President-elect Joe Biden called President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede an “embarrassment” on Tuesday during his first press conference since the election, but assured Americans that he is proceeding with the transition.
“I just think it’s an embarrassment,” the former vice president said. “I think it will not help the president’s legacy. I know from my discussions with foreign leaders thus far that they are hopeful that United States democratic institutions are viewed once again as strong and enduring. But I think at the end of the day, it’s all going to come to fruition on January 20, and between now and then, the hope and expectation is that the American people do understand that there has been a transition, even among the people who voted for the president.”
Biden said that, despite the refusal of a General Services Administration official to sign paperwork officially initiating the transition, he is moving forward in convening a coronavirus task force, picking Cabinet officials, and working on plans to expand health care coverage and lower health care costs for Americans who are especially in need amid the pandemic.
But his team will not yet have access to transition funding, nor will they be able to move into government offices and obtain security clearances for top Cabinet nominees, until the paperwork is complete.
“The fact that they’re not willing to acknowledge we won at this point is not of much consequence in our planning and what we’re able to do between now and January 20,” he said.
He did, however, admit that it would be helpful, if not absolutely necessary, to have access to classified information and the president’s daily briefings in the interim.
Republicans in the Senate — with the exception of Sens. Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Ben Sasse — have yet to acknowledge Biden’s win. Some, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have emphasized, with carefully chosen language, the president’s right to pursue legal challenges to supposed voting irregularities leading up to mid-December when the states’ electors formally choose the president.
But others, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, have amplified Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud, which have undermined the confidence of most Republican voters that this was a free and fair election.
Biden said he does not intend to pursue legal action himself, especially given that there is no evidence for Trump’s claims.
He also characterized Republicans’ behavior as a symptom of intimidation, but that he expects their tack will change once he is sworn in as president.
“The whole Republican Party has been put in a position with a few notable exceptions of being mildly intimidated by the sitting president,” he said. “I am not a pessimist and I think there are enough Republicans who have already spoken out, and I think there will be a larger number once the election is declared and I’m sworn in to be able to get things done.”
In the meantime, Biden expressed hope that Trump and Congress will take action on another coronavirus stimulus package before he is sworn in. He said he had made his positions clear to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is continuing the negotiations with Republicans.
“People need aid right now,” he said. “I would hope that the president has the sensitivity and knowledge that a lot of people are in real trouble right now, between now and the time that we get sworn in.”