Donald Trump's Refusal to Concede is Killing People

From the pandemic to national security risks, this is indeed not a peaceful transfer of power. Americans will pay the price in blood.

Good evening. Voting in the 2020 presidential election ended ten days ago. The inauguration happens in 68 days.

Deadly Delays

Before the election, President Donald Trump and his Vice President, Mike Pence, notably refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power. Almost a week after most major media organizations recognized Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election, it is already clear this transition is indeed a bloody one.

No, it is not yet because the President has directly called his supporters to use violence - though on the day ahead of a planned pro-Trump demonstration in Washington DC militia leader Stewart Rhodes says he has men stationed on the outskirts of the Capitol ready to engage in violence on Trump’s command. And no, Trump has not yet attempted to use the military or law enforcement to defend his hold on power- though he has fired a number of senior Pentagon officials and replaced them with loyalists.

But make no mistake: American lives will be lost because of Donald Trump’s refusal to concede. There are two main reasons why.

COVID-19 is out of control- and Donald doesn’t care

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States is at an all-time high, daily new cases are at an all-time high, and public health officials and healthcare workers are sounding the alarm. Nearly every state in the country is suffering from an uptick in new cases. New lockdowns loom. “So with the pandemic entering its most dangerous period to date, the country’s current leadership — which we are stuck with until January 20 — does not appear to have any plans to do anything about it,” notes Dylan Scott for Vox.

This week the Biden team announced a slate of impressive COVID advisors and is doing its best to get up to speed. “President-elect Joe Biden's transition team is back-channeling with governors, the private sector and the medical community” to get around the obstruction of the Trump administration, according to CNN. And Ron Klain, the President-elect’s Chief of Staff, raised concerns about the possible impact of transition delays on the massive logistical task of preparing and distributing a hoped-for vaccine.

All the more despicable then, that Trump and Pence attempted a victory lap in the Rose Garden this afternoon, virtually unfurling a “Mission Accomplished” banner as they promise the Pfizer vaccine will be available widely by April.

Inarguably, tens of thousands of deaths can already be attributed to President Trump and Vice President Pence. With deaths now inevitably set to soar to more than 400,000 shortly after the inauguration, oceans of blood and sputum are on their hands.

Our national security is at risk- and Donald doesn’t care

As Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff, John Podesta and George W. Bush’s Chief of Staff Andy Card, remind us in a Washington Post op-ed, the terror attacks on September 11th, 2001 were a powerful lesson as to why Presidential transitions are so important. The uncertainty of the outcome of the 2000 race between George W. Bush and Al Gore dragged into December. “When the 9/11 Commission finished its report,” write Podesta and Card, “it found that the delayed transition ‘hampered the new administration in identifying, recruiting, clearing and obtaining Senate confirmation of key appointees’ in the national security arena.”

A terror attack is perhaps the most spectacular and acute risk imaginable, but the US faces myriad security challenges around the world it may be less prepared to confront as a result of a delayed transition. “The president, with all due respect, does not have to concede. But it’s about the nation,” former Trump Chief of Staff John Kelly said on Friday in an exclusive Politico interview. “It hurts our national security because the people who should be getting [up to speed], it’s not a process where you go from zero to 1,000 miles per hour.” Likewise in Just Security, Ryan Goodman and Kate Shaw point to a 2008 Congressional Research Service assessment that concluded “resolving the presidential election in a timely manner is crucial to allowing the incoming Administration the time necessary to prepare for current and future national security challenges.”

But it’s not just the possibility that the handoff will be flubbed- there is an enormous amount to be concerned about with regard to how national security is being handled right now by the Trump administration. There are still two months to go until the inauguration, and the Defense Department is suddenly in the grips of conspiracy theorists and loyalists- here is a good list of them. And the President is apparently pushing others out of his orbit, such as CIA Director Gina Haspel, despite Republican objections.

Things are so crazy, the New York Post (take it with a grain of salt, to be sure) is reporting that acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf has defied an order to fire election cybersecurity official Chris Krebs, who has directly rebuked the President’s false claims about the election.

The concern is, it seems, bipartisan. “By destabilizing our national security team, we could increase the likelihood that one of our adversaries tries to take advantage of us,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the Washington Post in an interview. Sen. Jim Lankford (R-OK), who sits on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told an Oklahoma radio station that if the Trump administration refuses to start the transition by today- Friday, November 13th- “he would step in to allow President-elect Joe Biden to start receiving intel briefings from various federal agencies.” We’ll see if he follows through. But what is clear is that with “each passing day, the lack of access to current classified operations or backchannel conversations that are happening really puts the American people’s interests as it relates to their national security at risk,” according to Yohannes Abraham, an adviser to President-elect Biden’s transition team. 

Between the pandemic and potential national security threats, the unraveling, intransigent Trump administration is a clear and present danger to every citizen of the United States of America.

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Leading the Conversation

Congress Needs to End This, Now: The legislative branch is constitutionally charged with checking abuses in the executive branch—and it must act to ensure a smooth transition. Kim Wehle, The Atlantic.

Democrats also have an obligation to push back on the Republican fraud narrative, which has convinced eight out of 10 Republican voters that the election was tainted, and tipped the rest of the nation into ever greater anxiety. To be sure, hearings would give Republicans a larger stage to claim fraud. But at this point, the stage has been theirs alone. There is no evidence of fraud, and skilled questioning of Murphy would quickly reveal the dishonesty of Trump’s efforts. This is a job for Congress. Not the courts.

Biden considers Angus King for top intelligence post. Natasha Bertrand and Lara Seligman, Politico.

The senator from Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, is a prominent member of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services committees. His appointment as Biden’s intelligence chief would give the president-elect someone in the position that both he and the intelligence community know well. But it would also vacate a Democratic Senate seat in a state that just overwhelmingly reelected a Republican, Susan Collins, to its other Senate seat.

Key role for Black policy leaders on Biden’s transition team. Kat Stafford, Associated Press.

“The Biden coalition owes a debt to Black folks,” said Niambi Carter, a Howard University political science professor. “Black people helped them survive the primary and then in this election cycle they showed up in key states like Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that really pulled Joe Biden over the line. So absolutely, I think this is an attempt by not just Biden but also the Democratic Party to keep Black people in the fold.”

Biden’s Transition Teams Sideline Industries Trump Put in Charge. Jordan Fabian, Jennifer A Dlouhy, Alan Levin, and Benjamin Bain, Bloomberg.

President-elect Joe Biden has stocked his transition team with policy experts, academics and former Obama administration officials, a contrast with the industry-friendly figures President Donald Trump sent into the government upon winning office.

Biden signals Wall Street crackdown with transition picks. Zachary Warmbrodt, Politico.

News of the appointments buoyed the hopes of progressives who have been skeptical about whether Biden would try to rein in Wall Street. Bharat Ramamurti, a former aide to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), said it was an “all-star” team of “smart, aggressive experts who understand exactly how our current financial rules fall short.”

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American Interregnum is a pop-up newsletter covering the issues and ideas that will define the Presidential transition period from Nov. 3, 2020, through Jan. 21, 2021. It is written and edited by Justin HendrixGreg Greene, and Melissa Ryan. Have questions or comments? We love your feedback. Reply directly to this email. We read all responses and respond to most.