A pile of messages from foreign leaders around the world giving congratulatory messages to President-elect Joe Biden sits in the U.S. Department of State, undelivered due to President Donald Trump’s insistence that his administration refuse to acknowledge his opponent’s win in the presidential race last week.
According to sources that spoke to CNN on the issue, the number of communiques from foreign heads of state number in the dozens.
The State Department’s refusal to hand over the congratulatory notes to Biden thwarts longstanding tradition in the department, as presidents-elect in the past have generally been granted access to these messages as part of the transition process.
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But Trump’s stubbornness in refusing to acknowledge Biden’s win citing false claims of voting fraud is affecting the ability of departments under his purview to function normally, even though Trump’s claims have been refuted in the media and defeated time after time in courtrooms over the past several days.
Beyond breaking tradition for presidents-elect, the move also goes against the rights afforded to Biden as a former vice president regardless of whether he won or lost the election: Former presidents and vice presidents are allowed to utilize State Department resources to send and receive communications with leaders from around the world even after they leave office.
Despite the barriers put up by the Trump administration, Biden’s transition team is in touch with a small number of foreign leaders, speaking to heads of government (like Germany’s Angela Merkel and Canada’s Justin Trudeau) over the phone. The content of these calls are being recorded for when Biden is eventually allowed to utilize the privileges of being recognized president-elect, and are mostly congratulatory in nature.
Still, having access to State Department resources would make the process much easier for the incoming president, as the department has better logistical support — not to mention, access to translation services — that would help Biden start his presidency on good terms with a number of foreign leaders and diplomats.
Most Republican leaders are standing by Trump’s refusal to concede, citing the same unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud that the president is making, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who earlier this week made comments that were deemed unnerving by a number of policy experts.
When asked whether Biden would be afforded a peaceful transition or not, Pompeo refused to recognize the president-elect’s win at all, wrongly suggesting that Trump was the rightful winner of the race.
“There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” Pompeo said to reporters on Tuesday.
While most Republicans appear ready to back Trump’s refusal to recognize Biden’s win, a small handful of GOP lawmakers are refusing to fall in with the party line.
Citing the need for Biden to have access to the State Department and other government agencies to ready himself for office, Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) has said he will personally attempt to intervene in obstructionary efforts by his colleagues if the president-elect is not afforded a proper transition process by the end of the week. This would include receiving presidential daily intelligence briefings, Lankford said, something that previous presidents-elect have also received.
“There is no loss from him getting the briefings and to be able to do that,” Lankford explained earlier this week.
“This needs to occur so that regardless of the outcome of the election, whichever way that it goes, people can be ready for that actual task,” he added.
The Associated Press, as well as a number of other reporting organizations, declared Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential race last Saturday, citing figures from states’ election returns. As of Thursday morning, Biden also had an insurmountable lead in the popular vote totals, with 50.8 percent of the national electorate preferring him to be president, versus 47.4 percent for Trump. The difference in vote totals between the two candidates is currently greater than 5 million.