Donald Trump’s refusal to concede his November 3 election loss has put Joe Biden’s transition to the White House in limbo, complicating his efforts to tackle the pandemic that has killed more than 247,000 people in the US and shows no sign of slowing.
Mr Biden’s top coronavirus advisers have warned the President’s stalling of the transition could hinder the US’s pandemic response, as Mr Trump and his allies persisted in challenging the election results.
On Tuesday (US time), former US surgeon-general Vivek Murthy, who co-chairs Mr Biden’s COVID-19 task force, said blocking transition advisers from meeting government experts could harm their ability to confront the pandemic in 2021.
Several doctors and nurses associations published a letter on Tuesday urging the Trump administration to share critical COVID-19 data, such as equipment inventories, medical supplies and hospital bed capacity, with Mr Biden’s team.
Mr Biden, a Democratic former vice-president who will take office on January 20, has also not been able to receive the classified intelligence briefings usually afforded a president-elect.
Instead he met his own panel of national security experts, including former US deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken, former deputy national security adviser Avril Haines and former US ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.
Mr Trump, a Republican, has repeatedly claimed without evidence he is the victim of widespread voter fraud and his campaign has filed a flurry of lawsuits in battleground states. Election officials in both parties have said they see no evidence of serious irregularities.
Trump fires election security chief
Meanwhile, Mr Trump has dismissed the director of the federal agency that vouched for the reliability of the November election.
Mr Trump fired Christopher Krebs in a tweet on Tuesday (local time), saying his recent statement defending the security of the election was “highly inaccurate”.
Mr Krebs had driven a campaign to counter claims of voter fraud.
Mr Biden won the national popular vote by more than 5.6 million votes, or 3.6 percentage points, with some ballots still being counted. In the state-by-state electoral college that determines the winner, Mr Biden has secured 306 votes to Mr Trump’s 232.
In Michigan, where Mr Biden leads by more than 145,000 votes, two Republican members of the board of canvassers in the state’s largest county, Wayne, initially voted on Tuesday to halt certification of its results, citing inconsistencies in precinct totals in the majority-black city of Detroit.
But they reversed their decision after more than two hours of angry public comment, as long as the Michigan secretary of state audited precinct tallies.
At a federal court hearing in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, US District Judge Matthew Brann appeared sceptical of Mr Trump’s request to block officials from certifying Mr Biden’s win in that state.
Trump supporters are also clinging to hope that recounts could reverse state results.
Georgia is undertaking a manual recount on its own. In Wisconsin, the Trump campaign has until Wednesday to decide if it will pay $US7.9 million ($A10.8 million) for a recount there.
Mr Trump, who posted two misleading tweets about the security of the US election on Tuesday, said Mr Krebs’ termination was “effective immediately.”
The firing of Mr Krebs, a Trump appointee and director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, is the latest in a series of high-level officials Mr Trump has sacked after deeming them insufficiently loyal.
He fired Defence Secretary Mark Esper on November 9 in a broader shake-up that put Trump loyalists in senior Pentagon positions.
Mr Krebs, a former Microsoft executive, ran the agency, known as CISA, from its creation after Russian interference with the 2016 election through the November election.
In response, Mr Krebs tweeted “Honoured to serve. We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomorrow.”
He won bipartisan praise as CISA co-ordinated federal state and local efforts to defend electoral systems from foreign or domestic interference.
Mr Krebs reportedly told people he expected Mr Trump would fire him for disputing the claims of widespread election fraud.
Days ago, CISA issued a statement saying “the November 3rd election was the most secure in American history. Right now, across the country, election officials are reviewing and double-checking the entire election process prior to finalising the result. When states have close elections, many will recount ballots.
“All of the states with close results in the 2020 presidential race have paper records of each vote, allowing the ability to go back and count each ballot if necessary. This is an added benefit for security and resilience.
“This process allows for the identification and correction of any mistakes or errors. There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”