The US national security adviser on Monday promised a smooth transition to a new administration under President-elect Joe Biden as he came close to acknowledging the defeat of Donald Trump, who refuses to concede.
Robert O’Brien, who coordinates all national security matters at the White House, said that the United States has had “peaceful, successful transitions even in the most contentious periods.”
“If the Biden/Harris ticket is determined to be the winner, and obviously things look that way now, we’ll have a very professional transition from the National Security Council, there’s no question about it,” O’Brien told the Global Security Forum, a virtual conference held in the past in Qatar.
Striking a magnanimous tone that is customary after US elections but has been absent so far from Trump, O’Brien said that Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris “have very professional folks” capable of taking over and that he would stay quiet after the inauguration.
“They deserve some time to come in and implement their policies; we may have policy disagreements,” he said.
Nearly two weeks after the November 3 election, Trump has insisted that he won and has made unsubstantiated claims of mass fraud even as Biden had unassailable leads in key states and a major edge in the popular vote.
While Biden is set to take over on January 20 regardless of whether Trump admits defeat, the General Services Administration – the usually low-profile agency that manages the federal bureaucracy – has refused to certify Biden as the winner, denying him classified briefings and resources for the transition.
O’Brien, a longtime Republican lawyer who earlier handled hostage affairs, also seemed to acknowledge the election results as he spoke of efforts to free Austin Tice, an American photojournalist missing in war-ravaged Syria.
“We’re doing everything we can to get Austin back,” O’Brien said. “The president would like to see him back before he leaves office.”
A US official paid a rare visit to Damascus in August to seek information on Tice, about whom there has been little information since he was detained at a checkpoint on August 14, 2012.