State Department refuses to give Biden team messages from international leaders

Pompeo's comments about 'a smooth transition to a second Trump administration' reportedly infuriated U.S. diplomats.

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The United States Department of State is being criticized for refusing to turn over messages of congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden

The State Department has always turned over messages to the President-elect historically. In fact, most of these calls are supported by the logistical and translation experts at the department. 

In this screenshot from the RNC’s livestream of the 2020 Republican National Convention in August, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addresses the virtual convention in a pre-recorded video from Jerusalem, Israel. (Photo Courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images)

Calls from foreign allies, including leaders in Canada and Germany, have been going directly through Biden staff members, who are creating readouts of the calls to be in accordance with presidential record-keeping. 

The head of the State Department, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was asked if his department is planning to engage with the Biden transition team and if delaying in doing so would pose a threat to national security. 

Pompeo, in response, said that “there will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”

His comments infuriated U.S. diplomats, who have to explain the lag in the hand-off to bewildered world leaders. 

Pompeo said that he too is hearing from foreign leaders.

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“I’m getting calls from all across the world,” he said. “These people are watching our election. They understand that we have a legal process.”

The General Services Administration has to complete a process called ascertainment, which usually happens within hours of an election being called. That process frees up funds for an incoming administration to begin the work of setting up their White House. 

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The process has not occurred yet.

Republican Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford said that if the Trump administration does not allow President-elect Biden to access the presidential daily intelligence briefings by the end of the week, he, as a member of the Senate Oversight Committee, will take actions to address the issue. 

“This needs to occur,” said Langford, “so that regardless of the outcome of the election, whichever way that it goes, people can be ready for that actual task.”

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He noted that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris already has the appropriate security clearances to get the briefings because she is on the Senate Intelligence Committee. 

“As has been done in every other transition, the president should order that Biden and his team receive the PDB, as has been done in the past, even during the contested election of 2000,” Democratic Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, who also sits on the Intelligence Committee, told CNN Wednesday. “It’s simply irresponsible to withhold this in these uncertain times.”

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