John Kelly says Trump’s refusal to concede ‘hurts our national security’

The former chief of staff says that if the transition doesn’t get fully underway, Joe Biden will lack access to key national security intelligence 

Josh Marcus
Saturday 14 November 2020 00:50 GMT
John Kelly: 'I did something wrong and God punished me, I guess'

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly says Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the election is putting America’s security at risk.

“You lose a lot if the transition is delayed because the new people are not allowed to get their head in the game,” Mr Kelly told Politico on Friday. “The president, with all due respect, does not have to concede. But it’s about the nation. It hurts our national security because the people who should be getting [up to speed], it’s not a process where you go from zero to 1,000 miles per hour.”

The former official, who worked up close with the president for two years, first as head of Homeland Security then as chief of staff in the White House, said Mr Trump would “never accept defeat,” but he should allow crucial transition processes to begin, such as the president-elect receiving national security briefings.

“I think it’s crazy not to” start the transition, Mr Kelly told Politico. “I know Mr. Trump better than most people do. I know that he’ll never accept defeat and, in fact, he doesn’t have to accept defeat here. He just has to do what’s best for the country and in the country’s interest.”

Senate Republicans like James Lankford of Oklahoma, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Roy Blunt of Missouri have similarly argued president-elect Biden should get presidential intelligence briefings.

The incoming administration won’t be able to do that, however, until the General Services Administration, responsible for supporting federal agencies, recognises Mr Biden as president-elect. Its administrator, Trump appointee Emily Murphy, has not yet done so, prompting the Biden camp to consider legal action. The formal certification from the agency allows Mr Biden to access funds for things like office space and travel, as well as formally connect with the federal government, such as consulting the State Department about calls with foreign leaders.

Mr Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, has been one of the more outspoken former Trump officials since leaving the administration in 2019, and his reported comments in private about the president are even more scathing.

He reportedly has called the president “pathetic” for his “astounding” dishonesty, as well as branding him “the most flawed person I have ever met in my life”.

In September, the president, who had often clashed with Mr Kelly behind the scenes, speculated that the former official might’ve been the secret source for an article in The Atlantic which reported the president saying America’s dead soldiers were “losers” and “suckers”.

The president also criticised the former general for being “unable to handle the pressure of this job,” echoing similar comments he made on Twitter earlier in the year.

Mr Kelly hasn’t held back either, saying in February that Mr Trump’s attempts to withhold military aid from Ukraine until it investigated the Biden family, which ultimately led to his impeachment, was “illegal,” and that the president’s diplomacy in North Korea was just a “play” from Kim Jong Un.  

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