WILMINGTON, DELAWARE (AP) – United States (US) President-elect Joe Biden warned of dire consequences if President Donald Trump and his administration continue to refuse to coordinate with his transition team on the coronavirus pandemic and block briefings on national security, policy issues and vaccine plans.
The remarks marked Biden’s toughest to date on Trump’s failure to acknowledge his election loss and cooperate with the incoming administration for a peaceful transfer of power.
“More people may die if we don’t coordinate,” Biden told reporters during a news conference on Monday in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden and his aides – and a small but growing group of Republicans – have emphasised the importance of being briefed on White House efforts to control the pandemic and distribute prospective vaccines. The Trump administration is working on its own distribution plan, while Biden’s chief of staff indicated his transition team will proceed with their own planning separately because of the obstruction.
Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, said it’s “absolutely crucial that the apparent president-elect and his team have full access to the planning that has gone on” for vaccine distribution.
“It is no easy matter” to distribute a vaccine, Collins said, so “it’s absolutely imperative for public health, that all of the planning that’s gone on for which the current administration deserves credit, be shared with the new administration.”
Collins’ remarks were echoed on Monday by Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Last week, a larger group of Republicans in Congress called on the Trump administration to allow Biden to begin receiving national security briefings.
The outgoing president has refused so far to bend to pressure from Democrats or Republicans as he continues to dispute his loss to Biden, who has surpassed the 270 electoral vote threshold to become president and is leading Trump by more than 5.5 million votes nationally.
Cooperation between the outgoing and incoming administrations, traditionally a key component to the peaceful transfer of power in the US, takes on heightened significance this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, which is escalating dramatically heading into the holiday season.
Biden called the vaccine distribution a “huge, huge undertaking,” and said that if his team has to wait until he takes office to dig into the government’s distribution plan, they’ll be “behind, over a month, month and a half.”
Before taking questions, Biden outlined his plans to alleviate inequality and boost the US economy but said that any structural reforms depended first on reining in the pandemic and delivering more immediate relief.