President-elect Joe Biden rebuked President Trump on Wednesday for standing in the way of his formal transition, especially because the sitting president’s refusal to concede will put the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine during the Biden administration “behind by weeks or months.”
During a roundtable with workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday, Biden particularly expressed his dismay over General Services Administration chief Emily Murphy’s refusal to sign an “ascertainment,” which would allow Biden’s transition team to contact federal agencies or access the millions of dollars set aside for it, despite his legitimate election victory and amid surging COVID-19 cases.
Biden warned that the delay of his formal transition prevents his transition team from contacting current administration officials or begin its plans to address the COVID-19 crisis that has killed more than 249,000 Americans thus far.
“I am optimistic, but we should be further along,” Biden said, citing a law which says the GSA can begin the formal transition process by recognizing the apparent winner.
Biden said that his team has been unable to access data from the Trump administration such as the depth of the stockpiles.
“We know there’s not much at all,” Biden said. “We get to the point where we have a sense of when these vaccines comes out, how they’ll be distributed, who will be first in line, what the plan is.”
Biden concluded that without the Trump administration’s assistance in providing COVID-19 data to his team soon, the President-elect’s incoming administration will be “behind by weeks or months” on its distribution of vaccines.
“So, I just want to tell you that that’s the only slow down right now that we have,” Biden said.
Biden’s latest remarks double down on recent warnings by members of his team about how the Trump administration’s stonewalling is already impacting the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts amid surging cases nationwide.
Incoming White House chief of staff Ron 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, during an interview on “Meet the Press” Sunday.
“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 told “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “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.”
Biden transition COVID-19 advisory board member Dr. Atul Gawande told ABC News on Sunday 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 told ABC News on Sunday. “There’s a lot of information that needs to be transmitted. It can’t wait until the last minute.”
Watch Biden’s remarks below:
Pres.-elect Joe Biden warns COVID-19 vaccine distribution could "be behind by weeks or months" as his transition is stalled by the Trump administration. https://t.co/ryjKy65NP2 pic.twitter.com/zsrgUojG39
— ABC News (@ABC) November 18, 2020