President-Elect Biden Pressures Trump Administration To Authorize Transition
NOEL KING, HOST:
President-elect Joe Biden is leaning on the Trump administration to authorize a transition of power. Here's Biden on a video call with front-line workers.
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JOE BIDEN: One of the problems that we're having now is the failure of the administration to recognize - the law says that the General Services Administration has a person who recognizes who the winner is, and then they have to have access to all the data and information that the government possesses to be prepared.
KING: OK. So you heard him mention the General Services Administration. That's an independent government agency. The head of the GSA signs paperwork which enables a transition. Right now, that person is Emily Murphy, a Trump appointee, and she hasn't signed the paperwork. David Barram has been in this position. He's the former administrator of the General Services Administration, and he served during a different delayed transition from President Clinton to President George W. Bush. Good morning, sir.
DAVID BARRAM: Good morning.
KING: I understand that you talked to Emily Murphy before this year's election. What did you talk about? What did you tell her, and what advice might you have for her now?
BARRAM: Somewhere around the election, maybe even Election Day, we had a Zoom call because she knew I had been through something that she was, I think, imagining what might happen to her. It's tough, and I feel great sympathy for her. My conversation with her was that as tough as this is going to be, you know, just as my mother always told me, do the right thing and live with the consequences. When I talked to her, I could see in her eyes that she really wanted to do that. And she said that. She really wanted to do the right thing. And I think she still does. But I think it's - there's a lot of pressures that she has, and I feel very sympathetic with her.
KING: Can you explain the process? It sounds like it's as simple as signing some paperwork and saying, OK, the transition is underway. Is it more than that?
BARRAM: I don't think so. The thing that's causing the big problem now and that President-elect Biden talked about was the inability for the transition team to meet with the agencies. Every agency by law has been working for a long time - let me guess, nine months - putting together plans for the new people to get to see what's going on in the agencies and be up and running on January 20. The administration is not allowing access to those agencies, and that's not good for us at all.
KING: Which agencies are we talking about? What is so crucial here?
BARRAM: Well, every agency matters. Right now, Joe Biden talked about the HHS and its unwillingness to share with Biden and his team what's going on, what they're doing in the coronavirus.
KING: Health and Human Services, yeah.
BARRAM: And it's a big, big deal to the country, of course. That's one thing. And then all kinds of national security issues are also important for the Biden team to absorb and work on. Now, we're fortunate that Joe Biden's an experienced guy, but they still need every ounce of help that the outgoing administration can provide. And it's just unconscionable that they're not doing that.
KING: What are the implications of delaying this during the pandemic? You mentioned that the Biden administration won't have access to Health and Human Services. In your mind, as you game that out, what does that mean for President-elect Joe Biden and his team on day one?
BARRAM: Every day matters on that subject, it seems to me. I worry about things like our foreign activities. You know, what are we doing with the military overseas? We have some serious diplomatic issues to deal with. I just want these people coming in to be ready to go on day one. And anything that calls that into question or makes that difficult is just wrong.
KING: David Barram, former administrator of the General Services Administration, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.
BARRAM: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.