Murphy says Trump ‘putting lives at risk’ by locking out Biden transition
TRENTON — Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday said the lame-duck Trump administration is putting lives at risk by refusing to cooperate with the Biden transition team on pandemic planning.
On Monday, President-elect Joe Biden reacted to the situation by warning that "more people may die if we don’t coordinate."
Murphy, who said he participated in a White House call with other governors to discuss the eventual distribution of a coronavirus vaccine, on Tuesday called it a complex feat that will require immediate coordination with the incoming administration.
"You just can't saunter in on Jan. 20 and pick up the playbook and execute. This is a national health matter and lives are at stake," he said.
"The fact that the Biden team and Vivek Murthy (the former U.S. surgeon general appointed by Biden to lead his pandemic task force) … are being blocked out of those discussions is putting lives at risk – let there be no doubt about that."
Biden and a small group of Republicans, including U.S. Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, have called on the Trump administration to begin providing Biden with national security briefings.
Trump is contesting the election, claiming he won despite Biden having won enough states to surpass the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. The Trump campaign has filed several legal challenges in swing states and has made unfounded and unproven claims alleging voter fraud.
In the meantime, Biden's team has begun to meet with intelligence, defense and diplomatic experts outside of government.
Declining to criticize Trump, Biden acknowledged Tuesday that he has “not been receiving briefings that would ordinarily come by now" as he opened his virtual meeting with the national security experts. The 12 participants, who appeared on video screens, included former Deputy CIA Director David Cohen, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Avril Haines, a deputy national security adviser in the Obama administration, among others.
Biden said he was preparing to inherit “a divided country and a world in disarray.”
“That's why I need you all,” he said.
Currently under the Trump administration, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Pentagon are working in conjunction with states on a vaccine distribution plan. But the Biden transition team and Democrats in Congress also have ideas. There could be conflicting expectations for state leaders and health care systems, which will be closest to the actual work of putting shots into the arms of Americans.
The heads of the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association issued a joint statement Tuesday urging the Trump administration to share “all critical information related to COVID-19” with Biden.
Murphy, when asked by a reporter on Wednesday, said that he did not raise his concern during the White House call on Monday.
"We are making that point strenuously and strongly through other channels regularly and we will continue to do that both here using our bully pulpit and other avenues," he said.
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