Biden warns 'more people may die' because of Trump's transition delays

The Biden transition team has been prevented from meeting with officials heading Operation Warp Speed and other Trump administration coronavirus efforts.
Image: President-Elect Joe Biden Makes Address On Nation's Economy
President-elect Joe Biden speaks about the economy Monday at the Queen Theater in Wilmington, Del.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden on Monday warned that the biggest threat to the country and to his transition posed by President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 race is that “more people may die.”

Biden made the stark warning during remarks about the economy from Wilmington, Delaware, during which he was asked by NBC News’s Geoff Bennett about the dangers created by Trump’s delay in the transfer of power to Biden.

“More people may die, if we don't coordinate,” Biden replied.

Biden added that getting a Covid-19 vaccine to over 300 million Americans is a “huge, huge, huge undertaking” that would be further complicated by a delay by the White House to initiate the presidential transition.

“If we have to wait until Jan. 20 to start that planning, it puts us behind over a month, month and a half. And so it's important that it be done, that there be coordination now. Now or as rapidly as we can get that done,” Biden said.

White House spokesman Judd Deere pushed back on Biden's assertion that the delays could lead to deaths, calling them "irresponsible and not based on fact" and adding that the CDC’s vaccine distribution playbook is publicly available.

More than nine days after media outlets projected that Biden had defeated Trump to win the White House, Trump's General Services Administration hasn’t actually officially declared Biden the victor in the 2020 race. That process, known as "ascertainment,” has been a mostly uncontroversial process since the passage of the Presidential Transition Act nearly 60 years ago.

“I am hopeful that the president will be mildly more enlightened before we get to Jan. 20,” Biden said, referring to the lack of transition cooperation from the White House.

Biden's warning came just hours after Dr. Anthony Fauci stressed his concern that the Trump administration has not yet greenlighted the formal transition to the incoming Biden administration, which the infectious disease expert said is key to the quick distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine.

In an interview on NBC's "TODAY" show, host Savannah Guthrie asked Fauci whether he's concerned that the Trump administration has not signed off on the formal transition period for the Biden team.

"Obviously, it's something that we're concerned about," he said. "I mean, as you know, I've served in six administrations, so I've seen a number of transitions and I know that transitions are very important. Hopefully, we'll see that soon."

In other transition news:

  • Biden and Harris will receive a briefing on national security in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday, the transition team said in a statement. A transition official told NBC News the president-elect will meet with diplomatic, intelligence and defense expertsto discuss readiness at the relevant agencies. A source familiar with the matter told NBC News that no Trump administration officials will participate.
  • Georgia officials told NBC News on Monday roughly 2,600 ballots cast during early voting in Floyd County did not get properly counted on election night and were discovered during the ongoing audit, with the bulk of the votes for Trump. The Georgia Secretary of State’s office says this will cut Trump’s loss in the state down by around 800 votes. It will not affect the outcome of the presidential election, either in Georgia or nationwide. However, Trump’s campaign is already seizing on the issue on Twitter.
  • Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., will join the Biden administration in a senior role, two sources familiar with the matter confirmed to NBC News. Richmond, a co-chairman of Biden's campaign and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, leaves a safe Democratic seat in Louisiana, where he has a news conference scheduled for Tuesday morning to “address future of 2nd Congressional District.” His new role has a portfolio that includes public engagement, the sources said. Politico first reported the news.
  • Biden is expected to pick Jen O’Malley Dillon, who served as his campaign manager, as a deputy chief of staff, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.
  • Biden held a briefing with labor leaders and the CEOs of General Motors, Gap, Microsoft and Target before his remarks in Wilmington.
  • Biden's transition team is working with recently departed Justice Department attorneys as well as former law enforcement personnel to get a window into the current administration, NBC News reported.
  • Former South Bend, Indiana, mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said he'd be open to a job in the Biden administration. Buttigieg, who became a top surrogate for Biden during the campaign, said in an interview on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" that he "would love a chance to return to public service, but that's for the president-elect to decide. This administration is going to have enthusiastic support from me whether I'm on the inside or the outside."
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., urged Biden to free funding for the Gateway rail tunnel, which would connect New York and New Jersey, as soon as he can after he's sworn in. The $30 billion project has been stalled by the Trump administration, despite Trump's public support of the project.
  • Michelle Obama urged the administration to let the official transition process move forward, saying playing along with "groundless conspiracy theories" is putting our "health and security in danger."
  • The Trump campaign has withdrawn a key piece of its Pennsylvania election lawsuit in which lawyers falsely claimed GOP poll watchers were not allowed to view the processing of ballots.
  • Trump national security adviser Robert O'Brien took a much less defiant tone on the election results in remarks at a global security forum than his boss, saying "if the Biden-Harris ticket is determined to be the winner — and obviously things look that way now — we'll have a very professional transition from the National Security Council."

Fauci said that health care experts project that by the end of December, there will be doses of vaccines available for people in the high-risk category from both Pfizer and Moderna, which announced Monday that its vaccine candidate in phase 3 trials is 94.5 percent effective.

"The vaccines are effective. We want to get it approved as quickly as we possibly can. We want to get doses to people starting in December, and then we want to really get the ball rolling as we get into January, February and March," Fauci said. "We want a smooth process with that and the way you do that is by essentially having the two groups speak to each other and exchange information."

Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland, a Republican and a frequent Trump critic, described Biden's win as "overwhelming" at an event hosted by the Ronald Reagan Institute on Monday. Asked when he thought Trump should concede, he said, “The time has come.”

“I mean, more and more people, very close supporters and friends of the president, are all giving him that advice. He’s just not listening,” Hogan said.

One supporter who's not urging Trump to pack it in despite trailing Biden in the electoral college tally, 232-306, and by over 5.5 million votes in the popular vote is Sen. Lindsey Graham, R.-S.C.

“It's not my job to tell the president when he needs to stop fighting in courts, when he needs to stop asking for recounts," Graham said. "He has every right.”

“All y'all are all over us cause you want the guy to lose. If the shoe were on the other foot, you'd be asking questions about widespread fraud,” Graham said.

Peter Alexander, Kristen Welker, Carol E. Lee and Mike Memoli contributed.