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White House budget director accuses Biden team of lying about lack of cooperation

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The director of the White House Office of Management and Budget is accusing President-elect Joe Biden and his aides of lying about obstruction during the presidential transition — saying that, in fact, there have been 45 meetings since late November.

Biden on Monday accused the budget office of putting up “roadblocks” to the transition, but outgoing OMB Director Russ Vought says in a Thursday letter to Biden transition co-chairman Ted Kaufman that the claim is untrue.

“I am writing to correct several false statements that members of the Biden Transition Team (BTT) are continuing to make regarding the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) cooperation with your team,” Vought writes in a letter seen exclusively by The Post.

“We have taken more than 45 meetings with your staff to discuss specific issues, operational questions, and more. It is appropriate for OMB to share information about ongoing programs so the BTT can use it to develop its own policies. We have provided all information requested from OMB about ongoing programs.”

Sources tell The Post that they surmise the Biden transition office wants to begin calling the shots before Biden takes office on Jan. 20, and that they believe Biden may be accusing OMB of obstruction to lay the groundwork to blame the officials for any bumps after taking office, including with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biden and his aides also say Defense Department officials are not cooperating fully.

“We’ve encountered roadblocks from the political leadership in the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget. Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas,” Biden said at a Monday press conference in Wilmington, Delaware.

“It’s nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility,” Biden said.

Outgoing OMB Director Russ Vought
Outgoing OMB Director Russ Vought
AP

On Wednesday, Johannes Abraham, the transition’s executive director, echoed Biden, telling reporters, “OMB leadership’s refusal to fully cooperate impairs our ability to identify opportunities to maximize the relief going out to Americans during the pandemic, and it leaves us in the dark as it relates to COVID-related expenditures and critical gaps.”

But Vought said the budget office, which controls spending across the federal government, has been giving full access to necessary information.

“To your specific criticisms with respect to COVID, as you are aware, your team has
been briefed by OMB, as well as the relevant agencies, on Operation Warp Speed and other COVID-relief efforts, including the various funding streams in use for these efforts,” Vought writes.

“Furthermore, there is record of your team accessing these critical documents just last week.”

Bloomberg News reported Thursday that Biden transition officials are particularly perturbed that career budget office staff are unable to assist in preparing Biden’s first budget proposal to Congress, due in February.

Vought added: “As the record shows, OMB has fully participated in appropriate transition efforts. What we have not done and will not do is use current OMB staff to write the BTT’s legislative policy proposals to dismantle this Administration’s work. OMB staff are working on this Administration’s policies and will do so until this Administration’s final day in office. Redirecting staff and resources to draft your team’s budget proposals is not an OMB transition responsibility.”

Vought wrote that his office signed off on use of $9.9 million in federal transition funds on Nov. 23 after the General Services Administration ascertained that Biden was the president-elect.

But Vought writes to Kaufman, “Our system of government has one President and one Administration at a time. OMB will not participate in developing policies that will weaken border security, dismantle the President’s deregulatory successes, and draft budgets that will bankrupt America.”

The Biden transition office did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.

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