President Trump's refusal to concede is putting the country at risk
At 11:24 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 7, approximately 87 hours after polls closed in Massachusetts, CNN declared former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to be the winner of the presidential election, thus making Biden the president-elect and California Senator Kamala Harris the vice president-elect. During that time, the Democratic ticket had 273 electoral votes, and soon after the state of Nevada was called, bringing their total to 279. Now that all the states have been called by numerous prominent media outlets, President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris have a total of 306 electoral votes, the same number President Trump had when he won in 2016.
Once a winner has been projected for the presidential election, that person is not officially elected until the Electoral College meets in mid-December to start the transition period. This period is headed by a transition team — required by law, the candidates must create a transition team before the election — and takes place between the election and Inauguration Day. The transition team helps to relay necessary information from the outgoing administration to the new one. In order for the transition team to begin this process — which includes raising money and obtaining office space, computers and information — a little known government official, Emily Murphy, administrator of General Services Administration, must sign a paper certifying the election. At press time, Murphy is refusing to certify that President-elect Biden has won the election.
There should be no question, and there is no question, that the presidential race has been decided. Trump’s refusal to concede is not funny. In the days preceding Biden’s win, I started learning more, as has the rest of the country, what it truly means when the current holder of the office won’t concede. There is crucial information that the president-elect and vice president-elect need to have in order to prepare themselves and their staff once they are inaugurated at one past noon on January 20th.
In the 2000 presidential election, George W. Bush was unable to begin the transition until the Supreme Court declared him the winner on Dec. 12, over a month after the election occurred. This meant that the new administration’s national security team was not prepared or briefed enough coming into the term. According to ABC, in Congress’s autopsy post-9/11, one of the major failures reported was that the national security apparatus was not set up well enough. In fact, the head of the Biden-Harris transition team, Chris Lu, specifically mentioned the post mortem report from 9/11, saying, “The 9/11 Commission found in 2000 that the delay in the Bush team getting their people into national security positions created a vulnerability. … This is not a game.” One would have hoped that the nonpartisan commission on 9/11 would have been a warning. Whether or not another 9/11 might happen, the president-elect must be able to have access to all the national security information and be able to set up a successful national security transition.
Earlier this week, the Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, confirmed that President-elect Biden will not be receiving daily intelligence briefings common to that of a president-elect. The DNI’s reasoning is that “ODNI [Office of the Director of National Intelligence] follows statutory direction provided in the Presidential Transition Act, which requires ascertainment of the candidate by the administrator of GSA.” These are not the only intelligence briefings normally given to the president-elect. In past transitions, the president-elect started receiving the presidential daily briefings. In this case, President Trump has refused to authorize Biden receiving these briefings.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is not the only agency refusing to work with Biden and his transition team. According to a Nov. 10 Yahoo News article, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was asked whether his department was starting to share infomation with the incoming president and others. He responded by saying there will “be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”
We are in the middle of a national emergency. Every day during the week of the election, the U.S. recorded successive days of the highest reported cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Right now, there is an 80% increase in reported cases from two weeks ago. While President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris announced a COVID-19 task force on Nov. 9, they cannot actually do anything until Jan. 20 at noon. On Saturday, Nov. 14, President Trump officially forbade his COVID-19 task force from working with the Biden transition team. This country cannot wait that long. The president refusing to concede is all fun and games and just another norm he has broken until the country realizes how truly irresponsible and dangerous this is. Trump has decided to keep the country less protected, and without Ms. Murphy signing the assertion of Biden winning, the country is less safe.
Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma has stated that if the Biden transition team has not started receiving intelligence by Friday, Nov. 13th, he would step in. It is anyone’s guess as to how this might play out. On Monday, Nov. 16th, President Trump’s National Security Advisor, Robert O’Brian did attest that “If the Biden-Harris ticket is determined to be the winner — and, obviously, things look that way now — we'll have a very professional transition with the National Security Council, no doubt about it." However, as of Monday evening, the General Services Administrator has not signed the official paperwork.
Whether or not the president ever says the word “concede,” he and his administration need to acknowledge Biden’s win in order to guarantee a successful transition. It is time the administration put the country first, for national security, for the COVID-19 pandemic and to continue to ensure a peaceful transfer of power in our democracy.