President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain and transition COVID-19 advisory board member Dr. Atul Gawande on Sunday called on the Trump administration to stop stonewalling the former VP’s formal transition process — a move that they warned would jeopardize the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts amid surging cases nationwide.
Trump’s ongoing refusal to officially concede has held back Biden’s transition team from contacting current administration officials or begin its plans to address the COVID-19 crisis that has killed more than 240,000 Americans thus far.
Although Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board has contacted states and the medical community prior to the President-elect’s inauguration in January, the transition team cannot access data from the Trump administration regarding COVID-19, vaccine distribution plans as well as intelligence briefings until it gets the green light from General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy — a Trump appointee who has sole authority over whether Biden’s transition can officially move forward.
Murphy has yet to sign a letter of “ascertainment,” which would allow Biden’s transition team to contact federal agencies or access the millions of dollars set aside for it.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, stressed the importance of a smooth transition process in light of surging COVID-19 cases nationwide, during an interview on CNN Sunday. After citing his experience in serving six presidents for 36 years, Fauci described how a smooth transition is like “passing a baton in a race.”
Pressed on whether it’d a good idea for public health experts to be able to work with Biden’s transition team right now in terms of what is best for the public’s health, Fauci replied “of course.”
Along with former Obama administration DHS secretary Jeh Johnson and Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton rebuking the Trump administration’s refusal to assist President-elect Joe Biden’s formal transition process, Republican Govs. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) and Mike DeWine (R-OH) on Sunday also suggested that Trump reverse course by aiding the incoming Biden administration’s smooth transition.
Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain
During an interview on “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Klain said that Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board can’t have contact with Fauci or the White House Coronavirus Task Force until it gets the GSA’s ascertainment to do so.
Klain went on to warn that the lack of a seamless transition process could ultimately impede COVID-19 distribution plans when Biden is in office.
“We now have the possibility — we need to see if it gets approved — of a vaccine starting perhaps in December, January,” Klain said, appearing to refer to Pfizer’s recent announcement that early, independently reviewed data suggests that its COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90 percent effective in preventing infections. “There are people at HHS making plans to implement that vaccine. Our experts need to talk to those people as soon as possible so nothing drops in this change of power we’re going to have on January 20th.”
Klain stressed the urgency for Biden’s transition team to get the ascertainment from Trump’s GSA chief so that it can begin its plans to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What we really want to see this week is the General Services Administration issue that ascertainment, so we can start to do the kinds of things you and I talked about a few minutes ago,” Klain said. “Meet with these vaccine officials, kind of get the intelligence briefings for the president-elect, the vice president-elect. That’s really the measure of how this is moving forward this week, I think.”
Dr. Atul Gawande, Biden transition COVID-19 advisory board member
Right before Gawande’s interview on ABC News Sunday, White House coronavirus task force member Adm. Brett Giroir said on the network that he wants to share information about the COVID-19 pandemic and that passing along that information during Biden’s transition shouldn’t be a political process.
“I want to be as transparent as possible with everybody, this is not a political issue,” Giroir said. “This is an issue of public health and saving American lives. And I think there’s nothing more important than that.”
When asked about the importance of a smooth transition between administrations in terms of responding to the pandemic, Giroir said that although the GSA controls the process, “my team, all the docs that work for us, we want to be extremely transparent.”
As soon as Gawande appeared on ABC News following Giroir’s interview, the Biden transition COVID-19 advisory board member said that a smooth transition for the President-elect’s team is “important” and that “they’re ready to go.”
“It is in the nation’s interest that the Transition Team get the threat assessments that the team knows about, understand the vaccine distribution plans, need to know where the stockpiles are, what the status is of masks and gloves,” Gawande said. “There’s a lot of information that needs to be transmitted. It can’t wait until the last minute.”
Gawande then nodded to Giroir’s remarks on ABC News on Sunday, by saying that people can hear in “Giroir’s voice the doctors and scientists want to give us that information, it is vital.”
Dr. Atul Gawande, a member of Pres.-elect Joe Biden's transition COVID-19 advisory board, underscores the importance of the transition, saying the team is "ready to go."
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) November 15, 2020