Trump budget director pushes back on Biden team’s claims of obstruction
Russell Vought, the Trump administration’s budget director, on Thursday defended his agency’s handling of requests from President-elect Joe Biden and his aides, who have complained in recent days that top Trump officials are obstructing the transition process.
In a letter to the head of the transition, Vought asserted that Biden’s team had made “several false statements” about the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) lack of cooperation and rejected the idea that the agency should be collaborating with Biden aides on developing budget or policy proposals.
“As the record shows, OMB has fully participated in appropriate transition efforts,” Vought wrote. “What we have not done and will not do is use current OMB staff to write the BTT’s legislative policy proposals to dismantle this Administration’s work.”
“OMB staff are working on this Administration’s policies and will do so until this Administration’s final day in office,” Vought continued. “Redirecting staff and resources to draft your team’s budget proposals is not an OMB transition responsibility.”
A spokesperson for the Biden transition argued that portions of Vought’s letter bolstered the president-elect’s arguments by confirming that OMB is uninterested in working with the Biden team on its agenda.
“In this moment of unprecedented crisis, when millions of American families are enduring terrible economic hardship, it is indefensible to hamstring the United States government’s ability to prepare a budget and efficiently deliver help to those who need it most, particularly out of explicit, declared partisanship,” Andrew Bates said in a statement.
Bates said OMB’s position “flies in the face of how OMB has operated during every presidential transition for decades.”
An OMB spokesperson said earlier this week that the agency rebuffed only two requests from the Biden transition team — that they “derail” construction of the border wall and draft the president-elect’s budget proposal.
OMB staff have taken more than 45 meetings with Biden transition team members, Vought wrote, and briefed transition officials on Operation Warp Speed and other coronavirus pandemic relief efforts and provided information about ongoing programs.
“Furthermore, there is record of your team accessing these critical documents just last week,” Vought wrote.
Vought’s letter is the latest escalation of tensions between the Trump administration and the Biden team amid a rocky transition period. President Trump has refused to accept the election results, insisting the outcome was “rigged” despite a series of losses in court.
Biden and his team have in recent days singled out the Pentagon and OMB as agencies that have thrown up roadblocks making it more difficult to prepare to come into office next month.
“It’s nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility,” Biden said Monday.
Yohannes Abraham, the executive director of the transition, said during a briefing with reporters on Wednesday that agency review teams have dealt with “obstruction from political leadership” at the Pentagon and OMB.
The OMB has in past transitions provided analytical support for incoming administrations to help them carry out policy priorities and put together a budget proposal.
“That analytical support has not been forthcoming from OMB, and there have been no signs it will be forthcoming in the days to come,” Abraham said.
Updated at 5:35 p.m.