Nov 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

John Kelly: Trump's delay in transitioning "hurts our national security"

John Kelly next to President Trump in the White House in January 2017.
John Kelly with President Trump in the White House in January 2017.

President Trump's delay in transitioning "hurts out national security," John Kelly, Trump's former chief of staff, told Politico on Friday.

Why it matters: Trump has not publicly conceded to Joe Biden, and General Services Administration Administrator Emily Murphy — a Trump political appointee — has not signed documents declaring Biden the apparent winner, preventing his agency review teams from having access to the information they need in order to get to work.

What he's saying: "You lose a lot if the transition is delayed because the new people are not allowed to get their head in the game,” Kelly told Politico.

  • “The president, with all due respect, does not have to concede. But it’s about the nation. 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," Kelly, who has at times criticized Trump since leaving the White House in January 2019.
  • Kelly said that Biden should be receiving intelligence briefings because the "transition, in the national security realm in particular and the homeland security realm, is just so important that every day that the transition is delayed really kind of handicaps” the incoming administration.
“I know Mr. Trump better than most people do. I know that he’ll never accept defeat and, in fact, he doesn’t have to accept defeat here. He just has to do what’s best for the country and in the country’s interest.”
— John Kelly

Kelly made similar comments in a statement, published by CNN, later on Friday. "The delay in transitioning is an increasing national security and health crisis," he wrote.

  • "The current administration does not have to concede, but it should do the right thing just in case the Constitutional system declares they lost," he added.
  • "It is not about the GOP or the Democrat Party. It is not about the president or about Mr. Biden. It is about America and what is best for our people. Mr. Trump should order the transition process begin immediately. It is the right and moral thing to do."

The big picture: A growing number of Republican senators, including members of GOP leadership, said Thursday that Biden should get the intelligence briefings that he is currently unable to receive.

  • Republican lawmakers in general, however, are still defending the Trump campaign's legal efforts to overturn result, which could mean weeks of distraction from the work that is necessary to ensure a smooth transition of power.

Go deeper: More foreign leaders have called to congratulate Biden than GOP senators

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