Former White House chief of staff John Kelly has criticized President Donald Trump for not helping with the transition to power of Joe Biden, saying the delay is creating a “national security crisis.”
“The delay in transitioning is an increasing national security and health crisis. It costs the current administration nothing to start to brief Mr. Biden, Ms. Harris, the new chief-of-staff, and ALL identified cabinet members and senior staff,” Kelly said in a statement on Friday.
Trump’s former chief of staff added that the downside to the president stonewalling the transition process “could be catastrophic to our people.”
Republican Trump has refused to concede defeat to his Democratic challenger Biden, claiming the election has been stolen from him through widespread voter fraud.
His campaign is mounting multiple legal challenges in key battleground states in an effort to reverse election outcomes. Attempts in Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania have already been either dropped or denied.
“The current administration does not have to concede, but it should do the right thing just in case the Constitutional system declares they lost,” Kelly said. “It is not about the GOP or the Democrat Party. It is not about the president or about Mr. Biden. It is about America and what is best for our people.”
In a clear rebuke to his former boss, Kelly insisted that “Mr. Trump should order the transition process begin immediately. It is the right and moral thing to do.”
Kelly’s comments come as Biden advisors grow increasingly concerned about the president-elect not getting briefed on national security matters and the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You lose a lot if the transition is delayed because the new people are not allowed to get their head in the game,” the former White House official said. “The president, with all due respect, does not have to concede. But it’s about the nation.”
A number of Republican lawmakers have come on board with the idea of Biden’s transition team receiving the same classified intelligence briefings that President Trump receives.
Senior Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said on Thursday that Biden should be receiving classified intelligence briefings from the Trump administration.
“I would think — especially on classified briefings — the answer is yes,” Grassley said when asked if Biden should have access to the Presidential Daily Brief.
Others have pointed to potential risks that an intelligence gap could pose to national security during the transition period.
Senator James Lankford, a Republican of Oklahoma, argued earlier this week that the bipartisan committee investigating the 9/11 attacks found that the narrow window for the transition following the contested 2000 election may have contributed to the lack of preparedness for the attacks.
“This needs to occur so that regardless of the outcome of the election whichever way that it goes, people can be ready for that actual task,” said Lankford, a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs panel.
Biden’s transition efforts have been stymied by the General Services Administration’s refusal to sign a letter of “ascertainment” that acknowledges the Democrat as the winner.