US President-elect Joe Biden has said the lack of information provided to his team by the Trump administration is “nothing short of irresponsible”.
The Democrat said those working on the transition ahead of his inauguration next month were still not getting the defence and national security details it needed – more than a month after his election win was declared.
“We encountered obstruction from the political leadership of that department [the Pentagon],” he said, adding: “And the truth is many of the agencies that are critical to our security have incurred enormous damage. Many of them have been hollowed out – in personnel, capacity and in morale.”
President Trump has had a tempestuous relationship with the American intelligence community since his election, suggesting he trusted Vladimir Putin more than his own intelligence services regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Intelligence briefings for presidential candidates and incoming administration officials in the US are done at the courtesy of the sitting president, but Mr Trump continues to contest Mr Biden’s victory on Twitter.
Despite Mr Trump’s claims, Joe Biden has been formally elected by the members of the US electoral college and is set to be inaugurated as the President of the United States on 20 January, in 23 days time.
The Trump administration only authorised cooperation with the Biden transition team on 23 November. Earlier this month the Biden team said Pentagon officials were resisting their requests for information.
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The Pentagon previously disputed these claims, with a senior official last week stating it had conducted 163 interviews and responded to 181 requests for information for the incoming administration.
They added that the Department of Defence would continue to provide information and meetings, although Mr Biden’s comments today suggest that this has not been happening to his team’s liking.
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Speaking to the CBS News podcast Intelligence Matters, former CIA officer and intelligence briefer David Preiss explained how the briefings were aimed at preventing candidates saying something “galactically stupid on the campaign trail” that could get in the way of their own foreign policy should they win.
In a long interview, Mr Preiss added that he was “very worried” about the relationship between the intelligence community and the White House under another Trump administration, but added that he was hopeful the relationship could be reestablished under Joe Biden.
“It appears that he was a respectful recipient of the intelligence information he had,” Mr Preiss said, adding “most of the signs are positive that Joe Biden understands the role of intelligence in a democratic society and understands how to use it effectively as a senior policymaker”.
“We don’t know what all of his priorities would be, but it wouldn’t surprise me if one of those priorities would be to, in a sense re-establish the groundwork, reestablish the foundation [of the relationship between the White House and the intelligence community].”