I’m guessing it’s mostly natsec people and scientists attached to the pandemic effort who’ve begun coordinating with Team Biden before everyone else. They deal with life and death, after all, and most of them are civil servants, not political appointees. They’re not going to let the new administration fall down on the job on matters of utmost urgency to indulge Trump in a tantrum.
One former Trump official told CNN they’re viewing the outreach effort as putting duty to the country over partisan considerations. The conversations are not as detailed as formal briefings that would take place under the officially sanctioned transition, sources said, but they at least could help incoming Biden transition members have a sense of the issues they might have to deal with upon taking office.
Another former White House official who left the administration a few months ago said that he personally emailed someone who he expects will be back in the Biden administration in a similar role to his and offered to help.
One current administration official confirmed to CNN on Wednesday that there has been informal outreach from inside Trump’s government to Biden’s team. “Nothing that would get us in trouble,” the official said. “Just an offer to be of help. They know what we mean, and what we can-and-can’t do or say.”
A senior adviser to Biden acknowledged the outreach from across the government, but declined to comment.
This report claims that officials as high up as NSA Robert O’Brien are involved in the effort:
BREAKING: While @POTUS @realDonaldTrump hunkers down, refusing to concede to President-elect @JoeBiden, a well placed source tells me the staff @WHNSC, including @robertcobrien, are quietly “doing the transition work…clean-up work…to ensure that the transition moves smoothly.”
— James Rosen (@JamesRosenTV) November 19, 2020
I’m skeptical that O’Brien would stick his neck out that way after being a loyal Trump servant, but he did surprise everyone a few days ago by claiming that it “obviously” appears that Biden has won. He’s not an old-school loyalist Trumper either. He was part of Romney’s 2012 campaign and came to Trump recommended by Romney himself. I wouldn’t put anything past anyone inside this administration but O’Brien’s bio makes him less likely to join the effort to burn the civic tradition of transition to the ground than others are, I suspect.
Nothing can happen officially unless and until the head of the GSA, Emily Murphy, “ascertains” Biden as the “apparent” winner. I still don’t understand what her endgame is. Unless she’s prepared to block the transition all the way to January 20, she’s destined to leave her job vilified by both sides. To anti-Trumpers she’s already the soulless apparatchik who cowardly went along with Trump’s goonish attempt to block Biden despite the latter’s clear victory. To Trumpers she’ll be the traitor who betrayed the president when she inevitably signs off on the transition process against his wishes. She’s better off doing it sooner rather than later, knowing that the longer this stretches out, the more she’ll be blamed next year if the new administration hits a snag that leads to people getting killed. Team Biden is reportedly applying soft pressure to her behind the scenes, for now, and also meeting with certain unnamed Republican officials to start the transition wheels turning:
According to three transition officials, Biden’s team is in talks with multiple Republican leaders and officeholders to end the transition stalemate, warning them of risks to national security and public health if the president-elect isn’t granted access to the government.
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are also deploying aides and allies to ramp up public pressure on General Services Administrator Emily Murphy, who has refused to acknowledge Biden’s victory and thus allow the transition to officially begin. And Biden’s roster of medical experts is making the rounds on cable TV to argue that the transition needs to get underway now for the country to distribute Covid-19 vaccines to hundreds of millions of Americans quickly next year…
Biden’s team is trying to walk a line between blasting Murphy and Republicans — which might cause them to dig in more — and highlighting what they call legitimate dangers of delay.
The Biden team is like a police hostage negotiator outside a house where someone inside is unstable and holed up with weapons. That person has to come out, but you don’t approach them initially with brute force — lawsuits, mass demonstrations, and so on in this analogy. That’s dangerous and chaotic, the option of last resort. You try to get them to come out willingly first. In this case, that means gradually convincing Trump that even the people around him know it’s over and there’s no way out. Murphy “ascertaining” Biden’s victory will help with that. So will more rhetoric from top Republicans accepting Biden’s victory. Notably, Mark Meadows reportedly told Senate Republicans recently that they should “make the most” of their remaining time with Trump, although John Cornyn tried to clean that up afterward by saying that Meadows clarified that the remaining time could be “45 days or four years and 45 days.”
Sure, Mark. Whatever you need to tell yourself, buddy. Just come on out with your hands up.
The punchline is that Trump’s denial of reality is also hurting the GOP’s ability to transition. Politico has an amusing story today about conservative groups and media outlets trying to shift towards battling the Biden administration and they can’t do it because it’s treason to acknowledge that Trump won’t be president on January 21. “Several prominent conservatives, granted anonymity to speak candidly about the situation, said they should be readying a legal response to Biden’s promise to sign a series of executive orders on his first day in office that would undo some of Trump’s key policies on immigration, foreign policy and deregulation,” claims Politico, but those people can’t move forward lest they pierce the president’s unreality bubble. One righty activist said he had an op-ed criticizing Biden’s social policies rejected by a conservative outlet because it referenced a “Biden administration.” Personality cults rarely end well. This one is no exception.