There is no good reason for the current president to stonewall the incoming one. But that is what is happening, and it could not be worse timing.
President-elect Joe Biden is being kept on the outside looking in as President Donald Trump refuses to concede. As Trump pursues slim-chance lawsuits, his General Services Administration has declined to release federal funds or allow Biden’s team the necessary interaction with counterparts in government.
That Biden is being deprived of critical information about the COVID-19 outbreak including whatever strategy the Trump administration is using to fight it and the latest vaccine-distribution preparation, even as the country enters the most dangerous period of the pandemic — a moment when the White House’s coronavirus task force says there is "aggressive, unrelenting, expanding broad community spread across the country."
And that Biden is not receiving the official daily intelligence briefings other presidents-elect have received for the continuity of government, covering the immediate risks and threats facing the nation.
Biden put it starkly and correctly in a Monday appearance: "More people may die if we don’t coordinate."
Even if Trump believed that after his challenges he would be sworn in for a second presidential term in January, there is no reason not to make sure both men are prepared to assume office, because one of them assuredly would.
Consider that while the race in New York’s 3rd Congressional District remained undecided this year, the Committee on House Administration invited Republican newcomer George Santos to new member orientation. That courtesy meant that Santos would be prepared to represent his district, which covers parts of Nassau, Suffolk and Queens, if he ended up with a lead over incumbent Democrat Tom Suozzi. So Santos attended. On Tuesday, he conceded, and left.
Trump’s stonewalling is unusual and potentially risky. The transition delay because of the recount in Florida in 2000 meant that President George W. Bush didn’t have his full team on the job until months after taking office. This delay was cited in the 9/11 Commission Report, which said that "Since a catastrophic attack could occur with little or no notice, we should minimize as much as possible the disruption of national security policymaking during the change of administrations."
Why are we tempting fate not with a potential future threat, but a real viral one?
Trump’s hindrance comes as allies such as Newsmax chief executive Christopher Ruddy urge him toward a transition. It comes even as Trump flails toward late-term actions, with reports of him asking for options for a military strike on an Iran nuclear site and pushing to lock in drilling rights for Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And while he keeps Biden in the dark about coronavirus strategy, he also gives his ear to unqualified advisers like Dr. Scott Atlas, the radiologist who mocks masks and encouraged people to "rise up" against the COVID-19 restrictions in Michigan.
It’s a dangerous last act for the 45th president.
— The editorial board