Delay in Presidential transition risks national security and national health, former Homeland Security Secretaries say

As President Donald Trump continues to hold out on conceding the election both publicly and behind the scenes, researchers say a delay could have consequences.
Updated: Nov. 16, 2020 at 7:06 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - As President Donald Trump continues to hold out on conceding the election both publicly and behind the scenes, researchers say a slow transition could have serious consequences.

Former cabinet officials and analysts alike took to a webinar hosted by the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia to express their concerns about President Trump delaying the start of the transition. Two former Secretaries of Homeland Security say it poses a risk to national security and national health.

“It is literally ‘Are you going to play Russian Roulette with the lives and safety of the American people?’” Michael Chertoff, a Secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush, said.

More than just getting the president-elect up to speed, the transition ensures a smooth continuity from one administration to the next. That means filling a lot of roles.

“The senior leadership that are appointed by a new president amounts to about 4000 people, including 1000 of whom have to be confirmed by Congress,” Director of the Miller Center William Antholis said. "It’s just a massive undertaking.”

The webinar also featured Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security under President Obama, and David Marchick from the Center for Presidential Transition. During the conversation, Chertoff recalled how the delayed transition due to the recount in the 2000 election severely impacted security operations.

“I was at the Department of Justice on 9/11, and we were short handed in terms of senior people,” Secretary Chertoff explained. “The clear sense we got, and it was reaffirmed by the 9/11 Commission, is that it is a security risk not to have the process go right away, because there are so many threats out there.””

Secretary Napolitano recalled when a threat arose around President Obama’s inauguration, the two administrations cooperated to handle the threat.

“Even though I might be confirmed on the day of the inauguration, I wouldn’t take the oath for a day or two after to make sure that that threat stream had been, had been cured,” Napolitano said.

National Security isn’t the only concern. With COVID-19 cases on the rise, a delay in the transition could affect the nation’s fight against the virus and the rollout of the vaccine.

"One would think that every American would want the incoming Biden team to have access, "Marchick said. "Starting to coordinate with the people responsible for Operation Warp Speed so that when the Biden team takes office on January 20, they can move forward to get that vaccine in the arms of 300 million people.”

President Donald Trump continues to maintain that the results of the November 3 election are invalid due to election fraud. Thus far, those claims have not been substantiated.

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