President-elect Joe Biden, in his first interview since the election, has said the transition with the administration of President Donald Trump has begun in earnest, although he has not yet been contacted by his opponent.
Biden, speaking to NBC News, said despite the “slow start”, the effort from the Trump administration has so far been “sincere”, even as the president has continued to refuse to concede defeat.
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“It has not been begrudging so far, and I don’t expect it to be,” Biden said.
While Biden launched a transition team shortly after media organisations projected his victory on November 7, he had not had access to government agencies and federal transition funding. That changed on Monday when the Trump-appointed administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) officially recognised Biden as the “apparent president-elect”.
“Immediately, we’ve gotten outreach from the national security shop to just across the board,” Biden said in the Tuesday night interviewing, adding that the incoming and outgoing administrations are “already working out” his ability to receive the highly classified Presidential Daily Brief. He said they could begin as early as Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Bloomberg News reported that Dr Anthony Fauci, a leading infectious disease expert who is part of Trump’s coronavirus task force, had reached out to Biden’s transition team. Biden said he has not spoken directly with Fauci.
Before the GSA recognition, Biden’s team had increased pressure on Trump to allow cooperation from the about 40 agencies that make up his administration. They warned delays could hamper the distribution of coronavirus vaccines and weaken national security when Biden takes office on January 20.
“We’re already working out meeting with the COVID team in the White House and how to not only distribute but get from a vaccine being distributed to a person able to get vaccinated,” Biden said. “So I think we’re going to not be so far behind the curve as we thought we might be in the past.”
‘Not heard’ from Trump
Biden said his incoming chief of staff, Ron Klain, has been in contact with Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
Still, he said: “I have not heard anything from President Trump”.
Biden is currently projected to win 306 Electoral votes, far more the threshold of 270 needed for victory under the US Electoral College system. That is how many Electoral votes Trump was projected to win in 2016 when he was invited to the White House by President Barack Obama just two days after his upset victory.
Even after the GSA’s recognition of Biden, Trump has continued to allege widespread fraud and his surrogates have pushed ahead with longshot legal challenges and recounts. Chances of success for a wholesale overturning of results are widely considered microscopic, if not non-existent, at this point.
Trump is not legally required to concede the election, even after the results are made official, however, his term will end on January 20.
First 100 days
During the interview, Biden, who announced a slate of former Obama officials for his national security and foreign policy cabinet nominations on Monday, said his presidency would not be a “third Obama term”, adding “we face a totally different world than we faced in the Obama-Biden administration”.
During the NBC interview, Biden also outlined his plans for his first 100 days in office, saying he would prioritise immigration reform, climate change, and COVID-19 relief.
“I will send an immigration bill to the United States Senate with a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people in America,” he said. “I will also be moving to do away with some of the, I think, very damaging executive orders that have significantly impacted on making the climate worse and making us less healthy, from methane to a whole range of things the president has done.”
The president-elect also baulked at the prospect of using the Justice Department to investigate Trump once he is in office.
“What I’m focused on is getting the American public back at a place where they have some certainty, some surety, some knowledge that they can make it,” he said.