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Biden, Harris briefed by national security experts amid transition obstacles

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris Tuesday received a briefing from national security experts Tuesday as President Trump still refuses to concede and his administration bars them from viewing classified intelligence. 

The briefing, conducted in Wilmington, Del., comes as Biden and Harris look to get up to speed on the country’s top security issues even as the General Services Administration (GSA) refuses to certify them as the victors of the White House race, legally prohibiting members of their transition from reviewing classified material and meeting with administration officials as they get ready to take over the White House.

Biden’s team said in a readout of the briefing that the experts briefed him and Harris on “the diplomatic, defense, and intelligence challenges the administration will inherit on day one, focusing on both the strategic landscape as well as the readiness of our foreign policy and national security departments and agencies.” 

“The broader Transition team will continue to hear from distinguished former practitioners, especially as the lack of GSA ascertainment prevents the Transition from meeting with and hearing from current Executive Branch officials, including on pressing matters of national security and foreign policy,” it added. 

Among those who briefed the former vice president and current California senator were retired four-star Army General Lloyd Austin; former Deputy Secretary of State and Biden ally Tony Blinken; former career diplomat Nicholas Burns; former Army General Stanley McChrystal, who oversaw forces in Afghanistan; former four-star Navy Admiral William McRaven; and former United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power. 

Harris joined the briefing via Zoom so she could cast votes in the Senate.

Biden and Harris have sought to hold briefings with health experts, national security advisers and other officials both to prepare for the tasks they’ll face next year and to allay any concerns the public may have about the lack of information they’re getting from the Trump administration regarding threats to the nation. In recent days, they’ve heard from experts on how best to combat the coronavirus and boost an economy still hindered by the pandemic’s fiscal fallout.

The president-elect said before the briefing that protecting the country would be his highest priority. 

“I’m not being critical of — just stating the obvious. You know that I’ve been unable to get the briefings that ordinarily would have come by now. And so I just want to get your input on what you see ahead. And, to state the obvious, there’s no presidential responsibility more important than protecting the American people,” he said alongside Power.

While he’s been barred from viewing classified information and meeting with administration officials, Biden has had conversations with multiple world leaders during his transition, speaking Tuesday with the heads of Chile, India, Israel and South Africa.

Meanwhile, a growing chorus of congressional Republicans are saying that while Trump has the right to file lawsuits contesting the results of the Nov. 3 election, Biden should begin receiving classified briefings in anticipation of the new administration in January.

“I think it is very much in our national interest to have the president-elect receiving information,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who has congratulated Biden, said last week.

Tags 2020 2020 election Donald Trump Joe Biden Mitt Romney presidential transition Samantha Power

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