Yohannes Abraham: “There Was No Mutually Agreed-upon Holiday Break” in Transition Cooperation

"There was no mutually agreed-upon holiday break," Yohannes Abraham, a spokesman for Biden's transition team, told reporters Friday, rejecting the Trump administration's claim that the two sides had agreed to pause transition talks at the Pentagon. A halt in cooperation ordered by the acting Defense Secretary, a Trump loyalist, comes amid growing concern about efforts to stymie the transition. (Courtesy photo)

U.S. News

Biden Team Rejects Claims of ‘Mutually-Agreed Upon’ Pause in Transition Cooperation

PRESIDENT-ELECT Joe Biden’s transition team on Friday denied that it agreed to a break in briefings and meetings at the Pentagon, despite an assertion from acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller hours earlier of a “mutually-agreed upon holiday pause,” saying the need for continuing the transition remains a top priority.

“There was no mutually agreed-upon holiday break,” Yohannes Abraham, a spokesman for Biden’s transition team, told reporters Friday.

“In fact, we believe it’s important” that the briefings continue, he added, “as there is no time to spare” in preparing for national security contingencies ahead of Biden’s inauguration next year.

His comments came shortly after the Defense Department issued a statement from Miller, whom Trump appointed during the lame duck period days after the November election.

“Our key focus in the next two weeks is supporting essential requests for information on OWS and COVID-19 information to guarantee a flawless transition. This is my major focus area,” Miller said, referring to Operation Warp Speed – the government-wide effort to develop and distribute a coronavirus vaccine. “After the mutually-agreed upon holiday pause, which begins tomorrow, we will continue with the transition and rescheduled meetings from today.”

Axios first reported the halt in Pentagon meetings.

The Defense Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Miller said he remains “committed to a full and transparent transition.” His statement included figures that purport to demonstrate the Defense Department has been more cooperative with the transition team than during the period before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, including holding more briefings, releasing more documents and making more senior officials available for meetings.

However, the news comes amid growing reports that Trump and his political loyalists are working to stymie Biden’s transition amid the president’s continued claims that he won the election.

Abraham on Friday cited “constructive cooperation with many” federal agencies during the transition, but added, “We have met isolated resistance from some corners, including from political appointees at the Department of Defense.” He declined to provide more specifics.

The transition team learned on Thursday about the Pentagon’s intent to reschedule meetings for next year that were originally planned for Friday and to hold off on any further contact until Jan. 1.

“We were concerned to learn this week about an abrupt halt,” Abraham said. “We expect that decision to be reversed.”

Defense officials’ refusal to cooperate is limited to political appointees, he added.

“We thank the DOD career professionals who have made valiant efforts to be helpful over the course of this process,” Abraham said.

Trump has faced criticism throughout his tenure of attempting to politicize the military and the Defense Department, routinely considered among the institutions the American public trust most. The president has faced renewed criticism in recent days for his threats to veto the military budget despite overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress.

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