Biden Admonishes Trump Administration Over ‘Obstruction’
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on Monday that his transition team had faced “obstruction” from the Defense Department, raising new concerns about the Trump administration’s cooperation with transition officials with just over three weeks until Inauguration Day.
“Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas,” Mr. Biden said in a brief speech in Wilmington, Del. “It’s nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility.”
Mr. Biden spoke after he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris participated in a briefing with members of the transition’s agency review teams for the Defense Department, the State Department and other agencies dealing with national security and foreign policy.
In his remarks, the president-elect complained that his team had “encountered roadblocks” from political leaders at the Defense Department as well as at the Office of Management and Budget. Mr. Biden emphasized the importance of a smooth transition, saying, “Right now, as our nation is in a period of transition, we need to make sure that nothing is lost in the handoff between administrations.”
“My team needs a clear picture of our force posture around the world and our operations to deter our enemies,” he continued. “We need full visibility into the budget planning underway at the Defense Department and other agencies in order to avoid any window of confusion or catch-up that our adversaries may try to exploit.”
In a statement on Monday, the acting defense secretary, Christopher C. Miller, defended the department’s level of cooperation with the Biden team.
“Our D.O.D. political and career officials have been working with the utmost professionalism to support transition activities in a compressed time schedule, and they will continue to do so in a transparent and collegial manner that upholds the finest traditions of the department,” he said. “The American people expect nothing less, and that is what I remain committed to.”
The Biden transition was hamstrung at the outset by the Trump administration’s delay in formally designating Mr. Biden as the apparent winner of the election. More recently, the president-elect and his team have complained about their dealings with the Pentagon in particular.
Before Christmas, Yohannes Abraham, the executive director of the Biden transition, said that the president-elect’s team had encountered “isolated resistance in some corners, including from political appointees within the Department of Defense.” He expressed concern about what he described as “an abrupt halt in the already limited cooperation there.”
Mr. Miller had cited a “mutually agreed-upon holiday pause,” but Mr. Abraham said that no such agreement had been made.
And last week, during an event at which Mr. Biden criticized President Trump for playing down the Russian hacking of the federal government and private companies, Mr. Biden said, “The Defense Department won’t even brief us on many things.” The department responded by calling that claim “patently false.”
After Mr. Trump’s postelection firing of Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and a purge of the department’s senior leadership, the Pentagon is under the political control of several Trump loyalists, including Kashyap Patel, Mr. Miller’s chief of staff, who is best known for his efforts to discredit the Russia investigation when he was a Republican congressional aide.
Michael Crowley contributed reporting.
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