Trump Rebuffs Biden Transition Team, Setting Off Virus and National Security Risks

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, said she believed the Trump administration should share vaccine distribution plans with Mr. Biden, ensuring that “as the president-elect is able to come in and bring with him a transition team, that there is that flow of information that we typically see when we have transitions.”

Experts in both national security and health security see the pandemic as a national security threat. They note that China and Russia are expanding their sphere of influence by promising vaccines to other countries in need.

“The Biden team is going to be responsible for that on Jan. 20,” said Dr. James Lawler, an expert in global health security at the University of Nebraska, who joined with a former Navy secretary and a former Trump homeland security adviser in an opinion article on Wednesday in The Washington Post. “It’s as important as what we’re doing with our strategic nuclear forces and what current threat assessments are around the world.”

Other matters also have a short time fuse. The last remaining arms control treaty between the United States and Russia, called New START, expires days after the inauguration. Mr. Biden has expressed a willingness to renew it, but his national security staff has had no access to the detailed discussions between the national security adviser, Robert C. O’Brien, and his Kremlin counterpart, or to a team of State Department negotiators who have dealt with Russia on questions like future inspections and verification.

An array of newer threats persist, as well, like terrorist plots or brewing cyberattacks. The 9/11 commission concluded that the short transition caused by the Florida recount in 2000 hampered the Bush administration’s ability to deal with Qaeda plots. At the time, President-elect George W. Bush discussed the dangers of abbreviated briefings in an interview with The New York Times at his ranch eight days before his first inauguration.

In many ways, what is happening now, officials said, is a reverse of four years ago — when President Barack Obama’s team was ready with detailed briefings and simulations of potential crises (including a pandemic flu), and Mr. Trump’s advisers were unwilling to receive them.

Mr. Trump’s incoming national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, who was fired within a month, did sit for reviews of urgent national security threats with Susan Rice, his predecessor. But other officials refused briefings, apparently not wanting Mr. Obama’s worldview to taint theirs. Secretary of State John F. Kerry never met with his successor, Rex W. Tillerson. Ernest J. Moniz, the Obama energy secretary, never gave his full brief to Rick Perry, the former Texas governor, who was coming in to oversee, among other things, the remaking of America’s nuclear weapons arsenal.