very close to a lot of these folks, and, you know, I understand the politics, I understand they’re worried about the Senate seats in Georgia and they’re worried about President Trump coming after them in a primary or something, but at some point, it seems to me, the country has to come first,” King continued.
“And right now, it’s clearly that every day that this goes on is putting the country in more danger,” King said. “And to stand back and to allow the decapitation of the Defense Department in the middle of a transition, it’s just, you know, it’s pretty shocking, as you can tell. I’m not usually speechless, but this is – this is putting the country at risk.”
Watch the full segment below, courtesy of Crooks and Liars:
Sixty-nine days until the election.
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Brandon is a political writer for the Hill Reporter specializing in current events, breaking news, and scientific discovery. Brandon holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University. He lives in New York City.