Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said Wednesday that he will intervene if the Trump administration hasn’t allowed President-elect Joe Biden to access intelligence briefings by the end of the week.
Lankford, who hasn’t yet congratulated Biden on his win, told radio station KRMG that there’s “nothing wrong” with Biden receiving the highly classified briefings about national security that President Donald Trump is offered daily.
“There is no loss from him getting the briefings,” said Lankford, a member of the Senate Oversight Committee. “And if that’s not occurring by Friday, I will step in as well and … say, ‘This needs to occur so that regardless of the outcome of the election, whichever way that it goes, people can be ready for that actual task.’”
Typically, the government’s General Services Administration ascertains the president-elect within a few days after Election Day. But this year, the head of GSA ― a Trump appointee ― has delayed the process.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the president’s security briefings, is not permitted to meet with Biden’s transition team until GSA identifies Biden as the apparent winner.
Lankford on Wednesday said he’s already discussed the issue with his fellow Oversight Committee members. He said his “first question” was about the 2000 presidential election, in which former Vice President Al Gore didn’t concede to George W. Bush until December after legal battles and a recount in Florida.
Lankford said then-President Bill Clinton made the intelligence briefings available to Bush during “that whole challenge.”
At least four other Republican senators said Thursday that they believe Biden should have access to the briefings, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas, Susan Collins of Maine and Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
“We ought to do what we did” when the 2000 election was contested, Grassley, the most senior Republican in the Senate, told CNN.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) broke with his fellow GOP senators on Thursday, saying Biden should continue to have access to the intelligence briefings he received as a candidate, but not the presidential-level briefings, which are at a higher classification.
“The briefings he’s been getting as a candidate should continue,” Hawley told reporters. “I think he should continue to get what he’s been getting and then let’s get to with the resolutions on some of these disputes.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters that “whoever” is president on Jan. 20 will get the intelligence briefings.
“I’ll trust the intel community,” McCarthy said, adding that Biden is “not president right now.”
Nearly five days after virtually all major media networks ― including Trump-friendly Fox News ― projected Biden’s win, Trump has continued to push baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud and ballot-counting irregularities.
Only a handful of Republican senators have congratulated Biden on his victory. Some have continued to fuel the voter fraud conspiracies, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who urged Trump on Sunday not to concede.
Lankford said Wednesday that he understands both Trump’s efforts to contest the results of the election and Biden’s declaration of victory.
“If the roles were reversed, Joe Biden would be in court right now,” Lankford said. “And President Trump would say, ‘I’m the president-elect and we’re moving on.’ So I get it.”
“I’m going to wait this out,” he added. “I totally understand where President Trump is coming from. I totally understand where Joe Biden is coming from.”
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story stated Hawley believes Biden should have access to intelligence briefings. The story has been updated to note that Hawley was referring to the briefings Biden has already been receiving as a candidate ― not the more highly classified presidential intelligence briefings.
Igor Bobic contributed reporting.