- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2017

Vice President Joseph R. Biden is going out swinging at President-elect Donald Trump, while President Obama bestowed him Thursday with a surprise presidential Medal of Freedom.

In separate interviews Thursday, Mr. Biden criticized Mr. Trump for “damaging” U.S. intelligence agencies and for not separating himself enough from his business empire before he takes the oath of office next week.

Speaking about Mr. Trump’s criticism of the intelligence community over leaked allegations of the Republican’s ties to Russia, Mr. Biden said the president-elect is helping to do Moscow’s bidding.

“It is really very damaging, in my view, to our standing in the world for a president to take on the crown jewels of our national defense and denigrate it,” Mr. Biden said in an interview with Bloomberg. “It plays in, particularly now the Russian narrative, that America doesn’t know what they’re doing, you don’t want to hang out with those guys, you better look our way.”

He showed reporters a computer tablet with a black leather cover to demonstrate how he receives intelligence briefings, describing for journalists a password-protected app and a feature that allows him to engage with intelligence analysts.

“It’s an extremely valuable tool,” he said. Of Mr. Trump, he said, “I think he’ll come to understand that.”

If he doesn’t, Mr. Biden said, it will be a “genuine tragedy” for the country.

The vice president also blasted Mr. Trump for his business plans, saying the president-elect isn’t doing enough to detach himself from his companies.

“I don’t think he’s done enough and he may sink in the swamp,” Mr. Biden told NBC News. “Are you going to be president or are you going to be a businessman? You don’t do both. You ran for the most coveted office in the world.”

He said of Mr. Trump’s pledge to drain the ethics “swamp” in Washington, “If you don’t drain it, you sink in it.”

Mr. Trump and his attorney said Wednesday that he is placing his business in a trust and leaving control up to his two eldest sons, but he’s not selling his assets. Ethics experts have called on him to sell his assets and place the proceeds in a blind trust to avoid any conflicts of interest.

After serving in a variety of roles for the administration, from leading the “cancer moonshot” project to a campaign to end sexual assault on college campuses, Mr. Biden’s job is ending at noon on Jan. 20, when he’ll be replaced by Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Preparing for Mr. Biden’s departure, President Obama honored him Thursday afternoon in an event in the State Dining Room at the White House in front of their families and staffers.

Mr. Obama introduced him as, “the best vice president America’s ever had.”

“It was the best possible choice not just for me, but for the American people,” Mr. Obama said. “Behind the scenes, Joe’s candid, honest counsel has made me a better president. He’s been unafraid to give it to me straight. He has been a lion of American history.”

At the end of his remarks, Mr. Obama announced he was honoring Mr. Biden with the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, for his lifetime of service to America.

The president said he was bestowing the medal “with distinction,” a special grade of the award that is rarely given.

Mr. Biden said he didn’t know the honor was coming, and it was “well beyond what I deserve.”

“With good reason, there is no power in the vice presidency,” he said. “Nor should there be.”

Turning to Mr. Obama, he said, “You have more than kept your commitment to me by saying you wanted me to help govern. That’s a remarkable thing.”

Mr. Biden said the president’s character is “sometimes like a lone wolf.” But he said he enjoyed being “the last guy in the room” to give advice to the president, and said it was “easy” working with Mr. Obama because they have “the same values set.”

“I never once doubted that your judgment was flawed,” Mr. Biden told the president. “I can say I was part of the journey of a remarkable man who did remarkable things for this country.”

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