WASHINGTON – President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s transition teams began traveling to Washington on Tuesday, released for the first time to interact with their government counterparts after President Trump’s administration ended its blockade two weeks against an order. transfer of power.
Mr Trump on Tuesday authorized intelligence agencies to begin briefing Mr Biden on classified information released in the president’s Daily Brief. Officials said the briefing would be scheduled soon, but did not provide details. Mr Biden said he planned to be briefed “regularly”.
Transition officials said the teams have reached out to each federal agency to start organizing meetings. About 20 of these meetings took place on Tuesday, including at the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Education. Officials said the Trump administration’s reception was responsive and helpful.
Mr. Trump gave in on Monday in his refusal to allow a formal transition to begin, while still refusing to concede defeat and swearing on Twitter Tuesday morning that “our big lawsuit” will be filed soon and declaring “ELECTION RIGGED!” Within hours, Mr. Biden’s team moved on to quickly take advantage of the 57 days left until the inauguration.
Mr Biden had warned that blocking the transition threatened national security by depriving his team of critical briefings and endangering the distribution of coronavirus vaccines if his advisers could not work alongside current health officials. In an interview with “NBC Nightly News” on Tuesday, Biden said he was pleased with the administration’s late decision to allow the transition to continue.
“I think we’re not going to be as far behind the curve as we thought we could be in the past,” Mr. Biden said. “And there is a lot of immediate discussion, and I have to say that the awareness has been genuine. There has been no reluctance so far. And I don’t expect that to be the case.
On Wall Street, the stock market surged upon learning that a robust transition was about to begin, with the Dow Jones industrial average surpassing 30,000 for the first time. Investors appeared supported by Mr Biden’s choice of Janet Yellen, former Federal Reserve chairwoman, to serve as Treasury secretary.
Mr. Trump, in a White House appearance that lasted only about a minute, sought to take credit for the market rise.
“The stock market just broke 30,000. Never been broken that figure,” Trump told reporters without answering questions. “That’s a hell of a number, 30,000. No one thought they would ever see it,” he said, adding, “I just want to congratulate all the members of the administration who have worked so hard.
The transition officially began Monday night, when Emily W. Murphy, the Administrator of the General Service Administration, sent a letter to Mr. Biden saying that as the apparent winner of the election he was entitled to premises, resources and capacities to coordinate with administrative officials.
This process is governed by law and several memoranda of understanding signed months ago by both sides, including a pledge from the White House chief of staff to ensure that Mr. Biden, if he wins the election, receive up-to-date information. on the threats the country faces.
In a memorandum sent to White House employees late Monday night, Mark Meadows, the chief of staff, reminded them to conduct all work-related communications with White House email accounts. And he said the archives should be preserved.
He also cautioned, in bold type, against unauthorized contact of White House staff – known as members of the president’s executive office – with members of Biden’s transition team.
“Unless specifically authorized,” he wrote, “EOP staff are not permitted to speak directly with a member of Biden’s transition team or with the federal transition coordinator.”
The disclaimer underscored the sensitivity that typically accompanies discussions between jurisdictions during a transition and the need for confidentiality.
With the pandemic raging, Biden’s transition officials are particularly keen to begin coordination with officials from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and members of Project Operation Warp Speed, which is playing a role in vaccine distribution. Transition officials have said they want to start receiving official government data on the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus.
Ms Murphy’s letter on Monday sparked almost immediate acknowledgment from the Department of Health and Human Services, the center of the administration’s pandemic response. Health Secretary Alex M. Azar II said Tuesday that Rear Adm Erica G. Schwartz, the deputy surgeon general, contacted Biden’s team on Monday.
The presidential transition
“We will ensure coordinated briefings with them to make sure they get all the information they feel they need,” Azar said.
In addition to the official transitional agency review teams, Biden has dozens of public health experts and former health officials reviewing the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.
Briefings on the transition will likely center on the Department of Health’s evolving plans to distribute a coronavirus vaccine, a large and complicated effort the department is coordinating with the Pentagon and C.DC. The first doses could be administered as early as mid-December if the Food and Drug Administration clears the Pfizer candidate for emergency use.
Transition officials were also keen to meet with Dr Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s senior infectious disease specialist. Mr Biden told reporters on Tuesday that his team spoke to Dr Fauci, but did not. “He’s been very, very helpful,” Biden said.
A senior Center for Disease Control and Prevention official said on Tuesday afternoon that Biden’s team had yet to communicate with key agency staff, but that a team of career scientists had prepared a large body of public health information material, including the agency’s role in vaccine distribution.
At the Food and Drug Administration, where regulators are evaluating Pfizer’s vaccine, staff members have been asked to route all contacts through James Sigg, the agency’s chief operating officer. Two top advisers to Dr Stephen M. Hahn, the commissioner of the FDA, have spent months compiling what is known as the Covid-19 Pandemic Preparedness and Recovery Plan, a review of the work of the agency this year which they plan to complete in January.
Members of Biden’s transition team began contacting Pentagon officials on Monday evening. Thomas M. Muir, director of the Defense Department’s Transition Task Force, said the Biden-Harris team “contacted me personally” and that Pentagon officials and Biden’s team contacted each other. met on Tuesday morning.
“We look forward to continuing the process with the Biden-Harris transition team,” Muir said on a call with reporters. Mr Biden’s transition team will get dedicated office space in the Pentagon.
Mike Pompeo’s secretary told Fox News on Tuesday that the State Department “will do whatever is required by law.”
At the Treasury Department, senior officials told staff in some offices that they were starting to compile transition briefing books and that they planned to meet with Biden’s transition team soon, one person said. close to the file. A spokeswoman for the Treasury said the department’s transition team has started meeting with Mr Biden’s team.
Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Chase Jennings said the agency held its first meeting with Mr Biden’s team on Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the education department said meetings with Biden’s transition team began on Tuesday.
The start of the formal transition also paves the way for government-run background checks of cabinet candidates for Mr Biden and other senior officials who require high-level security clearances. These checks, which are carried out by the FBI and other agencies, had also been suspended until Ms Murphy’s decision. Bureau officials said they would investigate potential candidates as the bureau receives written requests from Mr Biden’s team.
Other smaller changes will also take place. Transition members will begin using government email accounts – ending in ptt.gov, for “the presidential transition team” – and Mr. Biden’s official transition website, buildbackbetter.com, has already been moved to a government server and renamed to buildbackbetter.gov.
Reporting was provided by Helene Cooper, Alan Rappeport, Katie Benner, Thomas Kaplan, Carol Rosenberg, Lara Jakes, Eric Schmitt, Erica Green, Noah Weiland, Jennifer Steinhauer, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Julian Barnes.