Trump national security adviser vows ‘professional transition’ of power
President Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, on Monday said there will be a “professional transition” to President-elect Joe Biden’s administration despite Trump’s refusal to concede that he lost the election.
Speaking to The Hill’s editor-at-large Steve Clemons at the Global Security Forum, O’Brien left open the possibility that Trump could still win a second term if the courts determine there was widespread fraud.
But O’Brien said it appears clear, at the moment, that Biden and running mate Kamala Harris won the election and should be given the time they need to get their people and policies in place.
“If there is a new administration, they deserve some time to come in and implement their policies,” O’Brien said. “We may have policy disagreements but look, if the Biden-Harris ticket is determined to be the winner — and obviously things look that way now — we’ll have a very professional transition from the National Security Council. There’s no question about it.”
O’Brien’s remarks about Biden’s victory were not unequivocal. He was careful to note throughout the interview that the transition would only take place “if the current lawsuits don’t work out for the president.”
But O’Brien’s tone and message differ sharply from other senior national security officials in the Trump administration, such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has said that the only transition would be to “a second Trump administration.”
The General Services Administration (GSA) has so far declined to ascertain that Biden won the election even though he’s projected to have won by a comfortable margin in the Electoral College.
There is a recount underway in Georgia and one is possible in Wisconsin, although Trump trails in both states by thousands of votes and the results are unlikely to be changed.
The president’s campaign is flooding those states and other battlegrounds with legal challenges, making unsubstantiated claims that the election was stolen through widespread corruption and fraud.
Legal experts do not expect those challenges to dramatically alter the election results. However, Trump’s refusal to concede has delayed Biden’s transition efforts.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is waiting on the GSA to ascertain Biden as the winner before giving the president-elect national security briefings.
Ascertainment is also needed to free up transition resources and to give access to workspace for the incoming administration.
Democrats, and even some Republicans, are warning that refusal to give Biden access to government intelligence is putting American national security at risk.
The 9/11 Commission report following the protracted legal fight over the outcome of the 2000 election between President George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore determined that a smooth transition process is critical to keeping the nation secure.
“The great thing in the United States of America, we’ve passed the baton and had peaceful successful transitions even in the most contentious periods,” O’Brien said. “I’m old enough to remember Bush v. Gore, and the transition there didn’t start until mid-December, and yet it got done. And if we’re in a situation where we’re not going into a Trump second term, which I think people, where I’m sitting in the White House, would like to see, if it’s another outcome, it will be a professional transition, there’s no question about it.”
O’Brien also expressed confidence in Biden’s foreign policy staff, describing them as deeply experienced from their work in prior administrations.
“They’re going to have very professional folks who are coming in to take these positions, many of whom have been here before and spent a lot of time in the White House in prior administrations,” O’Brien said.