Washington (CNN) — A handful of current Trump administration officials, as well as some political appointees who left in recent months, have quietly begun communicating with members of US President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, according to people briefed on The issue.
The rapprochement is a sign that President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede his defeat in the election and the continued obstruction of the White House is beginning to frustrate even government allies. The General Services Administration (GSA) has yet to acknowledge Biden’s victory and begin the formal transition. As a result, Biden and his team remain without access to contacts with federal agencies, funds to help increase government hiring for the new administration, and access to classified intelligence reports.
A former Trump official told CNN that they view disclosure of the contact as an obligation to the country over partisan considerations. The talks are not as detailed as the formal briefings that would take place under the officially sanctioned transition, the sources said. However, they will at least be able to help incoming members of Biden’s transition to get a sense of the problems they might face when taking office.
Trump administration staff have offered to help transition to the Biden team
Another former White House official who left the administration a few months ago said he personally emailed someone he hoped would return to the Biden administration in a role similar to his and offered to help.
An official from the current administration confirmed to CNN on Wednesday that there has been an informal approach from within the Trump administration to the Biden team. “Nothing to get us in trouble,” said the official. Just an offer to help. They know what we want to say and what we can and cannot do or say.
The official said the disclosure so far has not led to any major talks.
A senior adviser to Biden acknowledged the reach of the entire government, but declined to comment. Another Biden aide said the help was appreciated and in several cases was a consequence of pre-existing relationships in specific fields, but noted that it was not as robust as a traditional power transition.
“It takes more than former officials to choose to step up and be helpful to ensure a smooth transition of power,” Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign director and transition adviser, told CNN. “The GSA must follow the law and determine the election results for Americans to have a smooth and effective handover between administrations.”
Obstacle to transition continues
It’s been more than a week since CNN and other news organizations screened Biden as the winner of the presidential election. Since then, the Trump campaign lawsuits, challenging the outcome in a handful of states, have been repeatedly dismissed by the courts.
Still, employees of at least one federal agency have been warned that don’t talk to anyone on the biden team.
Members of the Health and Human Services (HHS) staff were told Wednesday that if they are contacted by someone on President-elect Joe Biden’s team, they should not contact them and should alert the Assistant Director-General for Communications. according to an administration official.
Secretary Alex Azar also said during a briefing on Wednesday that staff will not work with the Biden transition team until the General Services Administration determines that Biden is president-elect, a decision made by a Trump appointee.
“We have made it very clear that when the GSA makes a determination, we will ensure full and cooperative career planning and transitions,” Azar said. «We follow the guide. We’re trying to get vaccines and therapies developed and get the data from clinical trials and save lives here. That’s where our focus is as we move forward with our efforts. “
Although it is unclear how widely the instructions were disseminated in the Department, the directive underscores how far the administration would go to hinder Biden’s transition on critical power transfer activities, including related matters. with the new coronavirus pandemic.
The contact of former Mattis officials for the transition with Biden
Another former government official who participated in the last presidential transition said that while the official sanction of the GSA is important, some agencies have limitations in what they can share with members of the transition, even with the approval of the GSA. In the Justice Department and intelligence agencies there is information that will have to wait until Biden names possible members of his administration and they receive the necessary clearances.
However, the GSA delay slows down the process of obtaining those authorizations. Still, many members of Biden’s transition served in the Obama administration and maintained security clearances in the meantime.
CNN previously reported that some Biden transition teams are reaching out to former Pentagon officials who worked for former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
The talks are the result of the inability to interact with current Pentagon officials at this time, the sources told CNN. And they come in an effort to develop the transition team’s understanding of what has happened in the Department over the past four years. Communicating with former officials is “the best alternative,” explained one of the former officials.
Biden will give “a nice change of pace”
Another White House official criticized the general drama that continues to engulf the West Wing, even as this administration draws to a close. This person told CNN that a Biden administration will be “a nice change of pace” compared to Trump.
A different White House official shared that sentiment, telling CNN that he had already sent his resume to potential employers.
– “I’m looking forward to getting out of here,” this person told CNN.
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