Biden says Trump will go down in history as 'one of the most irresponsible presidents'

US President-elect Joe Biden said he has not ruled out legal action to force the hand of the General Services Administration.
US President-elect Joe Biden said he has not ruled out legal action to force the hand of the General Services Administration.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) - United States President-elect Joe Biden on Thursday (Nov 19) assailed the Trump administration's lack of cooperation on the presidential transition, which he says hinders his team's ability to get up-to-date information on the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Biden said he couldn't "fathom" President Donald Trump's refusal to concede the election, saying he would "go down in history as being one of the most irresponsible presidents".

"Far from me to question his motives, it's just outrageous what he's doing," Mr Biden said, referring to Mr Trump's legal manoeuvres to overturn the election result.

Mr Biden called on the administration to allow his team to get details on a coronavirus vaccine and plans for distribution.

"I would like to know exactly what this administration has in mind in terms of their Operation Warp Speed and how they plan it," he said.

Mr Biden said he has not ruled out legal action to force the hand of the General Services Administration, which has so far declined to sign an ascertainment that Mr Biden likely won the election and free up money and access to government officials.

Until the paperwork is signed, Mr Biden cannot get national security briefings or real-time data on the coronavirus.

Mr Biden also spoke with governors who briefed him on the status of the pandemic in their states as the virus surges around the country.

"Governors made clear that beating Covid-19 will require all of us working together," he said.

Noting that state and local budgets have been devastated by pandemic-related slowdowns, he said: "We've got to come together. The federal government has to deliver this relief."

"My transition team hasn't been able to get access to information we need" on testing, vaccine development and distribution, he told the executive committee of the National Governors Association, in a video conference, made up of five Republican and five Democratic governors.

The meeting came as his team finds workarounds to get information and guidance while Mr Trump continues to block Mr Biden's efforts to build an administration. Transition officials have begun to contact staff of the congressional appropriations committees for information about federal agencies, people familiar with the meetings said.

Mr Trump, meanwhile, is standing by his unfounded claims that widespread fraud invalidate the election and insisting he will prevail.

A House Democratic aide said that Mr Biden's transition aides will meet staff from the House Appropriations Committee, which deals with all federal agencies and their budgets. And a Senate Democratic aide said that phone calls have already taken place between the Senate Appropriations Committee staff and Biden aides.

Business groups are joining the list of those clamouring for the presidential transition to begin.

US Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer Tom Donohue, the National Association of Manufacturers and Mr Joshua Bolten, president of Business Roundtable trade group for CEOs have all said it is time for the process to move forward.

The Trump White House is continuing to push forward with a fiscal 2022 budget proposal on the assumption that Mr Trump will have a second term, and as the appropriations committees are attempting to finish fiscal 2021 funding Bills by a Dec 11 deadline.

Mr Biden's transition team assembled agency review teams, made up of more than 500 people, who are charged with contacting federal agencies to better understand their policies and operations, but those efforts cannot begin until the GSA officially designates that the transfer of power from the Trump administration to a Biden one can begin.

Mr Biden advisers have warned of serious consequences if the Trump administration continues to deny access to the federal government, especially real-time data about the coronavirus pandemic and plans for distributing a vaccine.