Outgoing President Donald Trump's continued refusal to acknowledge his election defeat is now threatening the successful transition to a new administration led by President-elect Joseph Biden.
The fight simply to get the Trump administration to authorize the release of transition funds and other resources was the first hurdle for the Biden team. It was three weeks before Trump's administration reluctantly released the $7 million it had been withholding, along with the critical "ascertainment" that should have removed the last barrier to cooperation among the incoming and outgoing administrations.
But Trump's refusal to acknowledge his defeat has continued, along with his baseless attacks on the integrity of election results — all without providing proof for his claims. Appointees have gotten the message loud and clear: Cooperation with the incoming administration risks Trump's ire. Whether they are true believers or just acting out of fear, it has become obvious that a number of them are blocking transition efforts. On Monday, Biden publicly accused Trump and his political lackeys of obstruction with the transfer of power that must occur in less than three weeks.
Biden specifically called out the Office of Management and Budget and the Defense Department as agencies where his transition team had encountered deliberate roadblocks.
"Right now, we just aren't getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas," Biden said at a news conference. "It's nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility."
He warned that the resulting delays could give this country's enemies an advantageous opening. "My team needs a clear picture of our force posture around the world and our operations to deter our enemies," he said. His national security adviser, Jake J. Sullivan, told National Public Radio in an interview that the Defense Department has refused to meet with the transition team for 11 days.
Sullivan said withheld information included details of Russian cybersecurity hacks, needed information on U.S. forces in Afghanistan and information on the COVID-19 vaccine, where the Trump administration is lagging badly on its previously promised goal of 20 million vaccinations by year's end.
The actual numbers are closer to 2 million — "certainly not at the numbers that we wanted to be at the end of December," Dr. Anthony Fauci recently told CNN. Hampering the Biden team's ability to get up to speed on the vaccine will be deadly for some Americans.
The U.S. Code, Title 18, Chapter 115 defines sedition in part as an attempt by two or more persons to "prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States." Organized obstruction by federal appointees to the lawful transition of power appears to come awfully close to that.
Norm Ornstein, an expert on Congress, said on social media that "every DOD official involved with this is guilty of dereliction of duty and endangering national security. Prosecutions should follow."
Certainly some action should be taken against the obstructers. It must never happen again, and if that requires strengthening laws and prosecuting offenders, so be it.
Trump's delusional attempts to cling to power have gone beyond embarrassing. They are now dangerous.