One former Trump official told CNN they’re viewing the outreach effort as putting duty to the country over partisan considerations. The conversations are not as detailed as formal briefings that would take place under the officially sanctioned transition, sources said, but they at least could help incoming Biden transition members have a sense of the issues they might have to deal with upon taking office.
Another former White House official who left the administration a few months ago said that he personally emailed someone who he expects will be back in the Biden administration in a similar role to his and offered to help.
One current administration official confirmed to CNN on Wednesday that there has been informal outreach from inside Trump’s government to Biden’s team. “Nothing that would get us in trouble,” the official said. “Just an offer to be of help. They know what we mean, and what we can-and-can’t do or say.”
The official said that outreach thus far hasn’t resulted in any substantive conversations.
A senior adviser to Biden acknowledged the outreach from across the government, but declined to comment. A separate Biden aide said the assistance was appreciated and in several cases was an outgrowth of pre-existing relationships in specific fields, but noted that it was not nearly as robust as a traditional transition of power.
“It requires more than former officials choosing to step forward and be helpful to ensure a smooth transition of power,” Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager and transition adviser to Biden, told CNN. “GSA should follow the law and ascertain the results of the election so that Americans get a smooth and effective hand off between administrations.”
Continuing to stonewall
Health and Human Services staffers were told Wednesday that if anyone from President-elect Joe Biden’s team contacts them, they are not to communicate with them and are to alert the deputy surgeon general of the communication, according to an administration official.
“We’ve made it very clear that when GSA makes a determination, we will ensure complete, cooperative professional transitions and planning,” Azar said. “We follow the guidance. We’re about getting vaccines and therapeutics invented and get the clinical trial data and saving lives here. That’s where our focus is as we go forward with our efforts.”
Outreach to former Mattis officials
Another former US official who participated in the last transition said that while the GSA’s official sanction is important, some agencies are limited in what they can share with transition members even with the GSA’s blessings. At the Justice Department and intelligence agencies there’s some information that will have to wait until the Biden names prospective members of his administration and they receive the necessary clearances.
The GSA delay does however slow the process of getting those clearances. Still, many Biden transition members served in the Obama administration and maintained security clearances in the interim.
The conversations are the result of the inability to engage with current Pentagon officials at this time, sources told CNN. And they come as an effort to build the transition team’s understanding about what has happened in the department over the last four years. Reaching out to former officials is “the next best thing,” one of the former officials explained.
‘A nice change of pace’
A separate White House official criticized the overall drama that continues to engulf the West Wing, even as this administration comes to a close. This person told CNN that a Biden administration will be “a nice change of pace” by comparison.
A different White House official shared that sentiment, telling CNN that they had already sent out their resume to potential employers.
“Looking forward to getting out of here,” this person told CNN.