- The Washington Times - Friday, December 18, 2020

Top Pentagon officials on Friday pushed back on reports that the Defense Department had fully halted meetings with President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s transition team, stressing that work will continue after a mutually agreed-upon break for the holidays.

But Mr. Biden’s team said shortly afterward that there was no such agreement and that the meetings should resume immediately.

In a statement, acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller said that some Friday meetings had been postponed as the Pentagon focuses heavily on its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to distribute vaccines across the country. He seemed to deny an Axios report published earlier Friday that he had ordered a department-wide halt to all cooperation with Mr. Biden’s transition team.

“The Department of Defense will continue to provide all required support to the Agency Review Team (ART) to keep our nation and her citizens safe. As of today, we have supported 139 interviews sessions (with) more than 200 DoD personnel, 161 requests for information, and disclosed thousands of pages of non-public and classified documents, exceeding prior transitions,” he said. “At no time has the department cancelled or declined any interview.”

“After the mutually agreed upon holiday pause, which begins tomorrow, we will continue with the transition and rescheduled meetings from today,” Mr. Miller said. “Again, I remain committed to a full and transparent transition —this is what our nation expects and the DoD will deliver AS IT ALWAYS HAS.”

Mr. Miller and other Pentagon officials have pushed back hard against reports that the Pentagon is intentionally stonewalling Mr. Biden’s team and is restricting access to key information.

Later Friday, Mr. Biden’s transition team said there was no “mutually agreed upon” holiday break and that their agency review teams were abruptly told on Thursday that meetings were being pulled down.

“As indicated by DoD earlier today, we expect that decision will be reversed,” said Yohannes Abraham, a top official with the Biden transition.

Mr. Abraham said it’s their hope and expectation that meetings and cooperation on requests for information will resume “immediately.”

He said DoD “career professionals” have made legitimate efforts to be helpful.

“We have met isolated resistance in some corners, including from political appointees within the Department of Defense,” Mr. Abraham said.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide