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Tamara Keith and Amy Walter on Biden’s White House transition

The head of the General Services Administration Monday authorized President-elect Joe Biden to begin transitioning to the White House weeks after voters went to the polls and as Biden continues to make selections to top cabinet posts. NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report join Judy Woodruff to discuss that development and the latest political news.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As we have been reporting, the Trump campaign continues to try to reverse the election results, even as president-elect Biden announces his choices for top posts in his administration.

    Here to break down all the latest, I'm joined by our Politics Monday duo. That's Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and host of public radio's "Politics With Amy Walter," and Tamara Keith of NPR. She also co-hosts the "NPR Politics Podcast."

    It's very good to see the both of you.

    Let's start with the news that is breaking this hour, Tam.

    And that is, finally, the person in charge of the GSA, the General Services Administration, two weeks after Joe Biden was declared winner of the election — winner of the election, has just late today authorized for the transition to go forward, for the Trump administration to share resources, funding, office space and the rest of it with the Biden campaign.

    But this happened only after Michigan certified the results of its vote and after a few more Republican senators spoke up. It didn't happen as a result of President Trump.

    So, it's taken a while, but it's finally happened.

  • Tamara Keith, National Public Radio:

    That's correct.

    And the GSA administrator, in her letter to the Biden campaign, the Biden transition, says that she made this decision independently, based on precedent, and that she faced absolutely no pressure from the Trump administration or from the White House.

    That letter was published by CNN shortly before President Trump tweeted that he was going to go ahead and recommend that she start the transition, even though he's planning to continue to fight, so President Trump's tweet very much out of sync with the argument that the GSA administrator is making about the independence with which she made the decision.

    But, as you say, President Trump has had one loss after another, after another, numerous court losses. And, today, after the Michigan Board of Elections certified the election results in Michigan, a state where he was trying to overturn the results, the Trump campaign put out a statement essentially saying, eh, certification, that's just a procedural step.

    Well, clearly, it wasn't a procedural step, and it caused, as you say, many Republican senators — or not many — a handful, a small handful of Republican senators to come forward and say, hey, get on with it.

    And then, of course, this decision was made. It kind of feels like President Trump said, I highly recommend that this boulder continue rolling down the hill.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Amy, even though the president says he's going to continue to fight, this is a significant, very significant, critical move, in fact, on the part of the Government (sic) Services Administration to say, the transition will begin, there will be cooperation.

    But, boy, it's taken many days and what is reported to be a lot of pressure from the White House not to do this.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

    I mean, Judy, so much of this has been Kabuki the whole time. It's been pretty clear, well, pretty much since the day that the election was called, that there wasn't really a path for the president.

    And Tam noted that there were not that many senators or members of Congress who were Republicans who called out the fact that the GSA was not moving this process along or called out the fact that so many courts had overturned this — this attempt to call into question the results.

    But I think one thing to take away from this, Judy, is the fact that the guardrails of our system actually worked, and that you had Republican state — secretary of state in Georgia, for example, going against his party.

    Many — obviously, the president and many in his party pushing him to not certify or to question the integrity of the results in Georgia. You had today in Michigan one abstention by a Republican, but the other Republican on the board voting to certify the election. You had judges who were appointed by Republicans pushing back on the lawsuits and deeming them not credible and worthy.

    So, we have multiple instances where we can look back and say, at the end of the day, Washington politicians may not have been particularly brave in stepping out and saying what was clear to everybody at the time, but those in local office, those who are doing the job, the day-to-day job of keeping our democracy intact, did it.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, as you say, Amy, most Republican politicians in Washington are still not supporting the idea of a transition.

    But, before we wrap this up, Tam, let's talk about what Joe Biden did today, as he laid out his choices for some of the top jobs in his administration, Cabinet secretaries and so forth.

    What do you — what is this adding up to? What does it look like to you the Biden administration priorities will be?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, there aren't a lot of surprises on this list. In fact, there are no surprises on this list. These are all people who have served in multiple administrations, who have high-level experience, who are widely respected.

    And it's also a diverse group. You know, there's the first female director of national intelligence, the first Latino homeland security director.

    So, what you have is essentially what Biden said he was going to do. And you have — we also have — there's reporting out that Janet Yellen would be named the Treasury secretary, making her the first female Treasury secretary, following her previous stint as the first female Fed chair and also previously on the Council of Economic Advisers.

    So, what you have is a few people making history. And, also, you have people who are well-known and well-liked, both around the world and here in the U.S., because people know them, they have been around. For instance, Tony Blinken is someone who is — has been by Joe Biden's side for years.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Amy, what do these picks say to you about what Joe Biden wants to do?

  • Amy Walter:

    Well, to be sort of predictable and boring and bring in experience. And that was the sort of campaign theme.

    Underneath it all is, I will be the things that Donald Trump was not, which was predictable and boring.

    And, remember, when President Trump came in, the person who came in with no government experience thought that it would be important to bring people in who also didn't have a tremendous amount of experience, Rex Tillerson over at secretary of state, Ben Carson over at HUD.

    This candidate, the president-elect, campaigned specifically on, it's important to have experience, it's important to delegate to people who have done this work before. And, also, what he's saying, Judy, is to folks in Washington, to the Republicans, there's not a lot here for you to object to. I'm not here throwing somebody who's making a statement to the political class. I'm putting somebody who's experienced.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Exactly right.

    I mean, they may dispute the term boring, but they cannot dispute the term experienced…

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … experienced, somebody who is — who knows their way — or people who know their way around Washington.

    All right, two women who know their way around Washington, Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You're welcome.

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