Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller ordered an end to cooperation across the Pentagon with the transfer of President-elect Biden.
Behind the scenes: A top official from Biden was not aware of the directive. Board officials left open the option of resuming the collaboration after a vacation break. The officials did not know what prompted Miller’s action, or whether President Trump approved it.
Why it matters: Miller’s move, which stunned officials across the Pentagon, was the biggest outbreak yet of hostility and distrust towards the top-tier Biden team of the Trump administration.
- The anger at the Biden team among senior Pentagon officials escalated after the Washington Post released a story Wednesday night revealing how much money would be saved if Biden halted construction of Trump’s border wall.
- Trump officials blame the Biden transition team for the leak (although, it should be noted, they have no evidence of this, and both reporters on the byline relate to the Trump administration and have historically been prolific beneficiaries of leaks.)
What happened: Meetings between President Trump’s team and the Biden team are taking place across the administration, after a delayed start as the government got its feet on the ground to officially recognize Biden as president-elect.
- On Thursday night, Miller – who was appointed Nov. 9 when Trump fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper immediately after the election – ordered officials across the building to cancel scheduled transitional meetings.
Official Pentagon response: A senior Defense Department official tried to downplay the move, calling it “a simple delay from the last few scheduled meetings until after the New Year.”
- “We had fewer than two dozen meetings on the schedule today and next week,” the official said, adding that “the DoD staff working on the meetings were overwhelmed by the number of meetings.”
- “Those same senior leaders had to do their day-to-day work and were consumed by transition activities … The two-week vacation takes us one knee. We are still committed to a productive transition.”
In a statement Released following the publication of this story, Miller said, “The department has never canceled or declined an interview. … After the mutually agreed vacation, which begins tomorrow, we will continue the transition and reschedule meetings starting today.”
This story has been updated with Miller’s on-the-record answer and new details about the Biden team’s frustrations with the Washington Post story.