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Nation & World

The Rocky Transition Of Power Between Biden And Trump May Affect National Security

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

No concession. A week after the presidential election was called, President Trump still refuses to recognize Joe Biden as president-elect and questions the legitimacy of the election without citing any proof. The president has shaken up the nation's national security leadership by firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper, forcing out other senior officials.

Congressman Roger Krishnamoorthi is a Democrat who represents the 8th District of Illinois and serves on the House Intelligence Committee. Representative, welcome back. Thanks very much for being with us.

RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: Hey. Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: What concerns you most in this period with no discernible transition?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, you know, the 9/11 Commission specifically cited a delayed transition between Bill Clinton and George Bush in impairing the George W. Bush administration's handling of the developing 9/11 threat. And we don't want anything close to that from happening here. But we're basically inviting our adversaries to target us during this transition period. And this chaos and confusion that the president is creating really hurts our ability to protect ourselves.

SIMON: Let me ask you about something that's been in reports recently, specifically The New York Times. President Trump has openly been eager to get the last U.S. soldiers home from Afghanistan. As I don't have to tell you, there's support on the left for that as well as the right - and apparently has put in some leadership at the at the Pentagon who he feels can do that. Nothing has been announced yet. Would you support that?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Potentially. But it has to be done in an orderly fashion. Remember that in Afghanistan, we do have troops who are performing a counterterrorism mission, especially with regard to areas surrounding Afghanistan as well, such as in Syria. But the bigger issue, Scott, is, you know, when you, for instance, threaten to remove Gina Haspel, CIA director...

SIMON: Head of the CIA, yeah.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: ...Yeah - for a political reason. That's exactly what, you know, one of the 70 terrorist groups who are targeting the United States, including six versions of ISIS alone, want, not to mention the Iranians, the Chinese, the North Koreans or even Russians. They are looking for opportunities of exploiting weaknesses. And I would just ask our, you know, good friends on the other side of the aisle to speak up and demand that the president transition properly so that Joe Biden and his team can prepare for these and other threats.

SIMON: Based on your experience in the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman, what is President Biden missing by not having these daily security briefings?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, he's not...

SIMON: I mean, he's a pretty well-informed guy.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Right. And he has an excellent group of people advising him every day on these issues, including folks on the transition team. But by not getting, for instance, all the information necessary to get up to speed on, for instance, current covert operations or developing threats, it just takes that much more time for them to understand the threat posture that they're going to encounter when they come into office.

But there's another issue, too, Scott, which is they're not able to get expedited security clearances for all the people that they want to appoint and get installed in the national security apparatus and various high-level positions. And that was specifically, by the way, one of the issues that the 9/11 Commission had cited in saying that the George W. Bush administration was not as prepared as it could have been in preparing for the 9/11 attacks.

SIMON: In the half a minute we have left, any concerns about classified information during this interim period?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes. You know, I think that the president wants to declassify all kinds of intelligence for political reasons. And obviously Christopher Wray and Gina Haspel, according to published reports, you know, object to that because it would expose sources and methods which would further undermine our security posture. Again, this is really - we have to put our national security above politics now more than ever.

SIMON: Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, thanks so much.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes, sir. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.