President Donald Trump’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director, Russell Vought, on Dec. 31 defended his agency’s handling of requests from the transition team of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, denying claims that the Trump administration is obstructing the transition process.
In a letter addressed to the head of Biden’s transition team, Ted Kaufman, Vought said he wanted to “correct several false statements” and noted that his agency will not allow current OMB staff to write Biden policy proposals “to dismantle this administration’s work.”
“Since ascertainment, OMB has provided significant briefing materials on its operations, and has provided factual information about ongoing programs to the [Biden transition team] upon request,” he wrote.
Vought insisted that the office has been fully cooperative over the course of 45 meetings with Biden’s staff to discuss specific issues, operational questions, and more. He also noted that his OMB staff had briefed transition officials on Operation Warp Speed and other coronavirus pandemic relief efforts.
“Furthermore, there is record of your team accessing these critical documents just last week,” Vought wrote.
“As the record shows, OMB has fully participated in appropriate transition efforts. What we have not done and will not do is use current OMB staff to write the BTT’s [Biden transition team’s] legislative policy proposals to dismantle this Administration’s work,” he said.
Biden’s team has received $9.9 million in federal funding to ensure a smooth transition, Vought noted.
“OMB staff are working on this administration’s policies and will do so until this Administration’s final day in office,” Vought continued. “Redirecting staff and resources to draft your team’s budget proposals is not an OMB transition responsibility.”
Vought added, “Our system of government has one president and one administration at a time. OMB will not participate in developing policies that will weaken border security, dismantle the president’s deregulatory successes, and draft budgets that will bankrupt America.”
Vought’s letter comes amid escalating tensions between the Trump administration and the Biden team amid a rocky transition period.
Biden has declared victory in the 2020 election and is preparing to take office. President Donald Trump and some Republicans are contesting the election results in certain counties with alleged evidence of election fraud. While the legal challenges continue, Trump last month expressed his support head of the General Services Administration, Emily Murphy, to begin the transition process according to Section 3 of the Presidential Transition Act. Murphy said she made the decision independently after receiving threats for not having started the transition process.
In a letter, Murphy explicitly stated that the presidency had not been decided.
“GSA does not dictate the outcome of legal disputes and recounts, nor does it determine whether such proceedings are reasonable or justified,” she wrote. “The actual winner of the presidential election will be determined by the electoral process detailed in the Constitution.”
On Monday, Biden asserted that his team had encountered “roadblocks” at the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Defense, who were not cooperating fully, making it more difficult to prepare for him to come into office in January.
“We’ve encountered roadblocks from the political leadership in the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget. Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas,” Biden said at a press conference in Wilmington, Delaware.
“It’s nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility,” he said.
In a statement later Monday, acting defense chief Christopher Miller defended his agency’s coordination with Biden’s team and disputed the former Vice President’s claims, noting that the Pentagon has conducted 164 interviews with more than 400 officials, responded to 188 requests for information, and handed over more than 5,000 pages of non-public and classified information, “far more than initially requested by Biden’s transition team.”
“DOD’s efforts already surpass those of recent administrations with over three weeks to go and we continue to schedule additional meetings for the remainder of the transition and answer any and all requests for information in our purview,” Miller said.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.