Politics Chat: Updates On The Presidential Transfer Of Power
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:
That pandemic fatigue that we're hearing about from everyone, including doctors, is something President-elect Joe Biden will have to deal with when he takes office in a month and a half. That doesn't seem like a long time, but Biden and his transition team have a lot to do between now and then. Joining us now is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.
Good morning, Mara.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Debbie.
ELLIOTT: What is Biden saying about the next chapter in this pandemic?
LIASSON: Biden is saying that he knows the next two months will be bleak. He is calling for, or he says he will call for, a hundred days of masking. He says he's going to, when he becomes the president, require masks inside of federal buildings and for interstate travel - basically places where the federal government has jurisdiction. He also says he hopes that more red state governors will reverse their opposition to mask mandates, as some of them already have. And he - the bottom line is he believes that what a president says and does can have a big effect on people's behavior, and that's what he's going to try to model.
ELLIOTT: There has been an inconsistent message from the Trump administration on things like social distancing and masking. In addition to the things you just highlighted, what else are we likely to hear from Biden that will be different?
LIASSON: I think that he's going to try to overcome or reverse this tide of vaccine skepticism. He has said that he will get the vaccine himself as soon as Dr. Fauci says it's safe to do so. Dr. Fauci is going to be his medical adviser. Three former presidents - Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama - have already said that they would do the same. They would get the vaccine in public. We don't know what President Trump will say, although he has been exclusively focused on the vaccine and claiming credit for its speedy development.
But even before all of this, Biden is pointing out that there's a huge undertaking between the vaccine being ready and then getting it into people's upper arms, in terms of transporting it, refrigerating it. He has said that so far, he has seen no plans from the Trump administration on how to do that.
ELLIOTT: OK, Mara. Can you give us an update on the transition between the administrations? Even though it has officially started, President Trump continues to fight the election results, despite losing in court time and time again. What's going on now?
LIASSON: That's right. The General Services Administration didn't make the finding that allowed money and contacts to be available to the incoming Biden team. But according to The Washington Post, the Trump administration is now refusing to allow members of Biden's transition team to meet with officials at U.S. intelligence agencies that are at the Pentagon.
The Biden team has been able to meet with the director of national intelligence and the CIA. Those two agencies are not in the Pentagon. But remember, the Pentagon is where there's been this huge shake-up. The president has been firing and replacing several top officials and the Defense Department since the election. So this is another example of how the commitment to a peaceful transfer of power is not complete.
ELLIOTT: Right, but that transition is coming. Where are things in the official process?
LIASSON: Well, in the official process, we're coming up on a deadline. That's Tuesday, December 8. That's the deadline for states to report if results in their state were contested. We also have at least two down-ballot races that still aren't over, two outstanding Senate races in Georgia. They were both too close enough to call. So there are two runoffs there.
President Trump went to Georgia yesterday to hold a rally. And there's been a lot of tension inside the Republican Party there. Some conservatives, including members of the president's legal team, have picked up on his language about fraud, saying that Republicans shouldn't vote in the runoffs. The president has been attacking the Republican governor there for not doing enough to help him in Georgia. But yesterday, here's how Trump tried to clear this up.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You must go vote and vote early starting December 14. You have to do it. They cheated, and they rigged our presidential election. But we will still win it. We will still win it.
LIASSON: So there he's delivering the message that Republicans had hoped for. There were some concerns that these calls for Republicans to stay home, the president's own talk about how the election was rigged, would depress Republican turnout for the runoffs, although it's not clear if that actually will be a problem because in Georgia, Republicans seem pretty fired up, as do Democrats.
ELLIOTT: So Trump has not conceded. Where does the party stand on the election results?
LIASSON: That's a really good question. At least members of Congress - Republicans in Congress are taking the same approach to this as they always do with Trump's - trying to say nothing at all, worried about a mean tweet from Trump or a Trump-backed primary challenge. The Washington Post reached out to every single Republican in Congress and found that only 27 of them accept Biden's win. A couple believe, despite all the evidence, that President Trump won. Two hundred and twenty Republicans would not tell The Washington Post who they believe won the race. So they're continuing to delegitimize the Biden presidency and undermine faith in free and fair elections.
ELLIOTT: That's Mara Liasson, NPR national political correspondent.
Thank you, Mara.
LIASSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.