Dear Reader,

Two years ago to the day, Anne and I taped our first CAFE Insider podcast. As I said on this week’s program, it feels simultaneously like just a few minutes and quite a few years. It still feels new, but also deeply comfortable. Every week is different, but also familiar.

In last year’s Thanksgiving message, I wrote this:

Thank you for listening, for reading, for caring. Anne and I began this little weekly podcast almost exactly a year ago, wondering whether there was any kind of appetite for another hour of sometimes wonky conversation about the things she and I care so much about – democracy, justice, the rule of law. Twelve months later, I am not only impressed but also touched by the community that has grown up here. There are now many, many thousands of you. You not only listen, but you write and comment and ask questions. That interest and thoughtfulness is one of my principal sources of hope about America.

Even more than in year one, these past 12 months you have shared your stories and struggles, your plans and pet peeves. You’ve suggested books and articles and shows. You’ve told us your COVID coping tactics and about loved ones lost. When my father-in-law passed away in March, I wrote about it here, and your condolences were a salve for our family’s grief.

You have welcomed the considerable content we have added to the Insider subscription – from the Cyber Space podcast with John Carlin to the United Security podcast with Lisa Monaco and Ken Wainstein to the audio versions of Elie Honig’s weekly note and mine. And we have more contributors and content coming early in the new year.

You also do something else for us. Anne and I have a fastidious team that preps us each week, and we strive to be meticulous. We read original source material, not just summaries. We try to read those who disagree with us, not just writers who echo our own thinking. One reason we started the Insider podcast was to correct errors and misimpressions by others in the media. But we are fallible; we make mistakes. And so when that happens, you serve as editors and fact-checkers too. Which I love.

There was that time I misspoke in saying Senator Martha McSally came to her position after a special election. You kindly corrected me:

Preet, a minor correction…McSally in AZ was appointed…It wasn’t a special election. She was not elected.

Love your show!

Then there was the time you corrected me for saying that U.S. Navy Captain Brett Crozier — who was stripped of his command in April after blowing the whistle on a COVID outbreak aboard his ship — commanded a “Navy Destroyer.” The very next morning, we had an email with this firm correction: “It was a Navy Aircraft Carrier and not a Destroyer.”

More recently, I persisted in a false memory I have had for 20 years. When Anne and I were discussing Trump’s attempts to litigate election results in multiple states, I noted that prominent Republican election lawyer Ben Ginsberg was taking Biden’s side in this race. I noted also the lack of Republican legal defenders on the Sunday talk shows, invoking the phrase “the full Ginsberg,” which I said was a reference to that lawyer’s appearing on every single Sunday show during the Bush v. Gore recount battle. As multiple Insider fact-checkers wrote in, I was wrong:

Preet: Love the show, but even you can make a mistake. The first full Ginsberg was performed by William Ginsberg, Monica Lewinsky’s lawyer (now deceased) not by GOP election lawyer, Ben Ginsberg. Otherwise you’re nearly perfect and Anne is, of course, extraordinary. Thanks.

Another listener joked that the “full Ginsburg” also did not refer to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That, at least, I did know.

It may seem like a small thing, these little good-natured corrections. But it’s not small at all. In an age of lies and distortions, in an era marked by contempt for truth and facts, it is the highest compliment to be regarded as someone who cares about such details, such that attentive listeners will take time to lob emails at a generic corporate account to nudge me more towards accuracy. It is, also, a statement of your values. Keep the emails coming. Please know that I read them, and I am more grateful than you know. Happy Thanksgiving.

My best,

Preet

P.S. I really do hope I didn’t make any mistakes in this week’s Note. . . .

In Body Image

Transition Interrupted
By Sam Ozer-Staton

Despite President Trump’s refusal to concede, President-elect Joe Biden’s team is plowing forward with its transition plans. Less than a week after naming veteran Democratic staffer Ron Klain as the incoming White House chief of staff, Biden’s team announced the first round of senior staff appointments. The group includes, among others, campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon and national campaign co-chairman Rep. Cedric Richmond, along with a pair of longtime fixtures in Biden’s orbit, the lobbyist and strategist Steve Ricchetti, and the political consultant Mike Donilon.

Even as Biden’s team comes together, the transition cannot formally begin until the Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) signs a letter acknowledging Biden’s victory. Under the Presidential Transition Act of 1963, the GSA Administrator must “ascertain” the “apparent successful candidate” of a presidential election in order for the incoming team to gain access to office space, funding, briefings, and other resources.

Nearly two weeks after the race was called for Joe Biden by every major news network, Emily Murphy, an experienced Washington bureaucrat whom President Trump appointed to lead the GSA in December 2017, continues to resist signing that letter.

A delayed Biden transition could have significant national security implications. As Martha Raddatz, ABC News’ Chief Global Affairs Correspondent and this week’s guest on Stay Tuned, told Preet, “When new presidents take over, it’s a vulnerable time…If you look at history and when attacks have occurred, Bill Clinton, the first year he was in office, it was within months the first World Trade Center bombing. Barack Obama in the first year was the [underwear] bomber…And 9/11 for George W. Bush.”

The last time a GSA Administrator hesitated to acknowledge a winner was in 2000, when then-Administrator David Barram adopted a no-action stance until Vice President Gore formally conceded to George W. Bush following the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore. According to the 9/11 Commission, the abbreviated transition period hindered the incoming administration. The Report noted:

[T]he 36-day delay cut in half the normal transition period. Given that a presidential election in the United States brings wholesale change in personnel, this loss of time hampered the new administration in identifying, recruiting, clearing, and obtaining Senate confirmation of key appointees.

But even before the GSA Administrator formally acknowledged Bush’s victory in 2000, Bush and his incoming national security team had begun receiving classified daily intelligence briefings. As the drama over ballot-counting dragged into December, President Clinton’s team felt it necessary to begin providing Bush with the President’s Daily Brief (PDB). “We decided that the clock was ticking too much,” said then-White House chief of staff John Podesta. “We needed to get him into the system.”

The distribution of the PDB is at the sole discretion of President Trump, who has so far refused to share it with Biden. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) declared last week that, in the absence of receiving the go-ahead from Trump, it would wait for the GSA to begin providing intelligence support to the incoming administration.

President-elect Biden is no stranger to the PDB. He has more national security and intelligence experience than any incoming president since George H.W. Bush. But he has four years of material to catch up on. And, according to former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, lack of access to the PDB could leave the incoming administration vulnerable to acute threats: “Without access to critical threat information, no incoming team can counter what it can’t see coming.”

How concerned are you about the risks associated with the stalled transition? Are you comforted by Biden’s level of experience?

Write to us at [email protected] with your thoughts or reply to this email.

FOLLOW

Abby Phillip is a White House Correspondent for CNN. She’s received praise for her steady and insightful on-air analysis of the election — especially during election night coverage that dragged on for days. Follow her: @abbydphillip.

In Body Image

To listen to Insider content on your favorite podcast app, follow these instructions.

— Listen to this week’s episode of Stay Tuned, “Reporting the Divide,” where Preet is joined by Martha Raddatz, the Chief Global Affairs Correspondent at ABC News and co-anchor of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” And, don’t miss the bonus, where Raddatz talks about her memorable 2008 interview with then-Vice President Dick Cheney, and the future of the Sunday morning talk shows.

— Listen to this week’s episode of CAFE Insider, “Sulkers & Losers,” where Preet and Anne celebrate CAFE Insider’s two-year anniversary while breaking down President Trump’s decision to put Rudy Giuliani in charge of his legal efforts to contest the outcome of the election, Ron Klain’s appointment as White House chief of staff, and more.

— Look out for tomorrow’s special episode of Cyber Space, where John Carlin is joined by David Sanger, the Chief Washington Correspondent for the New York Times.


That’s it for this week. We hope you’re enjoying CAFE Insider. Reply to this email or write to us at [email protected] with your thoughts, suggestions, and questions.

— Edited by Tamara Sepper

The CAFE Team:

Tamara Sepper, Adam Waller, Sam Ozer-Staton, David Kurlander, Noa Azulai, Jake Kaplan, Calvin Lord, David Tatasciore, Matthew Billy, and Nat Weiner.