Choosing his words carefully, the president-elect stepped up his criticism of President Trump and warned that the delayed transition sent âa horrible message about who we are as a country.â
WASHINGTON âÂ In his sharpest condemnation yet of President Trumpâs efforts to undermine the legitimacy of the 2020 election, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on Thursday that Mr. Trumpâs refusal to authorize an orderly transition ensured that he would be remembered as âone of the most irresponsible presidents in American history.â
âItâs hard to fathom how this man thinks,â Mr. Biden said in response to a question about the presidentâs extraordinary interventions in Michiganâs election certification process. âIâm confident he knows he hasnât won, and is not going to win, and weâre going to be sworn in on Jan. 20.â
But Mr. Biden warned that as a result of Mr. Trumpâs actions, âincredibly damaging messages are being sent to the rest of the world about how democracy functions.â
Mr. Biden spoke in Wilmington, Del., shortly after a virtual meeting earlier in the day with five Democratic and five Republican governors. Citing what he called the âtragic milestoneâ of more than 250,000 deaths from Covid-19, Mr. Biden vowed quick action after he takes office but promised not to impose a national shutdown. And he lashed out at the president for blocking âaccess to all the information we needâ about vaccinations and other virus data.
Asked directly about Mr. Trumpâs motives in contesting the election and standing in the way of a smooth transfer of power, Mr. Biden appeared to struggle to contain his frustration. In a striking contrast to four years of a verbally unrestrained occupant in the Oval Office, Mr. Biden paused, took a deep breath and said, âLet me choose my words.â
In his prepared remarks, Mr. Biden remained focused on the urgent need to beat back the virus, part of a strategy in which the president-elect has tried to present a calm, but firm, alternative to Mr. Trumpâs, focused on fighting the pandemic in contrast to the presidentâs erratic and unpredictable behavior.
Less than an hour later, Ron Klain, who Mr. Biden announced last week would be his White House chief of staff, made the comparison explicit.
âWhile the president of the United States, in the middle of a crisis, was busy calling local election officials trying to get them to subvert the election in Michigan, Joe Biden did a call with frontline health care workers to hear their stories,â Mr. Klain said in an interview on CNN.
He was referring to a thank-you that Mr. Trump sent to a Republican on the canvassing board of Wayne County, Mich., who initially refused to certify election results showing a Biden victory in the heavily Democratic area as well as to an invitation to the White House that the president extended to state lawmakers in an apparent effort to persuade them to defy the will of their stateâs voters and choose electors who would back Mr. Trump.
Mr. Klain said Americans had âlong learned to expect the worstâ from Mr. Trump, and he accused the president of exceeding that expectation, saying that âthe president is thrashing around with these P.R. stunts, these ridiculous allegations that are baseless.â
In his own remarks, however, Mr. Biden was cautious about what additional concrete steps, if any, he might take to begin a transition against Mr. Trumpâs will. He did not rule out the possibility of legal action that might require the head of the General Services Administration, Emily W. Murphy, to sign paperwork authorizing a transition process â one that would provide Mr. Bidenâs team with access to federal resources, data and personnel.
Mr. Biden suggested that his better option was to persuade Republicans to acknowledge his victory and Mr. Trump to accept the inevitable and concede his defeat.
âMy judgment is that weâll get further along by actually working with our Republican colleagues now,â Mr. Biden said.
As he has several times in recent days, Mr. Biden warned that the delayed transition process makes it harder for him to plan an effective response to the coronavirus after his inauguration on Jan. 20 and could slow the nationwide distribution of vaccines.
âWe canât wait,â he said, calling the coming vaccine distribution âone of the greatest operational challenges we will have faced as a nation.â
âThere is no excuse not to share the data and let us begin to plan,â Mr. Biden said.
Asked by a reporter who he would nominate to be his Treasury secretary, Mr. Biden said, âYouâll soon hear my choice for Treasury.â He added that the announcement would come âeither just before or just after Thanksgiving.â
Earlier, Mr. Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who joined him in Wilmington, met virtually with the governors from both parties. The group included John Carney of Delaware, Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, Jared Polis of Colorado and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, all Democrats, as well as Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Gary R. Herbert of Utah, Larry Hogan of Maryland, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Kay Ivey of Alabama, all Republicans.
âYou need help,â Mr. Biden told the governors as reporters were briefly allowed to listen. âI want you to know I will be your partner in the White House.â
Stopping the pandemic, Mr. Biden said later in his remarks, will require cooperation with governors and local officials.
âNo national shutdown. No national shut down,â Mr. Biden said, forcefully denying an accusation that Mr. Trump repeated again and again during the campaign. âThereâs no circumstance I can see which would require a total national shutdown.â
But he said the rapid spread of the virus across the country would require coordinated action, including a nationwide agreement to mandate that people wear masks and a decision by the federal government to help localities pay for the significant costs of confronting the disease, something that has so far left the Congress deeply divided and unable to cooperate.
Appearing on CNN later in the day, Mr. Hogan urged Congress to pass a stimulus bill before a new session convenes in January, and he echoed Mr. Bidenâs frustration with the transition delay.
âWe do have concerns that they havenât been involved with the transition, theyâre not getting up to speed,â said Mr. Hogan, a prominent Republican critic of Mr. Trump.
Mr. Hogan said he believed some of the Republicans endorsing or declining to rebut Mr. Trumpâs election conspiracy theories were âafraid of the president.â
Even as Mr. Biden spoke, Vice President Mike Pence defended the Trump administrationâs response to the coronavirus during the first appearance in months from the White Houseâs coronavirus task force.
âAmerica has never been more prepared to combat this virus than we are today,â Mr. Pence said, adding that the president directed him to hold the briefing.
âPresident Trump wanted me to make it clear that our task force, this administration and our president does not support another lockdown,â the vice president said.
At the same briefing, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the governmentâs top infectious disease expert, in his first public appearance at the White House in months, sought to reassure a nervous public about the safety of two promising coronavirus vaccine candidates, insisting that neither scientific integrity nor safety was compromised.
âWe need to put to rest any concept that this was rushed in an inappropriate way,â Dr. Fauci said. âThis is really solid.â
Mr. Biden said he was encouraged by his discussion with the governors and pledged to work with them as soon as he takes office to make sure the country is unified in fighting the virus.
âThere was a real desire for a real partnership with the federal government,â Mr. Biden said. âThe governors made clear that beating Covid-19 is going to require all of us working together, as one country.â
News – Biden Calls Trumpâs Attack on Electoral Process âTotally Irresponsibleâ