Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller ordered a Pentagon-wide halt to cooperation with the transition of President-elect Biden, shocking officials across the Defense Department, senior administration officials said.
The latest: Biden transition director Yohannes Abraham contradicted the Pentagon's official response to this story on Friday afternoon, telling reporters, "Let me be clear: there was no mutually agreed-upon holiday break."
"In fact, we think it’s important that briefings and other engagements continue during this period as there’s no time to spare, and that’s particularly true in the aftermath of ascertainment delay," Abraham continued, referring to the Trump administration's delay in recognizing Biden as president-elect.
Miller had said in a statement following the publication of this story: "At no time has the Department cancelled or declined any interview. ... After the mutually-agreed-upon holiday, which begins tomorrow, we will continue with the transition and rescheduled meetings from today."
Behind the scenes: Trump administration officials left open the possibility cooperation would resume after a holiday pause. The officials were unsure what prompted Miller's action, or whether President Trump approved.
Why it matters: Miller's move, which stunned officials throughout the Pentagon, was the biggest eruption yet of animus and mistrust toward the Biden team from the top level of the Trump administration.
Then on Thursday night, Miller — who was appointed Nov. 9, when Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper right after the election — ordered officials throughout the building to cancel scheduled transition meetings.
A senior Defense Department official sought to downplay the move, calling it "a simple delay of the last few scheduled meetings until after the new year."