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Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, one of two Republican senators who were slammed over the summer for proposing to replace Columbus Day with Juneteenth, has vowed to “step in” if Democrat presidential nominee and projected 2020 winner Joe Biden doesn’t begin receiving intelligence briefings from the White House by Friday.
“If that’s not occurring by Friday, I will step in to be able to push them and say, ‘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 said in a radio interview.
Speaking on Tulsa radio station KRMG this Wednesday, he said that though the final results of the 2020 election remain unclear and are currently being contested in court, Biden “is entirely in his right” to begin acting like he’s the president-elect.
“Joe Biden is at a spot to say I’m ahead in all these states, the networks have already called it, I’m going to start functioning as the president-elect, though nothing’s been certified,” the Oklahoma senator maintained.
“But the projections are out there, so Joe Biden is entirely in his right to say, ‘Hey, it looks like I’m going to be president, so I’m going to start functioning that way.’”
Listen to the whole interview below:
Lankford added that the president is likewise in his right to contest the results of the election.
“President Trump is also within his right to say, ‘Hey, it’s within half a percentage point. In fact, in one state it’s within a quarter of a percentage point. It’s very close and the votes are still coming in, and there are still military ballots outstanding, and there are still some disputes in some of these precincts just in the first round of counting, much less in the recounts,’” the senator stated.
“It is important for the 71-million plus people that voted for President Trump that at the end of it, they know all of their questions were answered and that there is a president that was actually duly elected.”
That being said, the senator, who serves as chair of the Senate Ethics Committee, argued that it’s equally important that Biden “prepare himself … so that he can be ready” just in case he does wind up the rightful winner of the 2020 race.
“There is no loss from him getting the briefings and to be able to do that. There’s nothing wrong with Vice President Biden getting the briefings to be able to prepare himself and so that he can be ready – the president’s already getting those,” he said.
“Joe Biden can continue to be able to function and say, ‘I’m the president-elect,’ and great if you want to say that, go do it, and to be able to do your preparation work. The president can say, ‘Not so fast. I’ve got questions to answer.’ Great, go ask them.”
But in the meantime, Lankford seems to believe Trump must bend the knee and begin providing Biden with access and information.
Democrats have voiced the same sentiment.
“As has been done in every other transition, the president should order that Biden and his team receive the PDB, as has been done in the past, even during the contested election of 2000. It’s simply irresponsible to withhold this in these uncertain times,” Senate Intelligence Committee vice-chair Mark Warner reportedly said Wednesday.
The PDB is short for the President’s Daily Briefing. Biden has for his part, downplayed the importance of receiving the briefing right now:
Biden says he is not yet receiving the presidential daily briefing, as is customary for the president-elect.
“Access to classified information is useful but I’m not in a position to make any decisions on these issues anyway. It would be nice to have it but it’s not critical.”
— Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) November 10, 2020
This is technically good because, in a statement to NBC News this week, the Office of the Direction of National Intelligence said it has no plans to work with Biden’s transition team until he’s certified as the actual winner of the 2020 race.
“ODNI follows the statutory direction provided in the Presidential Transition Act, which requires ascertainment of the candidate by the administrator of GSA prior to supporting a potential presidential transition. ODNI would not have contact with any transition team until notified by the GSA administrator,” the statement reads.
The task of formalizing the certification reportedly rests with GSA administrator Emily W. Murphy, a Trump appointee.
This has pushed a low-key civil servant, Emily Murphy, center stage as the law gives her sole authority when to start the transition.
The GSA wants to avoid partisanship and Trump not conceding/pending lawsuits & recounts puts her in a tricky position.
— Alex Thompson (@AlxThomp) November 7, 2020
Meanwhile, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Marco Rubio has reportedly begun urging the GSA to go ahead and certify Biden as the winner of the 2020 race.
“Rubio … said any declaration from the GSA would not undercut the legal claims that President Donald Trump’s campaign is making in several states. Trump has claimed, without evidence, that voter fraud and other irregularities cost him the election,” USA Today confirmed Thursday.
Sen. Mitt Romney has also pushed for Biden to formally begin transitioning into the White House.
“It’s very much in our national interest, in our foreign policy interest, national security interest, to make sure that if there’s a new team that may become the leadership team, that they be given all access as quickly as possible,” he reportedly said.