Trump’s Republican wall cracks over Biden intelligence briefings
More GOP senators concede that Biden should get transition assistance to 'hit the ground running'
Washington — Congressional Republicans are slowly and incrementally moving past refusal to acknowledge the outcome of the presidential election, with some backing the notion of taking initial steps in the transition process.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas was among the GOP legislators saying that President-elect Joe Biden should get presidential-level classified briefings, if not the Presidential Daily Brief itself.
“Whether he actually gets the product itself, I think the information needs to be communicated in some way,” Cornyn told reporters on Thursday. “I think he should get the information.”
He and the others, however, stopped short of recognising Biden as the winner of the election.
President Donald Trump has steadfastly rejected the outcome, making unsubstantiated accusations of vote fraud in key states that he claims will overturn results and keep him in the White House. With Trump still holding sway over GOP voters, Republicans in Congress have largely followed the president’s lead. Only four Republican senators have congratulated Biden on winning.
Biden said on Tuesday that he had not been given access to classified information or to non-public non-classified information. He also said he was not receiving the Presidential Daily Brief. However, he downplayed the affect.
“Obviously the PDB would be useful but it’s not necessary,” he said. “I’m not the sitting president now.”
Trump began getting access to the brief, a compilation of threat information and intelligence reports, about a week after the 2016 election. His opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, had already conceded the morning after the election.
Cornyn is a member of the Intelligence Committee and was just re-elected himself. “It’s part of the transition,” he said of the briefings. “If, in fact, he does win in the end, I think they need to be able to hit the ground running.”
Other Senate Republicans had similar comments, including Chuck Grassley of Iowa and James Lankford of Oklahoma.
Lankford said in a radio interview in his home state on Wednesday that as of now it “looks like” Biden is winning and said he’d step in by Friday to try to ensure he gets full intelligence briefings.
He told reporters on Thursday he’s still not conceding that Biden has won, noting states had not yet certified results and some are doing recounts. He said the process for challenging the results should be allowed to play out.
“Both sides need to have access to the information because we don’t know who the president is going to be,” Lankford said.
Republican Senator Mike Rounds said they have to work out transition issues soon because Biden has “a pretty good chance” of becoming president once vote counts are finished and certified.
Biden also has not had access to funding, office space and other resources normally turned over the president-elect during the transition. The Trump-appointed administrator of the general services administration, has not yet declared Biden as the apparent winner, a step necessary to unlock funding and access.
Susan Collins of Maine, one of the four Republican senators to congratulate Biden, along with Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and Lisa Murkowski, said Biden should get transition assistance immediately.
“President-elect Biden should be receiving intelligence briefings right now,” she said. “In addition like any apparent winner, he should have access to office space, federal employees, materials, supplies whatever but the standard assistance that the apparent winner receives.” She said that would not stop Trump from pursuing a legal challenge but that “should not delay the transition”.
Trump’s allies, including homeland security and government affairs chair Ron Johnson, are also on the prowl for any evidence that could help Trump’s case.
“My committee has jurisdiction over USPS and the federal workforce. I’m asking anyone who knows of irregularities related to mail-in or absentee ballots to contact our confidential whistle-blower hotline,” he tweeted on Wednesday.
Judiciary chair Lindsey Graham, another Trump loyalist, has also been pursuing allegation of fraud, claiming on Fox News on Thursday morning that signatures had not been properly verified on mail-in ballots in Nevada and perhaps other states.
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