Senate GOP calls grow to give Biden access to intelligence briefings
Several Senate Republicans are joining calls for President-elect Joe Biden to get access to intelligence briefings, in a break with the Trump administration.
Most GOP senators aren’t yet ready to say Trump lost reelection but, in a potential hat tip to the inevitable outcome, they are publicly calling for Biden to get access to the sort of intelligence briefings that will help him hit the ground running in January.
“I would think, especially on classified briefings, the answer is yes,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, said that he also agreed Biden needed to be getting briefed.
“I think it is very much in our national interest to have the president-elect receiving information,” Romney said.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters that Biden should be receiving the briefings “right now.”
“That is really important. It’s probably the most important part of the transition,” Collins told reporters, adding that “like any apparent winner,” Biden should also be getting access to office space and federal employees.
The growing push from GOP senators comes as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence isn’t interacting with the Biden campaign because the General Services Administration (GSA) hasn’t certified Biden as the winner.
The New York Times and NBC News reported that Biden is also not getting the President’s Daily Brief, a collection of high-level intelligence provided to President Trump and top advisers.
Not every Republican has been willing to say that Biden should be given access.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) didn’t respond to a question. And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told CNN that whoever is president on Jan. 20 “will get the information.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said that he generally didn’t think candidates needed access to the briefings.
“I’ve always felt that any candidate should not necessarily be involved in those until that person becomes the president-elect and he is not the president-elect,” Inhofe said, though media outlets have called the race for Biden.
Thursday’s comments come after Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said that Biden should be getting intelligence briefings and said that he would “step in” if they weren’t happening by Friday.
“There is no loss from him getting the briefings and to be able to do that and if that’s not occurring by Friday I will step in as well, and to be able to push and to say this needs to occur so that regardless of the outcome of the election … people can be ready for that actual task,” Lankford told KRMG, an Oklahoma radio station, on Wednesday.
Lankford on Thursday stressed that he wasn’t saying he believed that Biden was the president-elect but that “both sides should have access to intel briefings until we know who the winner is going to actually be.”
Trump has refused to concede the election to Biden, instead launching a myriad of legal challenges in key states where he trailing.
But the growing calls for Biden to start getting briefed are coming from across the Republican caucus.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who are both staunch allies of Trump, said on Thursday that they were both OK with Biden starting to receive intelligence briefings.
“I think so, yeah,” Graham said, asked if Biden should be getting the briefings.
Johnson questioned how useful the intelligence briefings would really be but added “I have no problem with it.”
Several members of the Intelligence Committee said they also believe Biden should be getting access to the briefings.
Asked if he believed Biden should be getting intelligence briefings, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the panel and GOP leadership, replied, “yes.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told Bloomberg this week that the GSA should move forward with allowing Biden to formally start the transition, saying that “we need to have that contingency in place.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the panel and an adviser to McConnell, said he believed Biden should be getting classified briefings.
“Whether he actually gets the product itself I think the information needs to be communicated in some way. I’m on the Intelligence Committee, we don’t get the PBR but we get products, intelligence products. I think he should get the information,” Cornyn said when asked if Biden should get the President’s Daily Briefing.
“I just think it’s part of the transition,” Cornyn added. “If in fact he does win in the end, I think they need to be able to hit the ground running.”