The Slatest

Trump’s State Department Is Blocking Biden From Receiving Foreign Leaders’ Congratulatory Messages

Mike Pompeo stands behind President Trump who's seated in the Oval Office.
Pompeo and Trump apparently can’t help themselves. Alex Edelman/Getty Images

As is custom, foreign leaders have sent messages of congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden for his election victory, but since the Trump administration doesn’t do customs or norms or many laws even, CNN reports those messages are being held up by the State Department and not being transmitted on to the Biden team. The State Department operations center normally handles such diplomatic cables for the incoming president, facilitating communication with foreign officials for the president-elect, including translation and transcription services for the public record. But since the Trump administration has so far refused to sign off on the transition, which would give resources and access to the incoming administration, the State Department has blocked the Biden team from accessing the courtesy messages.


The messages have been piling up, NBC News reports, specifically due to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s refusal to allow access until the transition is authorized by the General Services Administration, which has so far refused to sign off on the gradual transfer of power. Some foreign leaders have been able to maneuver around the State Department embargo and get in touch with the Biden team directly or through former Obama-era diplomats. Biden has spoken with Germany’s Angela Merkel and Canada’s Justin Trudeau since Election Day, and has generally tried to establish a system to handle the calls until the hold on the transition is lifted.

The calls are generally not considered sensitive and are often made on open, nonsecure phone lines. Obama used his cellphone to make or receive many of the calls from world leaders, though they were routed through the State Department operations hub so there was a record of the calls. Trump, on the other hand, made most of his calls from Trump Tower in the days after his election and resisted any government support—or oversight—of his conversations.