Blocked by the administration of President Donald Trump from receiving official national security briefings, President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday convened his own meeting of outside diplomatic, intelligence and defense experts.
“I am not being critical in stating the obvious,” Biden said at the start of the meeting. “We know that I’ve been unable to get the briefings that ordinarily would come by now.”
The administrator of the Government Services Administration, Emily Murphy, has yet to sign what is known as the ascertainment document recognizing the transition, thus Biden’s team has no access to certain funds and use of federal office space. That would also be taken as a signal by other government agencies to cooperate with the Biden transition organization.
“An ascertainment has not yet been made,” said a spokesperson for the agency, speaking on condition of not being named. “GSA and its administrator will continue to abide by, and fulfill, all requirements under the law and adhere to prior precedent established by the Clinton administration in 2000.”
Some federal officials tell VOA that even without the ascertainment by GSA, Trump – if he desired – could authorize Biden to receive classified briefings.
Trump has repeatedly claimed on Twitter that he won reelection, alleging – without substantial evidence – fraudulent balloting and vote counting, although tallies from more than enough states have put Biden over the 270-electoral-vote threshold needed for victory.
Biden, speaking to the team of advisers, noted that when he was campaigning, he had said that the next president would inherit a divided country and a world in disarray.
“I wish I had been wrong, but that’s why I badly need your advice,” Biden added. “To answer these twin challenges, we’re going to need to reinvigorate our democracy at home and champion a coalition of democracies we stand with and equip the American people to compete and succeed with a foreign policy that reflects their values and their needs.”
Biden, saying “there’s no presidential responsibility more important than protecting the American people,” lamented “a lot of damage” during the last three years to American institutions.
Biden vowed in his remarks to the outside team to create a foreign policy that reflects the values and needs of the American people and “put the United States back at the head of the table.”
Biden, inside a downtown Wilmington, Delaware, historic theatre, spoke below video images displayed on a giant screen of former officials, including two retired generals, an admiral and several former ambassadors, as well as Tony Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser, who is expected to have a key role in the next administration.
Also included in Tuesday’s virtual meeting were Avril Haines and Carmen Middleton, women who held high positions in the Central Intelligence Agency.
Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon, a former U.S. ambassador to Uruguay, was named as Jill Biden’s chief of staff. Longtime aide Anthony Bernal will be Jill Biden’s senior adviser.
The president-elect on Tuesday also “took part in separate congratulatory calls today with leaders in Chile, India, Israel and South Africa,” according to the transition team.
Biden has spoken to at least 15 world leaders since the election.
The president-elect said he has been telling them that “America’s back. It’s no longer America alone.”
Some Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and John Cornyn of Texas, have acknowledged that handing Biden the “President’s Daily Brief” on intelligence assessments of national security threats to the U.S. around the globe is essential for him in assuming power.
Lawsuits by the Trump campaign and Republican organizations claiming voting and vote-counting irregularities can proceed in tandem, those members of Congress have said.
Election officials throughout the country have told VOA and other U.S. news organizations that they have found no evidence of widespread vote fraud, only relatively small incidences of possible voting irregularities that would not be enough to overturn the outcome of the election, even if Trump were to win his lawsuits.
Earlier in the day Biden named seven key aides to his White House staff along with another two appointed to assist his wife, Jill Biden. Last week, the president-elect named longtime aide Ron Klain as his White House chief of staff.
The new appointments include Steve Ricchetti, a career political strategist, as counselor to the president; Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana as senior adviser to Biden and director of the White House office of public engagement; and Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s election campaign manager, as deputy chief of staff.
Mike Donilon, a veteran Biden aide, was named senior adviser; Dana Remus, a lawyer for the Biden campaign, as counsel to the president; Julie Rodriguez, a former aide to Harris, as director of the White House office of intergovernmental affairs; and Annie Tomasini, another longtime Biden aide, as director of Oval Office operations, a gatekeeper on the president’s daily activities.
Ken Bredemeier contributed to this report.