Biden Team Slams Door On T---p Defense Holdovers, Will Clean This Sh*t Up Alone, Thanks.
Let's skip to the punchline first, shall we? President Biden just told Trump's (acting) Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller to GTFO. Invited him to hit the road, Jack. And also cautioned him not to let the doorknob hit ya where the good Lord split ya. To wit, he's not getting any office space during the transition, because Bye, Felicia!
"Given Mr. Miller's acting capacity in that role, as well as reduced staffing and occupation of the Pentagon and auxiliary offices during Covid-19, we deemed it appropriate not to extend that perk in this instance," a Biden transition official told CNN yesterday before the inauguration.
An outgoing Trump staffer bitched that, "Excuses aside, the American people see this break in a long tradition of accommodation, proper records management, continuity of government and good manners for what it is: the last petty act of this transition's intransigent party."
After the General Services Administration delayed transition planning for weeks to allow That Horrible Man to "work through his feelings," the Defense Department threw sand in the gears every way they could, with (acting) Secretary Miller canceling all meetings with the Biden team from December 18 through the New Year, calling it a "mutually agreed upon holiday." Except the Biden team had agreed to no such thing.
"Let me be clear: there was no mutually agreed upon holiday break," Biden transition director Yohannes Abraham told Axios.
But wait, there's more! (That's why we gave you the punchline first.)
Politico has a further dive into the DOD transition, and let's just say that it wasn't the Biden people causing the "break in a long tradition of accommodation, proper records management, continuity of government and good manners." Apparently, this was a department-wide effort to hide information by slow-walking or ignoring information requests, refusing to schedule enough meetings to prepare for the transition, and sending "minders" to every meeting that was scheduled to make sure that defense officials didn't give away too much.
But across the department, even when the transition team did meet with DoD officials, both civilian and military, they were often tight-lipped, as if they were given explicit guidance about what they could and could not talk about. Those suspicions were confirmed when the first transition official bumped into a "very high-ranking" military official a week after their meeting, and the officer apologized for his clipped answers.
"We were alone, and he told me 'I'm sorry I wasn't able to tell you more, but I was given very strict instructions,'" the transition official said.
In another interview with a combatant commander, the Biden team asked detailed questions about pressing national security matters, and received "very vanilla answers."
Topics on which incoming defense officials were unable to get sufficient briefing include the Solar Winds hack, troop levels in Afghanistan, the recent deal to sell F-35s to the UAE, the reallocation of military housing funds to pay for the border wall, US missions in Africa, and most importantly the COVID-19 vaccination plan. These are critical omissions that will impair the Biden administration's efforts to hit the ground running, with the president himself describing the effort to obstruct the transition as "nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility."
Which is what you'd expect a dignified public servant to say. But we are not a public servant, and no one has ever called us dignified. So we're going to call it (1) sabotage, and (2) a strong indication that there's something wholly scandalous that those shifty sumbitches were trying to keep under wraps as long as possible. (Spoiler Alert: There was no vaccine distribution plan.)
Pentagon spokesperson Sue Gough protested to Politico that it was "understandable" to limit the information shared with the people who were going to have to run the place in a matter of days and defended the presence of lawyers at every meeting to make sure everything was "properly handled," sniffing that "Membership on a transition team alone is not a license to access confidential, privileged or classified government information."
But Politico's sources describe it differently.
In one recent meeting, retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, who served as acting Pentagon policy chief until last week, frequently looking over at the general counsel representative as if to ask for permission to discuss a particular topic.
Meanwhile, every request for information the Biden team filed had to be reviewed by the general counsel's office, and many were scrubbed of all useful information. Many requests were never answered, and the ones that did come back were thoroughly "sanitized."
Yeah, miss us with that business about protecting classified information. This was a deliberate effort to make it more difficult for the incoming Biden administration to do their jobs, national security be damned. Or as one outgoing defense official told Politico, DOD's political staff was obsessed with exacting "political vendettas" because Trump "hired all the wrong people. And he paid a price for it. There wasn't much we could do."
But cry some more about not getting to hang on to your office, right?
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.