WASHINGTON, D.C — Amid a chaotic presidential transition, political experts are warning Congress that a smooth transfer of power is vital for national security.
At a House subcommittee hearing on Thursday, Lisa Brown told legislators the presidential transition is a vulnerable time for the United States. Errors and oversights are more likely to occur during this period, she said, and foreign adversaries often try to exploit this to their advantage.
Brown is the vice president and general counsel for Georgetown University and previously served in President Barack Obama’s administration.
“It is therefore vital that the transition of power from one presidential administration to the next be as seamless as possible,” she said. “…The only reason the executive branch is able to (transition) successfully every four or eight years is because of the cooperation of the outgoing administration and the professionalism and expertise of career civil servants.”
Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) asked Brown to discuss the presidential transition from President George W. Bush to Obama. Brown told the subcommittee Bush’s administration worked closely with the incoming team to ensure the process went smoothly.
“We were welcomed into agencies; we were able to get to work immediately and it made all the difference,” she said.
The subcommittee also heard from Max Stier, the president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan nonprofit that works to make federal government more effective. The organization has worked with multiple incoming administrations to prepare them for the White House.
Stier said the transition of power is a monumental undertaking. He advised the lawmakers to streamline the process and clarify the standard for post-election transition support.
“This is not about deciding who is president, this is deciding whether someone is going to get the information they need and the help they need to be ready to govern,” he said.
Throughout the hearing, Democratic and Republican legislators frequently clashed. Democrats said President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede was putting the nation at risk, while Republicans argued the president had the right to fully investigate the possibility of election fraud.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said Trump was attacking the validity of the election and subverting the transition process.
“These actions are not only reprehensible and shocking, they are dangerous,” she said.
Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) said it was hypocritical for Democrats to criticize Republicans for questioning the election outcome.
“I would say it’s a bold talk coming from a group that for four years has refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of President Donald Trump’s victory and his presidency, even to the extent of calling for impeachment before he was even inaugurated,” he said.
Connolly, the subcommittee’s chairman, acknowledged the two parties were not likely to see eye-to-eye on the election results. But he hoped they could work together when it came to clarifying the rules surrounding presidential transitions.
“I think we can try to find common ground in dealing with some of the crevices that have been exposed that need to be fixed in law,” he said. “…I welcome that collaboration.”
Silicon Valley representatives respond
Silicon Valley’s congressional delegation recently weighed in on the tumultuous transition.
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Fremont, told San José Spotlight every member of Congress has a duty to uphold the Constitution. He urged Republican lawmakers to acknowledge Joe Biden as the president-elect.
“We will have a new president on Jan. 20 and I sincerely hope my colleagues on the other side the aisle will rise above the madness of the last four years and put our country above petty politics,” he said.
During her most recent tele-town hall, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, discussed how the election has divided Congress. She said she was unsure how it would affect bipartisanship during the upcoming session.
“The few (Republican) members that I’ve seen when we get in the elevator to go upstairs to the Capitol, I’ve congratulated them on their re-election and they don’t say anything back,” she said. “I remain pleasant and friendly because that’s the way I want to be treated.”
Eshoo added she was praying for the nation.
Meanwhile, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, previously told San José Spotlight Trump’s behavior likely unnerved many of her constituents. But she urged everyone to remain calm, regardless of whether the president ever concedes.
American voters, not Trump, decide the next president, Lofgren said.
“We have a new president who will be sworn in and that’s it,” she said. “We have to pull together as a country now, get ahead of the pandemic and heal our wounds.”
Although Trump has repeatedly claimed the election was rigged against him, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released a joint statement Nov. 12 from a coalition of state and federal officials that firmly rejected this notion.
“The Nov. 3 election was the most secure in American history,” they wrote. “…There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”
Contact Katie King at [email protected] or follow @KatieKingCST on Twitter.