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As Trump fights the transition in D.C., the world moves on to Biden

Governments around the world are preparing to work with President-elect Biden — but they still have to navigate what could be a bumpy final 10 weeks of President Trump.

Split screen: Around the time Biden was holding his first call as president-elect with a foreign leader, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Trump was firing his secretary of defense, Mark Esper.


  • Not only is Trump clearing out his national security team — the directors of the FBI and the CIA are likely to be next — his administration has refused to initiate the transition process that’s intended to ensure a smooth handover to Biden’s team.
  • Trump loyalists are warning staff not to prepare for a transition, Axios’ Jonathan Swan reports, based on leaked audio of a conference call today with U.S. Agency for International Development staff.
  • An incoming president's would normally receive access to the same intelligence as the sitting president, but Biden's team won't receive such briefings until the Trump administration certifies the election result, CNN's Zachary Cohen reports.
  • Adm. James Stavridis, the former Supreme Allied Commander for NATO, accused Trump today of “playing with fire with our nation’s security” with his “burn it down on the way out” approach.

The state of play: Most world leaders ignored Trump’s protestations and congratulated Biden shortly after his victory was declared on Saturday.

  • They included leaders who have built a warm relationship with Trump, like Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and — after a delay — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • On Sunday, even Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán joined them.

The flipside: Some leaders are still waiting to recognize Biden’s victory, perhaps in part because they don’t want to provoke Trump.

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping “has incentive to try to avoid being in Trump's political crosshairs” — and to avoid any impression of political interference in the U.S., the Brookings Institution’s Ryan Hass notes.
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador's refusal to recognize Biden fits into his pattern of carefully avoiding Trump’s ire, the LA Times notes. (He also has his own history of challenging election results.)
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has declined to congratulate Biden as well, citing Trump’s legal challenge. Russian media have seized on Trump's claims to paint a general picture of democratic chaos, per the NYT.
  • Two other nationalists with close ties to Trump — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro — have also been silent.

For most of the world, though, the focus will now be on building close ties with the incoming Biden administration.

  • They’ll be aiming to secure early phone calls with Biden and win his support for their priorities.
  • Trudeau, for example, raised the detentions of two Canadians in China on his call with Biden, and later said he expects Biden’s backing on that issue.
  • Johnson is attempting to shake off his association with Trump by finding common cause with Biden on climate change.

The bottom line: Before the world can truly turn the page on Trump, it will have to see what the next 10 weeks bring.

Go deeper: The Trump administration is attempting to block Biden's path back into the Iran nuclear deal with a major sanctions push, Axios' Barak Ravid reports.

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