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How Trump’s refusal to concede in US elections has thrown presidential transition into disarray

Due to Trump’s refusal to accept the election results, the processes that would have typically started during the presidential transition period have effectively been stalled.

Written by Neha Banka | Kolkata | Updated: November 14, 2020 7:55:51 pm
donald trump us elections concede, joe biden us election, us president elect joe biden, us elections trump, donald trump election defeat, kamala harris joe biden,What was remarkable about the US election was the mobilisation of left-progressive voters by Bernie Sanders, which helped Biden capture the presidency through victories in key states like Michigan and Georgia.

It wasn’t much of a secret that Donald Trump would attempt to throw in a few curveballs if he did not win a second term as US President. And that is precisely what has been happening since November 3. Due to Trump’s refusal to accept the election results, the processes that would have typically started during the presidential transition period have effectively been stalled.

Taking the lead in this process is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who at a State Department briefing said “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.” Pompeo’s remarks were criticised by diplomats and the Democratic party, with many observers believing that Pompeo was seeking to pander to and reinforce Trump’s fantasies of a second term.

Observers’ concerns following Pompeo’s remarks aren’t misplaced. In ordinary circumstances, his team would have been expected to engage with the Biden-Harris team to ensure a smooth transition. But CBS News reported that congratulatory phone calls that President-elect Joe Biden is receiving from world leaders have been taking place on unsecured phone lines, due to a lack of cooperation from the US State Department. Typically, the President-elect would start receiving intelligence briefings along with the sitting president. In this case, it has not been happening either.

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“Not only are they not getting access to classified information or already appropriated funds, they aren’t getting their review teams into the agencies, and getting ahold of the real budget picture in the agencies and the real personnel picture,” CNN reported Denis McDonough, who was President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, saying.

President-elect Joe Biden on stage with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. [AP]

News reports suggest this can cause lapses in national security and result in circumstances where the Biden-Harris administration would have to scramble to catch up in January 2021 when they enter the White House to make up for the lost time.

Also Read | What to expect from the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris administration

This period of transition is important because it essentially allows the incoming team to get a sense of the working of the government on both the domestic and international stages. Experts believe the coronavirus outbreak has upped the stakes this time because one of the first tasks domestically for the Biden-Harris team would involve handling the coronavirus outbreak. The US is among the nations that globally have the highest rates of infections and related deaths.

According to CNN, there are concerns among the Biden-Harris transition team that even current Pentagon officials, particularly Trump loyalists, may not cooperate in matters of national defense. This past week, Defense Secretary Mark Esper was fired by Trump on Monday. According to the CNN report, Biden’s team has resorted to reaching out to former Pentagon officials who worked under former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in an attempt to gather information that they would need.

President Donald Trump walks away after speaking at the White House (File AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Although the Trump team has launched legal proceedings to contest the election results, the futility of the exercise may be dawning on them now. On Friday, Biden won the state of Georgia, the first Democratic candidate to do so since 1992. This solidifies Biden’s victory, giving him a total of 306 votes in the electoral college over Trump’s 232 votes.

Fact Check: How does the US media call a presidential election?

Although Trump has still refused to concede, undercurrents indicate that many in the Trump administration and the campaign have realised that Trump is fighting a losing battle. Many Republicans had taken issue with Trump’s refusal to accept and acknowledge Biden’s election victory after November 3. The Associated Press reported this week that John McEntee, director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, has told executive branch departments to fire political appointees who are trying to find new jobs. When a new president takes office, the previous administration’s employees start looking for new employment.

This isn’t only happening inside the White House. CNN reported that the Trump campaign, that has launched several legal fights, is attempting to prevent staff from quitting. Most legal experts have said that the battles that Trump has taken to court have no legal standing. Some White House aides have indicated to CNN that they privately acknowledge Trump’s defeat. News reports have suggested that even those in Trump’s inner circle and his family, like Melania Trump and Jared Kushner have urged him to accept his loss. But Trump is steadfastly holding on, at least for now, till he exhausts all his legal options.

On Friday, at a briefing, Trump refused to impose lockdowns to curb the growing coronavirus infection numbers in the country and for the first time, also addressed the possibility of eventually leaving the White House. “Whatever happens in the future, who knows which administration it will be. I guess time will tell,” Trump said, without naming Biden. Reports suggested that Trump was looking visibly subdued during this address, perhaps due to growing pressure from Republicans to concede to Joe Biden.

The knowledge that he will have to leave the White House because of his resounding loss may be a difficult pill to swallow for a man who made his mark on reality television, making ‘You’re fired’ a catchphrase; now a judgement ironically delivered to him by American citizens, that he finds himself unable to accept.

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