The Biden transition team on Friday flatly denied the Pentagon’s claim that transition meetings had stopped for a mutually agreed-upon “holiday pause.”
In fact, the transition’s executive director said, the Pentagon’s announcement of a holiday meeting break was evidence of “isolated resistance” from a handful of political appointees in the Trump administration, including at the Department of Defense.
“There have been pockets of recalcitrants and DOD is one of them,” transition director Yohannes Abraham said at a press briefing Friday, distinguishing between political officials and career federal employees, who he said had cooperated with the transition.
Axios first reported Friday that Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller had ordered “a Pentagon-wide halt to cooperation with the transition of President-elect Biden,” in the website’s words. Miller was installed in that role last month after the President fired the previous secretary, Mark Esper, in a tweet.
In a statement to TPM and others after that report, Miller said “After the mutually-agreed upon holiday pause, which begins tomorrow, we will continue with the transition and rescheduled meetings from today.”
But Abraham, at the press briefing soon after, flatly denied that there was any agreement about a break.
“Let me be clear: There was no mutually agreed-upon holiday break,” he said. “In fact, we think it’s important that briefings and other engagements continue during this period as there’s no time to spare, and that’s particularly true in the aftermath of the ascertainment delay.”
Later, Abraham said Biden’s agency review team at the Pentagon was “informed yesterday that meetings were being pulled down, and they immediately and appropriately escalated it.”
In his earlier statement, Miller said that the Pentagon was “working to reschedule approximately 20 interviews with 40 officials until after January 1.” But Abraham said the transition team expected meetings to resume immediately.
TPM has reached out to the Pentagon again to ask for an explanation for the discrepancy.
Asked by PBS NewsHour’s Yamiche Alcindor if Miller had been dishonest, transition spokesperson Jen Psaki didn’t answer directly.
“I think you can make your own judgments, Yamiche, about the information we’ve provided,” Psaki said. “It’s not in our interest to provide inaccurate information about the status of our engagements.”